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  • Nicat Eldarov

Towards a Feminist Political Ecology Of Body


Towards a Feminist Political Ecology Of Body: II Nagorno Karabakh War, Covid-19 Pandemic, and Multispecies Ecojustice


Introduction

The latest episode of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between the South Caucasian Republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, also characterized as a Forty-Four Day War, has explicitly demonstrated the antagonistic nature of Azerbaijani and Armenian national identities. The warring parties have discursively framed the conflict as an existential security issue, emphasizing its considerable role in the respective nations’ survival. Thus, considering the new war has brought with it new material-discursive realities, feminist readings of webs of power become ever-more important. This requires a serious examination of the intersection of direct violence and national identity construction in the war/truth apparatus. The present study, therefore, will analyze national conflict discourses by employing a posthumanist feminist lens.

Azerbaijani national identity has been a research object of various scholars in relation to and beyond the context of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. These researches were conducted on the topics of construction of territorial-based Azerbaijani national identity in the Soviet Union (e.g.: Yilmaz 2013), the idea of “Azərbaycançılıq” in postsocialist spacetime (e.g.: Tokluoglu 2005; Cornell 2015), the interconnectedness between Azerbaijani national identity, gender and religion (e.g.: Tohidi 1996; Tohidi 2008), and construction of “truth regimes” about Nagorno Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijani history books (e.g.: Gürbüz 2014), arts (e.g.: Najafizadeh 2015) and maps (e.g.: Broers 2020), among many others.

The present study focuses on the role of body metaphors in the transformation of national identities. I will specifically concentrate on the production of body metaphors throughout the 44-day-war by the Azerbaijani side, by using a case study of Azerpost’s stamp dedicated to a yearly anniversary of the pandemic, and war. The chosen case reflects national imaginaries around the COVID-19 pandemic and Nagorno Karabakh conflict and attends to reconsideration of human-virus relations (Torre 2021).

The description of societies, nations, and states through body metaphors has a long history, originating from pre-Socratic thinking. The scholarly interest in body-nation-state associations, however, has grown after Holocaust, as the transfer of bodily expressions to sociopolitical issues has found its most extreme case in the Nazi Genocide of Jewish populations (Musolff, 2010).

Indeed, Jewish populations were framed in the elite discourses of Nazi Germany as “agents of infectious diseases” and “parasites”, which has legitimized the idea that they must be annihilated altogether; otherwise pure German nation of the Aryan race will have to go through a massive epidemic. Thus, socio-medical imaginaries based on disease-diagnose-treatment scenarios helped construct several marginalized groups in need of expulsion from nativized bodies (ibid).

The principle of bodily inviolability has also found its positioning in the designation of national maps, and thus, leading to the construction of a geo-body, which is “a totalizing entity encompassing geographical area, peoples and culture” (Broers, 2020). Broers exemplifies the conceiving of the secession as incurable bodily injuries in Georgian national imaginaries and argues cartographic anxieties produce affective national conceptions within which “hot nationalism” (associated with mobilization, emotional extremes, and violence) and “banal nationalism” (that socializes citizens through multiplex signals, including maps, into the national order) have dynamic relations (Broers, 2020).

Figure 1. Azerpost’s stamp dedicated to a yearly anniversary of the pandemic, and war.

Nonetheless, scholarly literature on geo-body and body metaphors has refuted corporeal agency, that is the capacity of bodily existence to actively change the socio-discursive sphere, and enacted a Cartesian mind-body dualism by simply concentrating on cognition/interpretation of bodily relations. On the contrary, employing the “bodies of knowledge” theory of Burkitt, which combines Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology and Evald Ilyenkov’s radical realism, I argue that the linear cause-effect relation between mind and body, and therefore, separately pre-existing “thought without body” and “body without thought” can not be (Burkitt, 1998). Therefore, knowledge production is an active, relational, situated, and embodied process.

In order to analyze the body-nation-state associations from such a deconstructive standpoint, I will consult the propositions of feminist technoecology scholars that accentuate a distinct mode of consideration to care, nativism, and materialization beyond Cartesian dualisms (Barla & Hubatschke 2017) [1]. Through a dialogic encounter between feminist technoecologies and medical humanities, I will attend to the complexities of the making of national identities, borders, and immunological discourses.



Analytical framework

Barla and Hubatschke (2017) define feminist technoecologices as “a form of speculative thinking that explores into the relationalities, the knots and the cuts, that are brought to the fore when engaging with stories of borders”. The authors question Euro-Western enlightenment's human/non-human, mind/body, subject/object, culture/nature dualisms, and see borders as a “naturecultural phenomenon...aimed at cutting, threatening, and binding the vital forces and existential flows of human and more-than-human life, subjugating them under the laws and calculations of biopolitics and necropolitics” [2]. Such an approach is germane to the present study as it enables the reader to understand how material-semiotic walls are constructed towards nonhuman viral bodies, and Armenian Others by attending to multispecies togetherness.

The authors base their alternative understanding of the border on close readings of Felix Guattari (2005) and Yuval-Davis (2006). Guattari (2005), who understands ecology as an aggregation of the “social”, “mental” and “environmental” registers, argues that the Integrative World Capitalism has not only contributed to environmental destruction but also the erosion of kinship networks and manipulation of people’s mind through the production of collective mass-media subjectivities. Moreover, “man” and “nature” do not have a separate atomar existence as the “heterogeneous human and more-than-human forces and flows...constantly co-constitute and reconfigure one another” (Barla and Hubatschke, 2017): there only exist processes that produce one of them within another. Such an understanding renders dichotomic assumptions of self/non-self and inside/outside unsubstantial (ibid).

Guattari’s argument is reminiscent of the thesis on intra-active relations of Karen Barad (2003), who read Nils Bohr’s quantum physics and Judith Butler’s gender performativity through one another to put forward the theory of posthumanist performativity. In Baradian terms, intra-actions refer to relations without preceding independent entities [3]. Hence, “man” and “nature” material-discursive units can only emerge in specific relational entanglements [4] because the relata are not inherently separable. The separability of “man” and “nature” as well “self” and “nonself” is only possible within the relational intra-active entanglements. Barad refers to the making of such separabilities-within as “agential cuts” (Barad, 2003).

Apart from the naturecultural conceptualization of ecology, the concept of “transversality” is also key to Guattari’s thought. In Guattari’s understanding, transversal couples together differences and fundamentally heterogeneous parts. Therefore, transversal thinking and action require attention to the shared struggles and encourage solidarity (Guattari 2005; Barla and Hubatschke, 2017). Feminist activist and theoretician Yuval-Davis, inspired by this concept, calls for “feminist transversal politics” that connects heterogeneous positions and standpoints and mobilizes them towards common struggles. Specifically studying the topics of migration and nativity, Yuval-Davis, through the concept, proposes to get out of self-other binary thinking and suggests alternative imaginaries based on “transversal us” (Yuval-Davis, 2006). Barla and Hubatschke emphasize the significance of the extension of the “feminist transversal politics” concept to also nonhuman bodies and promotes politics of care and micropolitical solidarity that emphasize the shared struggle of human and nonhuman bodies. Such an approach demands studying and questioning of agential cuts that construct native self versus invading other dichotomy, and requires careful reading of unstable complex entanglements characterized by dynamicity and openness (Barla and Hubatschke, 2017).

Thus, the present study will explore the making of the native self/invading other dichotomy through intraactive relations of nativized Azerbaijani and human bodies in the map of the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as of viral and Armenian Others. It will also propose “transversal us” as an alternative to such a dichotomy and investigate Armenian-virus analogies through reading the materials diffractively [5].



Discussion

In 2021 January, Azerpost produced a post stamp describing a disinfection specialist conducting “chemical cleansing” in and beyond Nagorno-Karabakh. According to official information, the post stamp symbolizes the anniversary of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s “fight against COVID-19 pandemic” and 44-day-Nagorno-Karabakh-war (Torre, 2021). The war has also been characterized by the employment of rhetorics that likened Armenians to nonhuman bodies. The most prominent of all was the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev’s “chasing Armenians away like dogs” (Mincom, 2020). Although in various public imaginaries these were characterized as discourses that dehumanize Armenians, I argue that body metaphors should be reconsidered beyond such human exceptionalist imaginaries to build companionship with the Othered of different species. Indeed, in line with Barad’s thesis on nature’s queer performativity, “the differential constitution of the human in relation to the nonhuman only served to refocus our attention, once again, exclusively on the human” (Barad 2011) .

It should be noted that in the discourses of the Azerbaijani ruling political regime, several nominal opposition parties, and mass media, Azerbaijan was identified as a native self that protects the international order from Armenians and viruses, that are in their turns, identified as invading others. Such an identity construction has been legitimized through the metaphors of viral mutation and speedy transmission. Moreover, analogical discourses, in some cases, possessed geopolitical imaginaries, and accused Russia of supporting Armenia, and international organizations such as the UN and OSCE of staying indifferent to the “Armenian virus” [6].

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, moreover, was characterized by the multiplication of discourses that rendered viruses as something to be expelled from the human body (as in the post stamp). However, contrary to the human exceptionalist discourses, viruses need hosts, that is organism’s biotic cells to reproduce and are therefore no stranger to the human bodies. Indeed, endogen retroviruses comprise approximately 8.3% of human DNA and contribute to reproductivity and consciousness functions (Price, 2020; Lunstrum et.al. 2021). Subsequently, the said queer microorganisms play an important role in cellular evolution and in their encounter with human bodies, complicate the very Cartesian distinctions.

The depiction of viruses as separate from humans leads to the construction of viral bodies as a predator that preys on human bodies (Price, 2020). Donna Haraway (2017) thus rightfully characterizes the immune system, which she calls an object of the 20th century, as “a map drawn to guide recognition and misrecognition of self and other in the dialectics of western biopolitics”. By constructing borders between self and other, the immune system, thus, distinguishes between the “normal” and “pathological” [7] and becomes a principal system of material and symbolic differences in late capitalism (ibid; Martin, 1990). Such differences are reflected in imperial legacies of racism, austerity politics, free movement of capital, border-making, discrimination/governance of the nonhuman bodies, among many other practices (Lunstrum et.al. 2021).

Such discourses aim at governing the interspecies relationship and usually frame human-virus relationship either based on war or police state model (Ferri 2018; Martin, 1990). In prominent scientific and political discourses defining the entrance of microbiome into the human body as the total war of self and nonself, thus, one can frequently encounter the following phrases: “immune defenders”; “immune troops”; “alien organisms”; “ruthless invaders”. Unlike the war model that characterizes pathogens as foreign enemies, the police state model, however, recognizes body cells as capable of surveilling, distinguishing between “illegal residents” – pathogens, and body’s bona fide parts, and mobilizing to get rid of the former (Martin 1990) [8]. Such immunological imaginaries refute the fluid character of the body and are constantly engaged in border-making through mechanisms of Othering. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the use of body metaphors in relation to nation-states is more visible in ethno-territorial conflicts arising from border disputes, such as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Indeed, in the official conflict discourse of Azerbaijan either “Armenians” are described as “enemies”, or the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war is framed as an “anti-terror operation”.

Donna Haraway expresses the construction of such units, selves, and individuals in immunological discourses with the notion “apparatus of bodily production”, reject the fixed pre-existence and givenness of bodies, and instead, argues that “bodies as objects of knowledge are material-semiotic generative nodes. Their boundaries materialize in social interaction” (Haraway, 2017). Subsequently, biological bodies emerge in assemblages composed of cultural products, including metaphors; technologies; biological research, medical and business practices. Specifically increasing from the mid 20th century, the question of differences in biomedical discourses has “destabilized humanist discourses of liberation based on a politics of identity and substantive unity” (the multiplication of reorganized biomedical discourses, according to Haraway, was associated with “historical matrices of decolonization, multinational capitalism, high-tech militarization and the emergence of new collective political actors in local and global politics”) (ibid). Thus, biology has become a science of “recognition and misrecognition, coding errors, the body’s reading practices”, while diseases have become “a process of nonrecognition and transgression of the boundaries of a strategic assemblage called ‘self’” (ibid). In conclusion, war and police state metaphors related to viral bodies have been constructed as a by-product of identity politics to govern postmodern bodies in late capitalism.

Hence, bodily metaphors that present viruses as poisonous organisms that have to be eradicated are not based on scientific objectivity/facticity; rather they enact meanings generated through material-discursive entanglements that are therefore not neutral or value-free. For this reason, in her book on bioanxiety, Nil Ahuja draws attention to how distributive justice in healthcare and economics are ignored at the expense of glorification of policing and militarization in the management of pandemic (Ahuja, 2016) [9]. Finally, these discourses create a homogenous image of viral bodies, while their qualities can not be reduced to pathogenicity: indeed, viruses can rotate back and forth from nonpathogenic to pathogenic state and vice versa in unforeseeable ways (Ferri, 2018).

Many scholars arguing bodies are located in radical historic specificities paid a great deal of attention to the analysis of autoimmune diseases in their critique of viral metaphors. Autoimmune diseases refer to diseases that emerge when the immune system gets “attacked” by its “own warriors”, and thus complicate self-nonself dichotomic assumptions since the bodies have transformed into a conflict site against themselves. However, war and police state metaphors have also been used in relation to autoimmune diseases. Following is the example related to the framing in accordance with the aforementioned models in one of the first Google search results on autoimmune diseases in the Azerbaijani language (saglamolun. az, 2012):


Immune system high combat capability army

T-Cells the most famous of all warriors

Bacteria, viruses that does not belong to the self

Cells, tissues, organism’s “own” molecules that belongs to the self

Autoimmune cells traitors


Nevertheless, such philosophers as Jacque Derrida and Donna Haraway have attempted to destabilize self/other, inside/outside, native/nonnative dichotomic assumptions by deploying autoimmune itself as a metaphor. Derrida (2003), for instance, emphasizes the contradictory nature of suicidal responses of nations to the foreign threats and notes how post 9/11 security measures of the US to protect the state from future terror attacks (or to “immunize” the state) have restricted the very civil liberties that it aimed to protect. At the same time, discourses that present the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war as an “anti-terror operation” or that claim the those being disinfected were “Armenian terrorists” render autoimmunity’s logic of negotiation visible. Thus, the good and evil, the self and other, constantly change roles: “counter-terror is, in other words, perceived as terror and thus provokes (counter) counter-terror and so on” (ibid).

Consequently, autoimmunity discourse puts forward constant negotiation of self and nonself in nonoppositional exchanges as an alternative to dichotomic assumptions (Ferri, 2018). Thus, dynamic and difficult to predict exchanges between what counts as body and not can also be thought of as an alternative imaginary in the context of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Because to wage war against a body that wages war against itself means constant war and violence. Subsequently, the autoimmunity metaphor emphasizes the redundancy of describing virus as separate from bodies, and “Armenians” or “Armenian terrorists” from “native Azerbaijani bodies”, and invites to hybridity, heterogeneity, and interconnectedness [10].

Normal versus pathological discursive logic has also been deconstructed by researchers studying allergy. During allergies, the body often recognizes antigens, that are harmless external substances, as harmful, and instead of protecting its integrity, threaten itself – self and other are misrecognized. Interestingly, Austrian scientist Clemens Pirquet described allergy not as a disease, but rather as immune responsiveness corresponding to the formula of “altered reactivity” when coining the term in 1906. He argued that immune responsiveness is not defined by self-protection, but rather the capacity to change continuously. Pirquet refuted the hypothesis of the disease stemming from linear cause-effect relation between isolated biological components and defined the immune reactions as an open-ended process with no known beginning and endpoint. Thus, according to Pirquet, as always transforming immune reactions are in relation with a dynamic environment, the organism can not have a constant identity; instead, its identity is contingent on the dialogic encounters with its environment (antigens). This conditions transition from the model of linear cause-effect relations and interactions to that of altered reactivity and intra-actions. According to this model, organism-antigen relations can only be learned within the framework of reactivity. Thus, within each reaction determination of identities depends on previous reactions and relations – because, organism and antigen are always in negotiation [11]. Such an approach on allergy implies that “native self” and “invading other”s are formed through a process and are changeable through always ongoing conflict transformation between these identities.

In addition, it must be emphasized that alternative immunological imaginaries to the individual-based immunological imaginaries [12] exist. For instance, late 19th – early 20th Russian biologists explained the struggle of the organism against abiotic conditions not through a natural selection that is based on the warfare model, but through a “mutual aid” theory which was based on species’ cooperation and seen as a basis of the interspecies relationship. Similarly, Ludwig Fleck, instead of constructing borders, advocated for an understanding of organisms as a “harmonic life unit”, that is agential cuts of assemblages formed through symbiotic coexistence. Such immunological imaginaries are not neutral. In the first case, they stemmed from the cooperative social ethos of monarchism and socialism-oriented populism, while in the latter case, from negative memories of Nazi Germany’s genocidal policy of “people as a complete organism” (Martin, 1990). To consider such immunological imaginaries as an alternative to Azerbaijani-Armenian antagonism would have led to productive and respectful engagements.



Conclusion

To sum up, Azerpost’s stamp that describes “Armenians” or “Armenian occupants/terrorists” as viruses in need of expulsion from bodies should be characterized as geo-bodies that radically other microbiomes, and that plays a symbolic role in the construction of the enemy image in the context of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Such geo-bodies, apart from contributing to affective national imaginaries, also attempt to decouple Azerbaijani and Armenian bodies, human bodies, and viral bodies that were separated through the late capitalist, militarist, and colonialist discourse of difference. Therefore, such othering mechanisms were briefly researched in this work, and the new materialist ethics of care based on “transversal us” identity was offered as an alternative. Such an identity refutes dichotomic and conflictual assumptions and promotes politics of companionship, openness, negotiation, and kinship.




References

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Notes

[1]. Mind/body dualism subjugates the matter to the thought processes, thus refuting bodily agency. Hence, humans that are associated with consciousness are distinguished from nonhumans associated with bodies, leading to the imagination of humanity (culture) as a separate realm from nature: this is called the culture/nature dichotomy. Moreover, mind-body dualism renders the thought of experience as emerging through relations between the conscious observer subject and the observed object. This is called subject/object dualism. For more detailed introductory information on this topic, please see: Hawkins, R.Z., 1998. Ecofeminism and nonhumans: continuity, difference, dualism, and domination. Hypatia, 13(1), pp.158-197. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3810611

[2]. Donna Haraway uses the term natureculture in order to oppose contradictions of nature and culture phenomena in binary thinking and imply their always already entangled intra-active relations.

[3]. This concept is usually compared to that of inter-action. As opposed to interaction in which relation components have pre-existing characteristics, intra-action refers to relations where relata do not pre-exist.

[4]. Karen Barad’s (2003) thesis on posthumanist performativity, and scholarly works in general, often contains the terms of material-discursive or relational entanglements. The naming of the concepts has been influenced by quantum physics’s “quantum entanglement”. The concepts refer to constant co-constitution and reconfiguration of the material and discursive spheres that are not at an ontological distance from one another.

[5]. The analytical framework of this essay is a diffractive text analysis that is based on the feminist philosophies of Donna Haraway and Karen Barad. As opposed to conventional methodologies, diffractive text analysis is a post-qualitative analytical framework that refutes the researcher’s separate existence from the world he/she is a part of at an ontological distance and demands a responsible approach to human-text relations. Such an approach is different from literature reviews based on comparison and contrast of texts – it does not put texts against one another, rather reads them through one another. Therefore, texts are not considered foundational and the importance of differences instead becomes a significant aspect of analysis. The diffraction model opposes Cartesian dualisms and recognizes knowing as a direct material engagement that replaces subject/object dichotomy with subject-object entanglement (Murris & Bozalek, 2019). Knowledge production is a relational ontoepistemological entanglement and its components do not have fixed boundaries and pre-existence. Instead, they emerge in intraactions through agential cuts (Barad, 2003). Thus, in diffractive text analysis openness to affect and more-than-human relations, responsible reading based on dialogue within human-text intraactions, access to new and radical imaginaries through contingency, deconstruction of binaries that produce power, and recognition of always politico-ethical nature of research relations plays an important role.

[6]. Due to limited space for the essay, the diffractive reading of texts with Armenian-virus analogies is placed below in more detail:

“Armenian-virus analogies are usually legitimized through the discourse of “battle on two fronts”. This discourse emphasizes the Republic of Azerbaijan’s “fight” against the COVID-19 pandemic and the Republic of Armenia in the context of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War at the same time. It thus constructs the Azerbaijani side as a “native self” that protects international order, while coronavirus and the Armenian side as “invading other” that threatens it. In the construction of “native self”, references have usually been made to territorial-based Azerbaijani national identity (by emphasizing the joint struggle of diverse ethnic groups against shared “enemy”, and the importance of the restoration of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan), and occasionally to the common Turkic world. It should be noted that a militaristic approach to viruses was present in not only sociopolitical but also medical discourses. One can often encounter the following expressions in analogical discourses: “Armenian strain of coronavirus”, “Armenian disease”, “Armenian pandemic”, “Armenian virus”, “Armenian fascism/aggression virus”, “COVID-88”, “chauvinism and separatism virus”. These discourses imply that invading bodies exploit the resources of native selves and therefore have to be expelled from the latter.

Two major public imaginaries were referenced in substantiation of such dichotomic assumptions: viruses’ mutability and speedy transmission. The discourse on Armenians’ “mutation”, more specifically, involved three major arguments. First, it was indicated that since 1905 Armenians “mutated”, and become infectious in different forms in 1918-20 and 1988. Thus, an exceptionalist discourse based on the threat of anew mutation of Armenians following the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War has been uttered. Secondly, Armenians were noted to mutate since the first Nagorno-Karabakh war, spreading to the north and southern towns of the country and influencing separatist movements that threaten Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Finally, after the last war Armenians were argued to mutate and “return to the year 1827”, confirming their “alienness” to the “native body” (Azerbaijani Government has often claimed that Armenians are not autochthonous to the modern-day territories of the Republic of Armenia and were settled there only after 1828). Mutation discourse also includes the claim that Armenians will live quietly in the Republic of Azerbaijan if they promise “not to mutate” – that is, without status, without corridor, and through normalization of relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey. Another piece of writing that cautions against mutation, and accordingly, warns for compliance with mask and social distancing measures, however, does not construct human-virus relations in a binary sense. In this alternative vision, the Azerbaijani side is advised to get used to coexistence with the “Armenian virus” by taking precautionary measures: just like humans have to get used to living together with viruses.

Public imaginaries on viruses’ transmission, on the other hand, substantiated the construction of Azerbaijan as a geo-body threatened by infection through the emphasis on the speedy increase in the number of new coronavirus cases in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Some media outlets have defended this position by relying on conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 – indeed, coronavirus was articulated as a biological weapon that can be utilized against Azerbaijan by Armenia. At the same time, transmission discourses included the idea of Azerbaijan’s de-jure jurisdiction over Nagorno Karabakh through a call of Tural Ganjaliyev to the struggle against COVID-19 to the Armenian community as an “elected representative”. It also focused on increasing infection rates in Donbas and the threat of new cases reinforced by the de-facto states’ open borders with the Russian Federation. The sources that included the latest point included the warning that “occupation of Ukrainian and Azerbaijani lands by Russia and Armenia will have consequences”. They also noted how two countries support one another in their fight against viruses and provision of the principle of territorial integrity.

It should also be noted that discourses based on virus-Armenian analogies often involved geopolitical connotations. Geopoliticization can be encountered in references to the “Russian virus”. Such references included criticism of Russia, declared as the main obstacle to the resolution of the conflict for the Azerbaijani side, for its support to the Armenian Republic. Moreover, Russia was blamed for having financial interests in maintaining the chaotic state of the international order in the context of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Indeed, according to some resources, Russia has actively contributed to the preservation of viral existence in two ways: 1) by selling “Sputnik” vaccines whose efficiency is questioned by the World Health Organisation; 2) by selling S-300, S-400, and Iskandar missile systems to Armenia. Other resources also complained of the Russian activities that provide Armenia with opportunities to mutate. The deliberate transmission of the virus was associated with political destabilization in the region.

Geopolitical connotations, moreover, called such international organizations as the UN and OSCE’s Minsk Group, for mobilization against the “virus”. Otherwise, it was noted, Azerbaijan will overcome the threat of the virus itself (according to several sources, through cooperation with Turkey). The international organizations were characterized by a lack of interest in finding “vaccines” and in fulfilling their duties properly.

[7]. Formal foundations of immunological imaginaries based on self-nonself discrimination were laid in the works of Austrian virologist Frank Burnet in the 1940s. Immunological self discourse has been a fundamental basis of immunopathology for a long time, and was framed as the self-protection instinct of the given constant organism against alien substances characterized as “enemy”. This discourse is based on the organism – external environment relations in which relata are ontologically distant and immune events are isolated: organism and external environment possesses physical and chemical properties that can be defined before entrance into relations in which latter (external environment) threatens the former’s (organism) balance (Jamieson, 2017). Thus, at the core of immunological self discourse remains linear cause-effect relations and interactions of immune events.


[8]. In this processes, usually, phagocytes that destroy the “enemy” through absorption are characterized as “feminine”, while T-cells that actively engage in attacks are framed as “weapons” and characterized as “masculine” – thus, gendered immunological imaginaries come to the fore (Martin 1990). Moreover, immunological discourses’ gendered/cisheteronormative character is based on the association of the “self” with the “body”. Self-body homology was criticized by queer and trans studies scholars: indeed, would not this association be violent to the queer and trans bodies that utter “biology should not be fate”? (Ferri, 2018).

[9]. Interestingly, militarisation and policing discourse on viruses is not limited to the conflict context in Azerbaijan. The Republic of Azerbaijan’s measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, were accompanied by repressive actions of law-enforcement agencies and sporadic local socioeconomic rallies.

[10]. “Armenian separatism virus” must be further emphasized in this regard. This discourse locates “Armenian” identity in the general Azerbaijani native body and grants it an infectious character; thus revealing the logic of the body’s struggle against itself. Therefore, despite constructing violent borders, this discourse corresponds to the autoimmunity formula, and thus emphasizes the significance of corporeal communication.

[11]. To be more precise, whenever an organism is ready to respond to antigen, the latter’s nature and identity change, and the organism react differently than previously. Because for the antigen to have a triggering role, it, first of all, needs to be recognized by the body, meaning it has already had to provoke a reaction in the body (Jamieson, 2017). Thus, organism-antigen relations are characterized by coexistence and dialogue, and it is not possible to define the beginning and endpoint of self-other relations. In other words, organism and antigen identities emerge throughout relations and their basis comprises of constant negotiation. We may therefore conclude that allergy is a relational immune reaction that deconstructs the dichotomies of inside versus outside, and nativity versus alterity.

[12]. Individual-based imaginaries refer to immunological discourses that claim organism and “alien” substances as separate individual components struggle against one another. The interest in the ecological immune system theories that however focus on relations has recently grown due to the increasing number of microbiological researches that question the classic conception of human and biological individuality. For more detailed information, please see: a) Beck, A., 2021. Microbiomes as companion species: an exploration of dis-and re-entanglements with the microbial self. Social & Cultural Geography, 22(3), pp.357-375; b) Schrader, A., 2017. Microbial suicide: towards a less anthropocentric ontology of life and death. Body & Society, 23(3), pp.48-74; c) Rees, T., Bosch, T. and Douglas, A.E., 2018. How the microbiome challenges our concept of self. PLoS biology, 16(2), p.e2005358. For the concept of microbiopolitics, which is important in this regard, please see: Paxson, H., 2008. Post‐pasteurian cultures: The microbiopolitics of raw‐milk cheese in the United States. Cultural anthropology, 23(1), pp.15-47.


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