In Necropolitics, Mbembe provides a comprehensive and nuanced map of colonial violence. He further provides coordinates at the intersection of history, culture, and politics, to help us navigate the uncertain relationship between autonomy and terrorism. Of particular interest to me are the ways in which Mbembe’s observations on the role of death in the historical emergence political bodies inform our understanding of modern issues with state-sponsored violence. He spends a significant portion of the essay explicating how the settler-colonial apartheid state of Israel uses necropolitical terrorism to affirm national identity. This observation gives words to my concerns with how our society confronts the issue of police brutality. Mbebme explains that the instinct to use terrorism is rooted in “the perception of the existence of the Other as an attempt on my life, as a mortal threat or absolute danger whose biophysical elimination would strengthen my potential to life and security” (18). This quote perfectly describes the logic behind the “#alllivesmatter” hashtag. For users of this hashtag, the notion that black lives matter and should therefore be protected from extrajudicial killing, is interpreted as a threat to the sovereignty of the State and by extension a threat to the users own “whiteness” as a right to life. In response, they either implicitly or explicitly defend the use of extrajudicial killing as a means of policing communities. It is also significant and perhaps ironic, that users of this hashtag often cite civility and reasoned debate, supposed pillars of Western democracy, as the justification for this move. Is this not the “the racist state, the murderous state, the suicidal state” par excellence (17) ?
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