Continuing my 2010 retrospective, a few links to some of the articles and pieces of political analysis that most informed my worldview over the last year. Did you read anything interesting, or discover any new resources for news and analysis that might be good additions to this list? Let me know in the comments!
– Arundhati Roy on (counter)insurgency in India –
Reporting from within Naxalite guerrilla territory in Central India, author and activist Arundhati Roy’s “Walking with the Comrades” reveals the conditions of state violence, marginalization of indigenous tribal peoples, and harmful mega-development which have culminated in an armed, revolutionary insurgent movement. Without shrinking from the reality of violence employed by the guerrilla forces, Roy evokes both the hope and desperation of the tribal population and insurgent fighers, as well as examining the contradictory and destructive dynamics of globalization in rural India. The resulting account is powerful and challenging, offering many illuminating and disturbing parallels with Central and Latin American experiences.
– Guatemala’s political and security crises –
If you read only one piece of Spanish-language neo-Gramscian political analysis this year, this might not be a bad choice. Guatemalan researcher Fernando Solís of the political economy magazine El Observador gave this wide-ranging, yet precise interview for the independent news outlet Inforpress in mid-2010, shortly after Guatemala was rocked by linked political and security crises: the resignation of Carlos Castresana, the U.N.-appointed head of the International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) due to the naming of an Attorney General with known links to organized crime; followed by grenade attacks against busses and the simultaneous appearance of severed heads outside of the Guatemalan Congress and other public places in Guatemala City. Solís offers an analysis of these troubling events as well as illuminating the internecine power struggles within Guatemala’s political and economic establishment, with deep significance for understanding Guatemala’s position in a regional context marked by Mexico’s open war between the state and organized crime, and the ongoing legitimation of a coup (“golpista”) government in Honduras.
– Tainted cocaine and narco-capitalism –
Back home in Seattle, Brendan Kiley’s attempt to answer the following question—“What’s a drug used to deworm livestock—a drug that can obliterate your immune system—doing in your cocaine?”—leads to a thorough two-part analysis of the transnational drug economy and the creation of a DIY cocaine-testing kit, while revealing more questions than definitive answers. Along the way, Slog discovers Al Giordano’s NarcoNews, Dominic Corva (a friend and former teacher of mine) explains the cocaine commodity chain, and Kiley explores the links between free trade agreements, Latin American oligarchs, and the drug war. Ace reporting, with a commendable focus on real-world harm reduction.
– “It Gets Better,” from solidarity to action –
Following a wave of tragic suicides of queer youth, Dan Savage‘s “It Gets Better” video campaign found a huge audience by using the principle of solidarity to send a message of hope to youth confronting homophobia and transphobia. Amidst the well-deserved applause for the campaign, youth were organizing to change queerphobic culture, as seen in the video “Reteaching Gender and Sexuality,” by the Put this On the Map project. I was proud to see some familiar faces from Cascadian Food Not Bombs and other local organizing in this video. This is exactly the sort of action that another friend of mine called for in a thoughtful analysis of the “It Gets Better” campaign (posted on the creatively-named blog “Tiny Jean Jackets Everywhere Twitching”), looking at how budget cuts and criminalization of youth through San Francisco’s Sit/Lie ordinance have undermined the very social and economic conditions that make it possible for things to get better for some LGBTQ folks.
– WikiLeaks, Unredacted –
Finally, just a few thoughts on the WikiLeaks saga. Without doubt, the leaks of documents from the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, as well as a quarter million State Department diplomatic cables, will benefit future generations of scholars—the question is whether they will lead to increased accountability for state abuses of human rights and legal norms. Some of the most interesting early finds from the cable archives detailed the U.S. Government’s attempts to impede investigation and prosecution in Spain of torture at Guantanamo, as well as to stifle the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction; the revelation of the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa’s acknowledgement of the illegitimacy of the 2009 Honduras coup; and a glimpse into the diplomatic machine’s view of human rights groups’ attempts to bring war criminals to justice in Uruguay. The National Security Archive’s Unredacted blog continues to offer great analysis of the ongoing releases, while Sandra Cuffe wrote a right-on rant against the propagation of harmful discourse regarding the sexual assault charges against Julian Assange. Lost in the noise is the question of whether WikiLeaks’ decision to partner with major international newspapers in releasing the cables has led to manipulation and selective researching, as argued by CISPES in relation to El País’ reporting on El Salvador. It is also telling that the only cable released so far regarding Guatemala is a profile of Sandra Torres de Colóm, a controversial potential candidate for the presidency—no doubt the right-wing opposition and press in Guatemala was thrilled to publish the juicier details of this cable, while I’m left certain that there are far more interesting and damning tidbits in the archive.