The sociospatial preconditions of (im)moral performance

The sociospatial preconditions of (im)moral performance



Leonidas K. Cheliotis

Queen Mary, University of London


Wednesday 29th October, 3.30-5 pm

T316, Adam Smith Building, University of Glasgow


Abstract: Michel Foucault was no doubt right to observe that ‘there are monsters on the prowl, whose form changes with the history of knowledge’, yet neither history of knowledge, nor the histories of power asymmetries this fuels in turn, are ever written by ‘the invisible hand of Jupiter’ or upended thanks to the messianic intervention of Dei ex machina. If we are holistically to account for, and perhaps also help overturn, the ever-growing physical exclusion of Otherness, then we need to take a step backwards and bring under our magnifying glass the social, man-made processes by which mass perceptions and mass moral evaluations are given content, shape, and reactionary directions in the first place. In so doing, this paper takes issue with the Baumanian thesis that, in banning or suspending communication, practices of geographical exclusion serve to stifle the cognitive as well as emotional preconditions of any moral judgement, thereby also laying the foundations for their own reproduction, and for the reproduction of their catastrophic consequences. If, as it is counterargued, engagement in physical forms of exclusionary behaviour requires significant moral weight, moral weight itself requires the existence, and indeed persistence, of communication. In particular, cognitive relegation of others to the status of morally lesser beings is what sets in motion, and perpetuates, the emotions necessary for moralising engagement in physical forms of exclusionary behaviour.


Bio: Leonidas K. Cheliotis is Lecturer and Deputy Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice at the School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London. He is currently working on two monographs: the one on the symbolic roots of contemporary penality, and the other on the penal practices of xenophobia in contemporary Greece.

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