Welcome…

This is my Xenophilia blog where I post various occasional writings as well as links to my publications, and by invitation to current projects. Many of the older posts have been lost and the posts I am reposting are not necessarily in the order they were written. Hopefully, going forward from June 2015 this will be resolved.

Steven at work
Steven @ Work, May 2015. Background, HORIZON WATCH, Angie Reed Garner.

The links at the top of the page can be used to navigate to my biography page and to various current projects.

If you are looking for my academic writing, try academic.edu. In the future I will add additional links to ongoing projects, e.g. my work on stand-up comedy and masculinity, as it becomes more developed and interesting.

 

White Nationalism 2016 Edition

 Danuta Danielsson 1985 (after Hans Runesson) mixed media Angie Reed Garner

Danuta Danielsson 1985 (after Hans Runesson)
mixed media
Angie Reed Garner

Some years ago I published an article in the Journal of Hate Studies (Vol. 4, Pp. 59-87) titled “White Nationalism Revisited: Demographic Dystopia and White Identity Politics” (2005). In it I presented an argument focusing on the ways in which changing demographics in the United States are reshaping cultural and political self-understanding in the “white, middle-American” population and the ways in which various flavors of ideologically committed white nationalists are exploiting these changes.

The argument in “White Nationalism Revisited” turned around an understanding of post-Jim Crow white nationalism as different than old-fashioned white supremacy. As civil rights lawyer Dan Canon observed in a recent SALON article: “There are some who rightly criticize the term ‘white nationalist’ as too forgiving” there are, nonetheless, important differences at the level of tactical politics between the old and new forms of bigotry that changing the label cannot address.

Continue reading White Nationalism 2016 Edition

Fear, Horror & Statistics

One of the strangest things about arriving back in the United States after nine years abroad, is the immersive fear-mongering and know-nothingism of the 24-hour news cycle. It is like watching a train wreck that never stops and it is very, very hard not to rubberneck.

I am not someone who ignores the news. Quite the contrary. But as someone who typically gets his news from selective reading, guided by my highly curated twitter feed and specialist sensibilities while avoiding anything that reeks of “breaking news”, the constant schadenfreude of MSNBC-FOX-CNN is nauseating.

And yet, after the police killings of two black men in two days—Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana—followed by the killing of five police officers in Dallas by a sniper at a peaceful protest rally, I’ve been watching too much of it, hearing too much of it, to the point where I am afraid.

Let me be clear: I support Black Lives Matter and related movements unequivocally.

Let me be clear: I don’t support targeted killing of police (or anyone else) by snipers, bombs, drones, robots, tasers, beatings or neglect.

Let me be clear: Protest, even raucous, confrontational protest that engages and channels the righteous anger of a community is not the same thing as killing, shooting, targeting. It is protected political activity and a precious right.

I am overwhelmed by the courageous, poised testimony live-streamed by Diamond Reynolds while her boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot and killed by a police office after being pulled over for a broken taillight and then informing the office (as he was legally obligated to do) that he was carrying a concealed handgun (for which he had a permit). (Trigger warning: You can read an abbreviated account here http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/harvard-psychologist-explains-how-diamond-reynolds-stayed-calm-and-livestreamed).

As the officer shot Castile multiple times, and he was dying in the car next to her, Reynolds livestreamed the aftermath, her daughter in the backseat, remaining calm and taking care of not only herself and her daughter but in effect the police officer as well—a police officer who is audibly losing it on the recording. She literally makes the recording while the officer is menacing her with his sidearm, freaking out, and failing to render emergency aid to the man he had just shot.

The Washingon Post interviewed Jim Hopper from Harvard, an expert on trauma, who explained that Reynold’s calm as she livecast while assuring the officer that she will keep her hands where he could see them was an “understandable” response to a horrific situation, in which parts of the brain—presumably the parts responsible for panic—shut down.

Yes, that’s obviously within the range of the possible or it wouldn’t have happened. Both panic and almost uncanny calm can be seen in the aftermath, or even in the midst, of trauma. I won’t speak to Hopper’s work—I’m not familiar with it—but the Post’s use of his scientific commentary serves to take an extraordinary act and present it as something ordinary. There may be good reason for this. Maybe for the sake of some clueless person who might interpret her response as unfeeling or callous—a person both lacking in imagination and who didn’t listen to the entire recording. Maybe just because newspapers have to print something.

Fear is complicated. People are complicated. They react in all sorts of unpredictable ways to situations that become all the more unpredictable in interaction with other people who are also unpredictable. Training is intended to make people more capable of reacting to crisis situations predictably—without panic. It doesn’t always work.

Black men in particular (and among others) have long(!) had reason to fear the worst from any encounter with the police. The technology-facilitated revelation of this reality to a wider population has created a stir, raising incredulity first, then anger, and now growing frustration. The killing of cops in Dallas will raise fear in a wider circle. Specifically fear of increasing reactionary violence from increasingly heavily armed and militarized police forces.

Here is some out of context data:

Number of police officers killed by intentional civilian gunfire in 2015: 39
Number of civilians killed by police gunfire in 2015: 990
Number of police officers killed by intentional civilian gunfire in 2016 to date: 22
Number of civilians killed by police gunfire in 2016 to date: 509

(Statistics for police deaths from the Officer Down Memorial Page; for civilians killed by police by the Washington Post.)

It’s worthwhile to look at the fine grain of the Post data (click on the little figures that represent each and every incident). For the 2015 data, 730 are classified as “Attack in progress.” No doubt many of these, I haven’t run a case-by-case analysis, might be described as responses to civilian driven violence in direct protection of the public or self-defense. But far too many of them are akin to this:

“David Wheat Jr., a 22-year-old white man armed with a knife, was shot on July 18, 2015, in an apartment building in Fort Collins, Colo. Two Fort Collins police officers, called to find an intoxicated and suicidal man, shot Wheat 11 times when he refused to drop a kitchen steak knife.”

Or this:

“Richard Perkins, a 39-year-old black man with a toy weapon, was shot on Nov. 15, 2015, in a gas station in Oakland, Calif. Oakland police were towing vehicles after a car show. Perkins approached officers and pointed a realistic-looking toy gun at them.”

Or this:

“Tyrone Bass, a 21-year-old black man armed with an unknown weapon, was shot on Sept. 15, 2015, on a street in Chalmette, La. Bass struggled with a St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s deputy and struck the deputy on the head. A second officer shot and killed Bass.”

Situations where patience, training in crisis de-escalation and non-violence, calling for back-up, avoiding unnecessary confrontations and so on could (in hindsight and without knowing the details) have meant one less killing.

Black Lives Matter. Stop the Killing!

BATMAN vs. SUPERMAN vs. NUCLEAR WAR

The fantasy of efficacious violence haunts both super hero stories and the equally fantastic—though far more harmful—stories we tell ourselves about about “smart bombs” and “precision guided munitions,” and military intervention on the side of what is right or just or humane. The comics, and the movies that derive from them, have an edge on reality in that no one actually has to suffer and die for them—and in that there is at least the possibility, however rare, of some narratively central reflection on the fantasy structure. In national war narratives this is mostly left to marginalized opposition groups and political gadflies.

In spite of the bad reviews, as a life-long geek I enjoyed Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. This doesn’t make the politics underlying any less fraught.

***SPOILER ALERT***

Continue reading BATMAN vs. SUPERMAN vs. NUCLEAR WAR

Hegemony, Militarism, Democracy

Some New Year’s thoughts on popular support for militarism in the United States.

Herein I want to think not individual evil (or sociopathic self-aggrandizement), but the consequences of collective violence as implemented in and through state policy. The occasion for this is the new year, though in truth I’ve been looking for an excuse to publish a blog post on the topic. More specifically I want to look at a year end commentary on the Foreign Policy site (http://foreignpolicy.com/), “The GOP Plan to Bring Back a Unipolar World” by Gordon Adams and Richard Sokolsky (December 30, 2015), and read it in tandem with Jonathan Waverley’s important—though deeply flawed—book Democratic Militarism: Voting, Wealth, and War (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Continue reading Hegemony, Militarism, Democracy

Hashtag Ferguson Ethnography

I am writing this, mostly, in response to Yarimar Bonilla and Jonathan Rosa’s article “#Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States.” Published in the Vol. 42, Iss. 1 (February 2015) of American Ethnologist, I only just got round to reading it. Given my interests in the concurrent militarization and “prisonization” of American life, with an ongoing racialized basis, this is unfortunate. Bonilla and Rosa’s article is an important point of departure, even though I find it deeply unsatisfying.

Continue reading Hashtag Ferguson Ethnography

Post-AAA reflections #demystifyingacademics

The experience of organizing and chairing a panel for the American Anthropological Association meetings this year (Denver 2015) made me realize that all of the mediocre experiences I have had on “residual” panels, where I submitted a paper to the AAA and they lumped me either with a partial panel, or with others doing supposedly related work, were the result of this less than cohesive process.

Continue reading Post-AAA reflections #demystifyingacademics

Forever War, The – Revisiting

Forever War, The – Revisiting

Posted on January 19, 2013

My sabbatical semester-or the functional equivalent, a competitively-awarded research semester-is coming rapidly to a close. In a few days I will leave behind my laptop desk and comfortable chair at Garner Narrative in Louisville, Kentucky for a short visit with my family in (the vicinity of) Portland, Oregon and then return to a hectic teaching schedule in Abu Dhabi. Continue reading Forever War, The – Revisiting