A multimodal reading of archived London-French blogs
Chapter 6 fully embraces the ‘ethnosemiotic’ analytical approach and takes a small corpus of London-French migrant blogs as its empirical basis. Developments in the migrants’ selfhood, belonging and positioning are explored using archived snapshots captured between 2009 and 2014. Through a granular multimodal lens, which re-adopts the habitat-habituation-habit triad, the chapter posits that rather than signifying a ‘cleft habitus’, visual, textual and/or typographical transformations common to the blogs reflect a collective London-French habitus that gestures towards hybridity. It acknowledges the materiality of the digital and the relational nature of London-French online/on-land experience, together with the predominance of women, who repurpose their blogs in a technomaterialist, xenofeminist turn. Despite challenges posed by the web-archival methodology, the chapter confirms the persistence of premigration habits identified on-land, alongside habituation to postmigration practices, including the culinary and cultural. As visual ‘geo-narratives’, the green and blue spaces depicted emerge as central to diasporic well-being and legitimate the normative selection of London as a long-term place of residence over Paris, as well as substantiating on-land research findings. The chapter argues that home and belonging in the postmigration space are presented in playful, optimistic terms, which projects an image of migration as a positive, if romanticised, move. The bloggers’ translanguaging practices are seen both to reproduce and transcend territorialisation, while coded ingroup iconography sheds light on migrant embedding and interpersonal relationships with pre- and postmigration communities. The affective atmosphere of the London-French blogosphere is, the chapter concludes, increasingly hybrid and as such mirrors participants’ on-land experience.
The image operations of drone warfare oscillate between a disappearance of the human figure and its obstinate re-appearance. While drone crews fly their missions from bases in the US and hence put their bodies out of harm’s reach, people in the target regions are subject to the kind of warfare that targets individuals and reduces kill boxes to the size of the human body. However, if one takes operators’ testimonies and the number of civilian casualties into account, the drone’s optics regularly fail their task. What the drone is meant to detect are individual bodies; yet, what it actually transmits are abstract landscapes with human figures reduced to mere shadows. A number of artists have picked up on this dynamic between landscape and body that, according to art historical terminology, can be described as a tension between figure and ground. In order to trace that tension, the chapter will, for the first time, juxtapose works by Noor Behram and Seth Price.
This book investigates drone technology from a humanities point of view by exploring how civilian and military drones are represented in visual arts and literature. It opens up a new aesthetic ‘drone imaginary’, a prism of cultural and critical knowledge, through which the complex interplay between drone technology and human communities is explored, and from which its historical, cultural and political dimensions can be assessed. The contributors to this volume offer diverse approaches to this interdisciplinary field of aesthetic drone imaginaries. Sprouting from art history, literature, photography, feminism, postcolonialism and cultural studies, the chapters provide new insights to the rapidly evolving field of drone studies. They include historical perspectives on early unmanned aviation and aerial modes of vision; they explore aesthetic configurations of drone swarming, robotics and automation; and they engage in current debates on how drone technology alters the human body, upsets available categories, and creates new political imaginaries.
Today, photos and videos are increasingly made by machines for machines. The almost unimaginable scale on which still and moving images are created and processed by digital surveillance and information systems ensures that the overwhelmingly majority of them will never be seen by human eyes. This chapter explores the sublimity of big visual data in the post-vision age and considers its implications for emerging drone aesthetics. Although by definition unmanned aerial vehicles take the place of human beings or fill roles to which people could never aspire, several contemporary artists have nonetheless turned to drone media in an effort to resuscitate the humanist paradigm of the autonomous artwork, a singular product that cannot be subsumed by an algorithm or a data set. In the fight against the spectacle of immensity and complexity that underwrites the neoliberal rationalization of life, drones may yet prove to be a valuable weapon
In October 2012, a drone strike in northeast Pakistan killed a 67-year-old woman picking okra outside her home. At a US Congressional hearing held in Washington in October 2013, the woman’s 13-year-old grandson, Zubair Rehman, spoke to a group of lawmakers. ‘I no longer love blue skies’, said Rehman, who was injured by shrapnel in the attack. ‘In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.’ According to strike reports compiled by investigative journalists, Zubair Rehman’s grandmother is one of several thousand people killed by covert US drone strikes since 2004. Although we live in the most media-connected age in history, the public has scant visual record of the drone war and its casualties. In response, artist Tomas van Houtryve decided to attach his camera to a small drone and travel across America to photograph the very sorts of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes – weddings, funerals, groups of people praying or exercising. He also flew his camera over settings in which drones are used over America to less lethal effect, such as prisons, oil fields, and the US–Mexico border. By creating these images, van Houtryve aims to draw attention to the changing nature of personal privacy, surveillance, and contemporary warfare.
Curator at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society at the University of Chicago, Dieter Roelstraete reflects on the notions of bordering and borderlessness. He highlights the ineffectiveness of politically constructed borders, sometimes even set in incongruous places. This is perfectly illustrated by Olaf Holzapfel’s installation Trassen, exhibited at the 2017 Documenta 14 in Kassel, co-curated by Roelstraete. He also reflects on the importance of the medium and materials used in artworks as powerful semantic tools. The question of citizenship and national belonging is evoked and challenged by the ultra-mobility of the art world, a phenomenon which is far from new. Roelstraete thus underlines the natural interplay between art and migration. Finally, the intervention of the artistic world in political debates is mentioned, a prickly issue according to Roelstraete.
The Epilogue re-addresses questions raised in the initial ethnography but from a post-EU-referendum perspective. Returning to the original sites of research and (re)engaging with existing and new participants, it asks whether their sense of belonging, identity and future mobility projects have been affected by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. It continues to draw on Bourdieusian theory, particularly hysteresis and symbolic violence concepts, to ascertain if and how participants’ migrancy habitus has been disrupted by ‘Brexit’. With an emphasis on the affective experience of the EU-membership referendum and emulating the structure of the book, the Epilogue covers three timeframes. It first ‘looks back’, examining memories of June 2016 and participants’ initial reaction to the referendum. It then ‘looks in’, seeking insights into their emotional response at the time of writing in 2019. It finally ‘looks beyond’ to explore their longer-term plans. From sentiments of loss, sorrow and anger typical of grieving to a sense of dis-embedding, or ‘inverse hysteresis’, caused by the sudden change to their status, the migrants describe intense feelings of helplessness, outsiderness and un-belonging. The chapter argues that, consistent with the symbolic violence paradigm, participants are keen to dismiss post-2016 xenophobic aggressions as unimportant or partly self-inflicted. A recurrent process of denial is consequently ascertained, resulting in apathy and resignation in the face of Brexit’s disquieting impact and the ironically named ‘Settlement Scheme’. Ultimately, however, the migrants convey a profound sense of sadness that the land which had once wooed them was now rejecting them.
Chapter 9 concludes this study by examining the issues of ethics and the subject. Drawing on writing on normative moral philosophy in relation to Foucault, the chapter introduces and critically examines the themes of personal responsibility, integrity, authenticity, and ethical comportment, drawing especially on the work of Judith Butler. It seeks to ascertain how the individual acts morally and engages ethically in a complex world and what ethical engagement, ethical motivation, and ethical commitment looks like from a Foucauldian point of view.
Repellent Fence and trans-Indigenous time-space at the US–Mexico border
This chapter analyses the art installation The Repellent Fence (2017) by the artist collective Postcommodity. This group staged a line of 52 floating balloons in the Sonoran Desert crossing into Mexican and US territory. The balloons have Indigenous Eye iconography and are also otherwise used as insect and bird repellents. This chapter investigates the artist’s reflection on aerial surveillance in the region and connects the balloons to the digital drone used for border control.
Traces of redactional variants in the Chronicon of Falco of Benevento
This chapter looks at traces of redactional variants in the twelfth-century Chronicon Beneventanum by notary and judge Falco of Benevento. Though this lost manuscript has come down to us through various transcriptions, it does not pose particularly weighty problems of textual transmission. One notable exception is the passage examined here. In 1137, as Roger II was battling to consolidate his hold on the continental Mezzogiorno, the administrators of Benevento took advantage of the situation to appeal for exemption from the fiscal exactions of the district’s Norman barons. They approached Pope Innocent II, who extended their request to Emperor Lothar III. Ultimately, the count of Ariano, Roger Drengot, consented to renounce feudal rights over the town on behalf of his vassals. Falco’s account of this episode contains several repetitions and redundancies, which the author of the chapter attributes to a double redaction. Seeking to render his account more solemn and authoritative, Falco inserted a fictitious speech of the Beneventans to the pope, annotations concerning the presence of the patriarch of Aquileia and various other items. Having identified the double redaction, the author proceeds to offer two hypotheses for when and why it was made and to explain its significance for other recent findings in Falconian criticism.