Frank B. Wilderson, “Wallowing in the contradictions”, Part 1

I might have feelings about justice, for example I feel that the killing of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer was unjust; and that the verdict in the case (involuntary manslaughter) is also unjust. But justice is not a register that I trade in as a theorist. And perhaps not even as a politico. I am interested in ethics, which is to say that I am interested in explaining relations of power. You might say that both of my books are arguing that the existence of the world, meaning the existence of the modern era, is unjust. It would be hard to find a corner of justice within an unjust paradigm, unless you made a provisional move away from explaining the paradigm. As regards the first part of your question: I believe in the spirit world; that is to say I believe that the African ancestors are still with us and can be consulted from time to time. But I would not try to calibrate the gap between what I believe and what I can explain. I don’t think that would be useful.

In these Times - Eater of Death - Shailjah Patel


And finally
I saw
the savagery
of a people
who would gloat
over those they kill,
who would take the limbs,
eyes, sanity
of their victims
before execution. I cried out
to the shelter roof, dark as a coffin:
Have they no mothers
no children
in America?


Their names will not be remembered,
they are not American.
Museums will not hold their relics, they are not
American. No other mother’s
children will be slaughtered
in their memory, they are not

But I?
I have eaten
from the bowels of hell,
chewed and swallowed
the fragments of my children
and now – do you see?
I am no longer human.


Eater of Death

Quilombos and Reparations

According to Brazilian law, residents of quilombos have a constitutional right to land settled by their ancestors — and that right, though rarely fulfilled, is quietly revolutionizing the country’s race relations.


Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can’t see it…

"A British company has produced a "strange, alien" material so black that it absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visual light, setting a new world record. To stare at the "super black" coating made of carbon nanotubes – each 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – is an odd experience. It is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing. Shapes and contours are lost, leaving nothing but an apparent abyss. […]

You expect to see the hills and all you can see … it’s like black, like a hole, like there’s nothing there. It just looks so strange,”

Asked about the prospect of a little black dress, he said it would be “very expensive” – the cost of the material is one of the things he was unable to reveal.

You would lose all features of the dress. It would just be something black passing through,” he said.


Stephen Westland, professor of colour science and technology at Leeds University, said traditional black was actually a colour of light and scientists were now pushing it to something out of this world.

"Many people think black is the absence of light. I totally disagree with that. Unless you are looking at a black hole, nobody has actually seen something which has no light," he said. "These new materials, they are pretty much as black as we can get, almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine."

We are the gray area

"And so I think about Primo Levi ad the gray area of The Drowned and the Saved. We are the gray area.

The gray area is Italy, country of the disinterested. The third element between victims and executioners, which gives body to both. Italy, the country that doesn’t want to know, that looks the other way, that remains spectator without taking responsibility. Today, like back then.”

Forensic Oceanography

Use of satellite imagery

In the production of the Forensic Oceanography report, satellite imagery was crucial in confirming the presence of a high number of ships in close proximity to the drifting migrants’ boat. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite imagery is routinely collected over the Mediterranean Sea for various purposes, including the policing of illegalized migration. Using these media to document the crime of nonassistance of people in distress at sea thus involved a strategic repurposing of these images and the use of surveillance technologies “against the grain.” In this we exercised a “disobedient gaze,” one that refuses to disclose clandestine migration but seeks to unveil instead the violence of the border regime.

Fig. 1: Map produced by the European Commission Joint Research Centre, showing the density of Synthetic Aperture Radar images in the Mediterranean Basin.

Fig. 1: Map produced by the European Commission Joint Research Centre, showing the density of Synthetic Aperture Radar images in the Mediterranean Basin.

Fig. 2: The report included a survey of all available SAR data (providers consulted: iTerraSAR-X, PALSAR, COSMO-SkyMed, Radarsat-1, Radarsat-2, and Envisat-1) within the Straight of Sicily for the period pertaining to the “left-to-die boat” case (March 27–April 10).

Fig. 2: The report included a survey of all available SAR data (providers consulted: iTerraSAR-X, PALSAR, COSMO-SkyMed, Radarsat-1, Radarsat-2, and Envisat-1) within the Straight of Sicily for the period pertaining to the “left-to-die boat” case (March 27–April 10).

The gruesome truth behind an idyllic scene

"The first images were tranquil enough. A fishing boat sat on a bay in Sicily in the summer sunshine.

As gusts of wind ruffled the water around her, she swung a little on her mooring.

There was nothing in that television picture to suggest that there was anything wrong.

But down in her blue hull, the boat carried a dreadful cargo. A hold packed with bodies. A great tangle of corpses.

As the camera pulled back you saw figures gathering on the quay, police and forensic experts, all dressed in white overalls, and with masks over their faces.

When the fishing boat came alongside, they would go to work.

The first time we’d seen that blue hull it appeared in footage shot far out at sea by the Italian navy.

As the vessel rose and fell in the swell, a navy boarding party went in to investigate. And the sailors discovered that just beneath the feet of that mass of passengers, there were many dead.

Dozens had suffocated in a hold below deck.

There were so many bodies in such a small space that out at sea they couldn’t even be counted, never mind unloaded.”

"These were the longest 12 minutes of my life. 12 minutes on the road to a lynching.”

The light train in Jerusalem. I am sitting quietly. Some yelling is heard and the train gets stuck. Hundreds, maybe thousands are banging on the windows of the train. “Death to the Arabs”, they are chanting. I am scared. I hide behind my sunglasses. I pray that they will not recognize my nationality. A woman is crying, screaming hysterically from the rear seats. I run towards her. She is a young mother with a head scarf. She is holding a 5 year old boy. Another woman is pushing her, wanting to forcibly shove her out of the train. Thousands are banging on the windows, baying for blood, and that woman wants to sacrifice the young mother. “She has no place with us, they murdered three of our sons”. Is she the one who murdered your sons? Did her son murder them? She keeps yelling, the thousands keep banging on the windows. A terrifying sight, nothing is more frightening, and the thundering silence of tens of passengers on the train, as if nothing happened!

These were the longest 12 minutes of my life. 12 minutes on the road to a  lynching.”

Forensic Architecture / Forensic Oceanography


The Left-to-Die Boat

The deadly drift of a migrants’ boat in the Central Mediterranean

The Forensic Oceanography project was launched in summer 2011 to support a coalition of NGOs demanding accountability for the deaths of migrants in the central Mediterranean Sea while that region was being tightly monitored by the NATO-led coalition intervening in Libya. The efforts were focused on what is now known as the “left-to-die boat” case, in which sixty-three migrants lost their lives while drifting for fourteen days within the NATO maritime surveillance area.

By going “against the grain” in our use of surveillance technologies, we were able to reconstruct with precision how events unfolded and demonstrate how different actors operating in the Central Mediterranean Sea used the complex and overlapping jurisdictions at sea to evade their responsibility for rescuing people in distress. The report we produced formed the basis for a number of ongoing legal petitions filed against NATO member states.

Tamil asylum seekers: Ghosts on the high seas


They reported they were 175 nautical miles west of Christmas Island, having left Puducherry in southern India 15 days earlier, on June 13. The boat’s phone was cut off that day.

Even as Morrison and Prime Minister Tony Abbott held fast to their policy of never discussing “on-water matters”, they seized the opportunity to remind Australians that they had stopped the boats. Not a single asylum boat had landed in Australia for six months.

These two boats, though, would have been different. They had not taken the usual route, via Indonesia.

By Wednesday, it emerged that the Australian navy had boarded both vessels and transferred their passengers to Customs boats. The Tamils from the second boat at least, near the Cocos Islands, and likely all of them, were subjected to “screening” that amounted to four questions – name, country of origin, place of disembarkation and why they had left – which was a big cull from the usual 19 questions.

Then, it appears, Customs shipped them towards an undisclosed rendezvous point in international waters to be transferred to the Sri Lankan navy. Sri Lanka’s officials both confirmed and denied the planned transfer. The UN refugee agency expressed “profound concern”.

"Australia’s moral, ethical and legal compass has been lost at sea," said Trevor Grant, from Australia’s Tamil Refugee Council.

The council said at least 11 people on the fishing trawler had been jailed and tortured in Sri Lanka, according to a relative of several of the passengers.