Movement : Hagar Kotef

The crushed and squeezed feet of girls in China, bounded and hindering movement, thus serve to mark both a gendered and a global divide between those who can move freely, and thus rule, and those whose movement is hindered, and thus cannot. Indeed, Tim Cresswell shows that this binary stands at the core of liberal citizenship. Whereas the mobility of citizens is almost sanctified as a right, and is taken to construct “autonomous individual agents who, through their motion, [help] to produce the nation itself,” there are always “unspoken Others [who] are differently mobile”; others whose mobility is “constantly hindered.” Cresswell points to “African Americans ‘driving while black’” or Arab Americans stopped at airport immigration; I cannot but add: Palestinians stopped at checkpoints, but also anti-capitalism demonstrators arrested on bridges.47

This desire to restrain movement also reminds us that on the other side of this dyad—in which we have the free citizen on one side, and “stagnant nations of the east” or women in domestic chains (both draw on Mill’s formulations) on the other—were colonial images of nomadism that served to justify similar modes of expansion (predominantly to America and later in Africa and the Middle East).48 This returns us to 4.1 and calls us to refine the definition of the liberal subject I proposed there. The subject at the core of liberalism was not simply a subject who could move without any limitation; such movement was seen rather as erupting savagery, or in other contexts: disrupting vagrancy. The classic liberal subject was rather a subject who learned to tame her own movements and thus to allow the notion of an ordered freedom, and whose movement was contained by a certain background of stability—property, estate, or state.

There is a dual movement here of both the argument (my argument) and the technique (the political technology; the regulation of movement): on the one level, a disciplining of movement on the level of the subject itself, her body and her mind—if the two can still be thought separately; a taming of freedom as Mehta would have it.49 On the other level, a global distribution of movements that produce the metropolitan, the colony, and the networks that constitute them as simultaneously connected and separated. The management of the movements of colonized, colonizers, those who cannot quite fall into any of these categories (white vagrants, convicted felons, unindustrialized poor), and the material infrastructure and products of rule: a huge “population” of both people and things, whose circulation, movements, but also immobilities and rootedness, had to be monitored, incited, tamed and regulated. Between these two levels—and this is the crucial point and the main benefit, I believe, of looking at this liberal-colonial operation from the perspective of movement—there was (still is) a constant diffusion. The structures and logics of one keep taking shape within and re-inform the other. The schisms within the subject that needs to be unified are also mapped to the global level, and the political technologies developed in one are then imported—or deported—to the other.

But let us return to the Chinese feet (or rather: take them as yet another point of departure.) The practice taking place at the far end of the empire—at the edge of the global terrain in which movement becomes a question of rule—soon emerges within the very desires that constitute European individuals: The European standard, Mill argues, is “to desire nothing strongly. Its ideal of character is to be without any marked character; to maim by compression, like a Chinese lady’s foot, every part of human nature which stands out prominently.”50 Europe may thus “become another China,” that is “stationary.”51

This infiltration, however, was mutual: not only did the stagnation of the East infiltrate Europe, the movement of Europe also permeated the East. We saw this latter diffusion with the quote from Mehta above, and more concretely we may state that this movement, whose goal was to “gradually [train] the people [of the East] to walk alone,” depended upon a pervasive imperial governance—and thus upon the movement of Englishmen and women (governors, bureaucrats) to the colonies, and later of selected elites among the colonized to England and back.52 These movements were accompanied by another movement Mill desired to see organized and systematized: the movement of England’s poor into settler colonies. Mill’s answer to what he saw as another stagnation—a stagnation of European labor markets (accompanied by what he saw as a growing moral deformity among the working class)—was immigration to the colonies.53 Thus the question is—always is—whose movement (Englishmen but not Irishmen, to take just one distinction), and what is moved (people but not sentiments, as Stoler shows in a different colonial context.54

Moving: changing locations, expanding administrating functions, trading, shipping goods and circulation capital; being moved: being traded as slaves, deported as felons—all was part of a never ending, self-nourishing, circulation of movement (a “sanguification,” in Hobbes’s words, as we shall soon see and as Gil Anidjar further shows and situates in a much wider matrix of flows and circulation).55 Within this circulation we must also account for the developments and attachments, and their regulation—feeling at home, being moved by a place and its people. As Ann Stoler’s attentive reading in colonial archives has shown, what “moves” people is often part of the calculation of the movements of both colonized and colonizers within and across the colonial map: governors, merchants, local populations, coquinas, “mixed” children, or care-givers. All had to be attached to certain localities (the colony or the metropolitan) and not to others, to certain people and not others.56 The fear of attachments or the need to foster “proper” attachments—“proper” modes of “being moved”—thus further increased the circulation into, out of, and between the colonies and the “motherland.”

“Affective movements,” then, had to be tamed too, alongside—and as a part of—the movements of populations around the world and the local movements of individual bodies. Returning, in order to conclude, to the latter, we should emphasize that it is this tamed movement that is the principle of materialization of the liberal subject, as a political subject who learned to narrow her spatial presence, decelerate the franticness of her body, restrain and contain liberty itself. After all, the first model for this subject was Hobbes’s servant: the person who agreed to limit herself (“not to run away”) so to not be limited by others.57 I return to this point in 4.4. Stanton’s paragraph, which already enables us to identify that this limitation of movement can never be thought of as merely self-limitation and is always also social, poses China as a mirror. It thereby allows one dichotomy to quake—that between east and west—in order to foreground another dichotomy: that between men and their freedom on the one hand, and women and their oppression on the other. Yet in Mill, the gender dichotomy is itself somewhat fragile and the Chinese practice of foot-binding is invoked to reflect European custom in general. Through this multiply foreign body (gendered, racialized, and geographically distanced) Western freedom itself emerges as a form of binding.

47. Tim Cresswell, On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World (New York: Routledge, 2006), 161.

48. In Edward Said’s words: “Among the supposed juridical distinctions between civilized and non-civilized peoples was an attitude toward land, almost a doxology about land which non-civilized people supposedly lacked. A civilized man, it was believed, could cultivate the land because it meant something to him; on it accordingly he bred useful arts and crafts, he created, he accomplished, he built. For an uncivilized people land was either farmed badly (i.e., inefficiently by Western standards) or it was left to rot. From this string of ideas, by which whole native societies who lived on American, African, and Asian territories for centuries were suddenly denied their right to live on that land, came the great dispossessing movements of modem European colonialism . . . Land in Asia, Africa, and the Americas was there for European exploitation, because Europe understood the value of land in a way impossible for the natives.” Edward Said, “Zionism from the Standpoint of Its Victims,” Social Text 1 (1979): 26-27.

49. Uday Singh Mehta, The Anxiety of Freedom: Imagination and Individuality in Locke’s Political Thought (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992).

50. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 72.

51. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 69. (emphases added)

52. John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1869), 50.

53. For Mill’s view on this project see Duncan Bell, “John Stuart Mill on Colonies,” Political Theory 38:1 (2010): 34-64. Bell claims that Mill “was wary of unregulated flows of people; rational order was necessary to maximize utility.” Thus, “Emigration should be neither a piecemeal voluntaristic process nor a crude attempt to ‘shovel out paupers,’ but instead part of a coordinated state-sponsored scheme of colonization” (39-40).

54. Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), Chapter 3.

55. Gil Anidjar, Blood: A Critique of Christianity (forthcoming).

56. Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain, Ch. 3. See also her Race and the Education of Desire (Durham, Duke University Press, 1995).

57. The servant, unlike the slave or the captive, is not bound with chains (or confined within the walls of the prison). To put it differently, he can move freely. And second, unlike the others, the servant has conveyed, “either in expressed words, or by other sufficient signs,” a will. The servant had agreed to his situation. The two, consent and movement, are what makes him free and they cannot be separated: consent can be inferred precisely from the lack of bondage. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 141.

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