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(cfp) Contested Borderscapes – Transnational Geographies vis-à-vis Fortress Europe Janeiro 26, 2017

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, activismo, geografias, migrações, teoria social, Uncategorized.
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Call for Papers

Contested Borderscapes

Transnational Geographies vis-à-vis Fortress Europe

September 28 – October 1, 2017

International Conference

Mytilene, Lesvos (Greece)

Urban Geography and Planning Laboratory,

“Invisible Cities” research team & Population Movements Laboratory

Department of Geography, University of the Aegean

http://www.contested-borderscapes.net

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Introduction

 

European member states are signatories to the Geneva Convention Related to the Status of Refugees.

Human rights and dignity are respected in detention centres across Europe.

An electrified fence was built to protect the nation-state from illegal intruders.

Traffickers are responsible for deaths by drowning in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.

Deportations are voluntary returns.

Turkey is a safe country.

War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.

 

In 2016, Oxford English Dictionary declared “post-truth” the word of the year. In this Orwellian moment, the movement of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants across the increasingly militarised borders of Europe have instigated a socio-spatial debate about the limits of human rights, national sovereignties, continental values, precipitating and contributing to the ongoing condition of European crises. Although in the era of globalisation borders constitute porous passages for capital and commodities, at the same time they have hardened and ossified as “new enclosures” seeking to immobilise migrant and refugee populations. Fortress Europe emerges as a complex of new state control mechanisms, freshly erected border fences, newly built detention centres and improvised refugee camps; together, these technologies of migration management aim at the criminalisation, classification, stigmatisation, and biopolitical control of moving populations, fomented by xenophobic politics, and managed by humanitarian subcontractors. In this hostile climate, people on the move contest European border regimes, peripheries, and cityscapes by claiming spatial justice and political visibility while creating a nexus of emerging common spaces. They are joined by activists defending their right to movement, who are engaged in efforts to “welcome refugees” into a shrinking and contested public sphere, into alternative and self-organised social spaces, responding to the humanitarian crises wrought by militarism, violence, and structural adjustment with solidarity, stemming from a larger vision of sharing in each other’s struggles for survival and social transformation.

The island of Lesvos is a space of multiple histories of refugee passage, now reinvented as a “hot spot” in the contemporary European regime of migration management, but also reimagined by people who live there as a space of social solidarity with migrant struggles. It thus constitutes one epicentre, or “contested borderscape” of Fortress Europe, and a place where we might learn from local struggles and movements against its murderous politics. If, over the past year, the shores and seaways of Lesvos (“Lesbos”) gained international visibility as the backdrop to untold human suffering, loss, and survival, the purpose of gathering here is not to consume it as a spectacle; instead, we seek to learn from how people here have responded to, and organised in the urgency of what has became mediatised as “the refugee crisis.” The main aim of this international conference is to create a space of critical reflection in which academics, artists, and activists from different disciplines, backgrounds, and locations, can strategise, organise, and analyse the social landscapes of border-spaces such as this, and their reverberations for anti-border politics elsewhere.

We welcome proposals for various kinds of interventions, including, but not limited to: presentations of formal academic papers falling under one of the following five themes; brief provocations leading to open discussions; performance lectures; installations; exhibitions or screenings of visual work (e.g., film, photography, etc.); workshops (sharing practical knowledge, working through a particular idea or problem, teaching a methodology, approach, or framework). We wish to emphasise multidirectional discussion and open debate of contested—rather than “settled”—issues, as opposed to unidirectional knowledge transmission by institutionally acknowledged academic experts. As such, the conference will open with a plenary of local activists, and will culminate in a general assembly of all participants, mapping possibilities for future collaboration and exchange across and beyond Fortress Europe.

 

Topics

Track 1: The notion of the border

  • Borderlands, borderscapes, borderlines, border regimes
  • Borders and nomadism, diaspora, travel, heterotopias, and otherness
  • In-between spaces, hybrid spaces, and threshold spaces vis-à-vis border fortification, militarisation, enclaves, ghettos, walling urbanism, state territories
  • Bridging political, social, national, gender, religion and identity borders, boundaries and communities
  • No borders, open borders, and border-crossing struggles, movements, and activism

 

Track 2: Migrants’ commoning practices

  • Autonomy of migration and transnationalism
  • Mobile common space; strategies and practices for survival, struggle, solidarity, networking, communication, mutual aid of the moving populations.
  • Collective and sharing practices in migrants’ informal settlements and camps
  • Social solidarity, connections between the social struggles of the locals and the migrants; social philanthropy, humanitarianism, volunteering and NGO’s industry
  • Migrants’ social centres, squatted buildings, and self-organised housing projects

 

Track 3: New intersectional enclosures

  • New enclosure policies, forced displacement, dispossession and grabbing of the means of production and reproduction, permanence of so-called primitive accumulation
  • Class aspects of immigration, cheap workforce, surplus reserved army of unemployment
  • Emergence of nationalistic-racist-fascist rhetoric and practice, (for instance, racist locals’ committees, the role of church and media)
  • Gendered aspects of immigration (women, lgbtq+, sexism, gendered violence, pregnancy)
  • Age aspects of immigration (children and elderly people)
  • Disability and immigration
  • Cultural re-appropriation of moving populations
  • Slavery, trafficking, human organs’ trafficking

 

Track 4: State and Hyperstate migrant policies

  • Fortress Europe, detention centers, hot spots, relocation policies, new border fences
  • Law geographies, divisions between refugees and immigrants, criminalization and illegalization of border crossing, the right to citizenship and asylum
  • Fear policies, xenophobia and biopolitics
  • Health geographies, biosecurity and border controls
  • Neocolonialism, geopolitics and war

 

Track 5: Representations and communication

  • Cultural representations of the Other
  • Landscape and representations of the Other
  • Newcomers – new ideas – new cultural relations
  • Art and multicultural representations
  • Newcomers and e-books, e-sharing, horizontal e-actions
  • Other history, other museum, oral history of newcomers

 

Submission Procedure

We welcome proposals for various kinds of interventions, including, but not limited to: presentations of formal academic papers; brief provocations leading to open discussions; performance lectures; installations; exhibitions or screenings of visual work (e.g., film, photography, etc.); workshops (sharing practical knowledge, working through a particular idea or problem, teaching a methodology, approach, or framework).

 

Interested contributors are invited to submit by 1 March 2017 an abstract of maximum 500 words. Abstracts should include: title, keywords, track name, name of the author(s), name of the presenter, affiliation and full contact details (please fill the submission form, link). Authors will be notified by March 20, 2016, about the status of their proposals. There are no fees but we do not have funds to cover travel expenses. The organisers expect an edited volume to result from the gathering. Questions can be directed to contestborders@gmail.com.

 

Important Dates

Abstracts Submission Deadline: March 1, 2017

Notification of Acceptance: March 20, 2017

Conference: Mytilene, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, September 28 – October 1, 2017

 

Inquiries

Inquiries may be directed to: contestborders@gmail.com

http://www.contested-borderscapes.net

FIFTY-YEARS ON: The Right to the City Janeiro 24, 2017

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, activismo, cidades, geografias, teoria e epistemologia da geografia, teoria social, Uncategorized.
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FIFTY-YEARS ON: The Right to the City

Andy Merrifield

2017 marks the Golden Jubilee of Henri Lefebvre’s Right to the City, his “cry and demand” for a more participatory and democratic city life. It’s a cause both to celebrate and commiserate. But celebration and commiseration have typically been part and parcel of the Left’s dialectic, a dialectic that cuts inside us as people as well as political subjects. For everyone concerned about the fate of our cities, before us now lies a massive expansion of urban life across the planet, an opening up of urban horizons and frontiers, matched by a closing of the political mind, a withering of the established political will.

Ours is an urban society, set to be evermore so during the decades to come; yet political leaders almost everywhere are putting up walls, cowering before provincial smallness rather than embracing cosmopolitan vastness. When Lefebvre long ago spoke of “planetary urbanisation,” he did so because he thought the scope and possibility for the right to the city might enlarge, that our narrative about cities might become bigger and more inclusive. The right to the city needed to flourish within this immensity, he said, had to understand it, keep its frame of reference and plane of immanence open.

Lefebvre announced the right to the city at the centenary of Marx’s Capital, doing so with a self-avowed “cavalier intention.” Urbanisation, for him, was and still is a “revolutionary” process in which assorted ruling classes played and continue to play the dominant role. It’s they who initiate the drive to totalise the productive forces, to colonise and commodify land, to valorise people and nature. Just as they’ve fracked deep into the earth and power-drilled monetised value from nature, ruling classes now frack into human nature as well, power-drilling value from different aspects of everyday life, from land and housing, from the entire public realm.

Lefebvre, though, never imagined that urbanisation would be everywhere, that bricks and mortar, freeways and highways would predominate every which way, that all green space would turn grey; neither was he saying that cities would quantitatively overwhelm the planet. (That’s why he would have been radically at odds with the empirics of UN-Habitat’s “Urban Age” thesis.) Rather, as his commemoration of Marx’s Capital implies, he was warning of the closing of the circle of a particular form of post-war capitalism, one that defines itself less through a model of industrial or agricultural production and more and more through an actual production of space.

This system produces planetary geography as a commodity, as a pure financial asset, using and abusing people and places as strategies to accumulate capital. The process embroils everybody, no matter where; even when it doesn’t embroil, when it abandons people and places, it embroils. Urban society today is tantamount to the progressive production of evermore frackable spatial units. In a way, I like to think Lefebvre was hoping his thesis would become untrue, that the circle can never be complete, that it has to stop, or else be diverted, even if there’s no going back, that urban society, like it or not, is here to stay.

Urban society is thus the battle ground for new forms of radical and progressive politics: it has to be. Lefebvre affirmed this not out of personal whim: capitalism affirmed it out of historical necessity, as our “objective” reality, as an arena in which we all must now engage, willy-nilly. His most explicit reference to planetary urbanisation came later in life, in a valedictory essay from 1989, “Quand la ville se perd dans une métamorphose planétaire,” published two years before his death.

His precise language here is worth pondering on for a moment. Menace stalks us, Lefebvre says; not so much of “planetary urbanisation” but of “the planetarisation of the urban” (“la planétarisation de l’urbain”). The ordering is telling. For the urban doesn’t so much spread as it becomes the vortex for sucking in everything the planet offers: its land and wealth, its capital and power, its culture and people—its dispensable labour-power. It’s this sucking in of people and goods, of capital and information that fuels the urban machine, that makes it so dynamic as well as so destabilising, because its energising and totalising force “expulses” (expels) people, “secretes” what Lefebvre calls a “residue.” This expulsion process makes urban space expand, lets it push itself out, has it further entangle rural space, and disentangle rural life.

Lefebvre says every big system leaves a residue that escapes it, that is chewed up and spat out by it. Every whole leaves a remainder. It’s an idea most forcefully articulated in Metaphilosophy, Lefebvre’s dense takedown of traditional philosophy, published a couple of years prior to The Right to the City. In Metaphilosophy, Lefebvre says that totalisations like global capitalism always exhibit leakiness, have internal contradictions that both structure and de-structure. Totalisation can never be total; it always secretes and expels a “residual element,” its Other. There’ll always be people who don’t fit into any whole, who don’t want to fit in, who aren’t allowed to fit in. They’re the stuff left over after all the metrics are totted up, after everything has seemingly been accounted for: le reste after la somme. They’re the philosophical anti-concepts, an affirmation of remainders, of marginal dregs, a growing planetary constituency.

Residues are people who feel the periphery inside them, who identify with the periphery, even if sometimes they’re located in the core. Residues exist in the world of work: precarious and downsized workers, informal and gig economy workers, petty service sector and agricultural workers—residues are workers without regularity, without salaries and security, without benefits and pensions; they’re workers without any real stake in the future of work.

Residues are refugees rejected and rebuked, profiled and patrolled no matter where they wander. They’re displacees, people forced off the land, thrown out of their housing (by impersonal property markets and violent eviction), whose homes have been repossessed, whose living space teeters on the geographical and economic edge. Residues come from the city as well as the countryside and congregate in a space that’s often somewhere in-between, neither traditional city nor traditional countryside. I call this somewhere in-between the global banlieue; I mean it literally and metaphorically, as a concrete and potential space, as a place of political encounter, one not yet fully glimpsed.

Resides are the NINJA (No Income, No Job, No Asset) generation; Greeks who feel the brunt of the Troika austerity initiatives; dispossessed Arab and African youth in French suburbs; Detroiters beholden to “Emergency Managers”; Palestinians lobbing rocks at Israeli tanks; Rojava Kurds in northern Syria; Indignados on the streets of Spain; “June Days” Brazilians protesting public transport hikes; occupiers in Istanbul’s Gezi Park; Umbrella kids in Hong Kong’s Occupy Central; Nuitards staked out around Paris’s Place de la République. The list goes on, and on.

The spirit of Metaphilosophy gets worked through The Right to the City. Planetary urbanisation is itself a metaphilosophical category, a will to totalise, a discontinuity within continuity, a difference in repetition, a breakdown of old industrial society, and its supersession—its overcoming—by a new spatial form: diffusive, unbound and apparently planetary in its reach, beyond any city-rural breach. Thus a profound existential problem is displaced onto the plane of urban society where it now transpires as a complex political dilemma, an attempt to forge a new humanitarianism out of the “bad side” of capitalist development. Capitalism’s cutting edge is a bleeding edge for ordinary people.

While planetary urbanisation has to be a theory trying to figure out totalisation under contemporary capitalism, it shouldn’t itself be a totalising theory. Instead, it’s a theory of residues within a vortex, an attempt to piece together a politics of residues, a politics of remainders in the whole. Lefebvre even suggests that the political ante here is to formulate a new “revolutionary conception of citizenship.” Indeed, he says this is really what he meant by “the right to the city” all along. And this is the working hypothesis he’s bequeathed us fifty-years down the line, left us to figure out practically. The right to the city is about residues reclaiming (or claiming for the first time) their rights to a collective urban life, to an urban society they’re actively making yet are hitherto disenfranchised from: “the right to the city implies nothing less than a revolutionary conception of citizenship.”

So many people have been pushed off-limits these days that it’s extended the limit of limits, created a more expansive social space for a new conception of citizenship, for a citizenship still to be invented. In this guise, citizenship lies inside and beyond a passport, inside and beyond any official documentation. It doesn’t express a legal right bestowed by any institution of the bourgeois nation-state. What we’re talking about is a citizenship without a flag, without a country, without borders. At this point I can only label it a “shadow citizenship,” something phantom-like.

Still, many residues in America’s deindustrialised heartlands aren’t interested in expansive conceptions of citizenship. Nobody has ever shown them any, of course, offered them any. Meantime, these residues seem content with more reactionary kinds of enfranchisement; and when somebody promises it them, they jump, they vote Right. Now, there’s a common theme uniting the whole world: People recognising their own disenfranchisement. It has reached desperate depths. But frustration matched with vulnerability has enabled assorted demagogues (religious as well as political) to step in. Some have voiced populist ragings against the machine, created scapegoats galore, any old or new straw target, anything to further their vested interests and political ambitions. And many residues, for want of an alternative, have believed them.

But parochial nest-building is doomed over the longer term, retrogressive in our age where human interconnectivity has broadened and deepened. To see the world through the lens of planetary urbanisation thus has certain distinct advantages. After all, it’s a viewpoint expressive of commonality rather than difference, a mutually shared planet in which people who look different, who talk different from one another, who don’t know one another, who may even hate one another, have more in common than they might think.

That shared experience is an ever-growing mutuality of disadvantage and despair, of suffering and perhaps hope. There’s affinity even if it’s rarely acknowledged. The right to the city has to help us identify how this affinity gets recognised, how it gets mediated, undermined, upended by forces upending the planet, forces that work together, that throw everybody into a scary mix. The right to the city has to help us create new forms of organisation, new institutions that leap across the nationalist divide. How to invent a new, more “hospitable” form of citizenship that nourishes people’s sense of identity without crushing other people’s identity? How can people—residues—express and become themselves through their connection to urban society?

Jacques Derrida once wondered whether it was possible to define a modern cosmopolitanism that bypassed the nation-state. His response is uncannily similar to Lefebvre’s. Yes, Derrida said, it was and still is possible: through relatively-autonomous cities, independent from any state, separate nodes allied to one another through “forms of solidarity to be invented.” We’re still trying to invent this solidarity; so far it has alluded the Left. But Derrida urges us to make “yet another effort.” He uses an intriguing phase to describe the nemesis of disenfranchisement and dispossession: “villes-refuges”—“cities of refuge” (or sanctuary cities)—crucibles for a new kind of unconditional citizenship.

This ideal actually prevailed in 5th-Century Greece, voiced by Pericles, Athens’ first citizen, in his famous “Funeral Oration,” recounted by Thucydides in Peloponnesian War. Pericles commemorated Athenian war dead and wanted its citizens to remember how their system of government had “a different attitude than its neighbours towards military security.” Theirs was based on openness not closure, discussion not denial. “Our city is open to the world,” Pericles proclaimed, and Athenians should have “a confidence of liberality.” “We have no periodical deportations,” he said. “The greatness of our city brings it about that all good things from all over the world flow into us.” Athens was a paragon of urban citizenship everywhere, “a city that’s the school of all Greece.”

Five centuries on, the Old Testament spoke of cities of refuge set aside as sanctuaries for people, spaces of asylum to protect innocents—and sometimes the guilty: “These towns will be cities of refuge,” The Book of Numbers said (35: 15-17), “for the sons of Israel as well as for the stranger and the settler amongst you.” The Hebraic tradition recognises the right to an urban immunity and hospitality that goes way beyond mere particularism, a simple search for unique refuge: it’s a divine hope for a form of urban sovereignty where people could become wholly human.

What Derrida has in mind are cities of sanctuary for writers who undergo persecution because of their art and political views; but he hints, too, that the concept might apply to all displacees and emigres, to all asylum seekers and refugees—writers or otherwise. Might we broaden this notion even more to include residues in general, safeguarding all the rootless and landless effected by everyday trauma, by the ordinary madness of our political-economic system? A place of asylum where people can become wholly human?

“A new sovereignty of cities,” says Derrida, “would open up a novel space for rights which inter-state national rights have failed to open up.” “We dream of another concept,” he says, “of another right, of a potential right of the city” (emphasis added). Derrida knows this is “an experimentation of a right and a democracy to come.” He knows, like Lefebvre, it’s wishful-thinking, utopian, especially since he gives us little sense of what a “ville-refuge” might look like, let alone how it might be achieved.

Yet the concept might be closer to home than he thought. A number of US cities—Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia and Providence—all recently pledged not to cooperate with Donald Trump’s promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants. Across the US, “sanctuary cities” are gearing up to oppose federal government and its immigration agents. Liberal urban bastions reaffirm their intention to defy the Trump administration. At the risk of losing millions dollars in federal support, they’ll act as bulwarks against mass deportation. These cities have no power to bestow “official” rights to people; but they have the power to resist, putting a new twist on struggles against federal government: this time it’s liberal cities not conservative states who counter what they see as unjust federal intervention.

In response to a crisis of political legitimation, the “spectre” of urban solidarity looms; minorities in cities recognise that national and international rights are “out of joint.” In a way, we now need to read Derrida’s idea of “villes-refuges” in conjunction not only with Lefebvre’s right to the city, but also with the former’s earlier Spectres of Marx, where he spoke of a “New International”; “a profound transformation,” Derrida called it, “projected over the long term, of international law, of its concepts and field of intervention.” This New International is “a link,” Derrida said, an affinity, a suffering and hope, still discreet, almost secret, without status or title, contract or coordination, party or country, national community or common belonging to a class.

We’re not yet sure what this International really is; we can’t name it anything positive. But it’s there nonetheless, we know it’s there, hope it’s there, out on the horizon, if we can look that far. We know it’s more needed than ever before, needed everywhere. It’s a ghostly dream-thought of a new status for the city, a right to and of the city, a will to belong to a democratic urban webbing, a solidarity of confederated assemblies interrogating the essence of politics and the role of the nation-state: just what is a citizen of the urban, a citadin(e) of the twenty-first century? Progressives will have their work cut out in this challenging year ahead. Meantime, à la tienne, Henri!…

In Defense of Cosmopolitanism Janeiro 22, 2017

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, activismo, teoria social.
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These are dark times for cosmopolitans. Discontent with globalization and resentment towards minorities, immigrants, and intellectuals have fueled the rise of nationalism in Europe and the United States. Dressed in faux-neutral neologisms like “post-truth” and “alt-right,” propaganda, racism, and xenophobia have elbowed their way back into the mainstream. And cosmopolitans are being portrayed as a detached and indulgent elite.

Cosmopolitanism—the aspiration to become a citizen of the world—has become a tainted luxury good.

It might seem prudent, in this climate, to take distance from cosmopolitanism. That choice, however, leaves a distorted image of cosmopolitanism unchallenged and lets it become a casualty in the clash between nationalism and globalization. We must do better than that. If we want to fend off the globalization of ultra-nationalism, now is the time to take a stand for cosmopolitanism—extricating its broadminded attitude from its elitist parody, and putting it to work to temper nationalism and humanize globalization.

Taking such stand begins with remembering where contemporary cosmopolitanism came from and acknowledging how it lost its way.

How We Became Cosmopolitans

I became a cosmopolitan on August 5th, 1943, three decades before I was born. That afternoon, the Allies entered my hometown in southern Italy. The city was on its knees, but the children were jubilant. The war was beginning to end, and freedom had the taste of American chocolate bars. Soldiers threw them to the kids on the roadside as they rode their jeeps through town. My mother never forgot the one she caught.

Wartime stories like that were common when I was growing up, but they felt distant from my world and my life. It took me decades to realize how much they shaped both. Like many middle-class Europeans of their generation, my parents—who had both been first in their families to go to high school, who spent their whole adult lives in the same place, who never spoke a foreign language—insisted that I learn English and travel.

My parents embodied a distinction that the sociologist Robert Merton made in the 1950s  studying a small American town. The town’s influential members, he found, were either “locals” or “cosmopolitans.” The locals’ influence rested on strong ties to the town and relationships within it. The cosmopolitans’ rested on their knowledge and expertise. If locals could not imagine a life elsewhere, cosmopolitans seemed to be always preparing for it. Neither, however, left much and the town benefited from the contribution of both. That was back then. My generation’s cosmopolitans were urged to be more mobile.

So, at age 14, I found myself living and studying for a month with a small crowd of Spanish, French, and Germans in a small town in the north of England. It was the first time I felt at home in a place where I did not belong—or more precisely, that I felt like I belonged in a place I had not come from. That is how I began becoming a European. A few years later, when the Berlin Wall fell, it was glorious to be coming of age as one. The promise of cosmopolitanism as a way to a better life might have been at its zenith, but it seemed only dawn. For a moment, it really felt as if we were ending history, in Francis Fukuyama’s famous words, ushering the triumph of liberal democracy worldwide.

Big cities all over the world were swelling up with first-generation cosmopolitans like me, fleeing provincial worldviews. We flocked to places that promised not to put us in our place. We were curious invaders of each other’s countries. A peaceful army sent to dismantle nationalism by elders who’d been hurt by it.

My parents’ generation blessed, if ambivalently, our cosmopolitanism because it was an insurance policy as much as an aspiration. Born out of the rubble of nationalism, it was primarily a humanistic project—not an economic one. It emphasized commonality of experience and tolerance of differences. It should make us realize people unlike us were humans just like us, and replace superstition and suspicion—the pillars of tribalism—with curiosity and compassion. If we would study, dine, and make out with peers from other countries, we would be less likely to bomb each other in the future. When the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, I felt that my mum and dad should get a piece of it—and keep it next to the chip of Berlin Wall I had brought home two decades before.

By then, I was married to a woman born 15 miles from that first English town I lived in. Our parents did not share a language but had similar values. We taught in an academic institution that helps people live working lives across borders. Our children gave complicated answers to the simple question, “Where are you from?” and felt at home in a country that neither of us grew up in. And we had become alert to the skepticism about, and hostility towards, our way of life. Over the past few years, those have only grown. Having spent my life trying to become an educated cosmopolitan, I now fear that my generation has failed at cosmopolitanism, or worse, that we have failed cosmopolitanism.

Foot Soldiers of Globalization

The animosity between locals and cosmopolitans is nothing new. It has shaped Western civilization since Ancient Greece. Up to Merton’s time, however, locals and cosmopolitans, remained strange bedfellows. Now, it seems, they have split up, amplifying their differences and becoming locals in different tribes—a nationalist and a globalist one. Cosmopolitans have built their own tribe. A tribe of people unfit for tribalism, I once wrote. An inclusive, dispersed tribe—if such a thing exists—connected by unlimited international data plans and cheap airfare. But a tribe nonetheless. We commandeered big cities and settled tolerant enclaves like coffee shops, universities, and most of all, multinational corporations that let us make a living as we moved around.

While its origin was political, cosmopolitanism made us unfit for national government. Our lives were too mobile, our allegiances too unclear, our relationship to the state too ambivalent for us to be its trustworthy standard bearers. A cosmopolitan attitude comes with suspicion of people and politicians too tied to nation states, and makes us look suspicious to them in turn. But if politics could not pin us down, business set us up.

When globalization took off, we were ready. We had the mindset and skills needed to deal with and, let us face it, profit from the opening up of global markets. Cosmopolitan enthusiasm was redirected from a humanistic project to an economic one. We stopped taking marching orders from John Lennon and started taking them from Jack Welch. If most political leaders found imagining no countries very hard to do, it seemed almost too easy for corporate leaders to do so. Thus we became foot soldiers of globalization, setting out to turn the world into one of our cities. In hindsight, that was not just overreach. It was a betrayal of the very essence of cosmopolitanism: being a citizen of a varied world.

The wave of nationalism sweeping through the globe has been framed as a rejection of and a reaction to globalization. Some analysts focus on the economic devastation that globalization has brought to Western middle classes. Others focus on the threat that it poses to local social hierarchies and worldviews. Seen that way, nationalism is a blunt tool for those hurt by the cultural and economic blows of globalization to strike back. A blunt old tool, it must be noted, familiar to the kind of provincial masculinity that has held power for centuries, and resents how a changing world imperils its local status.

What Is To Be Done?

Where does that leave cosmopolitans? Caught between the exhortation to empathize with nationalists, out of guilt for having left them behind, and the temptation to double down on globalization and build up de facto city-states out of comfort and fear.

Personally, I don’t lack empathy for angry nationalists. I count many among my family and friends. What I lack is sympathy for their prejudices and faith in the economic benefits of isolationism. Similarly, I have little sympathy for the evangelism and isolationism of worried globalists, many of whom I also count as family and friends.

Given where I come from and where I have got to, however, it is hard for me to choose a side. And I believe that choosing one, if one can choose at all, will not do anyone much good. Tribes seldom coexist peacefully and never for long—and picking a tribe gives cosmopolitanism away just when we need it most.

While they might sound similar, cosmopolitanism is not the same as globalization. One is a fragile personal attitude, the other is a relentless socio-economic force. One strives to humanize the different, the other to homogenize it. One celebrates curiosity, the other convenience. (Curiosity is often inconvenient.) One is embracing, the other expansive. One is easy to lose, the other hard to stop. Nationalism and globalization are more similar to each other than to cosmopolitanism, that way. And cosmopolitanism is what might help us counter nationalism and humanize globalization, pushing it to be a vehicle of freedom and opportunity for most, not just a privileged few.

A cosmopolitan tribe, however, preoccupied with protecting hard-earned cultural advances and economic advantages, will only make things worse. There is neither an undo button for globalization, nor a wall high enough to keep it at bay. But the challenge to humanize globalization is more urgent than ever—and it is both cultural and economic.  Doing so requires doubling down on cosmopolitanism, reclaiming its humanistic roots and acknowledging that its promise is far from fulfilled. There is more work to do.

Make Cosmopolitanism Good Again

One November morning last year, I found myself asking my mum about her childhood in the war. The night before, a terrorist attack had devastated a cosmopolitan neighborhood in Paris, not far from where I live. Watching the news, I learned that the German football team had not been able to leave the stadium where they were playing France when the terrorists hit. The French team had spent the night in the locker room too, in solidarity.

For some reason, that image stayed with me. When she called to ask if we were safe, I asked my mother if she could have ever imagined such camaraderie between French and German athletes when she was a child. “Of course I couldn’t have,” she replied. “Neither could I have imagined the freedoms you have enjoyed for decades, nor your way of life.”

I seldom think of my mother as daring, but I did then. Her generation dared to dream the unimaginable for mine and set us on a path to make it real.

It also struck me that, in many ways, our cosmopolitan enclaves are like that locker room in Paris. It took good people the best part of a century to build them. We will lose them if we just guard them. If we regard them as safe bubbles and do not have the courage to venture out and work on building many more—easier to get into, fairer, and roomier too.

In short, instead of just being welcoming, cosmopolitans must keep reaching out. Welcoming without reaching out, or expecting to be always welcome, is what cosmopolitans do when they get lazy or entitled. It’s time to stop being either.

Cosmopolitanism thrives outside bubbles. Inside any bubble, it soon dies. And if we let cosmopolitanism become a casualty of the conflict between nationalism and globalization, we will have betrayed the dreams and wasted the work of two generations. Our humanity, if not humanity—our worlds, if not the world—are at stake.


Gianpiero Petriglieri is Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD, where he directs the Management Acceleration Programme, the school’s flagship executive program for emerging leaders. A medical doctor and psychiatrist by training, Gianpiero researches and practices leadership development. You can follow him on Twitter @gpetriglieri.

everyday is platitude Novembro 26, 2015

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the-miracles-of-everyday-chemistry.jpg

 

The everyday is platitude (what lags and falls back, the residual life with which our trash cans and cemeteries are filled: scrap and refuse); but this banality is also what is most important, if it brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived – in the moment when, lived, it escapes every speculative formulation, perhaps all coherence, all regularity. Now we evoke the poetry of Chekhov or even Kafka, and affirm the depth of the superficial, the tragedy of nullity. Always the two sides meet (the amorphous, the stagnant) and the inexhaustible, irrecusable, always unfinished daily that which escapes forms or structures (particularly those of political society: bureaucracy, the wheels of government, parties). And that there may be a certain relation of identity between these two opposites is shown by the slight displacement of emphasis that permits passage from one to the other, as when the spontaneous, the informal – that is, what escapes forms – becomes the amorphous and when, perhaps, the stagnant merges with the current of life, which is also the movement of society.

Maurice Blanchot

Blanchot, M. (1987) ‘Everyday Speech’, Yale French Studies 73: 12–20.

a few things theory knows today Novembro 25, 2015

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in academia, activismo, queer theory, sexualidades e géneros, teoria queer, teoria social, Uncategorized.
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close-up-of-baby-girl-hand-touching-crops-of-wheat-on-the-field-feeling-nature

(clarificando, ou apenas questionando. um pedaço de um belo texto de Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick a que volta e meia regresso. faz-me bem.)

Here are a few things theory knows today.

Or, to phrase it more fairly, here are a few broad assumptions that shape the heuristic habits and positing procedures of theory today (theory not in the primary theoretical texts, but in the routinizing critical projects of ‘‘applied theory’’; theory as a broad project that now spans the humanities and extends into history and anthropology; theory after Foucault and Greenblatt, after Freud and Lacan, after Lévi-Strauss, after Derrida, after feminism) when it offers any account of human beings or cultures:

1. The distance of any such account from a biological basis is assumed to correlate near precisely with its potential for doing justice to difference (individual, historical, and cross-cultural), to contingency, to performative force, and to the possibility of change.

2. Human language is assumed to offer the most productive, if not the only possible, model for understanding representation.

3. The bipolar, transitive relations of subject to object, self to other, and active to passive, and the physical sense (sight) understood to correspond most closely to these relations are dominant organizing tropes to the extent that their dismantling as such is framed as both an urgent and an interminable task. This preoccupation extends tosuch processes as subjectification, self-fashioning, objectification, and Othering; to the gaze; to the core of selfhood whether considered as a developmental telos or as a dangerous illusion requiring vigilant deconstruction.

4. Correspondingly, the structuralist reliance on symbolization through binary pairings of elements, defined in a diacritical relation to one another and no more than arbitrarily associated with the things symbolized, has not only survived the structuralist moment but, if anything, has been propagated ever more broadly through varied and unresting critique—critique that reproduces and popularizes the structure, even as it may complicate an understanding of the workings, of the binarisms mentioned above along with such others as presence/absence, lack/plenitude, nature/culture, repression/liberation, and subversive/hegemonic.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick “Shame in the cybernetic fold: reading Silvan Tomkins (Written with Adam Frank)” in “Touching Feeling – Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity”, pp. 93-94

 

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Ulrich Beck por Bruno Latour Janeiro 15, 2015

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Já por aqui referi (e lamentei) a perca que a morte de Ulrich Beck me provocou. As ciências sociais europeias perderam um dos seus eternos provocadores que nos desestabilizaram e fizeram mecher ao longo dos ultimos 30 anos nos obrigando a pensar além dos nosso eternos mundinhos localizados no estreito espaço do “estado-nação”.

Hoje (re)publico e partilho o texto que Bruno Latour escreveu sobre Ulrich Beck publicado na ArtForum. Uma homenagem sentida e reflectida que vale a pena ler.

Ulrich Beck (1944–2015)

Ulrich Beck, 2007.

THE DEATH OF ULRICH BECK is terrible news. It is a tragedy for his family, for his research team, and for his many colleagues and friends, but it is also a tragedy for European thought.

Ulrich was a public intellectual of the infinitely rare kind in Germany, one that was thought only to exist in France. But he had a very individual way—and not at all French—of exercising this authority of thought: There was nothing of the intellectual critic in him. All his energy, his generosity, his infinite kindness, were put in the service of discovering what actors were in the midst of changing about their way of producing the social world. So for him, it was not about discovering the existing laws of such a world or about verifying, under new circumstances, the stability of old conceptions of sociology. No: It was the innovations in ways of being in the world that interested him above all. What’s more, he didn’t burden himself with a unified, seemingly scientific apparatus in order to locate those innovations. Objectivity, in his eyes, was going to come from his ability to modify the explanatory framework of sociology at the same time as actors modified their way of connecting to one another. His engagement consisted of simply prolonging the innovations he observed in them, innovations from which he was able to extricate power.

This ability to modify the explanatory framework was something that Ulrich would first manifest in his invention of the concept of Risikogesellschaft (risk society), which was initially so difficult to comprehend. By the term risk, he didn’t mean that life was more dangerous than before, but that the production of risks was henceforth a constituent part of modern life and that it was foolhardy to pretend that we were going to take control of them. To the contrary, it was necessary to replace the question of the mode of production and of the unequal distribution of wealth with the symmetrical question of the mode of production and the unequal distribution of ills. Coincidentally, the same year that he proposed the term Risikogesellschaft, the catastrophe of Chernobyl lent his diagnostic an indisputable significance—a diagnostic that current ecological transformations have only reinforced.

In turning the uneven division of ills into the common thread of his inquiries, Ulrich would gradually change the vocabulary of the social sciences. And, first and foremost, he changed the understanding of the relationship between societies and their environment. Everything that had seemed to be outside of culture—and outside of sociology—he would gradually reintegrate, because the consequences of industrial, scientific, and military actions were henceforth part of the very definition of communal life. Everything that modernity had decided to put off until later, or simply to deny, needed to become the very content of collective existence. Hence the delicate and intensely discussed expression “reflexive modernity” or “second modernity.”

This attention to risk would, in turn, modify all the usual ingredients of the social sciences: First, politics—its conventional definition gradually being emptied of its content while Ulrich’s notion of “subpolitics” spread everywhere—but also psychology, the elements of which never ceased to change, along with the limits of collectives. Even love, to which he devoted two books with his wife Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, who is so grief stricken today. Yes, Ulrich Beck went big. Perhaps this is why, on a visit to Munich, he was keen to take me on a pilgrimage to Max Weber’s house. The magnitude of Beck’s conceptions, the audacity of trying to rethink—with perfect modesty and without any pretension of style, without considering himself to be the great innovator that he was—truly made him a descendant of Weber. Like him, Beck wanted sociology to encompass everything.

What makes Beck’s death all the harder to accept, for everyone following his work, is that for many years he was making the social sciences undergo a kind of de-nationalization of its methods and theoretical frameworks. Like the question of risk, the question of cosmopolitism (or better, of cosmopolitanism) was one of his great concerns. By this venerable term, he was not designating some call for the universal human, but the redefinition of humans belonging to something other than nation-states. Because his investigations constantly butted against the obstacle of collected facts managed, conceived of, and diffused by and for states—which clearly made impossible any objective approach toward the new kinds of associations for which the empty term globalization did not allow—the methods of examination themselves had to be radically modified. In this, he was succeeding, as can be seen in the impressive expansion of his now leaderless research group.

Beck manifested this mistrust of the nation-state framework in a series of books, articles, and even pamphlets on the incredible experience of the construction of Europe, a phenomenon so admirable and yet so constantly disdained. He imagined a Europe of new affiliations, as opposed to a Europe of nation-states (and, in particular, in contrast to a uniquely Germanic or French conception of the state). How sad it is to think that such an essential question, yet one that is of interest to so few thinkers, can no longer be discussed with him.

I cannot imagine a sadder way to greet the new year, especially considering that Beck’s many research projects (we were just talking about them again in Paris a few weeks ago) addressed the most urgent questions of 2015: How to react to the world’s impotence on the question of climate change? How to find an adequate response to the resurgences of nationalisms? How to reconsider Europe through conceptions of territory and identity that are not a crude and completely obsolete reprise of sovereignty? That European thought has lost at this precise moment such a source of intelligence, innovation, and method is a true tragedy. When Beck asked, in a recent interview, “How does the transformative power of global risk (Weltrisikogesellschaft) transform politics?” no one could have suspected that he was going to leave us with the anxiety of finding the answer alone.

Bruno Latour is professor at Sciences Po Paris and Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics.

Translated from French by Molly Stevens.

Interview with Elizabeth Povinelli by Mat Coleman and Kathryn Yusoff Março 14, 2014

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Entrevista com Elizabeth Povinelli  no site da revista “Society and Space“. Aqui fica uma pequena provocação:

Thus you are right that something like space or territoriality is crucial to what I am doing. In Economies of Abandonment I note that the biopolitical is not a space but a spacing—thus tense is internal to this spatializing function. And within this spacing new formations of existence may be incubated. But they are incubated at high risk. In the book I am currently working on space comes into play slightly differently. And here I return to Kathryn’s question—what is the formation of power that we are currently living in and through and what are its spatiotemporal apparatuses? Here I hope it becomes clear that it’s not Foucault’s conceptual apparatus—or Peirce’s or Spinoza or…—but rather a mode, or spirit, of inquiry, namely: What is this that is governing us, and governing is differentially?

Interview with Elizabeth Povinelli by Mat Coleman and Kathryn Yusoff.

estórias e práticas da “história oral” Junho 25, 2013

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portelli

‘A morte de Luigi Trastulli e outros ensaios – Ética, memória e acontecimento na história oral’, de Alessandro Portelli, é um volume organizado por Miguel Cardina e Bruno Cordovil publicado pelas edições UNIPOP. O lançamento em que acontecerá um debate com o autor e Miguel Cardina, será hoje às 18h30, na Casa da Achada.

“Este livro reúne cinco textos escritos por Alessandro Portelli em diferentes momentos do seu percurso de investigador empenhado no uso de fontes orais. Os três primeiros artigos abordam a História Oral a partir das questões epistemológicas e éticas que ela convoca. Os dois textos seguintes tomam como objeto a Itália do pós-guerra, ocupando-se da temática da memória e do modo como ela se relaciona com os acontecimentos – ocorridos ou imaginados – e com as dinâmicas sociais e políticas circundantes. Todos eles entendem a História Oral não tanto como uma mera técnica de recolha de dados a partir de entrevistas, mas como uma prática que foi construindo um campo peculiar de abordagens e problemas.” 

Da introdução do Miguel Cardina aqui ficam algumas palavras:

“Uma linhagem alternativa começará a esboçar-se em meados da década de 1970. Tratava-se agora de assumir as características peculiares da História Oral, ponderando os mecanismos da construção da memória e a especificidade das fontes orais. Luisa Passerini e Alessandro Portelli são dois dos rostos internacionais desta linhagem, caracterizada por uma maior sofisticação teórica e por uma presença lateral à Academia ou exterior aos departamentos de História. Alessandro Portelli é um caso particular a este respeito: o seu interesse inicial no trabalho com fontes orais fez-se por via dos movimentos sociais e do ativismo cultural – inscrito, em boa medida, na referida tarefa de «dar voz» aos silenciados – e a sua inserção académica foi desde sempre num domínio paralelo, o da Literatura Norte-Americana.

Este livro reúne cinco textos escritos por Portelli em diferentes momentos da sua intervenção pública como intelectual empenhado e historiador oral. Dividido em duas partes, a primeira junta artigos que abordam a História Oral a partir das questões metodológicas, epistemológicas e éticas que ela convoca. A segunda parte, tomando como objeto a Itália do pós-guerra, ocupa-se da temática da memória e do modo como ela se relaciona com os acontecimentos – ocorridos ou imaginados – e com as dinâmicas sociais e políticas.

(também aqui)

… friendship… Junho 20, 2013

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frienship

Love and friendship are undoubtedly centrally important in our lives. We devote ourselves to our friends and beloveds, investing much time, money, and energy—emotional and otherwise—in them. Yet these common observations can lead us to ask: why should love and friendship have this sort of central importance in our lives? One common answer is that we do this because love and friendship make our lives much better and richer, and because being a lover, beloved,¹ and a friend can help us become better persons insofar as we thereby strive to be better because of that love and friendship. However, understanding this answer more fully and being able to evaluate it requires understanding what exactly love and friendship are, how our lives as persons are different because of them, and whether this difference is somehow central to our being persons at all or whether it is an optional good, like icing on a cake.

“Love, Friendship, and the Self Intimacy, Identification, and the Social Nature of Persons” by Bennett W. Helm (Oxford University Press, 2009, pp.1)

the spell of the sensuous Junho 16, 2013

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The-Spell-of-the-Sensuous

Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears, and nostrils-all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness. This landscape of shadowed voices, these feathered bodies and antlers and tumbling streams-these breathing shapes are our family, the beings with whom we are engaged, with whom we struggle and suffer and celebrate. For the largest part of our species’ existence, humans have negotiated relationships with every aspect of the sensuous surroundings, exchanging possibilities with every flapping form, with each textured surface and shivering entity that we happened to focus upon. All could speak, articulating in gesture and whistle and sigh a shifting web of meanings that we felt on our skin or inhaled through our nostrils or focused with our listening ears, and to which we replied-whether with sounds, or through movements, or minute shifts of mood. The color of sky, the rush of waves-every aspect of the earthly sensuous could draw us into a relationship fed with curiosity and spiced with danger. Every sound was a voice, every scrape or blunder was a meeting-with Thunder, with Oak, with Dragonfly. And from all of these relationships our collective sensibilities were nourished.

The spell of the sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world” by David Abram (pp.IX)