The question comes up repeatedly, the demand, to provide a clear example of infrapolitics in the sense we are developing through collective discussion that would make it an alternative to the on the other hand very interesting James C. Scott’s take on it. It has seemed important not to rush into examples all too quickly, because examples have, sometimes, too much force, and might get in the way of an adequate approach: in other words, examples might orient the discussion towards an all-too-reductive understanding. But it might be time to offer one, for discussion. Take Jean Franco’s recent book, Cruel Modernity (Duke UP, 2013). Franco reviews atrocious stories of violence in recent Latin American history, and she does it to such an extent that, towards the end of the book, one hesitates to continue to conceptualize them in terms of stories, as cumulatively they become something else. Take the last chapter, for instance, on narco violence, the cult of Santa Muerte, religion gone over to the dark side, or the reference to Bolaño’s (and Baudelaire’s) “an oasis of horror in a desert of boredom.” Could we not make the claim that the uncanny surplus of violence in all the histories reviewed by Franco constitutes, precisely, infrapolitical violence? We know that violence is constitutive of politics. But how do you still retain a political dimension in the very excess of violence? There is no political valence to that excess, in fact, it makes a mockery of politics, whatever the latter is. So this is the example: the excessive, post-katechontic violence deployed endemically in Latin American contemporary life, from Guatemala to the US-Mexico border, from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the Atacama desert, and from the Colombian jungles to the Devil’s Mouth is infrapolitical violence. Which does not mean that infrapolitics refers only to violence.
Maybe I’m drawing too much from the example… But in the case of violence and cruelty, would infrapolitical violence exhaust itselt in a deconstruction of politics? Im thinking on the remains, material remains, human remains of violence. How could we think of them with respect to infra political violence, in the sense that the remain is also an excess?
Ludmilla, not sure I can answer your question. Why would infrapolitical violence exhaust itself into anything at all? No, it can always get worse, that is, increase, or intensify, or better, that is, lesser, but it won´t exhaust itself. Rule of thumb: nothing, once unleashed, will contain it, until something does. That something able to contain infrapolitical violence is probably politics, perhaps also religion if religion has access to political power. For instance, a strong Mexican state free or relatively free of corruption might change things, in the same way democratic transitions alleviated the situation in the Southern Cone, comparatively speaking. A hegemonic change in the understanding of Christianity might stop inquisitorial practices at an everyday level, like the Christian Reformation did. A remain, a corpse, for instance, is neither political nor infrapolitical, however, only a corpse. It can be instrumentalized through a politics of memory. But a politics of memory is politics not infrapolitics. The infrapolitical has a relationship to politics, of course, but it is not itself a politics. If we can say, as I said the other day, that, at an anthropological or tactical level, infrapolitics is deconstruction and deconstruction is infrapolitics, I meant that yes, infrapolitics is for the most part, or is in, a state of radical factical critique. For instance, narco violence embodies a radical factical critique of state legality. But, I must insist, infrapolitical violence does not exhaust infrapolitics, not by a long shot.
With all do respect, the idea that “rushing” into examples might lead to reductionism is reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s dictum according to which book reviewers shouldn’t read the books they review, lest they might become too prejudiced. In formal logic, if your theory can prove a statement and its negation, its clearly a faulty theory. If you can’t even come up with a clear unambiguous example, and the one you come up with is based on a perceived effect of a specific book—an effect, by the way, of its narrative frame and rhetorical devices—forbid bid me for rushing to the conclusion that your theory is a theory about nothing.