Monday, September 17, 2007

The State of Exception

However simplistic and obvious it is to mention, we must acknowledge that the state of exception -- any state which accepts a stance of foreign policy exceptionalism -- is dangerous and violent in places of operation and in terms of its modeling affect on other states. The Italian theorist Giorgio Agamben uses the phrase "state of exception" to describe regimes like Nazi Germany and the United States under the George W. Bush Administration. The concept of an 'American Exceptionalism' is not new, yet the Italian perspective of Agamben is interesting, (and hence has cultural history with fascism and thus states of exception).

When specifically speaking about the Patriot Act, Agamben writes,

“What is new about President Bush’s order is that it radically erases any legal status of the individual, thus producing a legally unnamable and unclassifiable being. Not only do the Taliban captured in Afghanistan not enjoy the status of POW’s as defined by the Geneva Convention, they do not even have the status of people charged with a crime according to American laws.”

Many of the individuals captured in Afghanistan were taken to be held at Guantanamo Bay without trial. To this day individuals at Guantanamo have been treated outside of the Geneva Conventions and outside legal jurisdiction. It is solely a military operation, an therefore an Executive Office operation, accomplished without proper oversight through the suppression of knowledge.

Agamben's analysis is something like this. Political power over others acquired through the state of exception, places one government or one branch of government as an all powerful domain, operating outside of the legal code. During times of this extension of power, certain forms of knowledge are privileged and accepted as true and certain voices are heard as valued, while of course, many others are not. Thus opposition is systematically silenced, like a snuffed-out micronarrative. This oppressive distinction holds great importance in relation to the production of knowledge. The process of both acquiring knowledge, and suppressing certain knowledge, is a violent act within a time of crisis, and hence the fulfillment of The Postmodern Condition.

No comments: