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Figural darkness and judicial blindness
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

With a focus on Hugo Blick’s Black Earth Rising (2018), this chapter maps how a larger justice story develops around conflicting interpersonal relations, while at the same time attending to the larger geopolitical story and a darkness-based colonial imaginary. Attentive to the cartographic and subjective repositioning made possible by Kate Ashby’s locus of enunciation, we illustrate how the international criminal justice regime and humanitarian reason is entangled with violent shadow worlds that are revealed when she confronts the fraught exchanges within which values are occulted, institutions created, and personal relationships built. Ultimately, these violent shadow worlds are brought to the fore when one attends to the violence-laundering and implicit practices of exchange along with what we call “the burying, burrowing, and blinding” practices that Black Earth Rising depicts. Through an investigative montage, the series provides insights into shadow worlds behind and beneath the large geopolitical theater as well as the maps of justice, atrocity, and intimacy that connect Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Hague, France, London, and the U.S.

in Passages
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

This chapter turns to consensual and dissensual modes of separation to illustrate how the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the present into a time of intense separation, one of which is between those bodies marked as essential versus non-essential, those that have ‘pre-existing conditions’ and those without, and those located in precarious zones of abandonment, congestion, and containment, and those that, owing to prevailing economic distancing and apartness, can practice a life of social distancing. These precarious lives are rendered in intimate portraits and scenarios in Edna O’Brien’s novel The Little Red Chairs (a media genre that sees the world more patiently and in a more socially contextualized way than most news media) and Stephen Frears’s film Dirty Pretty Things (2002). With these aesthetic readings of precarious migrant lives in London, we look at moments of solidarity among exploitable “night people” who work illegally in the hospitality industry. Ultimately, our reflections on aesthetic separation/separation aesthetics in the wake of the pandemic help map the dynamics of visibility/invisibility, community/immunity, hospitality/hostility that the contemporary politics of the pandemic amplifies.

in Passages
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

Through an analysis of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's film La Promesse' (1996) and Diego Quemada-Díez’s The Golden Dream (2013), this chapter explores how undocumented migrants are ruthlessly exploited and exposed to death in cities–London and Antwerp–and on the road, traveling from Guatemala through Mexico in an attempt to make it into the U.S. Engaged in critical commentaries on the contemporary migratory condition articulated in global cinema, the chapter composes diverse migratory scenarios to render visible the national, urban, and racial frontiers of human encounter in which racialized migrant bodies experience the precarities dealt by the protective and predatory practices of official national formations and opportunistic criminal enterprises, respectively.

in Passages
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Aesthetic refrains, tremulous thought, and mushrooming worlds
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

Inspired by Édouard Glissant’s pensée du tremblement (a quakeful, or tremulous, thinking) and Anna Tsing’s Mushroom at the End of the World, the brief Coda to the book present a series of refrains on aesthetics, precarity, and the numerous problems that precariousness poses for ethico-political comprehension.

in Passages
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

This chapter combines disparate discursive spaces of breathlessness (e.g., from industrial pollution, colonialism, and nuclear radiation) that have us emphasizing the precarities and struggles for breath that exist within a planetary, phenomenological, and historical respirationscape whose immensity evokes notions of the sublime as it mounts a challenge to comprehension. To illustrate these convergences, the chapter begins with a reading of the link between breathing and vitality in Clarice Lispector’s novel A Breath of Life, Philip K. Dick’s 1969 science fiction novel Ubik and Indra Sinha’s environmental picaresque novel Animal’s People (2007) so as to illustrate how corporate power, and racialized spaces of breathlessness, are evidence of both spectacular and the more spectral forms of slow violence.

in Passages
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Apocalypyse
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro
in Passages
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Black Girl Mask
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro
in Passages
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Cry of the Passerby
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro
in Passages
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Blurred juxtapositions – passages, images, and affects
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

The Introduction illustrates our commitment to aesthetics-as-method, which enables us to bring together diverse concepts, bodies, passages, and images. The chapters map the political stakes of our commitment to aesthetics-as-method. In addition to outlining the methods, chapters, and key concepts, the Introduction raises critical questions regarding how everyday and historical political apparatuses and processes distribute bodies, affects, death, and senses in ways that challenge or sustain the immanence of sovereignty, while provoking readers to experiment with affective intimacies that enable them apprehend the ethical weight of proximate and distant others.

in Passages
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Burying/burrowing for truth and justice
Sam Okoth Opondo
and
Michael J. Shapiro

By charting the tension between reasons of state and justice, as well as the way the global justice dispositif involves a wide variety of protagonists, some of whose practices seem to be heterogeneous to the international justice regime, this chapter examines the valuation practices, overlapping cartographies, regimes of calculability, secrecy, and colonial specters that emerge as one investigates the subplots and shadow worlds behind the prosecution of crimes against humanity. Through a reading of Mathias Énard’s novel Zone, where the author stages a drama about justice that effectively engages grammatical and theatrical framing of how to approach the “idea” (in this case) of justice, the chapter maps truth-seeking and truth-concealing practices that move and traverse the “earth.” Our analysis then turns to the protagonists and challenging relations of intimacy exposed in Hugo Blick’s Black Earth Rising (2018), a Netflix series in which the main protagonist, the legal investigator and Rwanda genocide survivor Kate Ashby (Michaela Coel), runs into a world of secrecy, colonial specters, talionic laws (an eye for an eye), and manhunting. These encounters interrupt her sense of self, truth, family, justice, and even her “idea of Africa,” thus leading her on a quest that involves burrowing for justice in ways that involve unburying memories, the dead, and a spectral past.

in Passages