The Art of Dissident Domesticity: Julian Assange, King Prempeh, and Ethnographic Conceptualism in the Prison House

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Authors

Colleges, School and Institutes

Abstract

This article explores the relationship between state and international orders of coercion and control at the intersections of digital media, popular culture, and high art. Collaboratively written, it elaborates what we call the concept of dissident domesticity that describes how confined subjects respond to the overwhelming spatial and temporal control of confinement; political opposition conducted through domestic forms shows the tensions between creating new, multiple centers of power and practices that denature the structuring principles of the center itself. Exile and forced domesticity have long linked sovereignty to the power to determine intimate life; and centuries-old practices of house arrest and diplomatic asylum have taken on new forms in recent decades in the wake of emerging surveillance technologies and changing relationships among information, territory, and sovereignty. This article examines two quite distinct, high-profile celebrity instances of dissident domesticity. In the first case, Prempeh I, the last sovereign king of Asante, was exiled by the British from his capital in what is now Ghana and placed under house arrest in the Seychelles to end a war of British imperial conquest. In the second case, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the twenty-first century’s iconic dissident, sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid arrest and extradition. Prempeh’s exile on the edge of empire and Assange’s confinement at its center show how the fight over the control of information, and those who circulate it, converges with the struggle for the control of territory, and those who police it, transverse it, and are trapped by it.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-152
Number of pages40
JournalSocial Text
Volume35
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

Keywords

  • Empire, conceptual art, dissidence, domestic, space