Siraj Ahmed

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

5:30pm - 6:30pm

Department of English

70 Brown Street

Barker Room 315

Sovereign and Martyr: Necropower, Terrorism, Nonviolence

According to the classical definition, sovereignty is power over life and death. From this perspective, the willingness to die for one’s beliefs—a precondition of nonviolence—‘retrieves sovereignty from the state and generalizes it as a quality vested in individuals,’ in the words of Faisal Devji. But if so, this reappropriation of sovereignty is at least as characteristic of suicide missions as it is of satyagraha. In either case, sovereignty depends on disavowing the modern political sphere’s founding principle, security, and exposing oneself to violence instead. Fanon considered something like this to be ‘the achievement’ of the Algerian uprising: ‘a mutation of the instinct of self-preservation’ into some higher principle. It was precisely because they sacrificed themselves to this other principle, Fanon insisted, that the revolutionaries elicited support from around the world. They thus constituted a kind of sovereignty and solidarity that cannot be called political. This talk explores the mysterious solidarities produced, in theory, by nonviolent assembly and murder-suicide, two diametrically opposed but intimately related practices that question politics fundamentally.