Critical Legal Conference 2013

Spaces of struggle, spaces of reconciliation

Stream Organisers:  Yann Tostain (AMU (Aix-Marseille Université)) and Constance Gard (Université Paris VII)

Ideally, reconciliation should prevent, once and for all, the use of the past as a justification of a new conflict. It should get rid of violence. It may even re-enforce institutions that has been newly established or re-introduced by a fair power-sharing. Ideally, reconciliation should provide a remedy for the past injustices. It should help building or re-building non-violent relationships between old enemies. It should restore peace within communities. It should enable to share a common vision and understanding of the past.

In practice, such a global reconciliation is not the result of an isolated act, but the result of a long and discontinuous process.  It is not enough to make statements about the trade of revenge for tolerance, the change of one party’s memorial into a common commemoration, the disbandment of private militias in order to make one single national army. These are things that actually often reduces themselves into a good political intention.

For this formal alliance consisting in consensus amongst political elites which we shall call institutional «reconciliation», behind the formalism of good neighbouring relations within communities, and as guaranteeing at the same time community stability, ensures and crystallises identity distinctions. In order to understand why the subject consent or resist to new social standards established by reconciliation, it is worth remembering that one main mean of social control is the control of space. Indeed the control of one nation involves a territory control (Foucault, Clausewitz). Lands are the result of societies, they are tools for domination and power. They are the scenes of social confrontations and therefore a component part of power. Land-use entails complex interactions between groups and individuals. Grasping the sense of how one place is structured enable to find the ways to settle in that place, to live in that place, to make it one’s «land».

When the relationship to the other is being dialectically explored, and when, in order to pacify what remains impossible to come out of the symbolisation process, the subject manage to set his psychological space up, then, the «how to live in one place» becomes a factor of social integration. In the contrary, when, for individual or societal reasons, it is not the case, then it produces anxiety. Religious, racial, social confrontations between communities don’t just involve murderous acts, or hatred, which leads one man to rise against his own brother, or his close enemy, or a more distant one. They are also the reflection of what separates the subject from his own self. At that point, the subject is separated from his own self, and as in a foreign land, the ways he has to settle in his own psychological space are what psychopathology teaches us to call symptom, fantasy, hallucination, and delusion, that is to say any psychological build-up which create a bridge between the subject and reality, and the other’s difference.

The hatred of the other results from the anxious rejection of an external will of jouissance which is fundamentally unfamiliar to the subject. That is what Freud called the narcissism of small differences. Based on those small differences, Freud was wondering why men could show such an ability to express hatred. The annoyance at the other’s differences is all about narcissism, more than a conflict of interests, it indicates an egotism (worship of the self in its unicity).

Hatred serves the self’s interests. When the other confront the individual with the threat of lack in his own image, which causes troubles in the love of his self, he becomes the object of aversion.

If a dialectical discussion was established within the work of idealisation and identification, then the hatred that lies in every social link would remain into dormancy. For what borders and neutralizes that hatred is a «framing of narcissism», and it should enable to cohabit with the otherness of the other. The instant when hatred arises is that instant when the «uniqueness of the other» humiliates the narcissism, meaning that, this small difference, this «one thing more» shown off by the other highlights a «one thing less» (through a specular twist), which is a lack in the subject himself that mortifies him.

Instead of defining reconciliation in ideal terms, we may define it in practical terms as the possibility for a social group to live together beyond those small differences. The first challenge of this reconciliation here would be to put forward an interpretation of lands which would not erase those small differences, of course not, but at least would not make them grow.

There are many possible constructions of the «how to live in one place» which the subject can use in order to create and regulate the «border» between oneself and the other, a lot more than this common concept of a defined territory with borders that suggests a structuration of the placed elements either inside or outside that space. There are many territorial markers, which not only consist in a barrier against the intrusion of the other, but also tells us something about the identity of the subject or gives us information on his will to come or not in contact with the other. In order to elaborate these new markers and their issues, we can still use that perspective of signifiers opposition (inside/outside, friend/foe, etc…), but we can also use the outlines of that striated space presented by Deleuze (the space of the polis, the platonic space of fixed identities assignation and of signifiers opposition) in his interaction with smooth space (space of the nomos, of the nomad, without neither lines, nor assignments, moving like the desert or the new Chinese city). In order to define preliminary geopolitical and geostrategic conditions required to reach any kind of possible reconciliation, it is necessary to establish a dialogue between a psychopathological approach of the individual and of the social group, and a historical, economic, sociological and legal approach.

Please send paper abstracts of 300 words to either Yann Tostain ( or Constance Gard before the 15 June 2013 deadline.

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