Micropolitics: Practices of Freedom and Rehabilitation
This lecture, the third in the Transpersonal series, explores what we can learn from terrorist rehabilitation programmes about the relationship between micropolitics and subjectivity, practices of freedom, and the psychic spaces of the (ethno) state today.
From the late 1990s the Egyptian, Yemeni and Saudi Arabian governments developed a series of programmes that sought to ‘rehabilitate’ jihadists as part of broader counterterrorism measures. ‘Jihadi Rehab’ camps employ clerics and scholars to engage in theological debates with prisoners, and provide counselling, education, sports and practical training. Their aim is to re-orientate prisoners toward the family and the private sphere, and to re-programme subjects who are non-violent and accept the legitimacy of the state. Such practices of ‘rehabilitation’ have a long history under British colonialism, and provide us with fascinating blueprints of explicit programmes for the un-making and re-making of political subjects.
The Mau Mau Rehabilitation Camps in Kenya in the 1950s for example, also claimed to transform Kikuyu inmates into loyal and productive citizens. Working with colonially educated ethno-psychiatrists, they attempted to ‘de-programme’ fighters through performative ‘counter-oaths’ that would free the individual from the group. In these contexts, technologies of the self and micropolitical processes are employed not as practices of freedom as thinkers such as Foucault and Fanon conceived of them, but are rather used to consolidate racist and pseudo-medical notions of normalization and submission – coded as ‘cure’.
Susan Kelly is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her research looks at relationships between art and micropolitics, technologies of the self, space and practices of organisation. She works in the context of various collectives and individually in time-based work, installation and through writing, publishing and convening events and performative/ militant investigations.
Transpersonal: art and life directives is a lecture series on the theory and application of art and design, curated and convened by Dr. Stephen Wilson. It is staged in collaboration with the ICA and the Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon College of Arts postgraduate community at the University of the Arts London.
Image: A still from the British Pathé Newsreel: The Lari Massacre 1953 and the capture of Dedan Kimathi, 1956