In Jason De León’s The Land of Open Graves (U of California P, 2015) one finds the argument that, say, a rattlesnake in the Sonora Desert is a political, although nonhuman, actant in an enterprise of necroviolence organized and structured by US state policies (such as the Border Patrol’s Prevention Through Deterrence program, which funnels border crossers into areas where death and disappearance are likely to happen). So, two questions that seem important to me, and that I want to consider in the context of establishing some foundation for Latinx thought in the US: first, are a rattlesnake, a black scorpion, the heat of the desert, dehydration, or even the assassin mofos who just shoot migrants when they think they can get away with it properly political actants? And the second question: what happens in the border deserts’s zones of confinement, zones of exception, is it political violence or is it better understood as infrapolitical violence?
It seems to me that the questions are significant because, if everything is political, including desert rattlesnakes, then we lose the possibility of establishing distinctions that might prove useful not just in the register of understanding what happens but also in the register of political action as such. In other words, one could imagine political action meant to curb infrapolitical necroviolence much more effectively than through thinking that the confrontation between different actants in a zone of exception is straightforwardly political. Antigone comes to mind here. Creon did not forbid Antigone’s political actions, rather her infrapolitical actions, which were, as such, more threatening and dangerous to him. In other words, Creon’s pretense that he was in a merely political confrontation with Antigone will always give Creon the advantage, even if it is a fallen, spiritually mediocre one. We could reverse that. Say, Texas Republican policies concerning the border are not a matter of politics, they are rather a matter of infrapolitics. To that extent, they are not even policies, or whatever policies they develop are founded on a previous infrapolitical determination. The Texas Republicans are not engaging in a heroic political defense of the integrity of US sovereignty; they are rather engaged in craven infrapolitical necroviolence that they have long disguised as politics.
The paradox is that infrapolitics restitutes a dignity to political practice that the denial or disavowal of infrapolitics undermines. Caging children, for instance, or letting border crossers under surveillance go deeper into the desert until they face likely death, should not be dignified by calling them political practices.