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People's Mic and democratic charisma

Occupy Wall Street's frontier assemblies

Chris Garces

The People's Mic is a new genre of political speech. In Occupy Wall Street (OWS) general assemblies, this tactile media for public deliberation was integral to embodying new political community across American cities in a globally oriented movement of the squares. Whether or not OWS has exemplified direct democracy per se, the People's Mic has cultivated new forms of democratic charisma between previously disaggregated constituencies-a “leaderful charisma“, with historical roots in pious American oratorical traditions (“hallowed speech“) and more recent movements for intercultural solidarity building (global justice, horizontalist, feminist, etc.). In this article, I signal how the People's Mic atavistically conjured and resembled the American town hall meeting in a contemporary and heterogeneous US frontier assembly. Before its strategic incapacitation, the Occupy movement's widespread use of People's Mic served to undermine the authority of private-public monopolies and to place a check on mounting police repression of urban space.

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Ecuador's “black site”

On prison securitization and its zones of legal silence

Chris Garces

When a state of emergency in Ecuador's prison system was declared in 2007, municipal leaders in Guayaquil built the country's first “supermax” prison, La Roca, for the administrative segregation of inmates considered a security threat. I suggest that administrative curtailment of access to these so-called “worst of the worst” prisoners merits legal comparisons with the juridical status of detainees in US “black site” facilities, the inter-American drug wars now paralleling the global war on terror insofar as prisoners' rights are concerned. Contrasting my brief visit to La Roca with political-economic and media analysis, my article draws two conclusions: (1) that limited physical access to prisoners, stimulated by administrative “zones of legal silence”, demands an ethnographic focus on daily conditions of prison life using inconsistencies in administrative rhetoric; and (2) that measures to securitize the prison system have augmented prison directors' powers to coerce inmates and to confound understandings of their living conditions.