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The year in review: The Verso blog’s top 15 articles of 2015

Sarah Shin14 December 2015

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Precariousness and Grievability—When Is Life Grievable?’ by Judith Butler

"One way of posing the question of who “we” are in these times of war is by asking whose lives are considered valuable, whose lives are mourned, and whose lives are considered ungrievable. We might think of war as dividing populations into those who are grievable and those who are not.” Judith Butler, Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?

After the Paris attacks of November this year, Judith Butler’s analysis of the different frames through which we experience violence in Frames of War provided an essential guide to thinking through the tragedy. We published an edited extract from the book that asks us to observe the relationships between violence, power and the mournability of some lives above others. 

‘What Kim Kardashian can tell us about Corbyn’s success’
by Huw Lemmey  

On 12th September, Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the British Labour party, sweeping to victory with almost 60 per cent in the first round of voting. Widely considered the most leftwing leader in Labour history, Corbyn has since attracted a barrage of negative media coverage ranging from “fear and loathing on the one hand, derision on the other.” His misdemeanours include remaining silent during the national anthem (“snubbing the Queen”), wearing a tracksuit, riding a “Chairman Mao-style bicycle,” and the most absurd charge of all, ruining the reputation of the Labour party.

Huw Lemmey skewers the commentariat.

‘Eleven points inspired by the situation in Greece’ by Alain Badiou

“In my opinion the situation in Greece remains a very difficult, very fragile one. It’s now that the true difficulties will begin.”

In July, the Greek people decisively rejected the harsh bailout terms set out by creditors in a historic referendum, voting in favour of no—or Oxi—by around 2 to 1. Alain Badiou expressed his hope for the future of Greece and a new political orientation in Europe. Several months later, he wrote ‘Eleven Melancholic Points Regarding the Future of the Greek Situation’, published a few hours after Alexis Tsipras’s resignation, bemoaning the Greek government for missing the unique moment of political opportunity—“a pre-evental situation”—created by the referendum.

‘From #BlackLivesMatter to Anti-Austerity: Women of Colour and the Politics of Solidarity’ by Akwugo Emejulu

“Women of colour activists’ experiences demonstrate the fictive quality of solidarity on the left.” 

Akwugo Emejulu's piece is a must-read about the difficulties of building solidarity across race, class, gender, sexuality and other categories of difference in radical movements. Drawing from Minority Women and Austerity, Emejulu’s research project on women of colour’s anti-austerity activism in England, Scotland and France, Emejulu lays out the erasure of women of colour from from anti-austerity protest spaces. Looking across the Atlantic at the Black Lives Matter movement, Emejulu notes different but related issues at play about the (im)possibilities of solidarity and the lessons of creating intersectional spaces.

‘"One should be free to determine the course of one’s gendered life’"— Judith Butler interviewed 

Judith Butler revisits her concept of gender performativity in Gender Trouble, written over twenty years ago, in an interview about gender and the trans experience. She also discusses her views on intersectionality and transphobia.

“No matter whether one feels one’s gendered and sexed reality to be firmly fixed or less so, every person should have the right to determine the legal and linguistic terms of their embodied lives […] We should all have greater freedoms to define and pursue our lives without pathologization, de-realization, harassment, threats of violence, violence, and criminalization. I join in the struggle to realize such a world.”

‘Ecology Against Mother Nature’—A review of Molecular Red by Slavoj Zizek

How are we to think the anthropocene? Slavoj Zizek, in his review of McKenzie Wark’s Molecular Red, offers a comment on one of the most pressing questions of our time. For Žižek, Molecular Red provides some answers to the major fallacies of ecological discourse: "If there is one good thing about capitalism it is that under it, Mother Earth no longer exists." 

‘Walter Benjamin: Refugee and Migrant’ by Esther Leslie  

Esther Leslie thinks through Walter Benjamin's concepts, in particular the ‘microcosm’, to reflect on the contemporary migrant crisis at the borders of Fortress Europe. These ‘millions of nameless movers’ give Benjamin’s own death a contemporary resonance, as well as endowing his memorial with new meaning in ‘the Now’. 

‘Taking over the asylum: Critical psychiatry, Franco Basaglia and social struggle’ by John Foot

For World Mental Health Day this year, we published an edited extract from The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care, John Foot's fascinating portrait of Franco Basaglia and the critical psychiatry movement in Italy of the 1960s and 1970s that struggled to revolutionise the field through a critique of capitalist society in its totality. Mental illness, it was argued, was the product of a more generalised system of social and institutional oppression Foot; curing the 'mad' demanded a critique of the 'sane'. This argument, as well as the centrality of the emancipation of the individual, naturally aligned the radical psychiatrists with other movements that coalesced in 1968: the revolt against the institution of the asylum pre-figured and intertwined with a rebellion against society itself. 

 ‘Is it a man or a woman? Transitioning and the cis gaze’ by Ray Filar  

“The cis gaze demands you reveal yourself, offer yourself up for evaluation, even as it threatens you with violence for doing so.”

Examining the disconnect between trans lives as experienced by trans people and trans lives as represented by others, Ray Filar’s energetic piece about transition and the cis gaze responds to themes running throughout Juliet Jacques’ Trans around self-expression, and what the trans memoir genre tries, with greater or lesser success, to achieve.

‘Migrants are welcome’ by Teju Cole 

The migrant crisis or refugee crisis of 2015 brought record numbers of forcibly displaced people to the borders of Fortress Europe, with another three million expected to arrive by the end of 2016. Arising in a context of ongoing conflicts and refugee crises in several Middle Eastern and African countries, the surge caused division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people and media coverage to shift to a more sympathetic portrayal, leading to discussions over the terminology used to describe the crisis. Teju Cole responded, “Migrants are welcome. Some of the refugees become migrants, once the immediate danger is past. Some migrants become refugees, caught in an unexpected vortex of malice. Don't let yourself be spun into a language of hatred and exclusion, at this hot moment in which it's deemed OK to support refugees but still condemn migrants.”

‘Jimmy Mubenga and the "outsourcing of violence"’—An extract from Antony Lowenstein’s Disaster Capitalism

Jimmy Mubenga died of cardiac arrest whilst waiting to be deported on board an Angola-bound plane at Heathrow airport on 12 October 2010. Five years after his death, during Black History Month, we remembered Jimmy Mubenga and published an extract from Antony Loewenstein's Disaster Capitalism exposing the institutional racism that acquitted Mubenga's killers. 

‘Understanding massacres: Franco Berardi on Gun Violence’—An extract from Heroes

The recent attack in San Bernardino was the 353rd mass shooting this year in the US. After the Oregan shooting in October, we published an extract from Franco 'Bifo' Berardi's Heroes, a work which explores the relationship between capitalism and mental health through phenomena such as the suicide epidemic in Japan and South Korea, 'austerity suicides' in Europe, and gun massacres in the United States. Berardi criticises the "more guns, less crime" fallacy propagated by gun lobbies, as well as contextualising the United States' unique reverance for firearms within the founding period of the nation itself.

I have no delusions. I am playing”—Leonora Carrington's Madness and Art’ by Joanna Walsh

Joanna Walsh examines the intertwining of madness and art in surrealism and how Carrington refused the surrealist romanticisation of female madness, describing her time in the Spanish asylum in terms of a forced incarceration. Through her life and work, Walsh traces Carrington's rejection of patriarchal authority through her political activism and through the creation of dreams, myths and symbols centred around the feminine in her art. Published to coincide with World Mental Health day.

‘In memory of Benedict Anderson: an extract from Imagined Communities’

Benedict Anderson passed away on 12th December.

‘Searching for the origins of the fossil economy’—An extract from Andreas Malm’s Fossil Capital

An extract from Andreas Malm's Fossil Capital published as part of a series looking critically at climate change and the COP21 talks in Paris. Malm outlines his distinctive approach to the contemporary fossil economy by looking back to its contingent origins during the Industrial Revolution as the only way we can truly understand the crisis we are in today. 

Read more about:

#Trans on the Verso blog
#Feminism on the Verso blog
#BlackLiberation on the Verso blog
#Greece on the Verso blog
#MentalHealth on the Verso blog
#ClimateChange on the Verso blog
#Economics on the Verso blog

See our staff picks of non-Verso books of the year and our own Verso 2015 HighlightsDownload our 2015 Mixtape – a free ebook compilation featuring extracts from some of our favourite books this year!

See also our Gift Guide for suggested reading for art lovers, theory fans, and lots more.
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