Snippet: How To Kill Your Bully (But Not Get Away With It)

I’m heading to Puerto Rico next week for the American Studies Association Annual Meeting.  Here is a snippet from the paper I will be presenting on the criminalization of bullying as a biopolitical technology of the population-formation of gay children:

There is a profound tension taking shape, in our present moment, between political economy and governance, one manifested and intensified by the advent of gay children as a specific population.  To focalize only one vector of this process, the role of the Internet, digital technology, and social media has catalyzed this tension in the total excess of emergent “bodily habits and affective tendencies” of “sexuality” well beyond binaries of homo- and heterosexual online that young people are seen to especially incarnate.[1]  The criminalization of bullying in the Dharun Ravi case is in part a juridical confrontation with these digital “ecologies of sensation,”[2] one profoundly inadequate.  To be brief, the law has no certain grasp on what is happening online with young people’s “sexuality,” for the digital opens up such a fast speed of real-time encounter, entanglement, modulation and flow of information and affect, that it threatens to constitute a parallel space and time beside law.  Hence, even if young people’s bodily habits and affective tendencies, say, in the realm of social networking, resonate and amplify the emphasis to short-term and derivative growth in financial capitalism, they break radically with the modernist trajectory of the governance of children as a slow, steady process of growing up.  Faced with such total irrelevance, law then becomes a disciplinary supplement of biopower, deliberately aiming to capture through misrecognition the proliferating molecular sexualities of young people on the Internet in order to slow down their becomings to the molar stratas of identity and violence.  Take, for instance, the example of “sexting,” which in its short existence in jurisprudence has lead to the labeling of minors as young as thirteen as “sex offenders” for circulating and exchanging naked pictures of themselves with peers.

[1] Jasbir K. Puar, “The Cost of Getting Better: Suicide, Sensation, Switchpoints,” GLQ 18, 1 (Spring 2012): 150-151.

[2] Amit Rai, Untimely Bollywood: Globalization and India’s New Media Assemblage, Durham: Duke, 2009.


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