Academic journal article Borderlands

Opening a Political Account: The Fractured Narrative of an Insecure Author

Academic journal article Borderlands

Opening a Political Account: The Fractured Narrative of an Insecure Author

Article excerpt

An Academic Introduction

This paper attempts to give 'an account' of the embodied 'I' in my work: in all my relations, all my divisions, all my productions, and all my failures. Yet I feel incomplete without including an account of an academic project, in an academic voice. I've worked hard to get to the point where I can say: this paper emerges from the theoretical concerns of my continuing research work on global urbanization, the insecure reinscription of geographic imaginaries and political limits through aporetic boundary practices (Derrida 1993), and the possibilities of the aporetic hiatus (Foucault 2002) to open, at least temporarily, the established field of politics. Where I can say: this paper ties these ongoing political theoretical concerns to the practical concerns of the conditions under which this work proceeds and into which it tries to insert itself, and to the technical and conceptual concerns of finding a mode of writing--not academic, not fiction--through which these associated concerns can be articulated, engaged, performed, and embodied. The injunction to open a political account of my work means something more complex than simply to give 'a description.' I feel this injunction particularly acutely, given that political engagements with the urban have been limited in dominant approaches to both political science (Magnusson 2011b) and International Relations (Curtis 2014, pp. 1-2). But, as with politics itself--which is so often used without definition, in hopes that readers will bring to bear a set of assumptions that are close to the ones the author holds, often without knowing it (Magnusson 2011a)--this injunction to provide 'an account' that is sufficient, that measures up, that is defensible, is curiously indeterminable. Usually, the injunction to give an account of politics encompasses contradictory gestures, from journalistic observation and empirical quantification to accounting for ourselves as part of the process of accounting (following a Rousseauian model of the political confession, or the more recent development of reflexive and relational modes of thought). The injunction to begin by giving an account of politics functions, then, through the expectation on the author to define what politics is, how it can be known, who gets to participate, and in what spaces and times, claims which the author must defend in relation to other scholarly work, and through her own authority as author.

Broadly, I am interested in how narratives of global urbanization offer accounts of perceived insecurity in the spacetimes, forms, categories, and experiences of contemporary politics. By most common accounts, these transformations are not simply a change in degree--an increase in what might be called urban politics in the world as opposed to non-urban politics--but a change in kind, a transition to a new age of global cities, or more recently, planetary urbanization. Here, I am interested in a variant of this broader problem. Certainly, I wish to understand how my specific relations of gendered care work, insecure professional position, and obscure geographic and institutional location are embedded within the uncertain conditions of global urbanization and the restructuring of neoliberalization. But I also wish to understand why, despite the sustained questioning of the boundaries of modern urbanization and modern liberal sovereignty that emerge from processes of accounting for contemporary global urbanization, I have left the effects of these same boundary practices unexamined in other registers: on my own work, on my modes of working, and on my capacity to account for my work. The relations that I am required to trace, here, clarify lines of connection and emphasize constitutive co-relations. However, they also indicate moments of disconnect and practices of disconnection. As I argue in a different form in the dissertation I recently defended, a defining characteristic of aporetic boundaries is the inherent insecurity of these practices. …

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