Iain Chambers https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/12503/all cached version 08/02/2019 17:46:58 en Art and the refugee ‘crisis’: Mediterranean blues https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/iain-chambers/art-and-refugee-crisis-mediterranean-blues <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Artists are mapping new itineraries of the Mediterranean, throwing into relief an incurable colonial wound that continues to bleed into the present.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_02-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Saidou: Mali to Italy. &quot;I came to Europe because of the war. I went to Algeria and from there I took a boat without knowing "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_02-2.jpg" alt="" title="Saidou: Mali to Italy. &quot;I came to Europe because of the war. I went to Algeria and from there I took a boat without knowing " width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Saidou: Mali to Italy. "I came to Europe because of the war. I went to Algeria and from there I took a boat without knowing where I was going. It happened this way, that’s destiny." Photo ©Kate Stanworth.</span></span></span>The so-called contemporary migrant ‘emergency’ in the Mediterranean is the deliberate political and juridical construction of Europe. Refusing Article 13 of the <a href="http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/">Universal Declaration of Human Rights</a> (1948), all European states have decided that not everyone has the right to move and migrate. This violent exercise of European and First World power reopens a profound colonial wound. Migrants rendered objects of <em>our</em> legislation and laws signal once again the asymmetrical relations of power that produced the colonial world and its ongoing fashioning of the present.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">Today, the evocation of&nbsp; ‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35703467">emergency</a>’ and ‘<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34131911">crisis</a>’ in the Mediterranean, signalled in the brutal <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necropolitics">necropolitics</a> of leaving some to drown, others to be turned back, and all to be forced to suffer horrendous journeys over desert, sea and increasingly fortified barriers, clearly draws on altogether deeper geographies of regulation and possession.</p> <p class="Body">European colonial power was established, affirmed and secured by control of the seas. Just as in 1800, when Napoleon and Nelson were fighting for global hegemony around its shores and on its waters, the Mediterranean remains an exclusively European matter (with Israel and Turkey as subcontractors). It is part and parcel of the geometry of the colonial present, where our security invariably secures someone’s else’s death. There is a beautiful <a href="https://vimeo.com/114849871">short film</a> by the Ethiopian activist and film make Dagmawi Yimer (<em>Asmat/Names</em>) that seeks to rescue from the anonymity of the depths those who have drowned by restoring their names to memory, transforming the sea into a vital archive for us condemned ‘to listen to these screams’. Yimer was himself an ‘illegal’ migrant who made it across the sea.</p> <p class="Body">In this situation, although consistently sidestepped and avoided for embarrassing the hollow claims of European humanism, a number of contemporary visual artists insist that we return to the scene of the crime. Here we explore the terrible gap between the arbitrary violence of the law and the insistence of social and historical justice.&nbsp; </p><p class="Body">On April 12 this year, in the context of an AHRC financed programme ‘<a href="https://respondingtocrisis.wordpress.com/">Responding to Crisis: Forced Migration and the Humanities in the Twenty-First Century</a>’, involving Keele and Royal Holloway universities and the University of Naples, ‘Orientale’, a workshop entitled <em>Sea Crossings: The Mediterranean and its Others’</em> was held in Naples in a former squat ‘L’Asilo’. This structure is among the several occupied buildings in the city recognised by the town council as cultural centres. An intensive day of debate and discussion was punctured by three artistic instances involving Zineb Sedira, Kate Stanworth and Giacomo Sferlazzo. In different ways, the photographic work exhibited by Kate Stanworth, the discussion of her own work by Zineb Sedira and the performance by Giacomo Sferlazzo, proposed a radical realignment of the usual coordinates for registering and discussing migration in today’s Mediterranean.</p> <p class="Body">Kate Stanworth’s <a href="http://www.katestanworth.com/where-we-are-now">photographic exhibition</a> of diverse migrants dislocated in European cities – ‘Where we are now’ – rightly played on the ambivalence of ‘we’. If, most obviously, the collective noun refers to relocated migrants in unfamiliar lands and cities, forced to re-negotiate their way in the world robbed of domestic referents, the insidious undertow is that the ‘we’ is also us and our responsibility for such situations. In the translation of transit we discover not simply that migrants, often under dramatic duress, are forced to transform themselves continually in order to engage with unplanned situations, but also that the very contexts of European culture and home are being translated. It is this mutual process, no matter how sharply asymmetrical the powers involved, that unleashes the slow but profound remaking of home, citizenship, culture and belonging… for all; not, and most obviously, only for the unexpected stranger. The narratives sustained in Stanworth’s photographs and the brief captions provided by the migrants cut up ready explanations and the flat maps of our understanding with rougher, often difficult to assimilate, interrogations. The latter leave no one really feeling at home.</p><p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_05.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=": Salma: Syria to Germany. &quot;I still have this dream to come back to Syria. If I complete my studies I can make radical change th"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_05.jpg" alt="" title=": Salma: Syria to Germany. &quot;I still have this dream to come back to Syria. If I complete my studies I can make radical change th" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Salma: Syria to Germany. "I still have this dream to come back to Syria. If I complete my studies I can make radical change there, I can give benefit for the people and the country." Photo ©Kate Stanworth.</span></span></span>In her <a href="http://zinebsedira.com/">visual and mixed media work</a>, the Franco-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira draws us into the slippage and the translation that accompanies the transit of contemporary ‘<a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/136001547/Traveling-cultures">traveling cultures</a>’: women in white veils who oscillate in the interval of Islam and Christianity: perhaps Muslim or the Madonna (<em>Self Portrait or the Virgin Mary</em>, 2000). Elsewhere, between rusting hulks of ships bobbing in the sea waters of Mauritania (<em>Shipwreck series</em>, 2008), derelict colonial buildings on the Algerian coast (<em>Haunted </em>House, 2006) and the glances northwards from the African shore, maritime horizons promotes desire and dreams of a better life.</p> <p class="Body">Here the sea, as a troubled archive, constructed as a site of multiple crossings, is transformed from a presumably dumb accessory to the political life and histories occurring on land to become a historical interrogation. If occidental modernity depended on its marine mastery to realise a colonial appropriation of the globe, a maritime reasoning (<em>Floating Coffins</em>, 2009) today insists on the transit of other narrations on and over its waters. The ambivalence of the sea as both bridge and barrier reveals the deeper political economy of migration and its long term centrality to the making of the modern world. The ruins of a European colonial past here haunt the configurations of the present.</p> <p class="Body">Giacomo Sferlazzo <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1aFhJC9R28">recounts in song and storytelling</a> a history of Lampedusa. Once again, this is an oblique narrative. It refuses to tow the line. It transforms this tiny island of desert scrub (once covered in woods and full of wild life until charcoal burning brought about an ecological disaster) that lies 200 km south of Tunis and Algiers into another tale. As an outreach of Europe in Africa, at least geographically speaking, the island has in recent decades notoriously become a ‘hot spot’ for ‘illegal’ migration. A lost out island far to the south of Sicily, once home to Muslim, Christians, pirates, sponge divers and fishermen, Lampedusa has been transformed into a border outpost and militarised zone, a juridical fortress with a detention centre.</p> <p class="Body">Sferlazzo’s words and music unpack the arbitrary rigidity of this existing situation. The sedimented histories, resistance and refusals of a homogenous and static representation, stamped by the authority of Italy and Europe, falls apart. Crossed by multiple bodies and histories, the island escapes reduction to a frontier settlement and becomes the laboratory for questions and processes that neither Italy nor Europe seem capable of answering. Contrary to unilateral definitions of the Mediterranean and of Lampedusa’s role in policing and protecting its borders, Sferlazzo’s songs and stories rescue from the archives sustained by this island and the surrounding sea a humanism that exceeds the limits of European and Occidental sovereignty.</p> <p class="Body"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_08.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Bourak: Syria to Germany. &quot;I wanted to make the journey like an adventure, discovering new places and cities. We called it an ad"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541754/Where_We_Are_Now@Kate_Stanworth_08.jpg" alt="" title="Bourak: Syria to Germany. &quot;I wanted to make the journey like an adventure, discovering new places and cities. We called it an ad" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bourak: Syria to Germany. "I wanted to make the journey like an adventure, discovering new places and cities. We called it an adventure and something to remember. It was only when we saw families and children on our journey that we thought about the suffering." Photo ©Kate Stanworth. </span></span></span>Tracing itineraries that commence from the south – from south of the Sahara, from the south of the Mediterranean, of Italy, of Europe – the work of all three artists disorientate and reorientate our mapping of the modern world. Here we confront the journeys induced by music and the visual arts: their invitation to look, and to look and listen again, that is always accompanied by the grit in the eye, the dissonance in the ear, that scratches the conventional framing and figuration of the world. This produces a slash in our habitual tempo-spatial coordinates. As such it leaves a potential trace, the after-life of a disturbance, an interrogation.</p> <p class="Body">In an important sense, art in its concentrated attention and affects is always about matter out of place. The figuration of the migrant in the contemporary field of vision deepens and disseminates this unhomely quality. For the modern migrant is not only the reminder of a colonial past that powerfully and unilaterally made the world over in a certain fashion. She also shadows present artistic practices with what the prevailing sense of modernity structurally seeks to avoid or negate, precisely in order to secure its particular sense of home and belonging. </p> <p class="Body">On the other side of the canvas, in the margins of the frame, throwing a constant shadow across the visual field and disturbing our ears, those other histories fester as an incurable wound that continues to bleed into the present. Reopening the archive of a modernity whose art seemingly revolves around itself, the critical pace here quickens, threatening to spin out of the regulated order of its institutional reception in order to dirty the whiteness of its walls and the rationality of its knowledge with the dirt, death, despair, destitution and desires of an other worldly order.</p><p class="Body"><em>This article is part of the series</em><em>&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/forced-migration-and-humanities">Forced Migration&nbsp;and the Humanities</a>. This dialogue is an editorial partnership with openDemocracy 50.50 led by Mariangela Palladino (Keele University) and Agnes Woolley (Royal Holloway University of London).&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jerome-phelps/refugee-crisis-art-weiwei">Why is so much art about the ‘refugee crisis’ so bad? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/karolina-follis/reflections-on-post-humanitarianism-in-dark-times">Reflections on post-humanitarianism in dark times</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/mariangela-palladino-agnes-woolley/borderlands-words-against-walls">Borderlands: words against walls</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/agnes-woolley/arts-and-humanities-tackling-challenges-of-mass-displacement"> The arts and humanities: tackling the challenges of mass displacement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/migrationsreconstructing-britishness-in-art">Migrations:reconstructing &#039;Britishness&#039; in art</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jane-freedman-vasiliki-touhouliotis/fleeing-europe"> Fleeing Europe?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/qusay-loubani/from-border-to-harbour-greek-tragedy-goes-on">From the border to the harbour: the Greek tragedy goes on </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/charles-heller-lorenzo-pezzani/mourning-dead-while-violating-living"> Mourning the dead while violating the living</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> 50.50 50.50 Can Europe make it? EU Culture Ideas International politics People Flow Forced Migration and the Humanities 50.50 People on the Move 50.50 Editor's Pick Iain Chambers Mon, 10 Jul 2017 08:44:37 +0000 Iain Chambers 112037 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Reshuffling the cultural pack: the link between Naples and cultural studies https://www.opendemocracy.net/iain-chambers-lidia-curti/reshuffling-cultural-pack-link-between-naples-and-cultural-studies <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">Two comrades share recollections that begin with the days of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, in their tributes to <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/author/stuart-hall">Stuart Hall</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <h2>Without guarantees</h2><p>by Iain Chambers</p> <p class="Body">Lidia and I have read so many of the comments and testimonies in the wake of Stuart’s death; all of them striking so many different chords, sounding out such a vibrant and irrepressible legacy. I suppose working and living here in southern Italy, outside the immediate circuits of the anglophone and North Atlantic world, I would perhaps simply like to recall some of the wider resonances of Stuart’s work, words, and life.</p> <p class="Body">After all, Stuart came with what Derek Walcott famously described as a ‘sound colonial education’ from the edges of the empire. He was from the Caribbean that was also the home of C.L.R.James, Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Édouard Glissant, Bob Marley and the creolising procedures that crossed politics and poetics in new configurations. </p> <p class="Body">Such a journey from the perceived periphery of the metropolitan world, had necessarily to disturb and radically rewrite the intellectual script while redrawing the cultural map of being ‘English’, British, European and white. It was inevitable, like Fanon, Assia Djebar, Edward Said and even Jacques Derrida, that he would reshuffle the cultural pack he had been handed by colonialism and the culture of the ‘mother country’. </p> <p class="Body">For while Stuart was deeply committed to capturing the profound political sense of British culture and its everyday life, his cultural itinerary was also and always an undertaking that was nurtured by his roots/routes from elsewhere: beautifully captured by John Akomfrah in <em>The Stuart Hall Project</em> (2013). Offspring of the violent colonial formation of the Caribbean, of a diaspora initiated by the Atlantic slave trade and subsequently legitimised by an imperial order, his critical gaze unavoidably had an oblique edge that cut into and across more provincial, home-grown, understandings of the historical and political powers exercised by metropolitan culture. </p> <p class="Body">While many of his intellectual influences have been mentioned – including his tussles with Althusser and Foucault and his enveloping them in a Gramscian-inspired understanding of the culture of power, and the power of culture – there was always this deeper current that flowed through Stuart’s critical attention.</p> <p class="Body">To suggest that this critical heritage haunts his influential pronouncements on race, identity, politics, nationalism and the black arts that he did so much to foster in his later years is to understand why Stuart was never merely an academic or a scholar with a private biography. </p> <p class="Body">To use a phrase that these days sounds wooden in English, he was a committed intellectual. His intellectual militancy was tied to understanding the complex making and mutations of the modern world. As a pioneer of trans-disciplinary thought and research, his work was destined to travel far afield. It laid the foundations for transnational itineraries – from Naples to Shanghai and Buenos Aires – like unauthorised blue lines traced over the globe by his beloved Miles Davis. </p> <p class="Body">The critical cut his work operates on the body of British (and European) culture has provided and provoked another set of coordinates with which to map, navigate and negotiate a world that is now irreducible to the concerns of London, Paris, Berlin or Washington. </p> <p class="Body">In his detailed understandings of how the British Empire had fallen in upon the centre (that is, of how the ex-colonial world has fallen in upon the west), Stuart opened up a critical path in which the particular and the planetary increasingly resonate in a political scenario that we have yet to understand in all its consequences… that is, if we dare to follow him into what he always considered to be a space ‘without guarantees’.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body"><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h2>By the volcano</h2><p>by Lidia Curti</p> <p class="Body">As to me I cannot but recall Stuart’s sunny face when I first met him in 1964. He was starting his work in Birmingham, and I was a newcomer to the Centre with a copy of Gramsci’s <em>Lettere dal carcere</em>, not yet translated into English, and there to carry out research on English working class theatre. Stuart, in spite of by then having travelled far from his previous concerns with literature and theatre, showed interest and offered guidance as the real educator he was, though of course Gramsci was far more interesting for him. We were both in our early thirties and on the utopian journey to a revolution that seemed not too far away.</p> <p class="Body">We were close friends and comrades through the excitement of ’68, and the pangs of its aftermath that Stuart resumed in his essay ‘The missed moment’. Our respective paths crossed many times mostly at and through the Centre where I was welcomed nearly every summer and then for over a year in 1974-75, in the moment of my abandonment of the Italian Communist Party that was becoming something else. </p> <p class="Body">From the mid-sixties onwards, there were Stuart’s and Catherine’s constant visits to Naples and the Orientale where he brought his intellectual insight, his revolutionary perspectives on knowledge and politics, his extraordinary gifts of oratory and his capacity to listen and communicate to our students, some of whom were quite eccentric if not a bit out of their heads. His generosity in keeping the link between Naples and cultural studies never wavered: from being contested by the Maoists in those heady days to recent times, more tranquil alas, when his health made it difficult and his contribution even more generous. </p> <p class="Body">He came to speak, together with Catherine, on my retirement in 2006, and again in 2008 when the Orientale recognized his intellectual stature and critical militancy with a <em>Laurea honoris causa</em>, one of the many he had already received. Alongside the speech he gave on my retirement, I wish to remember the one he gave on a similar occasion for Avtar Brah that subsequently became a beautiful essay published in the <em>Feminist Review</em> issue on “Recalling. The scent of memory” (n.100, 2012). On both these occasions he spoke for our bodies of work and gave a close appreciation of it. As Nirmal Puwar has already said Stuart’s support and siding with women’s causes and thought was very important to feminists.</p> <p class="Body">Alongside all this there were the many holidays Iain and I spent together with him, Catherine, Becky and Jess around the Mediterranean, and the one in Jamaica when he offered us unforgettable days in Kingston. His children were growing up and so were we through our intellectual links and an enduring friendship. Stuart was a perfect fellow traveller, loved laughter, companionship and dance. Yes he was a great dancer, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/yasmin-gunaratnam/diasporic-walking-sticks">Diasporic walking sticks </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/jeremy-gilbert/tribute-to-stuart-hall">A tribute to Stuart Hall</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/angela-mcrobbie/times-with-stuart">Times with Stuart </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nirmal-puwar/meeting-stuart-hall%E2%80%99s-voice">Meeting Stuart Hall’s voice</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/les-back/stuart-hall-bright-star">Stuart Hall: a bright star</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Stuart Hall, cultural theorist, 1932 - 2014 Lidia Curti Iain Chambers Tue, 18 Feb 2014 07:22:50 +0000 Iain Chambers and Lidia Curti 79424 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Iain Chambers https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/iain-chambers <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iain Chambers </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body">Iain Chambers teaches Cultural, Postcolonial and Mediterranean studies at the University of Naples. He studied with Stuart Hall at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies and is the author of many books including&nbsp;<em>Urban Rhythms </em>(1985),<em> Migrancy, Culture, Identity </em>(1994) and <em>Mediterranean Crossings. The Politics of an Interrupted Modernity</em> (2008).</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iain Chambers is known for his interdisciplinary and intercultural work on music, popular and metropolitan cultures. More recently he has transmuted this line of research into a series of postcolonial analyses of the formation of the modern Mediterranean. He has lived in Naples since 1976, and is presently Professor of Cultural and Postcolonial Studies at the Oriental University where he is the Director of the Centre for Postcolonial Studies, and has coordinated the PhD programme in «Cultural and Postcolonial Studies of the Anglophone world». He is author of Urban Rhythms: pop music and popular culture (1985), Popular Culture. The metropolitan experience (1986), Border dialogues. Journeys in postmodernity (1990), Migrancy, culture, identity (1994), Hendrix, hip hop e l’interruzione del pensiero (with Paul Gilroy) (1995), Culture after humanism (2001); and most recently, Mediterranean Crossings. The Politics of an Interrupted Modernity (2008). He is also editor with Lidia Curti of The Post-colonial question. Common skies, divided horizons (1996,) and the volume Esercizi di Potere. Gramsci, Said e il postcoloniale (2006). Several of these titles have been translated into various languages, including Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese and Turkish. </div> </div> </div> Iain Chambers Mon, 18 Mar 2013 11:58:27 +0000 Iain Chambers 71651 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The limits of liberalism: otherness and the crisis of Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/iain-chambers/limits-of-liberalism-otherness-and-crisis-of-europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The intrinsic necessity of a subordinated, non-European, other to the making of a moral and political economy is not just built into Europe, but into the very idea of liberal citizenship in the modern nation state.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The question of Europe and otherness is clearly at the centre of “What’s wrong with Europe?”. Critically unpacking the first term allows us to come closer to understanding better the question posed by the second.</p> <p>I wish to address this by simply considering two interwoven dimensions: that of the centrality of liberalism to the making of the modern European nation state, and then of its intrinsic historical and cultural relationship to colonialism and the racialised subordination of the rest of the planet to its political understanding of freedom and progress.</p> <p>What I want to suggest is that rather than only talk about the contemporary polity, the retraction of European identities into old confines, and the increasingly aggressive policies towards the non-European world in harsh anti-immigrant legislation and an emerging state of global policing and warfare, we need to consider, for a moment, a more radical archaeology in excavating our terms of reference. </p> <p>To return to the archive of Europe and consider the terms of liberalism, its agendas, shifts and condensation in modern Europe, is also to understand the centrality of colonialism and empire to its making. Liberalism is here not considered as an autonomous or autochthonous political doctrine, but is rather the conceptual field for considering hegemonic processes and procedures of governmentality that emerged from the historical moment in which Europe seized the world and transformed it into what we call modernity.</p> <p>If we begin with this second, planetary framing of the liberal discourse, rooted in the sovereign authority of the individual with his (sic) political rights guaranteed by property and the freedoms of the (world) market, we can perhaps better understand the intrinsic necessity of a subordinated, non-European, other to the making of a moral and political economy we are used to considering in exclusively provincial, that is, European terms. &nbsp;This is built into the very idea of liberal citizenship in the modern nation state.</p> <h2>Europe at the centre of the world</h2> <p>Few today would contest the hierarchies that established Europe at the centre of the world stage from the Sixteenth century onwards, producing the measure of ‘progress’ that transformed the provincial into the universal. The underbelly of this provincial power passing for universal law in both juridical and economical terms are the racialising categories that constitute modernity. Such procedures are implicit in the anthropologising philosophy of Kant that excluded the native of Tierra del Fuego from the category of the human, as in Hegel’s noted cancellation of Africa from the path of history.</p> <p>Central to the process of establishing Europe at the centre of the world is the intertwining of the powers of capital, whereby all is reducible to the universal abstraction of exchange, and the racialised hierarchisation of the non-European world, reduced to objects of its power and knowledge. In other words, the category of race, and the othering and subordination of the world through the perspectives and practices of racism, is central to the violent and unilateral constitution of modernity and its political economy (Quentin Tarantino’s recent film <em><a href="http://unchainedmovie.com">Django Unchained</a></em> resonates deeply with this particular counter narrative.) My suggestion is that this particular matrix of economical, political and cultural powers has not passed. It is very much part of what we might call the colonial present.</p> <h2>Political economy and the colonial present </h2> <p>The present undoing of the Welfare State is undoubtedly tied into this history. The insistence on individualism and property as the site and <em>sine qua non</em> of political rights cleaves the world <em>a priori</em> into insiders and outsiders, us and them, citizens and the dispossessed. From <em>Robinson Crusoe</em> onwards, collective concerns and responsibilities can only emerge in a second moment subsequent to the aggregation of <span>individual interests</span>. The social and political sphere is not considered the outcome of historical forces and cultural processes, but rather the agglomeration of individual actors and autonomous achievements. So if freedom is tied to individual capacities and wealth, then political rights are intrinsically part of the economy; that is precisely why it is a <em>political economy</em>. Freedom couched in these terms is always freedom <em>for</em> personal gain and accumulation, rather than freedom <em>from</em> poverty, injustice and oppression. This is the connected interplay between classical liberalism, where social justice and freedom was denied to populations in the colonial world, and contemporary neoliberalism where justice is increasingly denied at home. In this sense, we might consider neoliberalism as liberalism ‘after empire’. </p> <p>The conjunctural specificities, transformations and turns are, of course, significant; but so, too, are the underlying structural continuities that support and permit the variations. Within the long history of liberalism, for example, anti-statism has been persistently central: from John Locke and the Constitution of the United States anxious to guard against the potential tyranny of the state ‘enslaving’ individuals (while at the same sanctioning slavery) to the present-day right in the USA to bear arms and, increasingly also in Europe, to purchase your education, health and welfare. </p> <h2>Liberalism after empire</h2> <p>If today, the racialising mechanisms that reduced certain bodies to objects and commodities, to things, is seemingly more muted, its mechanisms remain a structural feature, and not simply a temporal or historical phase of the liberal order. The brutal exposure of the deep-seated principles of liberalism within the specificities of recent neo-liberalism is a further turn of the screw: as a contemporary response it is neither a novelty nor of recent invention. </p> <p>In this light, the social compact and compromise of the post-1945 Welfare State is an exceptional moment, forged as a response to the rise of mass democracy and the socio-economic catastrophe of the 1930s, while seeking to bandage the wound of European slaughter, fascism and genocide in two world wars. It lasted a mere 30 years. The neo-liberal agenda is actually part of an altogether deeper historical swell.</p> <p>I think that it is important that we recognise this structural inheritance. It means not simply tinkering with the existing mechanisms, nor entertaining utopic alternatives seemingly unsullied by this history. We have to engage in a critical appropriation, carried out in a clear-eyed fashion. This means to consider the category of race, the practices of racism, and the othering and subjection of ‘foreign’ bodies, as central to the making of the modern, liberal world. We are used to considering the enslavement and extermination of dark-skinned bodies as something that occurred far away in the periphery of the world: in the plantations, plains and deserts of North America, in the Congo and the Caribbean, in Latin America and around the Indian Ocean, in mythical Wests and Orients. </p> <p>Understanding the centrality of slavery and slaughter to the moral economy of Occidental modernity means not simply to seek to confront and undo the liberal polity that was central to the bio-politics of empire and understandings of ‘progress’. There is now the need to change the narrative, both to uncouple it from its institutional site in the nation and accompanying trans-national bodies such as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and re-connect it to an emerging commons willing to promote a diverse lexicon of rights and belonging. </p> <h2>The city and the emerging commons</h2> <p>Perhaps, as Jacques Derrida once suggested, it is the embedded, lived-in, place of the city, rather than the abstract space of the nation or Europe, that provides the laboratory for a more extensive and constantly negotiated becoming of democracy. The blocking mechanisms of state and European legislation often come to be blunted and diverted in the textures and issues of daily urban life. If the racialising procedures of power are exercised by the law, the realities of street life and cultural proximities often lead to gaps, negotiations and compromise. It is precisely here that the capitalist organisation and disarticulation of the ‘social’ is most effectively challenged. It is here that the structural and structuring logic of the neo-liberal political economy, seeking to colonise not simply the present but also the future, is most sharply exposed in its daily details and dangers. It is also here that oppositional counter narratives, refusals, revolts and deviations acquire substance, a life, and flesh. And it is here that the historical and cultural interruption proposed by the stranger, the migrant and the regularly negated and despised ‘other’ acquires critical force, reminding us of a mutable and multiple modernity that is never merely ‘ours’ to administer and define. </p> <h2>The game is on</h2> <p>All of this suggests an altogether more complicated understanding of European ‘identity’. The return of negated voices and bodies from the historical and colonial archive cracks open today’s politics of cultural belonging that sees in the question of identity an object to be claimed, defended or else negated and destroyed. Considered in terms of a continual interleaving of historical processes that stretch from the local to the planetary, we are confronted with an altogether more open, fluid and inconclusive scenario. The game is still on, and the history that was thought to have concluded and been safely relegated to the past can return in any moment to undo the pretensions of the present. </p> <p>The homogeneity sought by a Romantic understanding of the ‘people’, and subsequently disseminated in the pedagogical and political practices of modern nationalism, is continually challenged by the refusal to conform to a single measure of the world, by those who refuse or fail to ‘fit in’. &nbsp;The tyranny of a fixed, stable identity is promoted and policed by a liberal politics that requires the individualised promotion of property and wealth in order to participate in the <em>polis</em>; otherwise you are to be othered and subordinated to the universal legislation of this Occidental syntax.&nbsp; From the direct cruelty of crude racism to sophisticated property rights and patent laws, Frantz Fanon’s words still ring true: ‘what divides this world is first and foremost what species, what race one belongs to… You are rich because you are white, you are white because you are rich’ (<em>The Wretched of the Earth</em>).</p> <h2>Moving Europe elsewhere</h2> <p>One last example of this dangerous foreclosure, of this refusal to engage with the negated past that comes to meet us from the future. The contemporary migrant, invariably declared illegal (despite Article 13 of the Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 that guaranteed the right to migrate: a right not recognised by any actual European state) is far more than a socio-economical phenomenon. He and she expose the wound of a colonial past that is disseminated in the cities, streets, sights and sounds of the ex-imperial metropolis. This interruption in the theology of ‘progress’, this cut across the time of modernity by other times, by the times of others, transforms a European space into an altogether deeper and more extensive series of possible places. </p> <p>Irreducible to a single narration or authority, this constellation invades the present with a new historical urgency. Here inherited understandings of belonging – to what, where, and how? – are exposed to negotiation. The usual choice is to retreat into the old faiths, close the doors, turn one’s back on the storm. However, to choose a sense of understanding in terms of a historical process that has to be negotiated again and again forces us to move beyond tired political formulae and the dead weight of consensual histories.</p> <p>One of the histories that the contemporary migrant often carries with him or her is that of Islam and the so-called return of religion in the seemingly secular west. That this secularism is itself the liberal version of Christian theology and redemption, transformed into market terms, opens up an avenue that I have no time to explore here. Islam, however, is also about the return of a religion that is consistently part of Europe’s history for at least twelve centuries: from Portugal, Spain and Sicily to the Balkans. If Islam (like Judaism) has largely been denied, marginalised and ‘othered’, this perhaps also reveals the singularity of Christianity as another name for Occidental modernity. </p> <p>To recognise, and then unpack, this past – the ambivalence of its liberalism and its purported secularism, the negated centrality of racism, slavery and the structural subordination of the non-European world to a property owning democracy – is not to cancel the present but is precisely to re-narrate it in order to propose a very different Europe. It is not simply a question of moving on, but rather of moving elsewhere.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>This article forms part of the dossier, “Albanian Reflections on Europe and Otherness”. It was first presented in an international debate in Tirana, Albania, on February 19, 2013, organized by the Albanian Media Institute and Soros Foundation, in partnership with the Erste Foundation, openDemocracy, and the Forum of Concerned Citizens of Europe.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? EU Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality Ideas International politics Iain Chambers Mon, 18 Mar 2013 11:57:24 +0000 Iain Chambers 71650 at https://www.opendemocracy.net