Migratory Emotions: The Murder of Jean Charles de Menezes



What does it mean to have empathy within a late capitalist world? What does it mean to practise solidarity in a time of common sense individualism? In this piece, I reflect upon the deeply tragic case of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian immigrant who was brutally murdered by the British police in the wake of the London bombing. Drawing upon concepts from psychoanalysis and critical psychology, I discuss the affective and emotive nature of the case. I argue that the case offers insight into the irrational nature of `terror' used to explain state-led violence in a time of mass Islamophobic paranoia. I further argue that the emotive nature of the political is consistently disavowed in order to consolidate the face of the nation state as a white, western, masculinist, rational one. Finally, I offer thoughts on what this case might tell us about the interrelationship between discourses of `race,' racism, and citizenship within our contemporary political moment. Rather than being used to support succinct political and theoretical categories of identity politics, the death of Jean Charles de Menezes is an example of the urgent necessity for solidarity to be formed between marginalized bodies. The persistence of state-led murders, justified and legislated by the newest `N word' of the decade – `terrorist' – requires theoretical endeavours that transcend disciplinary boundaries and political action that transcends bodies.