Omar Z. Robles
Courtesy of the artist.

The coloniality of the present is expulsive

We are thrilled to launch the “Expulsion” issue, which inaugurates our work together as co-editors of emisférica, and offers a redesigned and more malleable online media platform. With this issue, we also renew the journal’s commitment to provide high-quality, free online access for original scholarly and artistic contributions. Indeed, the core of our mission is to give online public access to hemispheric forms of creative knowledge production. Currently, academic journals find themselves at a crossroads, asking how to address the issue of free access that is essential to any inclusive project of knowledge production. Editors of key journals ask us how they too can provide a multilingual environment for scholarly and cultural production. Since our inception, emisférica has presented and translated work into multiple languages, from English to Spanish and Portuguese, and from Spanish, Portuguese, Creole, and French into English. In fact, the project of multiple forms of translation and mediation is at the core of the journal’s originality and central to our objectives of hemispheric dialogue. As we move forward, we will continue to decolonize and expand translation, precisely by presenting and translating work into Indigenous and creole languages, and, Indigenous and creole languages back into English, Spanish, and Portuguese. You can imagine the labor of love that fuels such an ambitious translation project.

emisférica reaches across the hemisphere to foreground connections between artists, performers, scholars, activisms, and modes of doing otherwise. We center knowledge production from the edges that is embodied, visual, and that analytically and acutely responds to the ongoing crises produced by a paradigm of war. During this transitional moment of globality, the rising and intensifying new/old forms of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and queer and transphobia remind us that media platforms cannot be hosts to neutrality. Our persistent effort, then, is to contribute to a more just hemispheric and planetary future through engaged and meaningfully situated knowledge and artistic production. With that aim, we offer this issue on “Expulsion.” Expulsion is a powerful concept that names the brutality of violence experienced under increasing military and police surveillance and violence, in territories of extraction, upon Black and Indigenous bodies, and within increasingly xenophobic states. We feature former emisférica editor Jill Lane’s important analysis of Cuban visual and performance artist Carlos Martiel, a multimedia dossier and a provocative interview with the artist conducted by Marcial Godoy-Anativia. We also present Macarena Gómez-Barris’ analysis of multimedia Colombian artist Carolina Caycedo’s work in Brazil and Paraguay that extends work from The Extractive Zone (Gómez-Barris 2017). These artistic works from the Caribbean and South America, and our reflections upon them show how those who have been forcibly expelled from territories, nations, and home redefine, refuse, and remake the displacements of extractive and racial capitalism.

Globally, the expulsive condition produces rightlessness for millions. Expulsion names the unprecedented waves of dispossessive diaspora and migration that characterize this uncertain planetary moment, whether visible on the shores of Greece, in the transits across the Indian Ocean, in the caravans through Honduras, Guatemala, Southern Mexico, along the US/Mexico Border, or in the mass migrations that took place prior to and after Hurricane María, from the Puerto Rican archipelago. In her book, Saskia Sassen used the term “expulsions” to name new forms of global inequality, and also to show how the forces of capital remove millions of people from their homes, their lands, and their livelihoods (2014). As states become increasingly bankrupt in this transitional economy, the primary function of speculative capitalism is to prey upon derivatives, exacerbate inequalities, and deplete social imaginaries, propelling a small percentage of the global population to dizzying levels of wealth. What is left in the aftermath is utter destitution, as we see in territories of war and extraction such as along the Paraná River, in Syria, in Honduras, in Black and Brown communities across the United States, and across the Global North and Global South.

In recent work, Ruth Gilmore centers this expulsive economic and cultural dynamic, and uses the powerful concept “abolition geography” to show us the horizon of liberation (2014). Abolition geographies are the places and the afterlives of crisis, the spaces of freedom that reside outside of the expulsive dynamic that is reiteratively rehearsed by the military-carceral complex. In their recent Social Text issue, editors Jodi Byrd, Alyosha Goldstein, Jodi Melamed, and Chandan Reddy describe the expulsive complex by using the terminology “economies of dispossession” to attend to the specifically anti-Indigenous and anti-Black operations of colonial capitalism that exacerbate debt, precarity, and collective loss (2018). Such important scholarship enriches our vocabularies by examining and describing the complexity of the massive transfer of capital to planetary corporations and moguls that also massively and continually dismantle the redistributive state, with particular acuteness upon territories of difference. In this issue, we explore the textured, cultural, and material afterlives of what we characterize as the expulsive dynamic, its destitution, and multiple ways to reckon, think, and make with these multivalent processes.

How does the expulsive dynamic expand global destitution through war, incarceration, land dispossession, and anthropogenic climate change? The authors in the issue individually respond to this, admittedly, hefty question. Indeed, the essays in “Expulsion” remind us that the colonial and modern state in the hemisphere is selective, fixating upon Black, Indigenous, racialized, and gendered bodies in ways that ensure rightlessness. With a sharp eye on immigration policy, Naomi Paik’s essay focuses on the condition of rightlessness for those nations and populations that have historically been in the shadow of US colonial governance. Paik illuminates the current predicament for Haitians who were first constituted as the revolutionary multitude, then the liberal unruly subjects, then the objects of humanitarian aid, and so forth. Paik also documents the latest waves of expulsions from Haiti, where the failures of the rhetoric and policies of aid have led to legally blocking Haitians from entry and access to the United States. The US/Mexico border and particularly Tijuana, which has long been a temporary destination for internal Indigenous migration, has now become the new site of Haitian rightlessness. Tanya Golash-Boza’s essay charts the expulsive dynamic by arguing that mass deportation and incarceration are made possible only through the confluence of gendered and racialized regimes of power that are predicated upon post-9/11 nationalism and global financial crises. She analyzes how the expulsive principle is at work in migrant incarceration, where deportees have become a profitable business for private prisons and detention centers. Paik and Golash-Boza’s body of work importantly illustrate the expulsive principle at the heart of humanitarianism, migration, deportation and imprisonment that defines the Americas today.

The expulsion question, of course, dates back to franchise and settler colonialism. As Ericka Beckman argues, we need to consider modern/colonial forms of hemispheric destitution as historically connected to a longer arc of dispossession. For Latin America, Indigenous and rural peasants were expelled from their original territories, where restrictions upon movement and land titles dates back to colonial feudalism and its sub-division logic. Through new readings of José Maria Arguedas’ fiction that centers the period of modernity as the “epic of expropriation,” Beckman excavates the social and cultural condition that shapes the present post-catastrophic expulsive period. As millions of new consumers enter into the debt, credit, and loan Faustian bargain, this longer arc of rural/urban land and communal property expulsions must be foregrounded, remembered, analyzed and given texture as Beckman carefully does in her essay.

Peña Iguarán’s essay returns us to Tijuana to show how the frontier and borderlands of the US/Mexico border offer an important site from which “a delinquent poetics” is forged. Delinquent poetics challenges the transitory moment of migration that inhabits the liminal space between legality and illegality. Within the visible geographies of Tijuana, the expulsive complex is revealed through ethical and political approaches to art and artistic production that interrupts the normative flow of migration. Finally, Nicholas De Genova’s essay, presented in Spanish, offers an important general and original framework that disentangles the global migration web that first expels, then deports, then refuses to reintegrate. Those expelled are forced to move through repetitive processes of migration, remigration, and non-belonging, where the temporality and spatiality of the migratory condition has been thoroughly transformed. From the teleological status that moved migrants from non-belonging to belonging, the new global condition is permanent displacement, or a continuum of multiple non-belongings, non-legal statuses, and non-futures.

To understand the local/global dynamic, we must reckon very precisely with newer, older and overlapping forms of expulsion. In Frances Negrón-Muntaner’s important rendition of Antonio Benitez-Rojo’s “The Repeating Island,” she names the two-century old debt and climate diasporas of Puerto Rico instead as “The Emptying Island.” Rather than suggest recent events as merely a new phenomenon, Negrón-Muntaner describes the reiterative and haunting forms of identification produced by emptying, leaving, and disappearing that have shaped the material condition and archipelagic imaginary of Puerto Rico. As we are seeing across the globe, the squeeze upon Indigenous, Afro-descendent, rural, Island, precarious, and stateless peoples make it so there is no way to actually stay. Ever more are forced to flee, to escape, to move, to survive, to makes lives within the condition of expulsion. We think with, enact upon, represent, and otherwise imagine the expulsive dynamic in this issue of emisférica that we gratefully offer to you.

Works Cited

Gilmore, Ruth Wilson. 2018. “Geografía abolicionista y el problema de la
inocencia”. Tabula Rasa, (28), 57-77.

Gómez-Barris, Macarena. 2017. The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives. Durham: Duke University Press.

Jodi, A., Byrd Alyosha, Goldstein., Jodi Melamed., and Chandan Reddy. 2018. “Predatory Value: Economies of Dispossession and Disturbed Relationalities”. Social Text 36 [2 (135)]: 1-18.

Sassen, Saskia. 2014. Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.