February 8, 2011

The Egyptian Resonance Machine

Gastón Gordillo over at Space and Politics has an amazing post examining the material role that resonance has played in shaping the current events going on in Egypt.  It is quite lengthy but by far worth the read, Gordillo goes in depth on how resonance is not just a physical affect but also one that is mainly generated by the material affect of bodies, sound, movement, and spaticality.

One thing I would like to comment on that is interesting about Gordillo's essay is that his discriptions of the mass of protestors that are in the streets are often very visceral ones:

"...These bodies are determined to defend this square and willing to bleed and die if need be because this is the first free space of the new Egypt and the node of its revolution..." 
Aside from commenting on the physicality of resonance (Gordillo handles that), the way in which the revolution is represented as one of flesh, blood, gashes, wounds, grime, and sweat proves that the revolution is not only about removing the regime out of the state but one of cleansing (even if violently) the States control over protesters' physical bodies. The mass in the streets seems to be aware (even if subconsciously) that they are a body-politic. That the sacrifice of their flesh is just as much a challenge to power as their political demands. However what is also important to note is that this battle ground of the body is one fought on both sides, the State has a large amount of interest in mutilating these same bodies to regain control of the populace. Foucault tells us that the bio-political state operates is by managing the physical existence of  the public. This power over life and death normally expresses itself in policies that extend sovereign control through the managment of life (immunizations, reproduction policy, etc.), however when these policies fail to subdue dissent, the State is quick to drop the "benevolent" nature it works hard to sell. Just as the Egyptian protesters shed the States grasp on them by sacrificing the well-being of their bodies, the State also realizes that the body is just as important to regain control of as the square:

"...hundreds of detainees were being beaten up and tortured, with their screams of pain permeating the whole space. Tortured and dead bodies are the price Egyptians are paying for the US ongoing support of the Mubarak regime..."
 Like Kafka's machine of the Penal Colony the State attempts to stop the revolution by inscribing their rule across the bodies that are detained. The State uses extreme violence, pain, and suffering in order to re-discipline to body to "act as it should".  However just like the inscribing-machine from the Penal Colony the regime will not succeed in this endeavor, it will furiously exert itself by trying to regain control in increasingly violent manners, eventually imploding upon itself by it's own inertia. The more punishment the regime inflicts to those who are on the streets fighting for freedom the more people see that revolution is truly a matter of survival.


  1. excellent post, was fun to read

  2. subconsciously aware... riggghhhhttttttt.

  3. First thank you to whomever for the compliment.
    And I understand the skepticism about my use of the term "subconsciously". My use of the term was no to so much mean it in the literal Freudian sense of the word, but to relate they way in which this mass of bodies respond to threats in an almost spontaneous and unison manner without the need of leaders. Gordillo, in the article i linked to, talks a lot about how the protesters did not need any kind of language to mobilize but just as easily but found themselves invisibly bonded by the rhythmic motions, movements, and sounds that were created on the streets. What i meant was that if asked many individual protesters would not explain their struggle in the context of the concepts i explored above, but they all still highly understand that their physical bodies do matter just as much as their politics even if they can't put words to it.

  4. Hank, very glad to see that my blog entry is resonating. I enjoyed your analysis. Great also to discover your blog, which I'm now following.

  5. Thank you Gaston, you're post really contextualizes much of what many in the critical blogoshere has been trying to get a grasp of. It was really a pleasure reading it, and we here are following you now as well.

  6. Tim Morton just recently made a post that jives with what i was saying above about "subconsciously" knowing.