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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
May 142019 Deadline for abstracts + the expression of interests of activists
May 172019 Notifications of acceptance of contributions
Dr. Špela Drnovsek Zorko
Dr. Sanja Petkovska
More info about the initiative: https://dialoguingposts.wordpress.com/