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Tel Aviv University
The Next Generation of Neo-Marxist, Critical Scholars: TAU Yoav Kenny


Editorial Note

Consecutive Evaluation Committees created by the Council for Higher Education to evaluate social sciences noted that in certain departments, there is a high concentration of neo-Marxist, critical scholars, a school of though that opposes mainstream approaches in social science.   The preponderance of such scholars, who also tend to be political activists, has undermined the standing of Israeli social science in the international academic ranking, and forced the tax payer to support activists masquerading as scholars.
IAM has covered this issue extensively but, by now, many of the older generation of these academic-activists retire.  A new generation has been recruited into the academic ranks, many of them, students of the older scholars.  Yoav Kenny, a post-doctorate fellow from Tel Aviv University is a prominent case in point. 
Kenny completed his Ph.D degree at TAU's Philosophy department under the leading neo-Marxist critical theorists Adi Ophir and Anat Matar. Kenny's recent proposal for post-doctoral research at the TAU Ethics department is titled: The War on Terror and the “Weaponization of Life”: Toward a Normative Ethics of Individual Corporal Violence in Extreme Political Circumstances.  
Kenny proposes to analyze neo-liberal sovereign states and how in the "normative ethos of liberal democracies... Suicide bombings, individual military targeted killings, force-feeding of detainees who are hunger-striking unto death, torturing of inmates who are suspected of being “ticking-bombs”, self-immolation of political prisoners, the use of human-shields by both soldiers and terrorists – all of these manifestations of individual corporal violence... currently underlies the political violence of terrorists, dissidents and nation-states alike."   

Kenny plans to use Foucault’s "bio-political conclusion" on the symmetry and reciprocity of power and violence, and "between hunger striking and force feeding, between human shields used by terrorists and those used by the army, between self immolation of prisoners and detainees and the torture of the same individuals by the state, and between suicide bombings and the killing of civilians as “collateral damage” of individual military targeted killings." Kenny will juxtapose acts of terrorism and acts of states fighting it. 
Here is a plain language translation for those who may be confused by this neo-Marxist, critical theory jargon. Israel and other liberal democracies which are fighting jihadist terrorism are equivalent to the terrorists themselves.  
IAM has emphasized that it is the responsibility of the academic authorities to make sure that a balance between neo-Marxist, critical scholarship and mainstream approaches is maintained.  If the authorities do not act, the balance would be breached in favor of the former. The consequences for failure to act are known. The tax payers would be footing the bill for subpar social science performance.  


Yoav Kenny | The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Post-doctoral Fellowship 2016 - Research Proposal

The War on Terror and the “Weaponization of Life”: Toward a Normative
Ethics of Individual Corporal Violence in Extreme Political Circumstances
Post-doctoral Research Proposal
Yoav Kenny

In accordance with public debates and media attention, recent scholarship on the social, political and moral implications of the ongoing global war on terror has been increasingly concerned with extreme manifestations of individual corporal violence. Rather than employing the conventional assumptions and analyses that political scientists, legal scholars and moral philosophers have been using for decades in order to study armed conflicts and organized political violence, contemporary inquiries seem to focus on various radical acts of political violence which affect, transform or originate from a singular living body. Suicide bombings, individual military targeted killings, force-feeding of detainees who are hunger-striking unto death, torturing of inmates who are suspected of being “ticking-bombs”, self-immolation of political prisoners, the use of human-shields by both soldiers and terrorists – all of these manifestations of individual corporal violence not only challenge the effectiveness of existing research on the subject, but also question the ability to explain it from within the existing normative ethos of liberal democracies. Indeed, whether they involve the exposure of the body to coercive technologies of sovereign violence or the transformation of the body itself into a violent technology of resistance, these radical practices call for a new ethical paradigm which will be better suited to address the “political fetishization of the body” (Feldman, 1991: 232) which currently underlies the political violence of terrorists, dissidents and nation-states alike. From the joint standpoint of moral philosophy and political theory, thus far attempts to answer this call have led to a peculiar scholarly impasse. On the one hand, although mainstream liberal political philosophy tries to expand and deepen its longstanding normative impetus by incorporating notions such as “humiliation”, “dignity”, “sacrifice” and “bodily pain” into its utilitarian calculus of rights, its commitment to legal universalizations and to a rationalistic political discourse prevents it from addressing the affective and phenomenological essence of the singular instances of bodily violence which lie at the heart of the matter (e.g. Greenberg, 1983; Margalit, 1996; Wilkinson, 2011; Allhoff, 2012; Jacobs, 2012). On the other hand, while critical political theory has been very fruitful in identifying and conceptualizing the affective and phenomenological sources and outcomes of various ethico-political implications of individual bodily violence (e.g. Asad, 2007; Dingley and  Mollica, 2007; Bargu, 2014; Bernstein, 2015; Butler, 2015), thus far these accounts have been mainly descriptive or genealogical and did not yet yield veritable normative conclusions. Rather than seeing this predicament as yet another discouraging illustration of the infamous analytic/continental and liberal/critical divides, the proposed research offers to see it as a unique and significant opportunity to examine these supposedly incongruent inquiries as complementary paths on the road toward an original and much-needed normative ethics of the political uses and abuses of individual corporal violence. 
In order to achieve this objective, the research will consist of two complementary phases. 
The first phase will juxtapose innovative liberal accounts of political corporal violence (Margalit, 1996; Wilkinson, 2011) with Michel Foucault’s celebrated reflections on bio-politics, i.e., the modern modality of political power with which the neo-liberal sovereign state regulates, controls and manipulates the lives and bodies of its subjects (Foucault, 1990; 2007). This juxtaposition will seek to demonstrate (a) that the seemingly abstract and rationalistic liberal notions of “dignity” “right” and “autonomy” are in fact embodied in each political subject in the most literal and singular way possible; and (b) that normative dispositions and objectives could ameliorate the way in which bio-politics in particular and critical theory in general address political manifestations of individual corporal violence. By exposing and exploring the normative implications of Foucault’s claim that bio-political “technologies of the self” define the actions both of the governing power and of those who resist it (Foucault 1990: 101), this phase of the research will aim at formulating a cohesive and comprehensive typology of the political manifestations of individual bodily violence which up until now have only been discussed separately. Moreover, by using Foucault’s bio-political conclusion about the symmetry and reciprocity of power and violence as its organizing principle, this original typology will seek to reveal a fundamental normative reciprocity that exists between hunger striking and force feeding, between human shields used by terrorists and those used by the army, between self immolation of prisoners and detainees and the torture of the same individuals by the state, and between suicide bombings and the killing of civilians as “collateral damage” of individual military targeted killings.
The second phase of the research will use the reciprocal and symmetrical logic of this new typology as a springboard for revisiting renowned groundbreaking works of critical theory in an attempt to extract and crystalize new normative conclusions regarding the ways in which the singular living body is constructed both as a means and as an object of technologies of extreme political violence. This phase of the research will draw on studies which expand, continue or criticize Foucauldian bio-politics by explicating its implicit or altogether absent references to pressing ethical, legal and political issues such as race and gender (Ziarek, 2008), administrative detention and war crimes (Butler, 2006; 2015), political manipulations of the media (Feldman, 1991), religious conflicts (Asad, 2007), the death penalty and the sovereign “non-criminal putting to death” (Derrida, 2011, 2013) and, most recently, the post-colonial and imperialistic aspects of the technologies which maintain the international military-industrial complex (Kelly, 2015; Gordon and Perugini, 2016). This multifaceted and interdisciplinary inquiry will enable the research to conclude by bringing together and substantiating existing discrete conceptualizations of “the political identity of the body” (Scarry, 1985: 110), “the human body as a terrorist weapon” (Dingley and Mollica, 2007) and “the weaponization of life” (Bargu, 2014: 14-20). Consequently, a unified normative theorization of the formal typology of individual corporal violence could be offered and both phases of the research could be given a joint conclusion.
This research stems from and further develops conclusions from my doctoral dissertation on the political and philosophical prevalence of the living and dying bodies of human and non-human animals, as well as from my post-doctoral work on hunger strikes and force-feeding (Kenny and Mann 2014; Kenny, 2016) and from the discussions I was fortunate to have with Prof. Judith Butler during my year as a Fulbright post-doctoral scholar at UC Berkeley. As the research proposed here critically intersects ethical, technological, legal and political questions, I believe that no academic environment could be better suited for it than the one provided by the “Science, Ethics and Democracy” project at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. The high level of scholarly exchange between various fields of knowledge which characterizes the work of the center corresponds both to the form and to the content of this research and I would be thrilled and honored to conduct it in such a challenging and stimulating atmosphere.

Works cited
Fritz Allhoff, Terrorism, Ticking Time-Bombs, and Torture: A Philosophical Analysis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012)
Talal Asad, On Suicide Bombing (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007)
Banu Bargu, Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014)
J. M. Bernstein, Torture and Dignity: An Essay on Moral Injury (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015)
Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2006)
-------. “Human Shields,” London Review of International Law 3(2) (2015), pp. 223-243.
Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign vol. 1, trans. Geoffrey Bennington (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011)
-------. The Death Penalty vol. 1, trans. Peggy Kamuf (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013)
James Dingley and Marcello Mollica, “The Human Body as a Terrorist Weapon: Hunger Strikes and Suicide Bombers,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 30/6 (2007), pp. 459–92.
Allen Feldman, Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991)
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, trans. Robert Hurley, (New York: Vintage, 1990)
-------. Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978, trans. Graham Burchell (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)
Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini, “The politics of human shielding: On the resignification of space and the constitution of civilians as shields in liberal wars,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34(1) (February 2016), pp. 168-187.
Joel K. Greenberg, “Hunger Striking Prisoners: The Constitutionality of Force-Feeding,” Fordham Law Review 51:4 (1983), pp. 747-771.
Pauline Jacobs, Force-Feeding of Prisoners and Detainees on Hunger Strike: Right to Self-Determination versus Right to Intervention (Cambridge: Intersentia, 2012)
M. G. E. Kelly, Biopolitical Imperialism (New York: Zone Books, 2014)
Yoav Kenny, “Force and Feeding: The Biopolitical Foundations of the Debate on Force-Feeding Hunger Striking Inmates,” in Law and Food, Yofi Tirosh and Aeyal Gross (eds.) (Law, Society and Culture - The Buchman Faculty of Law Book Series, Tel Aviv University, 2016) [forthcoming] [in Hebrew]
Yoav Kenny and Itamar Mann, “Hunger Strikes and Forced Feeding: Between Politics and Morality,” Forced Feeding and Hunger Strikes (Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Dec. 2014) [unpublished conference paper]
Avishy Margalit, The Decent Society, trans. Naomi Goldblum (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996)
Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985)
Paul Wilkinson, Terrorism versus Democracy: The Liberal State Response 3rd ed. (London: Routledge, 2011)
Ewa P. Ziarek, “Bare Life on Strike: Notes on the Biopolitics of Race and Gender,” South Atlantic Quarterly 107/1 (2008), pp. 89–105

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