Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Riots 1: Stones and fires

This entry will be about the recent news from Sweden: in the major cities the suburbs are on fire, we hear of burning cars, fire squads attacked by stone throwing youth, and arrests... In Gothenburg around a 100 cars are reported to have burned only this last month. In Stockholm and Malmö there are said to be fire incidents practically every night and the last few weeks the phenomenon has spread to Uppsala.

Let me state at once that I don't really know anything about this problem. In any case, I know far from enough. My first impulse as I read the news is that I should go there, listen to people, read the research. This is simply a problem which I feel is so serious that I want to understand it better. My only hope in writing this entry is that my haphazardly gathered information will yield some form of pattern, a clue to some future possible understanding. People who already know something about this problem should probably stop reading right now, since I don't want to waste their time (or perhaps they could give me a helpful comment).

Why do I feel it is so serious? Not only because of the violence, or the pain and anger which these actions seem to express, and not only because of my concern for the crisis faced by the welfare state and its unsuccesful integration policy. Isn't it also a question of urgency for many social movement activists and intellectuals? Who is posing the most radical challenge to mainstream society today? Is the "precarity" movement really a movement for the most marginalized? Isn't it time that we face up to the fact that immigrants setting fire to a car or throwing stones may represent a better example of "dissent" in Rancière's sense than a movement calling for "another world"? Is solidarity with such a politics possible? Is it desirable?

Banlieus on fire is of course not only a Swedish phenomenon. In future entries I will try to present some material, background facts and interpretations. Most will concern Sweden (in particular Rosengård in Malmö), but I will also try to check up material on similar incidents elsewhere.

To be continued...

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