Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Engaging with complex, communal identities is at the heart of all modern writing and art that attempts to engage with society. Situating sites of dissidence and resistance is also equally important. Where is it then, in these ages, these times where geographies and oppositional nation states have diminished bearing, that we can locate resistance?

The movements and conflicts that contribute to resistance act to block and contest overwhelming dominative narratives that oppressive power structures present. That much can be easily said whilst sitting in a Berlin apartment, thousand of miles from Xinjiang streets, South Korean fiscal institutes, Tehran's back offices or Honduran runways. That much can said with intention, but without grounding.

And yet this is in our interest. Culture is disseminated throughout the world within seconds, a dislocated, fragmentary, elusive method of knowledge-sharing and networking. Culture is the arena in which the dominating narrative, and the resistance to it, duel for superiority. The streets of Xinjiang, the banks of Seoul, the squares of Iran and the air traffic control of Honduras - these are all contained within the world wide web. These places no longer exist to visit, they have become aspatial.

Of course, they exist for those walking those pavements, working in those offices. But these are now contested cultural territories, no longer political geographies. They are sites of hybridity, existing as a doubleness between a prescribed narrative of a nation and an imagined, subjective and inherently temporal sense of community.

At all corners of our cornerless globe, opposition and resistance to the old ways - those ways left behind in Sterling's communist century that ended in 1989, are articulated together on a communal, disputed field provided by culture and distributed by information networks.

(This is of course nothing new, it has echoes of Said, Bhabha, William Gibson and many others I have wilfully forgotten.)

Through resistance, of course, comes understanding, for resistance is a definition of what it contests; by its very nature it helps to shape what it opposes. Boundaries are drawn outlining what is acceptable, who is pro and who is anti. Perhaps this is what was so difficult to understand about the Iranian election and subsequent uprising. The messages of support from outside the country were entirely ambiguous and mixed. Their was a resistance of sorts, but it was unable to define the threat. Was it a resistance against dubious democracy, against Ahmadinejad, against Islam, Islamic states or Islamists? I ask again; what do the green avatars stand for now?

So, resistance is articulated within a global, aspatial sphere of culture. But what is our understanding of this aspatiality? What does it mean to be outside of space, to be dislocated in this way? How can we begin to define this culture space, this cultural aspatiality, so that it can better define the threats we face. What framework may allow us to understand this new world we inhabit? And how might this dovetail with atemporality, that horizon of now in which we enter a time that is our own future, where we are able to encounter ourselves as we might hope to be?

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