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Critical Work Survivor's are working on this Summer

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Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase social services for persons living in poverty in the United States.


What does it mean to have a home? We inhabit a world but there are spaces that have a special, intimate, connection to that goes well beyond concepts of private property. Feeling as if there is someplace we belong, someplace that we can call home may in fact be the most basic claim of human rights. According to Hannah Arendt to be homeless, deprived of a place to be was the crisis of the modern era. In most cases this diagnosis of home-less-ness or deprived of belonging has been applied to international refugees. Individuals displaced from nation-states across borders. However slowly coming to the popular awareness in the United States as a result of Hurricane Katrina and massive home foreclosures numerically and qualitatively the crisis is mounting irrespective of borders. Internally displaced peoples outnumber refugees. It was not an accident that every major news agency described the masses of people fleeing the Superdome as refugees. We did not have a word for these internally suppressed people. But these people were not from somewhere else. And yet the media was seeing poor, mostly black, and even homeless denizens of New Orleans as alien or outsider, as refugee.


Not unlike African refuges in Germany or Haitian refugees in this country those that escaped Katrina were quickly stigmatized as the source of job shortages, robberies, stress on the welfare system and public education. Displaced and Homeless people regularly find themselves to be strangers or aliens in their own land.


These notions of inside and outside, as defined as at home or in public, city or surburban, permanent resident or temporary refugee, host and guest are challenged by the internal fracturing of communities. Those left out, those who are a part of no part, are hidden in alleyways, under freeways, in abandoned buildings, but become visible when crisis strikes. Those who are homeless and displaces are hit hardest by natural disasters. Showing the disasters, even hurricanes, to be political. We spatialize as we marginalize. The weakest levies are home to the worst neighborhoods; the most homeless are in those places least protected. Our nation is one in which community defines it outside at the same time as internalizes and hides that which has been excluded. The millions locked away in ghettos know that one can be concentrated internally ever as they are expelled or excluded from the political. Out of sight, out of mind.


Once homeless or under housed you are spit on, ignored, and increasingly the recipient of hate crimes. Homeless and transient people have face an increasing number of group beatings and each year the number of homeless people murdered for sport or set on fire increases. Being homeless represents the extreme of human vulnerability. The homeless are vulnerable to the elements, vulnerable to hunger, the weather, the state in the form of police harassment and beatings and vulnerable to the cruelty of physical and social hatred. They are quite literally dehumanized. Not because when you are homeless you forage for food in dumpsters and sleep in the open like the animals we are but because when you forage for food and sleep in the open you are seen by ‘normal’, ‘productive’, society as worse than an animal, you are vermin.


The Summer Survivors will engage in a summer long research project on the question of the human, vulnerability, and ethics. We will be reading Judith Butler’s most recent work on vulnerability, Derrida’s final work before his death on vulnerability and the human animal and Foucault’s work on the Normal and The Pathological as well as Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of becoming animal. This will be used to develop a philosophical bedrock for an ethics of engagement that can critically challenge the standard operating procedures of American Neo-Liberalism.


I will update the affirmatives being looked at in following posts. I will also start posting negative arguments as well as reading lists. This is for anyone interested in what I am working on this summer. You can contact me with questions at jairusgrove@hotmail.com



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