Cedric Johnson, associate professor of political science and director of the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, recently presented a seminar at Binghamton University. Titled “Making Citizens in Magnaville: Katrina Refugees and Neoliberal Self-Governance,” the work was presented at the invitation of the Sociology Department.
The talk began by revisiting debates over media use of the term “refugee” to describe disaster victims. Johnson argues that such debates revealed the inadequacy of civil rights discourse for addressing new states of vulnerability and exclusion under neoliberalism. The “refugees” debate also obscured the ways that Katrina survivors were in fact acclimated to modes of self-governance in a manner comparable to that experienced by international refugees fleeing state terror, civil war and disaster in places like Sri Lanka, Darfur or Haiti. Much of his talk examined Magnaville, a residential settlement created by Canadian industrialist Frank Stronach as an experiment in neoliberal citizen-making.
The work on which Johnson’s seminar is based will appear as a chapter in his forthcoming book, an edited collection titled, “The Neoliberal Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, Late Capitalist Culture and the Remaking of New Orleans” (University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming fall 2011).
Meanwhile on Sunday, April 25, the Democrat and Chronicle published a brief editorial authored by Instructor of Philosophy Rodmon King and Johnson opposing mayoral control. The newspaper also included a full version of their letter, which was cosigned by 35 staff and faculty from Rochester Area colleges and universities. This list of signatories included former mayor William A. Johnson, Jr. (now RIT faculty) and former interim school superintendent, William Cala (now Nazareth College faculty).