social justice

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When does neglect under “Sovereign Borders” become a war crime?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/08/2022 - 5:19pm in

By Jane Salmon   Afghans living overseas are certainly refugees since the fall of Kabul and US withdrawal a year ago. Therefore, the Hazara minority, who have been abused under every Afghan government for hundreds of years have been refugees even longer. Australia has had a longstanding policy of not letting many refugees in via Indonesia,…

The post When does neglect under “Sovereign Borders” become a war crime? appeared first on The AIM Network.

Refugees and Changing Political Narratives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 5:28pm in

By Andrew Klein   The challenges of the Global Refugee Crisis often appear unmet or lost in the narrative of political leaders attempting to use the ‘latest military’ problem to divert funding from genuine refugee problems. In other cases, such as Haiti, the UN response led to an increase in local problems such as disease spread…

The post Refugees and Changing Political Narratives appeared first on The AIM Network.

The transphobia “moral” panic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 11:36am in

People contributing to anti trans rhetoric are playing a much more dangerous game than they realise. The current wave of anti-trans sentiment will lead to more violence and victimisation. Initially the attacks will hit people who are visibly trans women. Eventually, it will spread to anyone who is LGBTQI+. The same forces promoting this violence…

The post The transphobia “moral” panic appeared first on The AIM Network.

Evanston, Illinois Is the First City to Offer Reparations to Black Residents

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/06/2022 - 6:00pm in

For most of her childhood, Ramona Burton didn’t notice other people treating her differently. Born in the city of Evanston, Illinois, the 73-year-old was raised by hard-working, loving parents: her mother was a primary school teacher; her father, among several jobs, was an employee at the Oscar Mayer meat company.

But as Burton grew up, she began to connect the dots. One time, she remembers, the family ordered a meal at a restaurant but they were told they could only have take out, not eat the food inside. Then, as a high school student, she was suspended for a day or two just for running down the hall too quickly, something that never happened to white students. Later on, she found out that she and her siblings had to be delivered in a Chicago hospital — Black babies weren’t allowed to be born in Evanston’s. “I realized there was a different set of rules for caucasians and for Blacks,” she says.

Ramona Burton and her siblings in 1955. Photo courtesy Ramona Burton

That prejudice against the Black community was deeply entrenched across the country as Burton grew up. Some say that while aspects of equality have improved and discrimination has reduced, much of it remains. But in a pioneering effort to begin the healing process for decades of racial injustice, last year Evanston became the first city in the US to offer Black residents reparations. 

“We hope this will lay the tracks and foundations for a better future,” says Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward Councilmember and Chair of the City’s Reparations Committee. “But there’s a long way to go. This process will take generations.”

Under the “Restorative Housing Program,” the first of the reparations initiatives, Evanston City Council has given an initial 16 qualifying Black households $25,000 for home repairs, down payments or mortgage payments. In order to qualify, residents must either have lived in — or be a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in — Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and suffered a form of discrimination related to housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices.

Research commissioned by the City of Evanston, which formed the groundwork for the reparations policy, uncovered city-mandated housing discrimination during that period. This included arbitrarily denying Black communities loans in a practice known as redlining, demolishing Black homes through commercial rezoning, and divesting from Black communities by closing the only school and hospital. These actions “led to the decline of socioeconomic status and hindered the ability to acquire wealth for Evanston’s Black community,” the researchers found.

The relics of those discriminatory policies are stark: Since the 1960s, unemployment in the city’s Black community has risen from five to 15 percent even while the citywide average has held steady below eight percent. Median income in the 5th ward, a Black neighborhood, ranges from $45,000 to $55,000, while the median in Evanston is between $60,000 and $110,000. The ward also has the lowest property values in the city, no public school, and is the only ward with areas classified as food deserts. 

“It is a first step, but it is an extraordinarily commendable first step,” says Cornell William Brooks, reparations advocate and professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School. Credit: risingthermals / Flickr

In response to those findings, the city identified four areas in which its local reparations could be focused: housing, education, economic development and mental health support related to the traumas of discrimination.

The first to be addressed is housing. The city is funding the scheme through a three percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana from a local dispensary, as well as through private donations from individuals and companies. The goal is to “revitalize, preserve and stabilize” homes; increase homeownership and build wealth; build intergenerational equity; and improve the retention rate of homeowners.

Cornell William Brooks, professor of the Practice of Public Leadership and Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School and a reparations advocate, believes the policy has the potential to be a landmark moment in US history.

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“It is a first step, but it is an extraordinarily commendable first step,” he says. “The first government reparation check was not issued by Washington DC. The cradle of the confederacy, Richmond, Virginia, didn’t do it. Charleston, South Carolina, where the Civil War began, didn’t do it. What this midsize city in Illinois is doing, attempting to repair the harm born of slavery, is not just noteworthy, but historic.”

The development of Evanston’s reparations dates back years and is rooted in community engagement. The Equity and Empowerment Commission held two meetings in July 2019 to discuss practical solutions for reparations with community members. Then, in November 2019, the council adopted Resolution 126-R-19, establishing the Reparations Fund and the Reparations Subcommittee. Following that, the subcommittee hosted three town halls to educate and inform the community on reparations at the local and federal level, plus 15 public meetings to discuss the Restorative Housing Program. “It helped us not only improve the program, but, I believe, contribute to the national discussion,” says Braithwaite.

The Reparations Committee randomly selecting the approved “Ancestor” applications. Credit: City of Evanston

While pioneering, Evanston’s scheme forms part of a wider national movement for reparations. Amherst, Massachusetts; Asheville, North Carolina; and Iowa City, Iowa, are among the places to have stated an interest in launching their own initiatives. And at the federal level, legislation has been introduced to create a commission to study and develop reparations proposals for Black Americans. Yet the issue is divisive: An opinion poll released in 2020 found that 80 percent of Black Americans believed the federal government should compensate the descendants of enslaved people, while only 21 percent of white respondents agreed.

According to data from 2019, the median white household held $188,200 in wealth — 7.8 times that of the typical Black household. Experts say that gap, which adds up to $14 trillion according to some estimates, can be linked to centuries of slavery, mass incarceration, discriminatory housing and finance policies.

“We’re talking about not billions but trillions of a wealth gap,” says Professor Brooks. “These inequities, perpetuated inequalities, are felt in your pocket book and in your DNA — in other words, people have less money, less worth and less life.”

That’s why Brooks believes the evidence-based nature of Evanston’s approach is crucial — and in that sense can be applied at the federal level. “Evanston engaged the community, it formed a commission, used scholars and research, was empirically driven and narratively informed,” he says. “This is a useful model. When you compare Evanston to the federal level, it’s like comparing a minnow to a whale. That being said, the minnow makes a case, a municipal argument for the federal response. It’s like the Montgomery Boycott to the Civil Rights movement.”

Others have also endorsed Evanston’s Restorative Housing Program, such as The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America and the National African American Reparations Commission. But the scheme has its critics, who say it is far from the direct payments that have come to characterize the idea of reparations, a form of redress for slavery and the subsequent racial discrimination in the United States.

Cicely Fleming, a Black alderwoman whose roots in Evanston go back to the 1900s, released a statement saying that while she is in support of reparations, she believes the Evanston scheme limits participation and fails to provide enough autonomy to the community that has been harmed. Whereas direct cash payments with no strings, she argues, allow community members to decide what’s best for themselves, Evanston’s payments must be spent in ways predetermined by the program.

But, according to Braithwaite, the reality is not so simple. For one, the city does not have the authority to exempt direct payments from state or federal income taxes, meaning recipients of any such stipends would be liable for the tax burden — as much as 28 percent. And the practicalities of awarding funds means that housing is the most straightforward method. A report on the city’s policies identified housing as the “strongest case for reparations” and uncovered  “sufficient evidence” of discrimination as a result of city zoning ordinances in place between 1919 and 1969. “Housing was at the top of the list of needs for the Black community, one of the top strategies for city council, and discrimination of housing is identified as one of the foundations of harm for reparations,” says Braithwaite.

Early evidence of Evanston’s program has shown tentative success. 122 out of around 700 Black households have already had their applications approved.

Ramona Burton

Recipients of the housing reparations are pleased with the work, too. Ramona Burton, a widow who has lived in her current home for 46 years, is one of the first recipients. She is using the money to replace her roof, install new windows and build a fence around her backyard. “I was very happy when I heard,” she says. “I never thought that I would be picked. It was like a cherry on a Sunday.”

But long-term indicators will prove more reliable: the city will monitor property values, the extent of segregation, the number of properties successfully being transferred through generations, as well as broadly the education and health outcomes of the city’s Black community.

In the future, Evanston plans to expand its reparations to other realms like education — a school will be restored in the 5th ward to replace the one torn down before. The city is also sharing best practices with a number of other cities such as Providence, Rhode Island and San Diego California, while in conversation with the National League of Cities. “Each local municipality has a specific harm depending on local history,” says Braithwaite. “But there are learnings we can share.”

Yet Braithwaite is clear about the limits of the program’s objectives. For one, Evanston’s reparations are only responding to the local wrongs that were done, not those perpetrated on the federal level. “These local reparations are much different to the national issue,” he says. “The foundation of it is what was done against the Black community in Evanston.”

Burton agrees that these reparations can only achieve so much, but that they should nonetheless be scaled. “I think it’s a baby step in the right direction,” she says. “It’s kind of like an apology for wrongdoings and it is helping out. I think every major city should join, especially down south, where prejudice was well known.”

One teething problem, however, is financing. With just one cannabis dispensary, Evanston’s initial income for the scheme has been lower than expected — though there’s capacity for up to five dispensaries to be built. Other proposals reportedly being considered include a tax on lakefront properties and a transfer of $5 million from the city’s general fund. “I hope that we’re able to attract more dollars and accelerate this program to fund all those who applied,” says Braithwaite.

But advocates say that reversing decades of racial discrimination, done well, will be a gradual process. “We need to manage expectations, but also need to be sure that monies are being justly spent,” says Brooks. “Assessment is so important here. Are we doing what needs to be done in a demonstrably impactful way? We can’t look at the long arc of history and insist on solving the problem in nanoseconds.”

The post Evanston, Illinois Is the First City to Offer Reparations to Black Residents appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Beyond Bilo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/06/2022 - 2:42pm in

Advocates look to RESET Australia’s Refugee Policy After #HometoBiloela Media Release 12 June 2022 “This is a weekend of rejoicing for thousands of Australians as Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharnicaa returned home to Biloela. Their fabled journey of suffering and abuse and yesterday’s fanfare return to Biloela have been very public. It is a story…

The post Beyond Bilo appeared first on The AIM Network.

Advocates calling for more collaboration with Indonesia on refugee issues

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/06/2022 - 2:28pm in

People Just Like Us (PJLU) Media Release Representatives of the new Albanese Labor Government visited Indonesia this week. Refugee advocacy group, People Just Like Us, today urges that the newly elected Labor Government takes the chance to “reset” our relationship with our Asian neighbours on refugee issues by setting up “safe passage” for those refugees…

The post Advocates calling for more collaboration with Indonesia on refugee issues appeared first on The AIM Network.

When a Missed Piece of Mail Sends Someone to Jail

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/06/2022 - 6:00pm in

This story was originally published by Next City

Early this year, George Harris (not his real name) had two pending court cases in St. Louis County. He was unaware of one of those cases due to a common error: The notice was sent to an address he no longer resides at. He missed his court date and the county issued him a warrant for failing to appear.

An open warrant meant that if Harris had any encounter with the police, he would be arrested and incarcerated at the St. Louis County jail — all because of a wrong address and a missed court appearance. But this February, Harris visited the Tap In Center, a resource designed to address this very problem. Inside a local library, he worked with a volunteer attorney who heard out his issue and relayed it to the county prosecutor, who ultimately recalled Harris’s warrant.

“They helped me stay in the community, stay with my family and take care of my kids,” Harris says of the service. “I could have been locked up on that warrant.”

The Tap In Center is an experimental service that launched at the Florissant Valley Branch of the St. Louis County Library in fall 2020. At the center, volunteer attorneys work with people who have open warrants with the goal of recalling them. In 17 months, nearly 300 residents were served and more than 300 warrants were recalled. This April, a second Tap In Center opened at the Lewis and Clark Branch of the St. Louis County Library to increase the impact.

The Tap In Center is one result of years of community organizing with the goal of reducing racial disparities in St. Louis’ justice system and lowering the jail population. One major player has been The Bail Project, which in 2018 began providing free bail assistance and community-based pretrial support.

tap inVolunteer attorneys work with people who have open warrants with the goal of recalling them. Credit: Tap In Center

The Bail Project has served over 3,000 people and gotten the jail population low enough to lead to the passage of a 2020 bill to close the city’s medium-security jail. In this work, bail advocates realized that much of the jail overcrowding was caused by people incarcerated due to open warrants. This isn’t unique to St. Louis — around the country, the most common type of warrant is issued by the court when someone fails to appear for their court date.

The Bail Project’s work intersected with the St. Louis County Safety and Justice Challenge, which began in 2015 following the police murder of Michael Brown. In response to the DOJ investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, which found that municipal court practices exacerbated racial inequities in the St. Louis County justice system, members of the Safety and Justice Challenge prioritized the courts in their larger goal of keeping people out of jail.

In 2020, the groups came together to focus on the bench warrants issued due to failing to appear at a scheduled court date. “We started talking about what amnesty, or warrant forgiveness, could look like and who would need to be involved,” says Miranda Gibson, a grant manager at the St. Louis County Department of Justice Services who now coordinates the Tap In Center.

“There’s a common misconception that if someone doesn’t show up to court, they are flagrantly evading prosecution, running from the court or committing crimes,” she continues. “Usually it’s very benign, or just a misunderstanding — anecdotally, most people just don’t know they have a court case or a court date.” Court notices are sent to the address listed on someone’s identification card, which is frequently outdated.

To assess feasibility, the groups started talking with public defenders and judges who participated in the Safety and Justice Challenge. “We wanted to do it where we’d have the most buy-in possible,” Gibson says. The goal was to convince county prosecutors, who’d make the final decision to recall warrants. “The program could not live without the prosecutors,” notes Gibson. “Ultimately it helps their caseload. They don’t want people out in the world with a bunch of warrants either.”

As they pushed for buy-in, they discussed potential locations. “The Bail Project was really good in framing why we’re doing this and pushing that it should not be at a government building like a jail or courthouse,” Gibson says. William Newsome, a client support specialist for The Bail Project who now helps with the Tap In Center, notes that police departments across the country advertise “warrant recalls” only to arrest the people who come seeking support. “The issue was that no one was going to believe that they could access this service and not get arrested,” Newsome says.

The group was drawn to the library, and after some cold emails, the St. Louis County Library leadership was quickly on board. “We were looking at where the warrants were coming from, where there was a high area of open warrants, and then talking with the libraries who know their communities well,” says Gibson. They settled on the Florissant Valley Branch, which is accessible to public transit, about a 10-minute drive from Ferguson, and serves patrons who have been impacted by warrants, arrests and over-policing.

The Tap In Center opened there in September 2020. Every Tuesday, between 6 and 8 p.m., volunteer attorneys and a representative from the Bail Project meet with clients who have open warrants. “We’re right downstairs where the kid’s library is; it’s very relaxed,” says Newsome. “The entire staff of the Tap In is making you feel like this is a safe space; no one is calling the police.” He adds that the team even thought out what they’d wear: “We dress comfortably … if you walk in and see a bunch of people in ties, you’ll get leery.”

During the service hours of the Tap In Center, the county prosecutor’s office is on hand to take calls from the volunteer attorneys. The prosecutors have the authority to make decisions on recalling a warrant that same night. “We’re looking at the history of the case, we call the prosecutor, and the prosecutor tells us if they’re able to dismiss the warrant,” says Taylor Burrows, a volunteer Tap In attorney. “If the prosecutor has concerns [about dismissal], we go from there to address those concerns.”

“The answer is not always ‘yes,’” Gibson points out, “But we have had a lot of success.” The client can usually leave the Tap In Center after 20 minutes and know if the warrant is going to be recalled, and if so, know they will have another court date set.

There are 91 municipalities in St. Louis County, all with their own courtroom policies and rules around warrant recalls. “It is byzantine,” Burrows says. Some of the volunteer attorneys put together an exhaustive list of court procedures for each municipality, with the goal of streamlining the process. “We want to understand their policies for warrant recalls, policies for payment plans, where people should direct questions, and what steps they should be taking to deal with their warrants,” Burrows says.

As the attorney addresses the warrants, a Bail Project representative offers wraparound services. “We tap our clients into community partners who do everything they may or may not need,” says Newsome. “It’s all voluntary, you can come to the center and have a substance abuse problem but if you don’t want to deal with it, we won’t force you.” Crucially, the Bail Project helps clients attend their new court date by signing them up for automated reminders and offering transportation.

According to anonymous testimony provided by Tap In clients, recalled warrants have a profound impact on their lives. “It kept me out of jail, which allowed me to continue to work, stay in treatment, and mainly stay out of the system,” one client said. “Once you’re in the system, it’s hard to get out. You get no treatment when you’re in jail, so you guys really saved me from that.”

Another client missed their court date due to confusion. One day after they visited the Tap In Center, the judge recalled the warrant and scheduled a new court date. “I didn’t know what was going on with the case at the time,” the client reported. “There was a miscommunication because of Covid, I didn’t intentionally miss anything, and you guys made it so I didn’t get locked up.”

Visits to the Tap In Center increased as word got out through word of mouth, outreach from all the participating partners, and direct referrals from judges, prosecutors and attorneys. But the team noticed that many of the clients weren’t coming from a neighborhood with a significant percentage of open warrants. So in April, the Tap In Center expanded to the Lewis and Clark Branch to serve that population.

With volunteer support and a free space provided by the library, the team feels this is an easily replicable service — it’s just a matter of getting judges and prosecutors on board. “Just the fact that our prosecutor is open to looking at these cases is huge … I know a lot of prosecutors are not willing to do that, which is why we haven’t expanded beyond St. Louis County,” Gibson says.

“This could work in every community,” says Newsome. “Anywhere there’s over-incarceration, this can help.”

The post When a Missed Piece of Mail Sends Someone to Jail appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Book Review: Revolutionary Routines: The Habits of Social Transformation by Carolyn Pedwell

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/06/2022 - 9:32pm in

In Revolutionary Routines: The Habits of Social Transformation, Carolyn Pedwell examines how social change can be enacted through everyday habits and routinised practices, arguing that such ‘minor’ gestures may be just as transformative as major events. This exploration of the conditions of political possibility is an important endeavour, write Alice Menzel and Jessica Pykett, and will be of particular interest to those concerned with social justice. 

Revolutionary Routines: The Habits of Social Transformation. Carolyn Pedwell. McGill-Queen’s University Press. 2021.

Seemingly mundane practices and minor everyday habits are the central concern for Carolyn Pedwell’s Revolutionary Routines. In addition to her own examples of social media memes and hashtag activism (or ‘clicktivism’), we might think also of the emergence of slow fashion, the adding of gender pronouns to email signatures, the domestic routines of working fathers, the daily monitoring of air pollution or COVID-19 cases, our journey to work and the dietary choices we make. These are all types of everyday, embodied habits, or routinised practices, from which the possibility for social transformation may emerge.

The key premise of this thoughtful and critical text is that social change is often thought of as taking place in the ‘major’ key through large-scale political events or ‘turning points’ (11) – such as protests, revolts, upheavals and the passing of new laws/policies – and that it is their large-scale nature that is seen to grant them significance. Through Revolutionary Routines, Pedwell is interested in theorising social change as enacted through the minor key: through the everyday.

Pedwell seeks to develop a new ontology of transformation in which ‘the revolutionary and the routine are perpetually intertwined and minor gestures and tendencies may be just as significant as major events’ (6). With the rise of explicitly racist and xenophobic practices in recent years – enunciated especially through the ‘major’ political events of right-wing populism, Trumpism and Brexit – Revolutionary Routines offers a timely examination of how habits can both perpetuate and combat social injustices.

Pedwell is interested in the possibilities of everyday habits for reformulating social progress in the present, as opposed to the distant future, and the potential of habit to reinscribe social practices in the now. Pedwell’s disciplinary background in media, communications and cultural studies is evident through her emphasis on how contemporary social justice movements pursue transformation through the making of new digital ecologies. She considers how such movements reinhabit everyday spaces of digital networks and technologies to cultivate new habits and possibilities to challenge the status quo. In making this connection, the book advances a conceptualisation of habits as at once embodied, subconscious and felt as well as ‘political, institutional and datalogical’ (xix).

Image Credit: Photo by mostafa mahmoudi on Unsplash

Pedwell’s conception of habits is inspired heavily by the philosophies of speculative pragmatism, drawing particularly upon the writings of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century pragmatist philosophers John Dewey, William James and Felix Ravaisson. Their works comprise three pillars of the book’s theoretical framework, offering various ‘genealogies’ of habit. These are habits as learned phenomena which are embodied and productive (Dewey), operating below the level of consciousness (James) and repeating in a manner which offers capacity for change (Ravaisson). Reference to Erin Manning’s (2016) work on the politics of minor gestures provides a conceptual anchor to Pedwell’s central thesis on the critical importance of habit assemblages (as opposed to events, ruptures and shifts, or habits in isolation) as the source of transformation and progressive politics.

These core tenets of habits are articulated from the outset through a personal excursion into the habitual nature of sleep in the book’s preface. Reflecting upon her own experience of insomnia – and subsequent interruptions to her everyday rhythms, emotions and embodied routines (to which many readers will likely relate) – Pedwell demonstrates how habits are so routinised and automated, they become virtually unnoticeable, except during periods of disruption.

By recounting her various attempts to regain the habit of sleep, Pedwell points to the possibilities of reorientating attention away from ‘bad habits’ (after Dewey) towards more affirmative, transformative ones, noting also that affects and habits are always unstable and never fully our own. Pedwell pays critical attention to how habits mediate deeply ‘ingrained relations of privilege, power and exclusion’ (xxii) – the habit of sleep, for example, is largely driven by capitalist work routines, experienced unequally through health inequalities and minoritised ethnic groups, and (at the extreme) can even be weaponised as a form of torture. Pedwell argues that a critical politics of habit must grapple with the gendered, sexualised, racialised, classed and geopolitical dynamics of social inequalities and exclusion.

In laying out her intellectual terrain in the book’s first part, Pedwell notes the need to develop critical, contemporary re-readings of the classic works of Dewey, James and Ravaissson that are fundamental to her thesis. The book opens a philosophical conversation between pragmatist insights on habit and critical affect theory, drawing on feminist, queer, anti-racist and decolonial thinking to pay attention to the universalising assumptions of liberal theorists. Pedwell introduces a wide range of diverse thinkers grounded in a careful focus on social justice movements pertaining to racial injustice/xenophobia as well as critiques of privileged habits of whiteness. Moreover, Pedwell largely heeds Dewey’s scepticism that it is ever possible to fully imagine what a socially ‘just’ future might/should look like in advance.

At the heart of the book is a thesis on the ‘double logic’ of habit (after Ravaisson): how habits have the potential to be both transformative and stagnating. The most compelling application of this comes early in the book in Chapter Two, which focuses on racist habits and hierarchies which are deeply ingrained within neoliberal societies.

Pedwell offers an insightful comparison between white supremacy, as conscious and deliberate forms of racism, and white privilege, which is largely subconscious and habitual and thus (after Shannon Sullivan, 2006, and Sara Ahmed, 2013) unseen. Engaging with feminist, anti-racist philosophers, this chapter argues ‘racial oppression is often carried out at the habitual, embodied level through subconscious “gestures, speech, tone of voice, movement and reaction to others” (Iris Marion Young, 1990, 23)’ (65-66).

The habit of white privilege allows explicit racisms to hibernate (but not go away) and then reawaken, particularly in times of crisis. Pedwell highlights the difficulty of addressing habits of white privilege without people defaulting to defensive habits of white victimhood. She argues that exposing ‘bad’ habits is not always sufficient and can, paradoxically, reinforce inequalities; instead, she suggests that what are needed are modes of ‘undoing and unmaking’ persistent habits.

Government efforts to shape habits are the subject of Chapter Three, which examines the assumptions made by popularised ‘nudge’ techniques of governance aimed at encouraging people to change their behaviour and to make choices in their own best interest. The assumptions of these techniques and their implied ‘ideological commitments linked to patterns of socioeconomic injustice and inequality’ are questioned (86).

Pedwell guides the reader through a brief but illuminating history of the intersections between psychological knowledge and governance and problematises the notion that it is only through the breaking – rather than making – of habits that social transformation can be enacted. She situates habits as ‘the product of evolving transactions between organisms and the milieus they inhabit’ rather than as individualised behaviours (87).

So far, there seems to be little difference between the imperative to shape the choice architectures of habit formation and attempts to intervene in the structural environments which produce social injustices. But here is the crux of the issue: by re-reading behaviourism through the specific engagements of pragmatist philosophers, Pedwell draws out a key distinction.

Whilst behaviourist psychology developed theories of reflex, maladaptation and conditioning techniques, pragmatists such as Dewey advocated for the importance of human intentionality at both an individual and collective level. His idea of ‘democratic intelligence’ and promotion of transforming educational environments (95) resonate more with the normative values of recent theories of ‘boosting’ (see Mark Fabian and Jessica Pykett, 2022; Ralph Hertwig and Till Grüne-Yanoff, 2017) rather than nudging. These are based on cultivating personal and social resources for actively shaping socio-economic and political contexts through participation and enhancing capability rather than behavioural modification (107).

It is a truism to say that the media acts as an unstoppable political force, but in Chapter Four Pedwell successfully unpacks the more psychological, emotional and visual processes that shape everyday engagement with media and confirm its importance as a driver of transformative change. With reference to the tragic death of Alan Kurdi, a three-year old Syrian refugee, and the images of his body published by media outlets in 2015, Pedwell examines the potential for such images to represent, shock, amplify and move to action, or conversely to desensitise (114).

To understand the political potential of the media image, Pedwell argues, it is necessary to set out the relationships between images in addition to ‘bodies, atmospheres, infrastructures and environments’ (132). This is articulated elsewhere in recent analysis of one of the most ubiquitous images of the pandemic: expectant fathers waiting anxiously – and alone – in hospital car parks whilst their partner is in labour (Alice Menzel, 2022). The absence of fathers’ bodies in maternity care spaces illuminates specific modes of habitual (gendered) emotional governance, taken to the extreme in times of crisis through institutional restriction policies. Pedwell’s approach is useful in reminding researchers and others of the social value of the arts, imagination and cultural production in shaping not only knowledge, information and understanding, but also new political sensibilities and possible futures.

In Chapter Five on the habits of solidarity, this framework is put to work to examine the ‘progressive’ potential of habit assemblages through the examples of Black Lives Matter and Occupy activism in the US. In a careful articulation of habitual police violence and oppression of Black people and people of colour, Pedwell explores existing critiques of algorithmic biases, surveillance technologies and the deployment of digital technologies in the service of racialised capitalism (138).

Chapter Five draws attention to the radical potential of networked activisms which use the same techniques and technologies: for instance, using Twitter hashtags to create new forms of solidarity and shape community and to make visible and visceral the extent and impacts of racial oppression through online campaigning, image sharing, event organisation and international networking. Pedwell argues that Black Lives Matter exemplifies her notion of ‘“affective inhabitation”: an immersive experience that protracts our relationship with a visual image or environment, compelling us to inhabit the sensorial intensity of our encounter and its critical implications’ (144).

The inhabitation, particularly of urban space, and the limitations and boundaries set on this and experienced by Black people in the US, is a key facet of Pedwell’s ‘habit assemblage’. This spatialisation of habits is shared by both Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movement, who have collectively occupied specific places in cities to protest, to reclaim space and to enact idealised habits and routines – for example, cooking and caring together (148).

Revolutionary Routines is a quintessentially philosophical text, which offers possibilities for rethinking our understanding of the habitual nature of social oppression in its various guises. It will primarily be of interest to researchers and graduate students concerned with topics of social justice. Pedwell’s argument that such forms of prefigurative and speculative politics are as important as more strategic forms of political engagement is likely to remain a source of debate. However, her exploration of how popular culture, media, government techniques and digital ecologies are reshaping the mind, bodies and environment in ways that affect the conditions of political possibility remains an important endeavour.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

The savagery of ignorance – We will decide

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/02/2022 - 8:12am in

By David Ayliffe   “We will decide” When the savagery of ignorance makes the savagery of innocence The cruellest cut of all. “Who will come.” As the wise men drive past Eyes-glazed staring at the crying eyes of the children at the windows of their prison, hotel of leisure. “To this country.” They are determined to…

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