Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Medical Anthropology
Primary Theme: Violence
Secondary Theme: Inclusivity
Since the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, existing discourses about “inner-cities” as the quintessential sites of endemic violence, poverty, disorder, and “undeservingness” have been deepened, leading to assaults on personhood being further normalized in national and global discourse. In this panel, we engage with emergent forms of necropolitics in the city—taking up Achille Mbembe’s call to examine how contemporary forms of subjugation place life, death, and the human body in a complicated tripartite relationship that is often spatially inscribed. How has this era ushered in, as Mbembe (2003) says, a new politics of death with cultural sensibilities where “more intimate, lurid, and leisurely forms of cruelty appear?” Further, how are these sensibilities territorialized within cities along the axes of race, class, and other forms of identity, leading to new forms of urban exclusion and diminished rights to the city? We seek papers based on ethnographic research both within and outside the U.S. that theorize and critically engage with emergent forms of necropolitics and necrogeography in the city. We will collectively examine how the city, as part of the global imaginary, can be weaponized in service of the creation of new landscapes of exclusion, infrastructural violence, and “death worlds.” We will also interrogate how particular urban contexts are engendering different forms of life, harm, and death for those in the margins, as cities around the world face similar political and public health crises. We will theorize how, in these diverse urban spaces of exclusion, interruptions are being created, as people endlessly maneuver – or simply remain suspended within – intolerable conditions. These range from a transformative politics of resistance, and what Lee (2016) calls “ingenious agency” and “ingenious citizenship,” to more ambivalent and uncertain forms of becoming emplaced within the city. In doing so, we take up Ralph’s call to highlight some of the “alternative frames” through which we can understand violence—and even death—in the city and its “hidden potentials” as sites of resistance, resilience, and adaptation.