CfP “DECOLONIAL METHODS, PERIPHERAL SELVES: THE MIGRANT FIGURE BETWEEN (SOUTH)EAST EUROPEAN AND GLOBAL SOUTH ENTANGLEMENTS”

 

 

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

 

EXPLORATIVE WORKSHOP “DECOLONIAL METHODS, PERIPHERAL SELVES: THE MIGRANT FIGURE BETWEEN (SOUTH)EAST EUROPEAN AND GLOBAL SOUTH ENTANGLEMENTS”

 

10-11 July 2020

Venue: JUSTUS LIEBIG UNIVERSITY GIESSEN

 

Supported by: Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, Justus Liebig University of Giessen and Research Network in Queer Studies, Decolonial Feminisms and Cultural Transformation (QDFCT) and ‘Dialoguing Between the Posts’ international research network https://dialoguingposts.wordpress.com

 

 

If you would like to participate, please send the following documents to:

majstorovic.danijela@gmail.com and

polinamanolova@gmail.com

 

by 26th February 2020 deadline.

 

  • 500-word detailed paper abstract that includes indication of the thematic cluster to

which you would like to contribute to and your methodological approach

  • a short CV (max. 300 words)

 

Travel and board will be covered for selected participants

 

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS:

 

  1. Catherine Baker, University of Hull,
  2. Elissa Helms, CEU Budapest/Vienna
  3. Maple Razsa, Colby College
  4. Andrej Kurnik, University of Ljubljana
  5. Nidžara Ahmetašević, independent researcher Sarajevo
  6. Gorana Mlinarević, independent researcher Sarajevo
  7. Manuela Boatcă, University of Freiburg
  8. Anna Amelina, BTU Cottbus
  9. Boris Buden, Bauhaus Universität Weimar
  10. Mariam Popal, University of Bayeruth
  11. Noa Kerstin Ha, Technische Universität Dresden

 

Workshop organizers at the University of Giessen: Danijela Majstorović, Andreas Langenohl, Encarnacion Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Huub Van Baar, Philipp Lottholz, Polina Manolova, Zoran Vučkovac

 

Background of the workshop DECOLONIAL METHODS, PERIPHERAL SELVES: THE MIGRANT FIGURE BETWEEN (SOUTH)EAST EUROPEAN AND GLOBAL SOUTH ENTANGLEMENTS”

 

Introduction

 

Provincializing “postcolonial Western Europe” by looking at its present-day border regimes and the ways in which “borders’ outside” has become synonymous with periphery presents an opportunity for decolonial politics that unites the postcolonial and postsocialist worlds despite their “uneasy” solidarity (Roediger 2017). Peripheries are mobile, multiple, and ever shifting as are the borders that constantly “multiply labor” (Mezzadra and Nielsen 2013) and produce new subjectivities (selves) on the move from war, poverty and terror in a situation of having become “the Black of the world” (Mbembe 2017: 3).

More so than the available theory, the figure of the migrant, emerging as the subject of postcolonial and postsocialist studies but also the “new worker” and the “new transnational woman” or, more recently, “the new maid in the global care economy” (Lutz 2011; Gutiérrez Rodríguez 2010), is the one that connects the fields of postcolonial, decolonial, and cultural studies including feminist theory and Marxism beyond the interdisciplinary, which intersectional approaches to the study of marginality have shown more than once (Fathi 2017). If there were “no borders, there would be no migrations- only mobility,” says Nicholas de Genova adding that labor “supplies the technical key that opens up the practical linkage between the antithetical poles of bare life and sovereign (state) power (de Genova 2010: 50). In bringing the aforementioned scholars together, we seek to explore different epistemologies and methodologies on the study of migration, especially since the 2015 wave of Middle Eastern and North African refugees and migrants and their South(East) European counterparts on the route to the EU, while adding to critical migration scholarship beyond the core/periphery dichotomies.

 

In proposing decolonial methods in social science and humanities research (see Gutiérrez Rodríguez 2010; Tuhiwai Smith 1999), one is always inevitably invited to reflect on one’s politics. In other words, it is always a challenge to recognize how imperial codes and grammars have come to shape research on the so called “postcolonial” or “peripheral” or “postsocialist selves” even among those of us who have used feminist or participatory action approaches including the discourse-to-affect methodological shift. One of the first aims of the workshop is to discuss researcher’s positionality and epistemology while promoting a methodology that seeks to be decolonial in studying postcolonial or postsocialist or otherwise peripheralized selves, which the migrant figure subsumes beyond historical, geographical and cultural differences.

(South)east European and Global South Entanglements

Scholarship on the socialist but also postsocialist Yugoslavia, now termed Southeast Europe or the Western Balkans, and other East European countries as “the quasi or the other Europe” (Boatcă 2012), has been difficult to analyze in terms of decolonial trajectories due to different paths to modernity and different imperial legacies from the Ottoman to the Habsburg and then, later, after the 1990s wars, the neocolonial administration of the international community and local ethnocapitalists. Some parallels can be drawn though such as, for instance, the role of Tito’s Yugoslavia in the Non-aligned movement, neocolonial governance in postconflict Bosnia (Majstorović 2007) or race in the Yugoslav region “between the postsocialist, postconflict and postcolonial” (Baker 2018). Still in the process of supposedly producing research on the ex-Yugoslav conflicts, transition from socialism to capitalism, peripheralization, reconciliation, repatriarchalization, (forced) migration etc. the increasing competition, precarity, marketization of ideas, concepts, and academic selves led to the bizarre result that it was/is “profitable” to produce knowledge on former Yugoslavia as an “indigenous” (and also migrant) scholar already “equipped” with the core language and “cultural” competence (Laketa, King-Savić, Tošić 2019).

 

Social production of periphery

The EU border located in this periphery, given that there are European countries which are still not part of the EU, has shown hybrid and unequal power relations, asymmetrical obligations and overlapping regimes whose boundaries do not coincide (Kouvelakis 2018), detention centers and reception centers deep in the exterior of the EU. Currently the closest EU border is the one in the northwestern BiH, in the area of Krajina, where some 5-6 reception centers contain around 7000-10000 of refugees since 2018, while since 2015, people of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been massively leaving for West European countries through different labor regulations in hundreds of thousands in the third largest migration wave since WWII. What connects them are poverty, uncertainty, peripherality, crisis and war (even though war in Bosnia ended in 1995, many will still say there’s a war going on) and what differentiates them is above all race. Not all will be able to go just as not all will be able to stay in Bosnia, but this “backroom of Europe” is de facto the closest border to the EU and potentially a place on the verge of security and humanitarian catastrophe.

While discussing decolonial methods in studying “postcolonial”, “postsocialist”, “postconflict” and other peripheral selves, the figure of the migrant, both as a bodily locale, embodied border and a political subject but also as an encounter, such as an encounter with or between migrants, struggles, experiences and histories of people from seemingly disconnected parts of the world come into horizon. It has never been more difficult to demarcate how political and religious persecution may interact with economic deprivation rendering the difference between forced migration and economic migration obsolete (see Castles 2006; Gutiérrez Rodríguez 2018). To understand the interplay between the social, the economic and the political, the new Western Balkans frontier becomes a site for studying, narrating and understanding race, class, gender and labor after 2015 where different genealogies of conflict, violent regimes and dubious international politics can be juxtaposed, compared and contrasted laying the groundwork for new cosmopolitanisms and new solidarities.

 

To answer the question of “what is going on”, it is necessary to consolidate and rework the present methodological tools offered by Marxism, decolonial and postcolonial, and feminist theory because different territorial and political demarcation processes of nation-state borders but also of social, cultural and temporal demarcations are taking place. “If yesterday’s drama of the subject was exploitation by capital,” says Mbembe, “the tragedy of the multitude today is that they are unable to be exploited at all. They are abandoned subjects, relegated to the role of a ‘superfluous humanity (Mbembe 2017: 3).’ Issues of securitization and humanitarianization (Koddenbrock 2013; Fassin 2009, 2010; Langenohl 2019; Mlinarević and Ahmetašević 2019), gender (Majstorović 2009; Gutiérrez Rodríguez 2010) and labor (Mezzadra and Nielson 2013; de Genova et al. 2015), which are always racially embedded, from the study of how migration “is done” (Amelina 2017) producing complex entanglements in the periphery. The simultaneously postcolonial and postsocialist and often abjected “peripheral selves” on the margin of Europe, despite dealing with different histories, contested ethnic/religious capitalism, patriarchal residues etc., are now in “this together” and together should carve out a space for a dynamic emancipatory politics, preferably of integration, that will seek to decolonize this space as a new “European heart of darkness” by creating more social justice, less misery, and better lives for all. Decolonial methodologies may tell us what “this” in being “in it together” means.

 

The workshop is envisaged to have 5 clusters:

  1. Theoretical, epistemological and methodological contact zones between post-/decolonial, post-socialist, and peripheralist perspectives
  2. Decolonial methods for studying migration from the discursive to the affective: oral histories, biographies and in-depth interviews
  3. Methodological aspects of migration and labor: Marxist, decolonial and feminist trajectories
  4. Researching migration/asylum nexus and the racialization logic of the EU border regimes
  5. What can social science tell us about migration, securitization and humanitarianization?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dialoguing between the posts 2.0 workshop: (im)possible dialogue between the progressive forces of the ‘posts’ – follow up

Dear Dialoguers,

We would like to thank to all the participants for making the effort to come to Belgrade and take part in Dialoguing 2.0 workshop. It has been a really amazing experience for us, and we hope also it was for all of the participants. Excuse us if anything was going wrong during the workshop – both of us were very tired, but gave our best to make you feel welcomed to Belgrade and Faculty of Political Sciences.

Big thanks to professor Jelena Đorđević since she got approved the venue by FPN for this workshop. The institutions that provided financial and other means for us to manage this event are listed in program in the end of the document and we really appreciate them being kind and professional with us.

Pictures from the event are stored here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/HzV4XKcmjKctYLC38. Please feel free to add all those you have to this folder, since the settings were made for that to be possible. Add also even the photos of your experience during the stay in Belgrade, even if not related to the workshop itself – it would provide us a valuable insight into the experience you have had here.

What we did not highlighted enough is a need for this network to start to get some shape of organization, continuity & stability. One of the current ideas is to make a mailing list of all those interested to make the efforts related to this and then see who will come up with the next idea. The biggest problem is financial resources, but it is not impossible to handle – as we have seen in case of this event.

The program of the workshop could be downloaded at the bottom of this post.

Also if anyone is interested, Sanja’s review of a book of professor Phil Cohen has been published on the website Marx and Philosophy Review of Books, so check it out here: https://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviews/17028_archive-that-comrade-left-legacies-and-the-counter-culture-of-remembrance-by-phil-cohen-reviewed-by-sanja-petkovska/?fbclid=IwAR0sE60zIq316NY_9eWuOSsrBwMte6gbMHZ4f3WetbQU0OKl3I6LY320GM4.

Finally, Sanja is having some ideas for preparation of a joint volume out of the contributions from this workshop. During the next few days several publishers Sanja is having some contacts with will be contacted to see if they would possible could be interested in publishing and supporting that project.  Everyone interested to take part in this, to be co-editor of the book or to prepare a chapter based on the presentation from the conference, get in touch with Sanja as soon possible (get in touch with her via personal e-mal obtainable via: dialoguingposts2@gmail.com)

We are looking forward to preserve this valuable initiative and contacts with all of you in forms and ways possible to last. Thank you once more for your efforts and valuable contributions.

Best wishes,

Špela & Sanja

DIALOGUING POSTS 2.0 PROGRAMME

Dialoguing ‘Between the Posts’ Vol. 2: agenda and useful info

Dear Dialoguers,

We would like to announce that our program for the workshop Dialoguing between the posts 2.0: (im)possible dialogue between the progressive forces of the ‘posts’ is prepared and distributed to all the participants yesterday. As organizing committee we have decided to make working part of the workshop closed for anyone else but registered participants. In case you would like to attend the workshop as a non-presenting participant, please contact us vie e-mail on dialoguingposts2@gmail.com as soon possible, since we can make only a limited number of places available.

A lecture that will be given by Professor Madina Tlostanova ‘The Post-Socialist Condition and the Decolonial Option’ will be a public event and advertised on as much channels as possible. The lecture is scheduled for 18.15 on 15 June in Hall 1 at the Faculty of Political Sciences – all welcome!

We are looking forward to see you participating in these promising and exciting debates, or to see you at least attending the public lecture of a prominent scholar in the field, Professor Madina Tlostanova.

On behalf of the organizing committee,

Sanja Petkovska

Špela Drnovšek Zorko

Deadline for Call for Contributions Extended to Friday, May 17th

Dear all,

if you haven’t already, this is a gentle reminder to get your proposals in soon for the Dialoguing between the posts 2.0 workshop: (im)possible dialogue between the progressive forces of the ‘posts’ at the University of Belgrade on 15th June. We are extending the deadline for submissions until Friday 17 May and will aim to send out notifications on or very shortly after 20 May.
Please note that as well as proposals from activists/organisations, we welcome submissions in the form of standard academic papers (15 minutes + 5 minutes for discussion). You are also welcome to propose a presentation in a less traditional format, provided it addresses the themes of the workshop and does not exceed 20 minutes.
If you would like to participate in the workshop and need a visa to enter Serbia, please get in touch with us as soon as possible.
We look forward to receiving your contributions!

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS Dialoguing between the posts 2.0 workshop: (im)possible dialogue between the progressive forces of the ‘posts’, June 15th 2019 Belgrade (Faculty of Political Sciences)

Over the course of the 21st century, left-wing politics has in many places lost not only political power but also its reputation. Instead of becoming a powerful tool of understanding how individuals are positioned in social, economic, political and cultural structures under global capitalism, leftist approaches based on ideas of justice, equality, and participation in the distribution of material wealth, or arguments that point to the uneven development of world system economies, seem to lack public legitimacy. While the academy is frequently accused of elitism, groups organizing and mobilizing under the banner of left-wing politics often get stuck in closed circles, exhausting themselves and losing the power to act effectively. Problems imposed by contemporary capitalism are, on the other hand, more serious and devastating than ever, and the structural dynamics of capitalism seem immune to making any visible connections between how different individuals are oppressed and constrained. At the same time, scholars and activists have turned to the concept of decolonization as a means of resisting the various forms of coloniality that maintain systems of oppression, particularly in the peripheries of global capitalism. Can decoloniality reanimate a left-wing politics that would connect the experiences of these peripheries in strategies of resistance?

By building on the past experiences, discussions, and network-building that emerged from the workshop “Dialoguing ‘between the posts’: post-socialist and post-/decolonial perspectives on domination, hierarchy and resistance in South-Eastern Europe” held in Belgrade in 2017, as well as follow-on activities including a conference in Patna, India, and a recent special issue of dVersia, we are organizing a workshop supported by the Centre for Cultural Studies of the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Belgrade and Connecting Cultures at the University of Warwick. Our goal is on the one hand to tackle some of the main problems of contemporary progressive left-wing politics, particularly in the postsocialist region, through the lens of decolonial theory and practice. On the other hand, we seek to bring this approach into dialogue with the political and activist efforts of those organizations and individuals that address similar issues in their own practice.

We seek two kinds of contributions to the workshop programme.

From members of leftist groups, political organizations and progressive political or art activists with or without an academic background coming from post-Yugoslav region we are seeking contributions for a panel that bridges the gap between academia and activist engagement. Please send us a brief note about the experiences of the organization, group, or project you would like to represent, the kinds of issues it addresses, and how you see these in connection with (some of) the questions and concerns raised below.

From researchers, PhD students, artists and other interested participants with academic background we are seeking contributions in the form of short presentations, papers, or mini performances that address some of the following questions and issues:

  • Could decolonization unite the resistance efforts of the progressive world(s)?

The concept of decolonization that first emerged in anti-colonial struggles has more recently been used to address persistent modes of subjugation, including those of hegemonic modernity, racisms and border regimes, Eurocentric theory, and the struggles of indigenous people. It has also been used to address the systemic issues facing the post-socialist world. Decolonizing ways of thinking and living, however, often struggles to produce the imaginative emancipatory politics that it aims for. How might we successfully tackle what Walter D. Mignolo and Madina Tlostanova called a ‘zero point position’, the position of unquestionable dominance of Western culture? How can we do so without ignoring the different historical experiences and positions of various world peripheries, including the persistence of a global ‘colourline’? And can we formulate a decolonial stance that could provide an effective platform for political work in the post-Yugoslav and broader postsocialist region?

  • How do we retain class in the ‘cultural turn’ while taking local experiences and histories seriously?

Despite the so-called ‘cultural turn’ in contemporary theory, materialist approaches to class structure and class formation still play a crucial role in diagnosing the spatial and structural basis of geographical and cultural inequalities. Globalization has provoked local responses to thinking about subjectivity in the form of lived experience, but even after all the ‘posts’ of the 20th century it remains difficult to imagine a real struggle for (post)human emancipation. What role do forgotten or hidden histories play in imagining a radical future? How do we draw on suppressed or ignored narratives of previous eras to formulate a local response to capitalist globalization while remaining in dialogue with other world peripheries?

  • Is it possible to have a non-populist leftist politics?

While individual existence under contemporary capitalism is becoming less and less bearable, our consent is at the same time successfully fabricated. What are the tensions between class and ‘the people’, as Ellen Meiksins Wood has articulated in her work? And between parliamentary democracy and socialist – or decolonial – principles? We invite reflections on the (im)possibility of a popular but non-populist politics, rooted in the experiences of the postsocialist region but drawing on similar struggles across the ‘posts’.

The event will involve a one-day workshop with the participation of Professor Phil Cohen (UCL) and Professor Jelena Đorđević (Belgrade) as well as Professor Madina Tlostanova (Linköping).

Proposal submission: please send us an abstract of 250-500 words for individual presentations or activist panel proposals, along with a short biography (100-150 words) before May 15th 2019 on dialoguingposts2@gmail.com.

Please state in your proposal if you would like to be considered for financial support in the form of reimbursement of whole or partial travel expenses (a limited number of grants is available for participants without external/institutional support). Please also state if you would be interested in chairing some of the sessions and/or moderating some of the discussions.

Official language of the workshop is English. A joint volume based on the contributions is planned.

Timeline:

May 142019   Deadline for abstracts + the expression of interests of activists

May 172019   Notifications of acceptance of contributions

Organizing committee:

Dr. Špela Drnovsek Zorko

Dr. Sanja Petkovska

More info about the initiative: https://dialoguingposts.wordpress.com/

Dialoguing ‘Between the Posts’ Vol. 2

Jon Brett

Illustration: Jon Brett, World map in the form of an FFA (Fundus Fluorscein Angiography) of the retina, Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0), https://wellcomecollection.org/works/baxpf9u2#licenseInformation

 

Dear Dialoguers,

 

We would like to inform you all that the second volume of Dialoguing ‘Between the Posts’ is going certainly to happen on June 15th at Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Belgrade in the form of an interactive workshop, with the generous help and support of the Centre for Cultural Studies and Connecting Cultures at the University of Warwick.

Besides professor Jelena Đorđević, who introduced cultural studies to the University of Belgrade, we are happy to announce that professor Madina Tlostanova (Linköping) and professor Phil Cohen (UCL) will be joining us for these important discussions. Our goal for this second workshop is to strengthen the infrastructural and organizational capacities of this network for academics as well as activists, while our specific focus for this workshop will be on progressive left politics and decolonization efforts.

More info about the confirmed speakers:

Jelena Đorđević: http://www.fpn.bg.ac.rs/profil/jelena-djordjevic

Madina Tlostanova: https://liu.se/en/employee/madtl83

https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=foPmOhsAAAAJ&hl=en

Phil Cohen: https://philcohenworks.com/

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/institute-of-advanced-studies/people/professor-phil-cohen

We are working on preparing this event and soon will send more info out, so stay tuned or contact us on dialoguingposts2@gmail.com.

 

Sanja Petkovska

www.linkedin.com/in/dr-sanja-petkovska-922045145

Špela Drnovsek Zorko

https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/sociology/staff/zorkosd/

 

Special Issue: Decolonial Theory and Practice in Southeast Europe

Dear all,

Some time has passed since the “Dialoguing posts” workshop in Belgrade, but the idea of bringing into dialogue post-/decolonial and postsocialist perspectives in Southeast Europe and beyond seems as salient as ever.

Among a number of initiatives and projects that have emerged from the 2017 workshop, we are glad to announce our  special issue in the Bulgaria-based journal dVERSIA.

Under the title “Decolonial Theory and Practice in Southeast Europe”,
we present papers from the workshop together with other works and aim to chart new pathways towards decolonial thought and action in the region.

Download the Special Issue.

Best wishes,

Katarina, Polina and Philipp

 

Dear friends, colleagues, and followers,

Some time has passed since the “Dialoguing posts” workshop in Belgrade, but the idea of bringing into dialogue post-/decolonial and postsocialist perspectives in Southeast Europe and beyond seems as salient as ever.

Among a number of initiatives and projects that have emerged from the 2017 workshop, we are glad to announce the upcoming publication of a special issue in the Bulgaria-based journal dVERSIA.

Under the title “From dialogue to practice: Pathways towards decoloniality in Southeast Europe”, we present papers from the workshop together with other works and aim to chart new pathways towards decolonial thought and action in the region.

Watch this space for the publication on 28th March and feel free to share widely via our Facebook Page!

Best wishes,

Katarina, Polina and Philipp

The Dialogue continues

Dear all,

We are happy to announce that the Dialoguing between the Posts is taken further in the Seminar Series on Dialoguing between the Posts in the Centre for Development Practice and Research, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India, organised by Mithilesh Kumar and colleagues.

Find out more about the initiative and the first event taking place on Feb 5, 2018 here!

 

Workshop Report: Dialoguing ‘between the posts’, developing critiques of coloniality, modernity and neoliberal capitalism in (and beyond) South-Eastern Europe

What are the synergies and frictions between post-/decolonial theory and Marxist, Foucauldian and other forms of critique of societal dynamics in the post-Socialist world? How can processes of domination, transition and resistance in this context be inquired more effectively and understood against a background of global capital and power structures? What are new entry points to organize societal activism and resistance against neoliberal restructuring and the internalization of essentialist and hierarchizing ways of thinking, acting and knowing? These and other questions were discussed at the workshop titled ‘Dialoguing ‘Between the Posts’ Post-socialist and post-/decolonial perspectives on domination, hierarchy and resistance in South-Eastern Europe’ in Belgrade from 22 to 23 September 2017. The event served as a useful platform to establish a shared picture of the challenges and possibilities that lie ahead if Chari and Verdery’s (2009) idea of ‘thinking between the posts’ is to be realized in the future.

Over two days a total of 37 participants presented papers, discussed and chaired panels, and shared their experiences and viewpoints from activist engagements. The workshop attracted the interest of many guests who participated with comments and questions and followed the online livestreaming from different parts of the world. This served not only to assemble a diverse audience in terms of geographical, professional and otherwise backgrounds but also to forge conversations with people involved in or shedding light on activist projects in different parts of Eastern Europe and specifically in the workshop site Belgrade. Correspondingly, contributors were asked to develop ways to theorise and analyse domination and hierarchy and to discuss new approaches – methodological, practical and in the realm of political and social activism – to inspire resistance. The workshop thus generated useful entry points and basic issues that a synthesis between post-/decolonial and post-Socialist approaches to social critique and action should take into account.

Initiating the first panel, Tsvetelina Hristova and Mithilesh Kumar tackled the question of how the two perspectives on post-socialism and post-colonialism can be put into a productive dialogue that recognises historical and material commonalities but at the same time does not forego the particularities of specific contexts. Other presenters reflected on the benefits that such search for conjunctures can bring for critiquing the production of global peripheries (Ognien Kojanić), political subjectivities, and marginalization of approaches to knowledge production that seek to challenge Western-centric conceptions of nation, civil society and citizenship (Sanja Petkovska, Bojan Baća). This line of argument was further extended in Faiz Sheikh’s analysis of nation building in socialist states in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The three contributors of the keynote session further deepened this insight by tracing the global flows and tributaries of coloniality in the post-Socialist world. The first panelist, Marina Gržinić (Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts), explored transformations in South-Eastern Europe since the 1990s at the intersection between postcolonial concepts, such as hybridity, and decolonial ones such as ‘colonial difference’. While sympathetic to the decolonial project, Gržinić also noted its occasional hostility to Marxist theorising, to which postcolonial theory has historically been more welcoming. Her suggestion was to understand the European Union as premised on a colonial racial divide within the territory of Europe itself.

Dušan Bjelić (University of Southern Maine) added further layers of historical retrospective and conceptual complexity in his exploration of the nexus of Intoxication, Modernity, and Colonialism (also the title of his most recent book). Conceiving of Freud’s early experimentations with cocaine as central to his discovery of the unconscious, Bjelić sought to read German chemistry, the applied scientific project transforming coca leaves into cocaine, as a form of molecular colonialism. A series of interesting concepts were proposed as part of the investigation, including the above mentioned molecular colonisation, infrastructural unconscious, along with a brief exploration of the function of the Balkans as a referent in Freudian psychoanalysis. Benjamin’s open-ended experimentations with intoxication (hashish) were also proposed as an alternative to Freud’s.

Lastly, Ovidiu Tichindeleanu’s talk started by tracing his own intellectual biography from world-systems analysis to decoloniality. On this basis, he analysed connections between the origins of Modernity – understood in the currently dominant, Eurocentric way – along the North Atlantic (in 1492) and Eastern European history during the same period. Exploring the different populations and their forms of social organization and existence, he indicated how alternatives to the colonial project of Modernity existed back then (as in other epochs). These can be recovered in the attempts to pursue radical, decolonial projects, he argued; and linking these respective endeavours promises the highest potential for decolonization. Tichindeleanu drew on Abdul Abdel-Malik’s concept of ‘emergence of specificity’ as a useful corrective to mainstream Eurocentric Marxism and to other counter-productive forms universalism. Another useful entry point for a post-colonial/post-Socialist synthesis was provided by Tichindeleanu’s analysis of international campaigns for ‘peace’ under state socialism in Romania, whose significance should be acknowledged not in terms of their instrumentalisation for domestic elite or Soviet geopolitical agendas, but in terms of the higher meaning and importance conferred to peace by the very people who engaged and truly believed in the peace campaigns.

 

The two main obstacles in the conceptualization and practical endeavours towards radical decolonial projects identified in the debate were nation/nationalism and race. Besides the strong presence of national(ist) thinking and rhetoric and the central role of ‘nation’ for people’s understanding of social modernity, it was emphasized that many anti-imperial readings that are inspired by post- or anti-colonial discourse are are often hijacked by the radical right in the (South) East European context. Especially panel three on the second day preoccupied itself with the question as to whether a post- and de-colonial critique and emancipation beyond such nationalistic utilisations are possible in the region. Zhivka Valiavicharska’s presentation on the unrecognized and little-explored rhetoric of socialist countries in support of anti-colonial liberatory movements in Africa and the Global South indicated the proximity of Eastern Europe to a more emancipatory project in historical perspective. Similarly, Andrew Hodges’ ethnographic exploration of Croatian football subculture and its political articulation and usage of far-right symbolism indicated the potential of an ‘alternative patriotic register’ for challenging or even redefining political hegemonies. Ondřej Slačálek’s presentation of the uses and abuses of postcolonialism in the Czech and Polish contexts shed further light on how much there is to be lost when post-colonial theory travels across time and space while the scope for more radical, decolonial thinking remains limited.

The issue of race and racialisation was mentioned as an important point for further research in the region. Dušan Bjelić emphasized how the Balkans are mapped and territorialized through international processes of racialization, strengthened by the EU border regimes and their historical precursors. A similar point was raised in Valiavlicharska’s presentation about the Bulgarian socialist project, which situated itself in solidarity with anti-colonial struggles through political identifications of the Bulgarian people with the colonized (in language such as ‘cheren narod’—’dark/darkened people’), but also exhibited disturbing political uses of these discourses within ethnonationalist frameworks during the post-Stalinist period. This conversation presented great potential for further exploration, especially in light of recent exchanges on race and the colour line in IR and social sciences more generally, as well as widespread depictions of a supposedly inherent East European racism, which lack any contextualization in wider trajectories of Western-centric racial othering and Orientalism.

 

In close connection with these issues, two panels and further individual contributions analyzed the possibility of better understanding power, hierarchy and resistance through the study of visual, discursive and architectural and arts expressions of identity, belonging, memory and order. Marianna Szczygielska presented the case of a supposedly homosexual elephant in a Polish zoo, whose habits sparked constant commentary and attempts to forge a heteronormative self-understanding for the host community and its moral consensus. Sofia Kahlo showed how contemporary East European artists respond to the orientalizing gazes directed at them and their own strategies for inclusion in the global arts economy.

Panel four was focused on the politics of space and symbols in urban areas across South-Eastern Europe. The presenters approached in different ways the question as to how the memory of Socialism, struggles for dominance over identity-making and -shaping, and the presence of foreign actors – and the imperial, colonial, but also historical relationalities they present – are materialising in post-Socialist cities and beyond. Alsena Kokalari’s presentation showcased how Socialist Albania’s role as a satellite state – and the corresponding ‘bunker mentality’ and the ambiguous stance towards the European integration project – is addressed in exhibitions in the Albanian national history museum and in an impressive arts project ‘Bunkart’, both of which also cause controversy and protest, however, from people desiring less criticism and reflection on this legacy. This state-sanctioned attempt to deal with Socialist memory stood in contrast to Cengiz Haksöz’ analysis of attempts of minority Turkish populations in southern Bulgaria to claim a stake in the cityscapes of their hometowns (by negotiating the place for a new mosque) and their ways of showing presence but also to assimilate and become invisible in public space – practices necessary given their marginalization continuing since the Socialist state’s crackdown on non-Bulgarian minority populations in the 1980s. The structural and symbolic violence experienced by minorities was contrasted to the radical actions analyzed in Faith Joell Bailey’s presentations of the anti-colonial underpinnings of the Kosovar Vetëvendosje! (self-determination) movement.

 

While many of the panels were implicitly positioned between an analytical consideration of hierarchies and a political orientation towards working against them, the event explicitly sought to forge conversations and cooperation’ between academia, practice and activism. Panel Five engaged with the possibilities and necessities of connecting academic critique and political practice, most starkly in Nadia Chushak’s presentation on the utilization of nationalist discourse by LGBTQI+ activists, who forge a homonationalist narrative to bolster their societal legitimacy and thus embrace an unholy alliance similar to the instrumentalization of pride parades as ground for self-promotion by the military in Sweden. Leandra Bias’ presentation examined the less controversial but still ambiguous generational ‘turn to the local’ among Serbian feminists, which added further nuance to the argument made by Danijela Majstorović earlier, that socialist and post-socialist feminism can be rethought as sites of emancipatory politics but for doing so also need to re-assess past and present political allegiances and modes of existence.

These identifications and contextualizations of the dilemmas and ambiguities of social movements and emancipatory projects were further explored in conversations among social activists from South Eastern Europe and beyond. In the final slot of the first day, the LeftEast collective organized a roundtable on ‘dominant and counter discourses’ which also explored the idea of using insights from decolonial theory and practice in activist projects in the region. Besides facilitators from LeftEast, the line-up included representatives from organizations from Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Belgrade, all of whom presented their respective approaches and experiences in a variety of fields. Among the many insights into very similar problems faced by the initiatives, which were discussed in more detail and with attention to strategic, material and practical concerns on an event on ‘Politics of the Left beyond Resistance’ in Skopje in the following days, two issues appear of particular value for further exploration. First, the fact that, especially in light of deepening neoliberalization in the region, life in urban areas becomes increasingly competitive and precarious, a re-engagement with rural populations and life-worlds becomes more and more important, if not indispensable if a sizeable cohort is to be mobilized for radical emancipatory projects. The potential of such an engagement has been demonstrated by the Telciu Summer School organized by the Centre for the Study of Modernity and the Rural World. Second, and relatedly, for such a (re-) engagement to happen, question of nationalist and racial hostility need to be tackled head-on. Here, recovering legacies of conviviality and inter-ethnic/cultural coexistence, despite their ambiguous position towards difference, appears as a possible way forward. A final, not unimportant issue was encountered towards the end of this ‘activist’ roundtable and concerned the understanding of the content and potential of decolonial theory: Not all panellists, nor the audience were spontaneously able to invoke any established or learned understanding of this body of knowledge. This was also reflected in the event’s paper presentations, which were mostly drawing on theoretical concepts from post-colonial studies but less so on decolonial theory and practice, which is not least due to the multifaceted and interwoven nature of these bodies of knowledge.

Activist Disucssion (1)

What is to be done? Activists discuss common challenges and new potentials for mobilization for the Left in South-East Europe (Photo: Katarina Kušić)

The discussions around possibilities to forge dialogue between activism, practice and scholarship point to a final aspect regarding the necessity to tackle concrete materializations of neoliberal global capital through concrete action, and to inquire their embodied and lived effects through on-site engagement. With the event happening with a view on the new Belgrade Waterfront – a heavily contested project that re-develops the Danube shore in the heart of Belgrade, the politics of urban space and restructuring under neoliberal capitalism, were all topics discussed in the final roundtable dedicated to ‘new theories, methods and perspectives to study power, hierarchy and resistance’ in the region.

The Belgrade Waterfront project was discussed through reflections from activist and historical perspectives. Ana Vilenica presented her critical analysis of recent protests against Belgrade Waterfront and her ongoing research on housing policies in Belgrade and in London. She highlight the urgency and difficulty of (re)politicizing fundamental issues like housing prices and affordability of life in a world where gentrification and rural depopulation are taken for granted. Miloš Jovanović contextualized the demolitions that made way for the new Belgrade Waterfront within a longer historical narrative. By recollecting the first demolition of Savamala – a quarter of shacks that housed escapees from large feudal estates – in the 19th century, he showcased the continuity with which global power structures have re-shaped Belgrade through ideas of modernization and Europeanization. Conceiving of this neighborhood as an ‘archive of violence’, Miloš drew on Tlostanova’s concept of the ‘Janus-faced empire’ to capture the position of the Balkans as always being a place both ‘within’ and ‘without’. Therefore, he argued, the colonial condition in urban Belgrade is not only shaped through East-West relations, but through local actors’ attempts at ‘internal social transformation and the expansion of local accumulation through dispossession’, a trajectory once again painfully demonstrated in the Belgrade Waterfront development.

Following the official closing of the workshop, the participants seized the unique opportunity to learn about this project and the controversies surrounding it in walking down the already finished promenade and visiting an information centre with a housed in Geo Zavod in close proximity to the FMK building. This spontaneous first-hand exploration of this controversy around urban space in Belgrade was made all the more insightful by Miloš Jovanović’ explanations about current discussions on and possible consequences of the Waterfront project (e.g. the possibility that less concrete fortified riverside areas get flooded in case of the spring high water). It indicated the possibility, and perhaps necessity, to engage with the context in which the event takes place, which the participants did during a joint dinner on day one and, in a smaller group, in a local restaurant where Serbian and many other Balkan folk and partisan songs were sung along to the sounds of the traditional music band.

Savamala

The oblivion of ‘urban renewal’: How can the dispossession and destruction of livelihoods wrought by projects like Belgrade Waterfront be effectively (re-) politicized? (Source: Mile Jovic, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

During the final roundtable session, Nikolay Karkov reflected more broadly on what can be gained from a dialogue ‘between the posts’. He pointed to the limitations of an anti-capitalist Marxist perspectives in grasping the complexities of social struggle in the present, especially given their entanglements and ambiguities in relation to identitarian political projects in the past. He argued that adding a third concept to the diad of capitalism and modernity, namely, coloniality, helps us able to look ‘from the left of the left’, or to rethink temporality, to shift our gaze and look for alternatives and to rethink practices of resistance. Karkov warned against possible difficulties in the reconciliation of these different bodies of knowledge but also emphasised the urgency of this debate as a precondition for the formation of global resistance against colonial-capitalist domination.

In a final wrap-up session, feedback and impressions from the event were gathered and plans made to extend this dialogue both within and beyond the region. Potential members for a fundraising and organizing team for a new volume of the event are currently being sought. The extension of the dialogue ‘between the posts’ to a more global level, e.g. with a new event being held in India or elsewhere in the Global South, presents an intriguing perspective, but would also limit accessibility for (South-) East European participants. As far as publications are concerned, possibilities are being explored, but participants generally agreed that pursuing collective projects in peer-reviewed journals or with publishers with considerable paywalls is unlikely to serve as a useful channel for disseminating arguments made during the event. Finally, there is also a plan to subject the idea of ‘dialoguing between the posts’ to consistent discussion and analysis on the initiative’s website.

The organizers thank all supporting organizations, the BISA Colonial/Postcolonial/Decolonial and South-East Europe Working Groups and the Max Planck Research Group ‘Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities’ at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen (Germany). Special thanks go to the Centre for Comparative Conflict Studies at the Faculty of Media and Communications (FMK) for providing a comfortable space and generous catering during the event. If you have any queries or like to join this initiative please email us at dialoguingposts@gmail.com and follow us on Facebook.

Written by the organizing team
Nikolay Karkov
Katarina Kušić
Philipp Lottholz
Polina Manolova