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Against the new enclosures: Communicational insurgencies as practices of anti-fear

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(Dissertation) Ph.D.
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This dissertation examines the communicational dimensions of fear in neoliberal globalization, focusing on the problem of democracy when fear becomes the major lexicon and practice of politics. This study seeks to demonstrate how socio-cultural fear not only produces both fearful people and terrifying forms of political repression but also vital practices of anti-fear. The refusal of top down political fear, I argue, became increasingly significant in oppositional cultural practices in the context of the new enclosures of neoliberal globalization. Situated in the “long 1990s”, between the enormous social upheavals following 1989 and the launching of the “War on Terror” in 2001, my dissertation proposes two lines of theoretical and methodological renovation. The first is based on a critique of the tendency to analyze communication processes as a problem of technology and argues for the importance of looking at communication from the perspective of the protagonists of culture. The second renovation tackles the totalizing, top-down tendency that predominates in much of the fear scholarship where fear itself is treated as a complete cultural project. This problem is exemplified in the fear literature’s neglect of social agency – the diverse strategies of contestation and insubordination that have always confronted the politics of fear. I argue that this inadvertently reproduces the dominant political use of fear because people, in this view, are not the protagonists of culture but receptacles of it. To think about practices of anti-fear from the perspective of the protagonists of culture, I develop the concept of “communicational insurgencies” to theorize the role of communication politics in contemporary anti-enclosure movements. Drawing on examples from Vancouver, Los Angeles, New York and Ciudad Juarez, I use a grounded approach to analyze some of the ways in which the circulation of fear is contested and how this refusal is also an affirmation of dignity, democracy and social justice.
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