Eruptions: NYC MustTagAliens
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For the Safe Issue, we asked contributors to reflect on the MTA’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, what they thought it was hailing them to do and what they thought of that interpellation. We requested that they “say something” in return. Their responses varied from reaching to the philosophical to thinking through the political resonances in other (inter)national and metropolitan contexts. Then, using “If You Fear Something, You’ll See Something,” the visual aid from the Fulana Collective (cofounded and directed by Marlène Ramírez-Cancio), as our own editorial cue, we arranged ten of these responses, with sonic diversity rather than vocal unity in mind. We sought to make space, safe or not, for different perspectives, positions, and voices coming from artists and activists, established scholars and graduate students, the United States and beyond, with each eruptive voice being first and foremost his or her own. Below the Fulana image, you will find these responses listed alphabetically and by first name, as you would have them on your cell phone contacts list. [End Page 28]

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Graphic © Fulana. Marlène Ramírez-Cancio, cofounder and codirector, Fulana.

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I’m sitting on the Q train, about to head over the Manhattan Bridge back home to Brooklyn. In my lap is Susan Buck-Morss’s Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left. To my left sits a man about fifty years old, slumped over. It is unclear if he is homeless—we are both on a midafternoon trajectory; the sun shines in theatrically. The book in my lap advises, “We must maintain a double vision if we are to see clearly.” This is because, as Buck-Morss states, there are two Americas. One is a democratic republic, committed to upholding a balance of powers and engaged in principals of freedom—universal political freedoms, as she calls them, “to mean blindness to sexual and class difference, sexual preference, racial heritage, and ethnic origin, with the goal of affirming and protecting difference in all the individual and collective human senses.” Okay, here already we have two descriptors that involve our physical approach to perception, namely, “double vision” and “blindness.” The other America to contend with is what Giorgio Agamben so aptly describes in Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, taking off from Foucault. Here biopolitics govern our bodies and the state administrates our well-being down to its hormonal levels—one certainly cannot zigzag out of line in this social formation! Here is what Agamben has in mind: “Sovereignty thus presents itself as an incorporation of the state of nature in society, or, if one prefers, as a state of indistinction between nature and culture, between violence and law, and this very indistinction constitutes specifically sovereign violence.” The cellular, internal/external ecological whole is in play. This is more likely the America where you will fail to see something, because there are offshore sites for rendition. Isolating your senses will offer only a blurred screen, a simulacrum created for your consumption. Meanwhile, gross disappearances are occurring. I haven’t even mentioned our nonhuman animal friends . . .

Brenda Iijima, poet

Imagine you were the principal of a high school where only 12 percent of students graduated. No matter how great you thought the curriculum was or how good an education you thought the nongraduates received, yours would be considered a failing school.

In 2009, only 12 percent of the recorded stops by police in New York City resulted in arrest or summons, and yet police officials and some members of the public want us to believe that the department’s stop-and-frisk policy is an effective crime-fighting tool. More than half a million stops [End Page 30] occurred to reach that 12 percent. And evidence suggests that even among the 12 percent, many of the charges end up being dismissed. This low rate of return on hundreds of thousands of recorded...