Quotes from Jasbir Puar’s talk at Vassar
… [BDS is] a platform that emerges from civil society. It is such a minor piece of how Palestine is going to be liberated, it’s a liberal platform and it’s the very least that we can do to sign on to BDS. But we need BDS as part of organized resistance and armed resistance in Palestine as well. There is no other way the situation is going to change.
Since October of 2015, new uprisings in the West Bank have ignited what many are now calling the third intifada. Protests, stabbings, flagrant refusals of IDF control, clashes and revived commitment to a peoples’ rumble have resulted in more than 120 deaths by field assassinations of young Palestinian men, largely between the ages of 12 to 16, by IDF soldiers. On January 1st, 2016, the Israeli government returns 17 bodies of these youth that purportedly lay in a morgue in West Jerusalem for two months. No explanation has ever been given for their detention. Some speculate that the bodies were mined for organs for scientific research. 17 ambulances, each with one body, stretched out along a convoluted route between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
These are all pivotal elements. These are also about the machinery of biopolitical control itself, the experiment of expanding and entrenching power to such an extent that at certain moments it can barely be recognized as this incorporative mechanism. Israeli computational sovereignty is invested in entities and populations far below and beyond the human form and territories far more complex than the proper ownership of land that is invested in the control of controlled self. Algorithmic computations are rationalized in the service of a liberal yet brutal humanism and humanitarianism, whether through the calculation of deaths of Hamas members, whereby 28 deaths are understood as humanitarian killing and the 29th death is collateral damage, whether by perfection of drone technology as a rationalization for the slaughter of Gazans or the development of a national biometric database to tell who is, quote, really Jewish, Israeli.
Medical neutrality is a doctrine that says that medical personnel and medical infrastructure is off limits in terms of any kind of firing and has been in effect for quite some time, over 150 years. And this violation of medical neutrality is something that Israel has not paid any attention to. The assault on infrastructure, a central component of the biopolitical regulation of a malleable humanitarian collapse whereby the supporting infrastructure of ordinary life becomes both target and weapon. The terrain is thus dependent on the withdrawn colonizer’s infrastructural support which modulates calories, megawatts, water, telecommunication networks, to provide the bare minimum for survival, but minimal enough to attempt to defeat or strip resistance. Reflecting the turn from a regulatory to an asphyxiatory application of power, the target here is not just life itself but resistance itself. Omar Jabary Salamanca quotes Israeli politician Dov Weissglass [sic], he states, quote, Israel’s policy would be like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner but they won’t die. End quote.
Targeting youth, not for death but for stunting, which is an official medical diagnosis, for physical and psychological and cognitive injuries, is another aspect of its biopolitical tactic that seeks to render impotent any future resistance. Future capacity to sustain Palestinian life on its own terms, thereby debilitating generational time. This is the epigenetics, the weaponized epigenetics….
And yet stunting can be understood as another form of gendering or perhaps ungendering that may discharge or perhaps even preempt male-female binaries for a biopolitics that is not only driven through human reproduction but through the durational capitalist instrumentalizations of inhuman entities. So gender is not tethered to human reproductive capacity, rather distributed across [inaudible] and temporalities of control. Dismemberment of reproduction is a source of profit within this speculative rehabilitation economy where keeping labor alive but docile is not the only goal. The Palestinian laborer is a tenuous and evacuating category, given the importation of foreign laborers since the Oslo Accords.
Dismantled and dismembered bodies accomplish more than dead ones.
Maiming functions as will not let die and will not make die. Maiming masquerades as let live when in fact it acts as will not let die. So for example, the IOS policy of shooting to maim, not to kill, is often misperceived as the preservation of life. In this version of attenuated life, neither living nor dying is the aim….
It is not merely a byproduct of war, of war’s collateral damage. It is used to achieve a tactical aims of settler colonialism. So this functions on two levels: the maiming of humans within a context that is utterly and systematically resource-deprived, an infrastructural field that is unable to transform the cripple into the disabled. This point is crucial for part of what gels the disabled body that is hailed by rights discourses is the availability of the process of domestication of that disability. And second, the maiming of infrastructure in order to stunt or decay the abled body into debilitation through the control of calories, water, electricity, health care, supplies, fuel and also mobility….
Maiming and stunting then forces bodily change. It weaponizes bodily change. The objects of gendering and genreing then are about biopolitical calculations, population metrics, reproductive capacities, biogenetics and eugenics.
Technologies of measure, algorithmic computing, architecture and infrastructure — prehensive gendering operates at the sub, para and intimate levels as body parts and the kinds of changes that come with epigenetic deterioration take hold. In the context, then, of Palestine, hacking is not a computational metaphor, rather a distinct practice of reshaping the forms of human bodies and parts informed by computational platforms.
Thank you. (thunderous applause)
A question from the audience after the speech:
New Question: Taking together the things you describe, does it rise to the level of genocide in slow motion?
Puar: Do you, it can be called that. I think one of the reasons why the term genocide is contested obviously is because it remains tethered to the Holocaust and cannot be removed from that association. So or that’s the kind of “ur” event of genocide. Right? So we would have to have a conversation about what genocide is. Which people are having as well. But is slow death a version of genocide? Then we are talking about a lot of populations. We are talking about a lot of populations. And again part of my argument is that keeping Palestinians alive is crucial to this economy and it’s precisely crucial to this equation of who is the genocided population. The Jewish Israeli population cannot afford to hand over genocide to another population. They need the Palestinians alive in order to keep the kind of rationalization for their victimhood and their militarized economy.