This piece first appeared at Public Seminar.
Aimé Césaire called it: the so-called west is a decaying civilization. In both the United States and Europe, where institutions are receding, a base level of race-talk and racial solidarity is revealed as metastasizing beneath them. In such dim times, I turn to the writings of Paul Gilroy as offering an anti-racist vision that is transnational and cosmopolitan, but which draws on popular and vernacular forms of hybridity rather than elite ones.
In Darker than Blue: On the Moral Economies of Black Atlantic Culture (Harvard), Gilroy offers a series of essays on the culture of what he has famously called the Black Atlantic as an alternative to race-talk but which is also outside of the various alternative nationalisms that flourish as a response. It is not reducible to liberalism, and it also attempts to fend off incorporation into the culture industry. That might be an urgent project for this “age of rendition.” (87) One in which in Judith Butler’s terms that which is grievable, or in Donna Haraway’s that which is killable, are respectively diminishing and expanding categories.
This essay first appeared in Public Seminar.
Watching the American Presidential Primaries and now the "Brexit" vote in the UK on leaving the European Union, I am struck by how apt the political theory of Chantal Mouffe is to both situations. Both in the US and the UK, there was a contest as to whether liberal democracy would be liberal or "democratic." And if it is to be democratic, it was a contest as to what kind of demos — people — democracy is supposedly about. Or so it appeared to me, given that I was reading Chantal Mouffe at the time. Her two most recent books Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically (Verso, 2013) and The Democratic Paradox (Verso, 2005) provide a useful perspective, although perhaps a limited one.
It is the centenary of that most original of avant-gardes – Dada! To celebrate, McKenzie Wark offers a RetroDada Manifesto. It was written at the invitation of Anita Hugi and David Dufresne for an event at Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, 4-5 March 2016, where Dada was born. For more information on that event, see http://dada-data.net/en/ Below is the text in English, followed by French, German and Italian. Feel free to share, remix, etc.
RetroDada begins with disgust. Once again the world gets its war on. While some cities are attacked by bombers, others are strafed by art fairs. This time there’s no Switzerland of neutrality where refugees might cool their heels, as now the whole globe itself overheats. The insomnia of reason breeds monsters.