How excited am I for Anne McClintock’s next book? So unbelievably excited. She talked a bit about the project at a Wikileaks event a year or so ago, and I find myself going back to the terms quite a bit as I wade through the digital dark side. One of Anne’s great strengths is gathering materials and archives, structures and subjects, in a way that acknowledges the dynamic of power between them. She consolidates knowledge without fixing it, and transforms multiple fields in the process.
One article is out from the project, “Paranoid Empire: Specters from Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.” Explaining the dynamic of paranoid power, the project so helpfully articulates power’s doubleness. In her words:
“a social entity such as an organization, state, or empire can be spoken of as ‘paranoid’ if the dominant powers governing that entity cohere as a collective community around contradictory cultural narratives, self-mythologies, practices, and identities that oscillate between delusions of inherent superiority and omnipotence, and phantasms of threat and engulfment. The term paranoia is analytically useful here, then, not as a description of a collective national psyche, nor as a description of a universal pathology, but rather as an analytically strategic concept, a way of seeing and being attentive to contradictions within power, a way of making visible (the better politically to oppose) the contradictory flashpoints of violence that the state tries to control” (53).
She ties such paranoid power explicitly to militarized institutions, and certainly this seems to be the case. But by articulating paranoia as a dynamic between individuals and institutions, as something that subjects individuals to institutions, she also explains a far more pervasive phenomenon. For structures and individuals intersect precisely at the moment of paranoia – the power of the structure encourages both the feeling of omnipotence and engulfment precisely because our structures both have and do not have power. That is, in a neoliberal moment, structures ensure doubleness throughout the system–power without responsibility, responsibility without power–but also within individuals (to resist? to find a ‘new’ way even in a moment of utter pessimism). But what McClintock’s article so powerfully reminds us is that this doubleness is not simply economic, it is imperial.