hygiene in the quasi kingdom

Have a look at this incredible description of the world.  Gosh, and I thought it was college, a flat, friends and a seasonal trip to here and there. Apparently not!

There are societies that we hardly know about out there, always have been, deliberately held at arms length from proper society for various reasons.  Is it fair to say they’re like the secret second flat where the girlfriend is kept, or if like me you’re not there yet, the place at the bar where you sit to avoid going home?  I think so.

In these often arbitrarily established lands, people have immunity from local law because … they make their own laws.  Merchant groups, military camps, the church, emigrants, Special Enterprise Zones, refugee camp, favela, protected corridors.  Illicit things are done, sometimes there’s chaos that stems from the sheer complexity of environmental realities, attempts are made to foster a home away from home.

In the end, the image is bipolar and rooted in violence:  to live a genteel life at home we will emphasize hygiene and segregation; to accomplish our goals at the office, we will use private armies.  Gandhi defined the roots of violence in the same terms:

“The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles.”

Islands were simply exported to the margins of European geography, thus extending its frontiers.  There they appeared as the ‘outposts of civilization’ floating within the sea of yet unordered barbarity.  The colonies, themselves – sometimes under quasi-private sovereignty such as this of the British East India Company, sovereign in India until 1856, but in most cases incorporated into the legal body of the motherland – were laid out on the basis of a politics of hygiene and a geography of segregation.  Extra-territorial Islands of jurisdiction appeared as well at Europe’s encounter with the countries “outside” of the global colonial order – Japan, Ottoman Empire, Persia, Siam and Ethiopia.  Merchants, military personnel, church missioners and new settlers, were not subject to the laws of these quasi kingdoms but lived in enclaves that were legally incorporated into the territorial body of their home nations.”

-The Geography of Extraterritoriality by Anselm Franke and Eyal Weizman

“The historical Islands of extra-territorial refuge and sovereignty have evolved into today’s zones of humanitarian intervention – set in responses to states of emergency or extreme humanitarian crisis; military camps – deployed for the defense of foreign investments, natural resources, international transport or on behalf of nationals abroad; or Special Enterprise Zones – set as manufacturing enclaves for the financial exploitation of advancing nations by advanced ones.  But the international-law principles of “suspended sovereignty” and of “extraterritorial jurisdiction,” on which Islands rely, violate juridical territoriality in a way that sets a clear challenge to the sovereign power of the state in which they exist, and indeed to the Westphalian state system in general.”

“But there exist as well spaces of another type of interiority, shadowing the more visible economical and political network.  These are “lawless” zones in various states of “anarchy, poverty, decay and crime.”  The refugee camp, the favela and the protected corridors in Afghanistan, Central America are for the drug traffickers and arms dealers what Tax Havens and international banking are to the financial market.  Here they are black Islands of disorder floating within the smooth sea of ordered international flows.” Partly retreating, partly forced into isolation, Gray Islands are governed by warlords, private entrepreneurs, clan chiefs, armies for hire, or youth gangs, and are in a state of low intensity, permanent conflict.  Indeed of the 70 recognized political conflicts across the world today, only six manifest themselves as war between two or more sovereign state actors, while at least half are carried out besides any juridical framework of any legitimate power.  These shadow conflicts most often only come into light when they disturb the official flow of goods, capital and resources.”

At the frontiers – when gray Islands meet the space of flow – counter warlords of various types emerge – private security companies and other such mercenaries of various types operating “anywhere, anytime” – offering their form of violence to the service of he middle classes as a ready-made product on the market.”

~From The Geography of Extraterritoriality by Anselm Franke and Eyal Weizman


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