See It. Say It. Sorted.
9.10. 2018, 6pm – 8pm,
in MayDay Rooms,
88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH
The 2018 autumn season of Reading the enemies will begin with a workshop by Chrys Papaioannou (PhD). Chrys’ starting point is the security announcement so ubiquitous in the UK public space: 'See it. Say it. Sorted.' The slogan commands vigilance towards the “suspicious” conduct of others. By examining this exhortation to perceive enemies around us, Chrys questions its relation to the practice of reading and the positionalities and antagonisms we are expected to inhabit while engaged in intellectual labour. Respondent: Jaakko Karhunen.
Taking the public security announcement ‘See It. Say It. Sorted.’ as my starting point, I respond to the intellectual aporia of ‘reading the enemies’ by problematising the category of enmity, proposing that enmity cannot be conceived as prior and exterior to reading. When seen as a private, voluntary activity, reading assumes fixed positionalities between the sovereign reading subject and their chosen enemy-discourse. However, the involuntary, coercive reading of the enemies imposed by our present biopolitical regime suggests a different relationship between reader (as subject) and enemy (as Other). What if the very social fabric that confers upon the subject their ability to ‘see’ and ‘say’ who the enemy is has come undone? What technologies of reading might be adequate to the task of practising radical modes of counter-conduct?
This paper invites an ethical reflection on contemporary critical approaches in the humanities and their relationship to epistemic violence and intellectual intimacy, identifying three modes of engagement with the enemy: militant vitality (following readers of Alain Badiou); queer intimacy (through the work of Feel Tank Chicago and queer-feminist analyses of vulnerability); and abstinence or refusal (exemplified by Melville’s ‘Bartleby, The Scrivener’ and Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of the phrase ‘I would prefer not to’). While foregrounding the material and institutional constraints placed upon us as young scholars to read, cite and name our enemies, I also wish to propose a reading that itself does violence to the hostility invoked by ‘See It, Say It,
Sorted’. By mobilising the gap between the suspect bodies’ ‘hostile intent’ which innocent subjects are compelled to report on, and the government’s ‘hostile environment’, within which such logic of suspect bodies and innocent subjects operates, I re-read the announcement’s ‘it’, dislodging this referent from a mode of conduct, and advocating ‘it’ as the site of relationality that calls upon us to assume responsibility for, and through, our own suspect bodies.
Chrys Papaioannou is a critical theorist based in London. Her doctoral dissertation (Ahead of its Time: Historicity, Chronopolitics and the Idea of the Avant-garde after Modernism, 2017) offered a re-thinking of the relationship between the notion of the avant-garde and historical temporality, and she is currently developing a book-length project on chronopolitics and the gift through reading Walter Benjamin alongside Georges Bataille. She is a member of the cross-institutional collective London Critical and is committed to anti-hierarchical forms of collective organising.