Governing by Wrong
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Bishnupriya Ghosh

Wrong is an afterthought. We do not need the keen eye of deconstruction to alert us to the inherent supplementarity of the word; just simple etymology points us in this direction. Wrong follows the recognition of right, of the straight (rectus in Latin).1 As Spivak notes in her Oxford Amnesty Lectures , while rights nominate an agent, one with “justifiable claim[s], on legal and moral grounds,” wrong is largely deployed in civil parlance as an action—as the verb “to wrong” (we rarely say “my wrongs” or “she has wrongs”).2 We do not possess wrongs, in other words, as do we do rights. Yet recognizably wrong actions are the predicate for all rights. Civil rights attempt to secure us against wrongful capture of private goods (civil wrongs emerge in the early 14thC tort law); human rights, often cited to redress already existing abuses or violations (wrongs), are proverbially late entailments. The historical syntax of wrongs, then, reveals them to be foundational to governance: I argue that the recognition of wrongs controls and regulates all life from the quotidian to the exceptional, from the molecular to the planetary, in the name of global governance.

My claim rests on two contemporary articulations of wrong. The first is readily evident in the opening remarks: wrong in its civil-legal transcription of measuring, estimating, and evaluating the effects of harm on the spectrum from violations to grievances. One striking mutation of civil-legal wrongs that I pursue here is the legible (both legitimate and recognizable) violation that activates the normative discourse of human rights so central to global governance today. Like all discourse, there we find a stringently policed normalization of what kinds of abuses or grievances constitute “wrong”; human rights discourse attempts to translate calculable physical or economic harm into compensations or reparations that, ideally, should be administered. These normalization procedures more often than do not pursue certain complex situations such as cases where violence meets violence (for example, when insurgents, and not “innocent” civilians, are brutally murdered by state police); nor do they attend to demands for economic rights in the name of redistributive justice. Bodily harm or property damage counts as recognizable wrongs; but unjust economic redistribution (e.g. damming rivers to make electricity or irrigation) does not qualify as the abuse of human rights. As we shall see, such a parsing of legible and unrecognizable wrongs radically stratifies the totality of human relations we abstract as the idealized global. But when we turn our critical eye upon the consequent hierarchy of wrongs, we are immediately confronted with the global as a stratified space of concrete and uneven relations, one whose outposts remain recessive, even hidden.

Already we begin to see how wrong makes the world as part and parcel of globalization. The narrow palette of recognizable civil-legal wrongs underscores the prevailing consensus on globalized modes of governance that ultimately do not interrogate the deleterious effects of global capital. In short, when human rights seek redress or reparation for all violations except economic violations, then it remains complicit with the managerial drives of global capital—the ongoing privatization of the commons, land acquisition (for Special Economic Zones), and resource extraction that “disembeds” (as Anthony Giddens names it 3) local life-worlds. Such a conception of human rights turns a blind eye to the economic precariousness underlying the “slow violence” of environmental degradation4 or the direct violence of military occupation. If in its present form, human rights offer vulnerable populations protections from a limited spectrum of wrongs but steers clear of challenging economic injustice, then, in this civil-legal transcription, wrong loses its moral force; it becomes an alibi for privileging certain modes of governance. In this story, we are faced with two opposing world pictures of truly “global” civil struggles versus blinkered “local” insurgencies: the first wedded to one common totality and, the second, a conjectural possible world that can potentially arise from uneven, even competing, aspirations to worldliness.

When the cover of The Economist featured Barack Obama’s Prague 2009 speech writ as a familiar mushroom cloud, the iconic image codified a universal enemy (the split atom) that threatens the entire planet (Fig.1). We are all in this together, goes the rhetorical strategy; the world is here, and our common task is to secure life against existing wrong. The apocalyptic cover, a staple for The Economist these days, exemplifies the totalizing world picture, the abstract global that finds ample representation across media.

Ghosh1                    Ghosh2
Fig.1 Obama’s Prague address 5                 Fig.2 Vik Muniz’ self-portrait

By contrast, it is far harder to sort, select, and assemble those speculative media that aspire to a world “to come,” a becoming that remains latent and uncertain. An example appropriate to the following discussion arrives amid squalor. When artistic collaboration on a documentary, Waste Land (2010), inserted Vik Muniz, one of the recyclers at Rio de Janeiro’s infamous Jardim Gramacho dump, into an iconic image reminiscent of the French revolution (Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat, 1793), the exuberant appropriation of “high art” signaled local aspirations to become worldly—local, in the concrete recycled raw materials of the self-portrait (Fig.2).6 The portrait would enter the world art circuit, the recesses of the global haunting the metropolitan centers where the exhibit traveled.

The two scenes illustrate the two infinities of the global that Jean-Luc Nancy  theorizes as our “sense of the world”: both “globalization” with its totalizing world pictures, and “mondalisation” with its becoming “the world” at the quotidian, sensed within skin, bone, muscles, and viscera and never objectified.7 We can multiply these instances, finding documentation of “wrong” across media platforms from commercial popular vigilante films to exposés on the broadcast news. Not all of these have to do with governance per se.8 Writers, artists, and other media-makers have ever attended to the residual sensory and affective eddies of loss, losses beyond compensation or those lapses, mistakes, gaffes, or blunders that are not governed, merely tolerated. As a theorist of globalization, within these archival and speculative media, I am keen on theorizing those media that immerse us in lived wrongs: critical and creative enunciations of wrongs unrecognizable to normative discourses of global governance.

But to do so, one has to think of governance beyond the narrow sense of state or non-state institutional controls and regulation. This is especially important in times when the vital circulations of “life itself,” all biological existence at molecular and planetary levels, are increasingly subject to dispersed modes of governance.9 The necessary interrogation of the consequent biopolitics is Michael Foucault’s great legacy,10 one more critically significant than ever in the face of recent advances in biotechnologies and the boom in biocommerce. Clearly bioethics has become the crucial question for the humanities. Yet scholars critical of “human rights” framed within the call for a global civil society often run shy of the debates over bioethics, distrustful of the post-cartesian insistence (post-human) on distributed agency and the subsequent conceptions of avowedly different social collectives—the commons comprised of human and non-human (plants, animals, pathogens, etc.) life. There are those who have attempted fording the growing divides: Kaushik Sunder Rajan’s Biocapital  and Melinda Cooper’s Life as Surplus , for instance, investigate the brisk global business of big pharma as generating new populational divides and, indeed, new forms of governmentality.11 They yoke Marxist critiques of capital to the governance of biological existence. This essay is written in the same spirit. For beyond the civil-legal, when we approach a second transcription of wrong as the scientific error, we are confronted with the technoscientific world picture where environmental risk is parceled, bundled, and sold in the name of a “universal” planetary future. At first, the scientific error (Type II, as we shall see), does not seem to be directly violent, coercive, or abusive; a residual margin, this “error” can hardly be the basis of public policy for human aggregates let alone ecological balance. But here, too, wrong makes the world as disposability rears its ugly head: the oversight of wrong governs populations that live (willingly or unknowingly) in toxic environments. It is this expanded sense of governance (by the law and by science) that I attempt to sketch in the balance of the paper.

The two sections that follow offer different historical instantiations of global governance by transcriptions of wrong. The first addresses the civil-legal “recognizable wrongs” foundational to human rights as they are illuminated in debates over forest commons, while the second focuses on the function of scientific Type II errors in measuring industrial toxicity. The comparison is deliberate, for the two transcriptions navigate rough terrain between divergent perspectives: those preoccupied with redistributive economic justice often do not converse with deep ecologists. As a concept-metaphor that classifies, organizes, and thereby transforms the global, wrong conjugates different modes of global governance. The urgency for the conjugation cannot be over-stressed, for we are in times when state or post-state institutional modes of governance (such as strategic warfare) routinely leak into the governance of cells, organs, and body fluids—all under the aegis of security. As the mantra of security reaches a crescendo, we are witnessing the steady emergence of globalizing strategies for control of human (terrorists, insurgents, pirates, hackers) and non-human (pathogens, toxic chemicals) agents. The preeminent strategies arrive from military exercises, the imaginative enactments of worst-case scenarios that constitute the “vital systems preparedness” (as Andrew Lakoff characterizes it12) of nations today. These are strategies for all catastrophes, pandemics to synchronized bombings; ostensibly acting for the human common, these drills ensure security for valued members of the ideal social totality and consequently isolate high-risk populations. A doctor/teacher mobilizes jawans (T-cell soldiers) against bombs (virus copies) in an interactive HIV/AIDS tutorial (Figs. 3a & b, the transnational TeachAids project13), while endless alien invasion or zombie commercial films portray a heavily militarized future that “we,” in our scientific hubris, have already set in motion. These popular media externalize enemies, returning to old solutions, to multinational armed forces that should now control new emergences of “life itself” (viruses to mutating genes) ever unpredictable in its immanent mutations.

Ghosh3                         Ghosh4   
Fig.3a & b: Frames from the TeachAids animated Tutorial on immune defense

Often evoking historical boundaries, of nation-states and of the human body, these media illustrate the general militarized sense of the world, perpetually at orange alert.

These strategies tell us the governance of all biological life, streamlining the global as abstract, managed, space, is here; hence critical linkages between historically divergent strains of thought are more important than ever before. In what follows, I undertake the task with an eye to assembling a spectrum of media, disclosures of unrecognized (and unrecognizable) wrong, that enable us to sense our networked materiality. Here the residual life of wrong haunts the planet: it exposes the global as a striated space of uneven distributions; it concretizes distant suffering under our skin. We shall see how media practitioners now attempt to activate a sense of a living-in-common where we apprehend the collective as embodied and affective experience. Such immersion undercuts the objectification of demographic groups, segregated and contained within the well-marked territories of the present geopolitical order. Nothing is remote, nothing too local. It is not that these media bring human and non-human agents into equivalence; indeed, human, often-disposable, populations often remain center stage in tales of privation and vulnerability. And yet, in their drive to touch upon the missing, the unseen, and the unsettled, these media energize our relation to an actual world of concrete facticity—one that gradual unfolds, as we become it.

On Redress/Recompense: civil-legal wrong  
One cannot write off the righting of wrongs. The enablement must be used even as the violation is renegotiated.14

That we cannot do without human rights is clear in the most local of struggles. In the Indian case, Amita Bavishkar  writes eloquently about two different encounters that met with dramatically divergent responses from the Indian postcolonial state.15 The first, a mobilization against the building of the Maheswar dam on April 22, 1998, drew a violent response from the Indian state. The incident was extensively covered; outrage was swift.16 The wrongs, measured as grievances in the courts, provided evidence of human rights violations; all evidence, argued activists and journalists, of the failures of the Indian state. But a similar violent encounter between the state police and the AMS (Adivasi Mukta Sangathan or The Organization for Tribal Liberation17), involving 200 villagers mobilized against the felling of trees around the Mandwa village area, received no such recognition. Two leaders were shot and quickly cremated to escape charges, even as other demonstrators were beaten and raped; the incident appeared as a small news item tucked away in the “States” section of the Delhi papers in a telling that was strikingly different from eye-witness accounts. Besides the legibility of the NBA as a global movement (as I have argued elsewhere), and the privileging the “dam wars” over the “forest wars” in global media,18 the different responses unequivocally indicate what counts as recognizable wrongs.

The story is old, the forest commons in India first subject to taxation under the Colonial Forestry Act of 1878. After independence, in 1952, that act was literally reinstated in the name of resource-intensive development, with the Forest and Environment Department acquiring near imperial hold over 20% of India’s land area. In turn, the hold gave rise to numerous forest-dwellers movements of which Chipko (the original tree-huggers) is the most famous. Twenty-five years of local and regional mobilization around human rights finally gave rise to the Recognition of Forest Rights Bill, unanimously passed in the Lok Sabha, 2006.19 Importantly, the bill eschewed a spurious divide between the political and the ecological, between the forest-dwellers and the animals as mutually antagonistic claimants of forest resources; an act of redistributive justice, it conferred both common lands and forest produce upon forest-dwellers. But this is a success story that comes at the tailspin of substantial critiques that forced the issue of redistributive justice, and that were usually associated with the “red” agenda. And yet the groups (such as the AMS) that have insisted on economic redistribution find themselves routinely demonized as perpetrators of violent, senseless unrest, remaining illegible as human rights advocates. Scholars of environmental justice (such as Ramachandra Guha20) and of international law (such as Balakrishnan Rajagopal21) underscore the sidelining of these older leftist movements (and their attendant political potentials) as harbingers of large-scale change in the global South, and the subsequent celebration of “the grand ensemble of practices and ideas” that constitute human rights as the legitimate motor of social transformation.22 Rajagopal argues that human rights as a counter-sovereign discourse does bring international pressure to bear on states, even as the discourse often strengthens the modern state apparatus. The state might be the critical target in the struggle for human rights, yet it remains, in great part, the normative implementer of human rights. Human rights discourse, he argues, is subject to state capture: this is evident in postcolonial state’s attempts to build programs for economic, social, and political uplift. These “programs” often serve as the state’s alibi for aggrandizing common resources and space. In South Asia, resource-intensive development administered by obese bureaucracies promote the appropriation of local commons such as forests or water in name of economic rights—the right to housing, roads, electricity, and irrigation. But human rights discourse rarely recognizes unjust expropriations of commons as an economic violation; the struggle against this kind of economic violence, as in the case of the AMS, assumes demonic form. With their actions blacklisted, becoming subjects of possible genocide, we are back to the problem of unrecognizable wrongs.

Until the private or state aggrandizement of a local commons are seen as violence, seen as the darker side of modernity, human rights will never seriously challenge the state. The AMS will remain an illegitimate group of insurgents undeserving of legal protections because of their violent infractions against the state; and their supporters, bare life in aggregate, will remain unrecognized as the wronged. If the “human” at the heart of human rights, in other words, continues to be regarded as the individual property owner, the “free” agent with equal opportunities in a global marketplace, as the neoliberal conceit goes, there is little redress for the recognition of existing collective ownership of resources that are continuously violated today.

The Recognition of Forest Rights Bill goes some way toward civil-legal recognition of ecological rights as redistributive justice. Local groups, often inheritors radical left organizing in rural areas,23 continue to work among the disenfranchised rural poor, lower caste villagers, and adivasis. In the language of human rights, their armed protests perpetrate wrongs against their state, their call for economic rights now regarded as an outmoded ideology, a struggle from a different era—unsavory, disturbing, and unheimlich to a globalized India, the toast of Davos. Yet in the cultural imagination, there is ample recognition of economic violations; in films and on television, in fiction and drama, we stumble upon struggles for redistributive justice as vibrant fragments of the national past. The renowned Mahasweta Devi, whose play The Mother of 1084 (1973-4) was recently made into a Hindi-language film, has kept count of the bodies of Maoist “insurgents” (working among the rural poor), especially since she has spent much of life working with adivasis. Widely translated, her fiction consistently recognizes economic wrongs against vulnerable populations. What better image of bare life do we have than the freakishly stunted “tribe,” the Agariyas of her famous short story, “Sishu/Strange Children” (1979), who confront the well-meaning bureaucrat committed to development! The spectral, once vanished, tribe, as legend has it, appear unhomely to the postcolonial state in this imaginary encounter; not activists, they are nevertheless insurgents who insist upon “our” (read bourgeois) sensory apprehension of irrevocable wrong:  

But the arguments do not manage to find his voice. He just stands there, under the pale moon, helplessly listening to their weird laughter and suffering the rubbing of their genitalia. It seems to him that the body of the average Indian, which he has always considered to be puny and short, is the most heinous crime against human civilization, and that he is personally to blame for the hideously stunted forms of these once-proud adults. He stands accused of the crime on behalf of the others.24

Legends, the Agariyas are barely human in their bare life; their monstrosity, so self-reflexively reflected on the bureaucratic cornea, is chilling indictment in the court for economic justice. That “court” remains robust in the forest imaginary we find in vast print and audiovisual media, latent modes of recognition inching slothfully toward legislation.

On Residue: the scientific-technological error  
Error in science is not rubbish, it is productive, both as a necessary aspect of the process of constituting new knowledge as well as from the point of view of an epistemological history of the sciences. Error is democratic: it opens toward heterogeneity; it allows newness to come into the world.25

Our second instance commands a different language: of computation, of technology, of sociological data. The story is relatively new, a “self-reflexive modernity” as Ulrich Beck christened our contemporary risk societies. It discloses public alarm at consistent political, economic, and technological failures. In his famous The Risk Society, Beck argues risk arises in the ever-widening gap between scientific and lay perceptions of probable, and always coming, harm.26 The educated layperson senses toxicity well before the scientific proof arrives. And the obverse: mounting fear, anxiety, and paranoia over excessively sensationalized catastrophes in the mass media (e.g. Paul Slovic; William Leiss).27 I will not rehearse the extensive analysis of public risk perceptions that have followed as the darker side of modernity hits—not over in the postcolonial world but at the heart of the industrialized (historical) west. The costs of progress sediment lungs; large-scale collapse of industrial plants, nuclear or otherwise, violate bodies; allergens multiply, waste eats up lands.

Central to such perception is a growing belief that scientists err, parleying in the “false negative” or the Type II error. Even if we overlook the possibilities of scientists colluding with big business, bowing to political lobbying, or compromising datasets to serve industry, we arrive at wrong. First the epistemological “error,” the residue of all general control systems; then the deliberate mistake, an oversight that fails to forecast unpredictable modifications whose initial symptoms show as 5% probability. But I am ahead of the argument that traces the fortunes of the Type II error.28 Errors are the residual difference between the computed, estimated value and the true, specified value of occurrences. Imagine leaks of industrial waste from a plant that pollutes the town’s water; these scenes are so conventional by now that one could pick any one of endless examples. A few symptoms appear: people notice sick animals, dying plants, or isolated cases of cancer. The catastrophic future is not yet here, the waste is not highly toxic just as yet; only the canary in the cage dies. A difference, a very nominal 5% deviation, shows up between the present samples and the projected estimate; too little in fact for alarm. And so we arrive at a “null hypothesis”: the hypothesis that there is no connection between the polluted water and cellular mutations. The error stands as grave residue, but it cannot, scientists argue, be the basis for public policy. This is particularly so when the “objectivity” of scientific experiments is compromised by vested interests. One need not rehearse that story either. The error as residue, on those occasions, becomes the alibi. There is no harm here, so the logic goes, now or in the future. No need for a gas tax; no new regulations for waste disposal; no global protocols for managing environmental toxicity. Such a false negative—denying a possibility because it is infinitesimal—becomes perceived “wrong,” deliberately perpetrated grievances, in scenes where popular epidemiology (the collecting of evidence by laypersons29) offers proof of biological violations. With popular epidemiology science is political: we remember the Love Canal residents complained of persistent bad odors, rocks that exploded when dropped or thrown, leakage of sludge into basements, chemical residues on the ground after rainfall, and irritations on children's feet from playing in fields where wastes were dumped, decades before the controversy over industrial waste toxicity exploded.30 The earliest reports of harm can be tracked back to 1958, nineteen years before the controversy made national news in 1977.

The point is not that science does not control for the possible mushrooming of residual evidence into catastrophe; experiments are repeated, the residue reassessed. But as far as the governance of wrong is concerned, more often than not scientific error serves hegemonic state and corporate interests; the oversight, in other words, is deliberate in many instances. The suppression of evidence in the climate change controversy is only a new reminder of an old equation, the Associated Press reporting:

Climate scientists at seven government agencies say they have been subjected to political pressure aimed at downplaying the threat of global warming. The groups presented a survey that shows two in five of the 279 climate scientists who responded to a questionnaire complained that some of their scientific papers had been edited in a way that changed their meaning. Nearly half of the 279 said in response to another question that at some point they had been told to delete reference to “global warming” or “climate change” from a “report.”31

The statement was immediately refuted in other press (e.g. The Washington Street Journal) that attacked the credibility of the survey methods for the disclosures. In the case of toxic waste, oversight can yield commercial gain, if we follow the many secret deals on dumping all over the world undertaken by legal institutions and by underground organizations. From the Camorra we know toxic waste can be good business! The recessed corners of the world prove inviting when waste assumes astronomical proportions and must be stored, disposed, or destroyed. There begins a search for those hidden corners of the planet where dumping will not be strongly contested; it ends most often in the poorest habitations on the planet. We “see” these residues only in occasional breaking news: Britain prepares to take back 1,400 tons of toxic waste exported to Brazil; the Camorra turn Naples into a profitable garbage dump; Greenpeace alerts Bangladesh about PCB contamination in ship-breaking yards.32 Once more wrong governs the world, distributing toxicity. Another battle for redistributive justice—this time, for environmental justice—ensues.

The media archives are vast, but perhaps more attentive to planetary (planets, animals, soils) and molecular (cells, genes, organs) violations than to global distributions of harm. Yet the occasional spectacular artistic venture or the collective intelligence of blogs tunes us to the “unhomely social” (peopled by withering bodies) of which we are a part. In her 17-minute silent documentary on the Chittagong ship-breaking yards, The Last Rites (2008), Yasmine Kabir offers mute witness to the demise of ships.33 The aesthetically pleasing stark images that capture the undulating kinesthesia of labor and the abstract industrial music score are troublingly pleasurable. On the one hand we are lulled into appreciation; on the other, since the document has no explanatory voiceover, we are forced to do the conceptual work ourselves. What are these images? Who commands these actions? What is the story? Are these just clips of everyday life? Does it record of a singular event? The disjuncture galvanizes, as defamiliarization always does. Beyond critical distance, the poetic fragment immerses us within the metals, waters, toxins, sweat, and breath of the world on screen.

Ghosh5    Ghosh6
 Fig.4 Ships at the Chittagong yard             Fig.5 Fumes cloud the yards

Ghosh7  Ghosh8
Fig.6 Immersed in toxic sludge                  Fig.7 Elbows deep in sludge
Frames from Yasmine Kabir’s The Last Rites

Close-ups of hands and feet dipping in heavy toxic sludge (Figs.6 & 7) punctuated by wide-angle or deep focus shots of the slowly crumbling iron monster (Figs.4 & 5), the sharp metallic sounds of the score, the movements of muscles, chains, ropes, and pulleys connects us to the yards—and to the toxic waste that will not touch “us,” the bourgeois audiences of aesthetic documentaries. No distant suffering, the immersive quality forces embodied perception. As toxic fumes cloud the camera lens, we feel our networked materiality. We feel the materials in our bodies. And then we remember PCB warnings as we sight metal dust and fumes rising on the shores. There is no null hypothesis, only a deepened sense of the pervasive harm we apprehend here; a latent sense that can become full comprehension in retrospect, when we confront other instances of slow violence (of industrial poisoning) or of unpredictable accidents (the “normal accident,” as Charles Perrow names it34). If we attend to such documentary exposés, we are, once more, in the archives of wrong. They range from traditional “documents,” to poetic testimonials (witnessing trauma) and speculative media (conspiracy theories to science fiction). But they all share a project: to bring into the sense perceptions of the unseen and the unsettled, those recessed corners the obscured in managerial globalization that speaks of universal futures.

Coda  
To return to wrong: I have attempted to illuminate contemporary transcriptions of “wrong” that govern the world. The media correct for blinkered visions of wrong, both unrecognizable and unrecognized. But this is not an exercise in defining or classifying those media. Rather it is a reflection on the epistemological project that underlies these “archives of wrong,” heterogeneous media that are not necessarily thought together.

Central to that project is the “residual” aspect of wrong: on the one hand, the leftover, or the harm that is never redressed; and, on the other, the variation too miniscule to matter, to be addressed. In the civil-legal instance, unrecognizable wrongs gather around well-policed boundaries of normative discourse. When violent evictions in special economic zones do not make the news, or are insufficiently compensated; or when insurgents die in police “encounters” (common Indian parlance for state-sponsored homicide); the residual sense perception of the unsettled persists, often returning in unheimlich form to trouble the new bargains, settlements, and compromises of the global. In this transcription, wrong can function, as Spivak has noted, as an alibi for unreasonable use of force. From vigilante melodramas to supernatural horror, we find an archive of what is missing or repressed, but what lingers as an open wound. Especially where wrong is deliberately foreclosed in civil-legal discourse, we undertake speculative work: the partial, conjectural knowledge of the unknown whose unpredictable emergences disturb normalizing systems. In the scientific-technological instance, the speculative impulse is even sharper as we attempt to anticipate coming wrong. As truly unpredictable, the true uncertainty of the miniscule “error,” wrong is the variation that incites new paradigms, new intellectual ventures—in fact new knowledge. The history of errors (in writers such as Georges Canguilhem or Gaston Bachelard) has recorded this productivity well. In speculative media, preeminently science fiction tales of coming mutations, new contacts between hitherto separate things, we have a richly creative world picture of possible harm.

These archival and anticipatory speculative media make world pictures that do not standardize injustice, but bear witness to singular wrongs. Or as Jean-Luc Nancy would say, we eschew the general abstraction of the global for a conjecture, an orientation toward the possible: “To create the world means: immediately, without delay, reopening each possible struggle for the world, that is, for what must form the contrary of a global injustice against the background of general equivalence.”35

 

Bishnupriya Ghosh is teaches postcolonial theory and global media studies in the English Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently working on two monographs on speculative knowledge and globalization: The Unhomely Sense: Spectral Cinemas of Globalization, a book on spectral apprehensions of global connectivity in contemporary postcolonial cinemas (European and South Asian), and Speculating Life: HIV/AIDS Pandemic Media, a comparative study of prophylactic media (billboard campaigns, documentaries, and animated interactive tutorials) in South Asia and South Africa. 

Notes

1 Etymologically “wrong” enters late Old English from Old Norse (“wranger”), assuming valences of twisted, crooked, or wry. Its legal associations with tort (injustive in French, from the Latin tortus) solidify by 1300 A.D.
2 Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak, “Righting Wrongs,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 103.2/3 (Spring/Summer 2004): 523.
3 In Anthony Giddens, Consequences of Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990).
4 Robert Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011).
5 The Economist April 11-17, 2009.
6 Lucy Walker, directed, Waste Land (Almega Projects, 2010).
7 The term mundalisation arrives from the French Résistance: it was widely circulated by Robert Sazzarac (Human Front of World Citizens in 1945) as an alternative to the United Nations. Hundreds of French cities wrote mundalisation charters, in an effort to address global problems. Jean-Luc Nancy draws on this history to etch two modalities of the global: one, the globalized world as a single totality, and the other, “mondalisation,” as the space of possible meaning, a becoming, a horizon. In the second instance, the world no longer grasped as representation, and no worldview can represent the world. Mondalisation begins with the negation of the finite: as the world unfolds to our senses, we move away from the world as object and experience it as coming into existence. The artists, writers, and directors I analyze here all participate in mondalisation, unmaking hegemonic managerial representations of the world.
8 After all, the singularity of harm (its multiple effects) can never be fully repaired, when repair customarily arises from generalizations: for example, calculating financial compensation for the loss of a house when one has suffered the irreducible harm of losing a home.
9 Eugene Thacker, “Uncommon Life,” in Tactical Biopolitics: Art, Activism, and Technoscience, eds. Beatriz de Costa & Kavita Philip (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 304-22. See also, Thacker, “The Shadows of Atheology: Epidemics, Power and Life After Foucault,” Theory, Culture, Society 26.6 (2009): 134-52.
10 While all of Michel Foucault’s work addresses biopolitics, his College de France lectures (written 1977-8, roughly in the same period as The History of Sexuality) most directly address the governance of vital circulations: see, especially, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the College de France, 1977-78 (New York: Picador,  2004).
11 See, Melinda Cooper, Life as Surplus: Biotechnology and Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008) and Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Biocapital: The Constitution of Post-Genomic Life (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006).
12 As Andrew Lakoff notes, preparedness, even at the highest levels of government, mandates imaginative enactments of worst-case scenarios, thereby underscoring the affective virtuality of living with risk. Andrew Lakoff and Stephen J. Collier, Biosecurity Interventions: Global Health and
Security in Question (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).
13 The TeachAids project (Piya Sorcar, TeachAids tutorials. http://teachaids.org).
14 Spivak, “Righting Wrongs,” 524.
15 See, Amita Bavishkar, In the Belly of the River: Tribal Conflicts over Development in the Narmada Valley. Studies in Social Ecology and Environmental History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).
16 The National Commission on Women and the National Commission for Human Rights, along with other organizations in Delhi alert to the vibrant popular movement against the building of dams in western India (commonly referred to as the Narmada Bachao Andolan, see Bishnupriya Ghosh, “We Shall Drown but We Shall Not Move: The Ecologics of Testimony in the NBA Documentaries,” in Documentary Testimonies: Archives of Suffering, eds. Janet Walker and Bhaskar Sarkar (New York: Routledge, 2009), 59-82), sent investigating teams; the news made national media, and was immediately broadcast on STAR T.V. (footprint of 53 countries).
17 Adivasi is a term for the original inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent (see, Hardiman), a far cry from the official state designation “Scheduled Tribes.” The AMS is a grassroots conglomerate of rural activists working with adivasis in Madhya Pradesh, the Indian heartland, a state where every fourth person belongs to the “Scheduled Tribes,” and which has a third of its area covered with forests. David Hardiman, The Coming of the Devi: Adivasi Assertation in Western India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987).
18 By global media I mean broadcast satellite televisual media, especially the multiple news channels, with transnational footprints. The NBA has been widely recognized as a transnational social movement, with dam-affected communities receiving recognition in the World Commission on Dams. Less has been said about the ambitious resource-intensive developments that have seen the disappearance of forests in South Asia (see, Ghosh 2009).
19 This is the first attempt to implement redistributive justice: the conferring or restitution of land and produce rights for forest dwellers, adivasi or otherwise. The bill brings together a list of political and civil concerns (seen as within the juridical compass of the state) with economic and cultural ones (relegated to bureaucracies administering welfare programs). See, “Forest Rights Act,” http://www.forestrightsact.com/
20 See, Ramachandra Guha. “The Environmentalism of the Poor,” in Varieties of Environmentalism: Essays North and South, eds. Ramachandra Guha and Juan Martinez-Alier. (Oxford: Earthscan Press, 1997), 1-22.
21 See, Balachandran Rajagopal, International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements and Third World Resistance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
22 See my discussion of the NBA’s successful framing of the movement in recognizable idioms of protest (Ghosh 2009), in context of Sidney Tarrow’s work on activism (Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011)).
23 Most famous among these radical leftist groups are the Maoist insurgents who disappeared into the forests after the Naxalbari uprisings of the 1970s; even today they continue to threaten Indian state’s sovereignty, thereby calling forth violent responses from police and military forces (the perceived strength of the threat was evident most recently in the state’s arrest of the Vice-President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Dr. Binayak Sen, on grounds of collaboration with Maoists; see, “Two Years in Jail” (The Statesman, May 14, 2009,   http://www.binayaksen.net/2009/05/statesman-editorial/).
24 Mahasweta Devi, “Sishu,” trans. Kalpana Bardhan, reprinted in
eds. Women Writing in India: 600 B.C. to the Present, V: 600 B.C. to the Early Twentieth Century, eds.Susie Tharu and K.Laita (New York: CUNY Feminist Press, 1997), 42).
25 Couze Venn “Rubbish, the Remnant, Etcetera,” Theory, Culture & Society 23.2-3 (2007): 46
26 Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity 1986; translation, Sage Publications, 1992.
27 See, William Leiss and Douglas Powell, Mad Cows And Mother's Milk: The Perils Of Poor Risk Communication (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2004), and Paul Slovic, The Perception of Risk (New York: Routledge, 2000).
28 Type I errors are “false positives,” where a statistical test rejects the null hypothesis linking two related things; by contrast, Type II errors, “false negatives,” accept the null hypothesis, thereby denying connections between two unrelated things (such as a breathing trouble and toxic sludge) that actually does exists (but appears as 5% probability). I am indebted to my student, Elizabeth Callaway (who wrote a paper on the two types of error for my Biorisk seminar, 2010) for pointing me in this direction of risk research.
29 Popular epidemiology is a pursuit of truth and justice on behalf of the public that involves both laypersons and professionals. It is not merely a system of folk beliefs, although they certainly deserve attention from professionals. See elaboration in Phil Brown, et al., No Safe PlaceToxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).
30 The U.S. governmental agencies did not launch an investigation of Love Canal until early 1978, a full eighteen months after C-56 was first detected; at that point, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted tests in basements along 97th and 98th streets at the urging of local Congressman John LaFalce (the only politician willing to approach the problem with the seriousness it deserved).
31 For a full report on the controversial survey, see “Groups Say scientists Pressured on Warming,” http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/30/politics/main2413400.shtml.
32 In July 2009, The Sunday Times reported Britain is preparing to take back more than 1,400 tons of toxic waste that was exported illegally to Brazil for recycling; the British Environment Agency admitted their culpability, and agreed to pay for the return of 90 shipping containers that have arrived at several South American ports in the past few months (see, “Britain to take back 1,400 tonnes of toxic waste dumped in Brazil” http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6719508.ece). On the other side of the world, Greenpeace has alerted us to the toxic substances on board of end-of-life-ships; they accuse ship-breaking yards of not cleaning the ships that they send for breaking to Bangladesh (see, “Bangladesh paying high price as dumping ground for toxic wastes http://www.shipbreakingbd.info/Shipbreaking%20around%20the%20world.html).
33Yasmine Kabir, The Last Rites (Distributed Magic Lantern Films, 2008).
34 See, Charles Perrow, Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).
35 Jean-Luc, Nancy, The Creation of the World or Globalization, trans. Francois Raffoul and David Prettigrew (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007).