Discourses of Modernity and the New:
Performing Colonization from Morocco to Iraq

[Presented at the conference: “Rethinking Modernity”  in Jaipur, India in 2003]

Modernity and Tradition

Berman characterizes modernity through four central conditions, two of which I would like to examine here.  First, Berman contends that modernity is a uniquely European phenomenon.  Secondly, Berman states that modernity is  part of a historical process dating from the Renaissance which recognized a break between the polarities of the “real” and “illusory” world such that modern man might view the world through both history and a very physical, real present:  “Now the false world is seen as a historical past, a world we have lost (or are in the process of losing), while the true world is in the physical and social world that exists for us here and now (or in the process of coming into being)” (p. 106).  Berman’s definition of modernity, aside from consolidating an ethos of consciousness, serves to posit modernity as a concept of “progress”, thereby implying a moral judgement upon those societies which are not modern—namely non-Western cultures.  This break characterized by Berman as man’s ability to view the world “as it is” versus an “objectified”, historical reframing of the past is certainly not unique to European culture and needs to be more closely examined and refashioned so as not to unnecessarily exclude social models which are  either constituent or critical of modernity.

I turn here to a historian who theorized modernity in Islam during the 1950’s and 1960’s, Marshall Hodgson.  In Rethinking World History, Hodgson redefines modernity in terms of a global context of experiences between cultures—specifically those of European and Islamic societies.  Refuting the idea that non-Western cultures entered into the “mainstream” of European culture, Hodgson chronicles how the Afro-Eurasian medieval world was engaged in mechanical, biological, political, and social experimentation in the context of increasingly complex trading patterns, and he gives a plethora of examples to show how Islamic cultures actually contributed to European modernization through the introduction of Chinese and Indian sciences and technologies as well as Chinese and Iranian political systems.  Arguing against Eurocentric notions of modernity, Hodgson analyzes the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe as historically having been conceptualized as “progress” which he refutes on the grounds that progress, in this context, is homologous to “better”.  Critiquing Max Weber’s distinction between “rational” and “traditional” societies, Hodgson concludes that Weber’s  concept of modernity depends upon a break from the “traditional” to “rational” which elides contributions made by other cultures and locates Europe as the sole agent of modernity.  Demonstrating that rationality and tradition are not at all antithetical concepts, but instead are integral,  interdependent moments which work to reinvent and re-articulate cultural traditions, Hodgson confers that modernity depends upon the “effectiveness of traditions” which serve to channel individual rationality.  In questioning the allocation of non-Western cultures as “pre-modern” and Western cultures as “modern”, Hodgson forces us to rethink the West’s predilection towards bifurcating modernity and tradition as two separate or antithetical modes which are indigenous to specific cultures.  Ultimately, Hodgson, lays the groundwork for understanding modernity as integral to tradition.

In engaging this argument of modernity and tradition, it seems to me that to destroy the binary could easily lend to a re-crafting of their polarities, or worse, it could impose a superficial annex to history adding onto the ruins of language another vector of “truth”.  But, as a friend reminded me recently, one cannot treat history as if it were a house by merely adding on “another wing” to correct an imbalance or amend a spatial inconsistency.  So how might we approach the contradictory nature of this discussion of tradition and modernity through a restructuring of sorts that does not pervade the historical consciousness of language or that does not pay homage to what Nietzsche calls the “wirkliche Historie”?  As Foucault saliently argues, the traditional devices of history must be “systematically dismantled”, he advocates “effective” history as the force that will unearth traditional  history and disrupt its “pretended continuity” by breaking down simplistic configurations of events and finalities and by getting caught amidst the complexities and contradictions of events—in essence, by getting lost:  “We want historians to confirm our belief that the present rests upon profound intentions and immutable necessities.  But the true historical sense confirms our existence among countless lost events, without a landmark or a point of reference” (pp. 154-155).  Here Foucault’s concept of tradition engages both the structure and process of making knowledge as a historically immutable event and, I would argue, lays the groundwork for understanding modernity as the perpetual  dismantling and reestablishment of traditions through the creation of syncretic forums based on past and current enunciations and through the disarticulation of identity based on  heterogeneous  bodies which  pervade any static representation of the subject of knowledge.

Thus we are left to confront modernity head on as  a dialogic space of maneuvering inside/outside, past/present, and local/global as informed primarily through the past fifteen years of social science theory which has opened up venues for discussing culture not as a structure, but as a process.  I take my distinction of modernity, modernization, and modernism from Hisham Sharabi who locates modernity as a “comprehensive structure” that forms a cultural whole, modernization as the process of technological transformation, and modernism as a consciousness of being different from cultures which are not.  I use this distinction  drawn by Sharabi carefully since I ultimately object to the cultural relativism his reading  lends to modernity as, once again, an originally European moment. However, the distinctions Sharabi draws between the structure, process, and consciousness of modernity provides a practical basis for analyzing the paradigm of modernity as both an intercultural and a local space of recognition and dialogue which shifts between an understanding of modernity as a structure informed by modernization as an “infection” of materials, technologies, and practices from outside, and modernism as a self-conscious tactic for re-inscribing or restructuring traditions from “inside”.  It is this negotiation of inside/outside and center/periphery which provides a rich terrain for examining modernity as a process of persistent “infection”, or rather dialogue of oneself to another, through stories of our families, our neighbors, and then, on a global level, of our cultures and nations.  Each story conveys a meaning that situates history and identity as  constituent within an ongoing dialogue of culture, of establishing the borders of inside from outside, and of concurrently breaking down previous distinctions and boundaries within the scope of the present tense.  Viewed in this way, modernity is the process of reassessing and reframing traditions through the language of power and the power of language, reflecting both how we frame other cultures and how we are likewise framed.

Modernity as dialogue abandons puerile notions of cultural isolation and embraces contiguous definitions of tradition and transformation as integral to both internal reflections and external transmissions of what we perceive to be our utopias and our particular modernities.  Perhaps one of the most meticulous critics of this process of cultural dialogue is Ashis Nandy, whose Traditions, Tyranny and Utopias establishes dialogue as integral to  cultural understandings of tradition:

A dialogue of cultures—or of utopias, visions and faiths—is a dialogue within each participating culture among its different levels or parts.  This second dialogue could be articulate, well-defined, or central to the culture;  it could be inarticulate, ill-defined or marginal. Some cultures hide their most profound experiences at their peripheries but all cultures have the capacity to use creatively the intersecting demands of such outer and inner dialogues (p. 17).

Just how we negotiate these dialogues as interpreters of culture depends upon our approach to reading culture, for Nandy verifies how traditional technologies have always existed in both Western and non-Western cultures, but has  recently been “rediscovered” by the intellectual as part of an exegesis  of modernity.  For instance, in pointing to Western medicine which is regarded as “modern”, Nandy contends that Western medicine can likewise be referred to as part of the traditional practices of North America and Western Europe reminding us that “the choice is not between traditional and modern technologies; it is between different traditions of technology, some dominant and some recessive, some endogenous and some exogenous” (pp. 77-94).

At this juncture of modernity—modernization’s traditional technologies and modernism’s consciousness of “progression”—I now attempt to consolidate a reading which I hope will recast modernity not as a radical break between past and present, but as an embrace of the past within the present and of the transnational within the local, creating what Arjun Appadurai labels as  “vernacular globalization” (p. 10).  Appadurai shrewdly demonstrates that although modernity has been part of the intellectual geography for many scholars and elites during the 1950’s and 1960’s, modernity is relatively new for the poor and working class in countries such as Morocco and Mexico.  Although we must keep in mind Appadurai’s claim that modernity is “decisively at large, irregularly self-conscious, and unevenly experienced,” we must also acknowledge that modernity in its formal applications, such as what I am constructing here, is necessarily as uneven as the phenomena which are utilized in any heuristic approach to understanding (pp. 3-13).  What can be gained through analyses of modernity, I believe, is to understand specific cultural articulations within very real paradigms of representation, self-definition, and transference of cultural artifacts and imaginings between persons, communities, towns, ethnicities, religions, and nations.  In this way, difference can no longer be viewed as intractable, but becomes, instead, a very real and negotiable forum for understanding culture as a polyvalent scene of heterogeneity and contradiction.   Likewise, redefining modernity becomes a challenge for academe as many scholars attempt to uproot the discourses of homogeneity which seek to reaffirm and encapsulate identity within distinguishable and marked units so that we can transcend—or even subvert—former occidental delineations of modernity previously understood as organic to the West.  Indeed, modernity is a moment that is not necessarily “at large”, lost within a nebulous global context, for modernity as such is conspicuously missing from current local practices of non-western cultural traditions.  Instead, modernity is to be found within the vernacular of these cultures which engage identity as a necessarily disrupted space.  As such, modernity can no longer be opposed to tradition (or non-western culture) but rather can be understood as a the endless disruptions and re-articulations of traditions taking place in both local and intercultural dialogues.


Villes nouvelles and Disciplined Bodies

As Paul Rabinow demonstrates in French Modern, the French colonizers’ implementation of “comprehensive urban-planning legislation” established in April 1914 in Morocco whereby the “native city” (medina q’dima) was separated from the “new city” (la ville nouvelle).  The language of the “old” and the “traditional” were separate from that of the new and the “modern”.  As Rabinow demonstrates in his study, this period of the French colony under the leadership of General Lyautey, was dedicated to  structuring of a “modern” Morocco:  a Morocco which would both “preserve the social integrity of [the] cities” while  creating a “new, modern social ordonnance” (pp. 288-289).  As such, Lyautey’s controlled planning of the “new” Morocco  became the model for constructing a social, physical and bureaucratic systems of the “modern” upon the colonized spaces of society, urban structures and and the systems of communication that had long made up the “traditional” Morocco, as Rabinow states:

Morocco was absolutely modern, as witnessed in the 1922 colonial exhibition at Marseilles.  All the new Moroccan cities had plans:  beauty and hygiene ruled, and comprehensive documentation was standard…The modernity of Casablanca and Rabat in terms of Equipement, specialization of quarters, and circulation planning surpassed anything in France (p. 332).

Indeed, the colony became the model of the modern for the French who were able to put into practice a physical, technological and geographical ordering and discipline of public space.   As ordinances were put into place following the first 1914 decree, such as those that regulated the widths of streets, style and height of buildings, and architectural codes related to design and color, Moroccan modernity took shape not just as an architectural or urban forum for the eye to behold, nor the spectacular use of newer traffic patterns that actually bettered those of France.  If anything, the colonizers quickly realized that the “sclerotic” institutions of France would only delay this project of modernization.  Instead, Rabinow demonstrates that modernity as a project in colonial Morocco was about establishing “isles of modern civilization” (p. 295)  whereby the modern French juxtaposed the “anarchy” of the Moroccan forms:  “If the Moroccans had shown themselves incapable of inventing the administrative and scientific tools of modern municipal life, an opposite threat to modernity was posed by Europeans who  flocked to Morocco to make their fortune” (p. 295).  As such, the colonizers’ use of technology and urban planning produced a modernity as not only a tour de force of French design, but as a site for understanding the necessity for these practices of modernization.

What I would like to do, using Rabinow’s observations here as a bridge from which to view larger historical and philosophical questions of modernity, is to suggest how modernity might be understood as a colonial performance whose objective is to use the often violently imposed physical juxtapositions—evidenced from the colonizer’s extemporary presence—to install the “new” order of the occupiers while simultaneously feeding the underlying ideology for such colonizations:  that indeed this colonization is a necessary process of modernity.  Indeed, there is a common historical pattern for the social, cultural and political models of modernity that seem always to emanate from Western spaces and only to be superimposed upon non-Western bodies and societies,  while simultaneously the very cultural and often physical violences that ensue such “modern” lendings, strangely become the very legitimizing logics for continuing this relationship of colonization: that is the naming, identifying, separating, destruction and ordering of spaces, institutions, and peoples irrespective of their histories, blind to their present.  Ultimately, I question the contentions of many theorists who maintain the importance of regarding modernity as a “Western discourse” because the non-Western does not figure as in the case of Marshall Berman or because the non-Western needs to be analyzed concomitant to the Western, as per Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar.  For I do not view, as does Gaonkar, that modernity travelled from the West to non-Western spaces as if on a one-way street.  Instead, I contend that modernity has been generally interpreted in, for, and in terms of the West, which is an entirely different positioning for the many questions surrounding this perversely leviathan term.  Moreover, by looking at how language and performance intersect with colonialism and modernity, we might begin to understand that words often do not mean what they say, but instead they sustain meaning only in relation to other words, ideas and physical references; thus language of modernity embodies an elastic and often contradictory domain under which operate the most perverse contradictions and abuses of power.  Similar to Ashis Nandy’s premise that colonial rule produced an enduring domination of the ideology of modern science, I contend that the repeated performances of colonial domination and the perpetual use of the word “modernity” (and its derivatives) orbiting these sites of violence, lend meaning to the general understanding of modernity whereby all acts in the name of modernization and  repositioning the “old” can, and often do, justify violence while maintaining the domination of the occupiers.

I mention Lyautey’s compulsive ordering of Moroccan daily life, specifically his creation of the ville nouvelle, because the establishment of these “new” cities  maintained the colonial power of the French by virtue of the separate geographical spaces between the rulers and the ruled while also creating a simultaneous visual and performative field upon which comparisons could be and were easily made between the  new/old, modern/traditional, etc.  In other words, the ville nouvelle set the scene for the new and improved Morocco while also projecting the new and improved France upon the face of Morocco. The distance established between the ville nouvelle and the medina q’dima lent meaning to the “modern” by virtue of these spatial and aesthetic separations, thus further reinforcing  and legitimating the colonial project whose ethos lie in improving the “archaic” physical and institutional spaces of Morocco.  The mere existence of the traditional or old had become understood as a “calling out for” possible reform. Yet, this moment in Moroccan history strangely parallels what we see today in the US-led occupation of Iraq whereby the ethos of the modern is directly related to the creation of new systems of power and the simultaneous disappearances of the old.  Although this colonization is not primarily, if at all, interested in the infrastructures of everyday life of Iraqis, it is rather engrossed with the organization of American state power vis a vis the disappearance of the old and the imposition of new political structures, all in the name of “democracy” and “freedom”.  From the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue to the reissuing of the dinar which erased Saddam Hussein’s face, replacing it with a wheat silo and the 10th century mathematician,  al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, Hussein’s image was immediately banished from all public spaces and the “new” process of rebuilding Iraq thus began.



Liberation in the City


But this “liberation” and creation of a new Iraqi government and country was enacted, in large part, through the US-controlled media which worked to represent language at is most perverse antithesis:  acts of violence were deemed “liberation” and “freedom”; the Iraqi resistance is named “terrorist” and the Los Angeles times instructs its writer to strike the word “insurgent” or “freedom fighter”; when the destruction of a country  is strangely named “reconstruction” and where the creation of the “new” and the dissolution and disappearance of the old falls under this rubric of “modernization”.  Language of the powers in charge, mirrored by journalists’ writings, claims a stake in the construction of the “new” as the image of the father, well, the US father.  Instead of consolidating power through the construction of urban centers, the Coalition Authority has created a mega-bureaucratic body of regulations, orders, memoranda and public notices all of which set out to (re)construct a new Iraq.  Some of these bodies of regulations and order, easily downloaded in pdf form the Internet, are:  “De-Baathification Council”, “Management of Detention and Prison Facilities”, “Licensing Telecommunications Services”, “Creation of a New Iraqi Army”, “Foreign Investment” and ”Regarding the Prohibition Under Iraqi Law of Vehicles With Tinted Windows”.   These newly written regulations, orders memoranda and public notices serve to police the public sector, co-opt private interests and distance the public from the private through a rather complex network of bureaucracy which maintains a panoptic hold over those in power and more especially, those who might contest the colonial power.

The colonization of Iraq is a facile task for the occupying forces as modernity is the larger umbrella under which the colonization takes place: while Western audiences are swamped with images of women in burqa (despite the burqa having nothing to do with Iraqi tradition) and scenes of giant statues of Sadaam Hussein being toppled, one of the many floating narratives of colonization is that somehow Hussein had to be deposed and the women “liberated”.   The discourse of modernity is as much about a perceived modern needed to be imposed from outside as much as it is about Western hegemony reinforcing itself through scenes of liberation and feminist enunciations of terror. It was only weeks later that Western audiences were informed that many of these scenes were staged by embedded American media, or more sadly, that the knowledge of an already existent women’s movement was elided in favor of perpetuating this notion that Iraqi women were somehow more oppressed than their Western sisters.  Or worse, that the West was needed to “help modernize” this society.  The leitmotif of this conquest clearly rests upon the extenuating circumstances created by the violence of bombs, the discourse of freedom and the arrogance of governments who decide what is needed, along the backdrop of an American political machine which continually echoed the injustices of their “9/11”.

And yet this modernization of Iraq takes form both abroad and at “home”:  the modernization abroad is paralleled to the surrendering of civil rights in the United States as a means of keeping everyone “safe”.  In short, the Western subject is given two choices as a media spectator to this real violence abroad and the onslaught of the Bush administration warnings that another U.S. city may be attacked in the near future:  to resist the homogeneous media which sent out typical messages of “backwardness” and the “need to modernize” similar to how Lyautey perceived in North Africa, or to join the modernizing forces which include those citizens back home who can actually assist Homeland Security by reporting terrorist activity, now called “suspicious activity”, participating in the “war on terror” in a local manner.  One cannot understate the not so coincidental parallels to McCarthyist tactics employed during the 1950s.  While on a global scale their actions are part of the larger world army of keeping “us” safe, this voluntarism implies not questioning the coded colors of the day which each are key to the terrorist threat level, relinquishing of the Bill of Rights, and remaining silent while the encroachment of academic freedoms in the university are rampant.  As such, both the troops on the ground in Iraq and those Americans back home who are searched in subway stations are participating in keeping the world freer with the symbolic soldier being replayed in the urban sphere.  How often have we seen people speak out loud at airport security checks to let their fellow passengers know how patriotic they really are?  “Well, it’s a small price to pay for safety,” is a commonly announced statement in extremely long cues at airport security checkpoints.  As Iraqi cities are being restructured and zones of militancy are marked and re-marked daily by the forces, back home a parallel restructuring occurs within not so much a topographical sectioning of safe from dangerous zones, but rather a more amorphous division of space where the subject never knows when she will be searched or taken off a plane as she is on a “no fly” list, typical for many civil rights activists these past months.

Rabinow analyzes how North African cities were the model for the French to re-organize their notions and practices of modernity on a much vaster terrain, experimenting with different forms of urban separation and communal space. Likewise, this colonization of Iraq has become a physical manifestation for reorganizing urban spaces and re-interpreting governmental structures, while concomitantly purporting that the very colonizers made this sic modernity happen.  Little mention in the media is made about the economic disaster this war has had on Iraqi society or the plight this violence has inflicted upon women.  Typically, the focuses remains on how Halliburton and Bechtel are making a fortune and creating jobs.  It is no simple irony that making money and creating jobs has now become the highest mark of patriotism, after smiling in airport security areas.  While the non-existant burqas are less frequently shown in media, we are now shown very little of any Iraqi people.  Modernity has become this vast wasteland of empty city centers and reporters in flat jackets.

What is most manifest in this current colonization, is how much has been learned from the past colonizers and moreso, how direly the US-led political machine is on making direct parallels to early 20th century colonizations elsewhere.   The most striking is of course when in 2003 the United State’s nominated a “viceroy”, Paul Bremer, to lead Iraq.  Of course the notion of viceroy had vanished with the Indian raj; somehow this neo-orientalist penchant for invoking older, more romantic notions of colonialism dominated.  Until this title was changed to “governor”.  Clearly, the signs are there, that the occupying forces have begun to work on the more sinuous areas of the symbolic while also organizing the tactile, daily spaces to coincide with the renderings of the “new order”, of the “modern Iraq”.  Little needs to be said about how much anyone in the West knew about the “old”, allegedly “un-modern” Iraq before the carpet bombing of 2003 began.

Though Foucault did not dedicate much time to studies of Empire or discourses of nationalism and the body, his writing nonetheless laid the groundwork for studies of biopower in these contexts.  For instance,  the “testing” zones of various systems of organization were to be found in the colonies in the 19th and early 20th centuries  as “French modernity” was displaced upon colonized bodies, architectural spaces and urban sites of modernity as discussed in Paul Rabinow’s French Modern; or the relationship between colonizer and colonized which “was fundamental to the colonial order of things” such that sexuality and race are not separable, nor are theoretical and historical insights to sexuality and the body as detailed in Ann Stoler’s Race and the Education of Desire (p. 4); and of course the techno-politics of the modern state created by the interactions of sugar cane, malaria and discourses of nationalism  in Timothy Mitchell’s Rule of Experts. The epistemology and practices of biopower have retained their traces throughout the twentieth century through the present day and the violences of biopower cannot be overstated either domestically or abroad.

One of the most commonplaces manifestations of biopower from the latter half of the twentieth century through the present day is the production of virtual appearances and disappearances on the contemporary object of power—life and the body.  Biopower, in its colonial and neocolonial exercises, has focussed upon the corporeal and the collective masses, bodies as populations, rendering the somatic visible or invisible depending upon the political circumstances or logistical feat.  For instance biopower can be manifested through seemingly innocuous acts such as the commonplace practice for media to underreport numbers at political demonstrations or to render the visible bodies participating in such demonstrations as “misbehaving,” coding these bodies as dangerous, marginalizing these people from a possible legitimation within more centralized political discourses and praxis.   Where Foucault sees biopower as a technology of control, the exercise of various techniques (and technologies) of authority onto the body, Negri and Hardt see biopower as that which implies resistance, that which “threatens us with death but also rules over life, producing and reproducing all aspects of society” (2004, p. 94) within “immaterial goods” such as knowledge and relationships:

Biopower is a form of power that regulates social life from its interior, following it, interpreting it, absorbing it—every individual embraces and reactivates this power of his or her own accord. Its primary task is to administer life. Biopower thus refers to a situation in which what is directly at stake in power is the production and reproduction of life itself (2000, 24).


Hardt and Negri view a direct link between global capital and biopower which creates wealth and power for a few while individual control of the body is lost.  Ultimately for Hardt and Negri biopower is the biological life and labor of the body, produced by the body, as exercised by the citizenry through  manual labour and affective exercises (emotional, family, community).  What I find essential in Hardt’s and Negri’s approach is their inclusion of “work” and “production” as factors in the quotidian practices of biopower, whereas for Foucault the somatic is immediate, always present and is often a product of biopower and the institutions that oversee its exercise.

I would suggest that both definitions of biopower are correct inasmuch as Negri and Hardt emphasize the productive value of the biological, emitted from the body outward, and Foucault stresses the institution as ontology in his many analyses of systems of power that effect the somatic: from the welfare state to Fordist controls of the body.  It is this conterminous effective and affective body that contributes to biopower today such as the sequencing of the Human Genome and recombinant genetics,  the pharmaceutical industry which has turned the female body into a laboratory for Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the male body into one continual and necessary erection, or biometrics which is quickly becoming a procedure that is adopted across governments and private industry.

Foucault views biopower quite differently than the classical vision of sovereignty in which juridical forms of power dominate — biopower is not a version of juridical power, though it is often based upon law or laws are made to reflect its force.  Instead, biopower is a set of practices that politicize life by rendering life an object of science and of political intervention whereby power is exercised onto her body carrying a specifically anatomical and biological effect.   To this extent, Foucault views biopower as the knowledge that can impact the species through organization and modification such that life can be conceived as both inside and outside human history.  Ultimately Foucault opposes biopower to law in L’histoire de la sexualité and “Il faut défendre la sociéte” since he sees that life, not law, is the central issue of all political struggle even if legal domain might seem to dominate: that the rights to happiness, freedom and so forth all derive from the body and not the juridical structures of sovereignty.  Most interesting, however, is that for Foucault biopower continues to produce all forces that resist it, which in turn only extend its reach, like the function of subversion for Butler, biopower is self-producing and self-contesting.

I refer here to Foucault’s theorization of biopower because similar  to this opposition to biopower and law, we see a similar construct in civil liberties and the city, where each directly affects the other and where the discontinuities between one and the other are often inseparable. It’s not really far-fetched to think that  CNN’s staging of two dozen Iraqis for the toppling of Hussein’s statue would have so much symbolic value when the concurrent “free-moving” bodies, captured in video, amidst a war-torn city, leave little for the viewer to hope but that these people might get out of their mire and seek freedom, like theirs.  The mirroring between old and new colonial forms of control is grounds for asking ourselves to what degree do we forgive violence today when the violence enacted is “anywhere but here”?

In this past year, we are seeing an increased interest in the production of biopower as the physical separations of the “terrorist candidates” from the “patriots” are enacted through the role of the state while private institutions are more often than not stepping in for the state.  We see many historical instances where biopower is attempts to normalize or order as mentioned early and in recent years: Halliburton’s contractualization of war-torn Iraq to bring back “order”, the USA’s use of mercenaries in Iraq basically surrogating war through the security firm Blackwater, Bechtel’s unsuccessful attempt to dispossess Bolivians of their water resources in the late 1990’s, right to die cases from the USA, to Switzerland, to Italy, and the long distance, video game-like manner of fighting “wars” through computers, drone and the more recent trend of subletting war through local, darker skinned bodies.  And at other times, biopower rests entirely within the realm of the legal as the disappeared body is absent and its past presence or its present absence can only be attested by the very legal frameworks of documents, testimonies and recorded data.  What we notice more and more in recent years is that in the name of security, nothing is sacred, not even life.

Born from this “war on terror”, therefore, the definition of modernity, aside from consolidating an ethos of consciousness, serves to posit itself as a concept of “progress”, thereby implying a moral judgement upon those societies which are not “modern”-namely non-Western cultures.  This break characterized by Berman as man’s ability to view the world “as it is” versus an “objectivized”, historical reframing of the past is certainly not unique to European culture and needs to be more closely examined and refashioned so as not to unnecessarily exclude social models which are  either constituent or critical of modernity.  Today, as we see, popular notions of freedom are somehow unidirectionally conceived and implemented in the case of “liberating” Iraq.  The discourses of modernity are part of a larger project of neo-colonialism which, instead of taking hold of lands under viceroys, takes part in a pernicious debate of cultural supremacy, biopolitical maneuvering and self-authorized political grandeur.



Works Cited

Agamben, Giorgio.  Homo sacer.  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988.

Appadurai, Arjun.  Modernity at Large.  Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Berman, Marshall.  All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity.  New York: Penguin, 1988.

Foucault, Michel. ” Il faut défendre la société “. Cours au Collège de France, 1973-1974. Paris: Hautes  Etudes;Gallimard;Seuil; 1997.

Foucault, Michel. La volonté de savoir. Histoire de la sexualité, 1. Paris: Gallimard; 1976.

Foucault, Michel. ” Les mailles du pouvoir “. Dits et Écrits II.  Paris: Gallimard, 2001.

Foucault, Michel.  Naissance de la biopolitique. Paris, Gallimard, Seuil, 2004

Foucault, Michel. “Qu’est-ce que les Lumières”. Dits et écrits, Vol IV. Paris: Gallimard, 1994.

Hardt, Michael et Toni Negri. Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Hardt, Michael et Toni Negri. Multitude: War and Democracy in the age of Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.

Hodgson, Marshall.  Rethinking World History. Ed. Edmund Burke, III.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Nandy, Ashis.  Traditions, Tyranny and Utopias: Essays on the Politics of Awareness.  Delhi:  Oxford University Press, 1987.

Negri, Toni.  “Negri on Foucault”.  9 October, 2004.  http://libcom.org/library/negri-on-foucault

Rabinow, Paul.  French Modern:  Norms and Forms of the Social Environment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Stoler, Ann. “Civil Rights Implications of Post-September 11: Law Enforcement Practices in New York”.New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, March 2004