Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Abstract: Resistance art made in the former Yugoslavia resembles protest art today answering Arizona’s anti-immigrant laws. Artists reacting to Yugoslav strongmen who ruled from the 1960s to the 1990s expressed dissent by dramatizing self-mortifications. Artists critiquing SB 1070, Arizona’s ban of ethnic studies, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s reign describe similarly wracked anatomies. Moreover, psychological studies and media accounts link anti-immigrant measures like Arizona’s to mental conditions that trigger self-harming in minorities, a reaction that echoes the Yugoslav images. Art and psychological studies reveal that Arizonan Latinos act as if they suffered under tyrannical repression. Why? Arizona is not a site of mass killings, as was Yugoslavia. However, history teaches that tyrannical states use more than mass murder as a social control. Tyrants — including those in Yugoslavia — also target minorities as enemies, describe them as filthy, mandate and censor their ethnic expression, humiliate and feminize them, and describe these expedients as sacraments of father worship. When democratic actors use these technologies they catalyze dissent and embodied suffering. I call these non-genocidal measures that mimic tyrannical oppressions gestures of inflammatory statehood. In this paper, I show how inflammatory statehood now exists in Arizona because of SB 1070, the ethnic studies ban, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (“MCSO”). Does this matter in law? Federal dissenters occasionally damn state overreaching by comparing it to historical despotism. However, courts appear loathe to employ such comparisons in majority opinions, possibly because this rhetoric smacks of disappointed hyperbolism. This inchoate judicial acknowledgement of U.S. petty tyranny issues from a misguided U.S. exceptionalism, and fails to name the harms caused by laws and policing today found in Arizona. To persuade courts to recognize inflammatory statehood in ruling decisions, I study “artifacts” — that is, artists’ descriptions of Latinos’ suffering in Arizona — to encourage judicial acknowledgment of Arizona’s inflammatory statehood. This recognition will make SB 1070, Arizona educational bans, and MCSO mistreatments vulnerable to challenges under the preemption doctrine and the Eighth and First Amendments.