Routed connections in late modern times

24 april 2015,   By ,   0 Comments

Door Halleh Ghorashi –

VU University Amsterdam
Bauman (2000) argues that ‘late modernity’ made the solid categories of the past fluid, leaving individuals solely responsible for their actions. This freedom has also decreased the sense of connectedness among individuals, making it difficult to deal with increasingly complex issues of our time while drawing out-weighted attention to perceived risks. This growing fear and insecurity has led to the need for new kinds of secured communities to protect individuals. These new communities are most visible when the gates excluding those considered a threat to the community are observable. In addition to visible gated or bordered forms of exclusion, we also observe the growth of less visible exclusive discursive sources of othering, which serve as invisible gates within the borders of most European nation states. The fundamental ingredient in the present exclusive source of othering is the construction of otherness through culture. The culture (including religion) of migrants is constructed as absolutely different and inferior to the culture of the natives. This, what I refer to as the ‘culturalist discourse of othering’, has become increasingly dominant in most European societies. I argue that the culturalist discourse of othering is based on a homogeneous, static, coherent, and rooted notion of culture combined with a rooted assumption of belonging (see also Stolcke 1995). In opposition to this growing culturalist discourse in Europe, we observe the increase of identity politics, emphasizing the politics of difference. In line with Iris Young (2007), I argue that any kind of identity politics which adapts the same reifying approach to culture or religion cannot offer long term unsettling opposition to the dominant discourses of inequality. What I will propose in this chapter is an unsettling politics of connection which is inspired by Young’s approach of the politics of positional difference. With this approach I argue that one of the most durable manners to unsettle normalized structures is to facilitate connections which are ‘de-normalized’ and inclusive of difference. Since the power of normalized discourses are partly constituted by their repetition in daily practice, it is the repetition of an individual’s daily inclusive choices in interactions with others which provides the most powerful subverting force against the dominant discourses of othering.

In this paper, I argue that any rooted notion of imagining identities creates boundaries of difference which give the illusion of security while strengthening the foundations of polarization. As opposed to rooted positioning I will discuss routed positioning which reconnects individuals to the city. These routed positionings are manifestations of what I earlier called the unsettling politics of connection. Before presenting my discussion on this main point, I will discuss the building blocks of my argument, beginning with the condition of late modernity and the loss of connectivity.

Download the entire essay ‘Routed connections in late modern times’ (pdf)

Parts of this chapter are based on the alternative lecture to the annual royal speech, in Dutch in 2012 >>