Radical imaginings: art practices of/for justice

“I find the grammar of justice maddening. It’s always “rendered,” “served,” or “done.” It always swoops down from on high — from God, from the state — like a bolt of lightning, a flaming sword come to separate the righteous from the wicked in Earth’s final hour. It is not, apparently, something we can give to one other, something we can make happen, something we can create together down here in the muck.”– Maggie Nelson, The Red Parts. Autobiography of a Trial, 2017.

When dealing with our colonial pasts, social inequalities, and legacies of oppression, the concept of transitional justice, as seen from the grammar of law, has historically been used to enable people to ‘overcome’ or ‘transition’ away from a given traumatic experience by means of a vast array of institutionalized practices. From prosecuting criminals, compiling, systematizing, and incorporating victims’ testimonials into one grand narrative — a strategy proper of modernity — to envisioning legal and social forms of ‘compensation’, what these understandings and practices have in common is that they take justice as a tool and a product of the state. In effect, however, by approaching justice in this way, these practices often overlook living realities, gradations, and fluctuations of violence, multifaceted experiences, and forms of subjectivity that cannot be expressed within their frameworks.

In its detachment from the living, breathing, multivocal communities and on-the-ground situations, the concept of justice (and transitional justice in particular) is often held hostage by state-apparatuses. A telling example is that of tribunals in South Africa where the stories of women and other marginalized groups remain voiceless/invisible. Many women, for example, were faced with the paradox of being asked to speak up and bring rapists to justice, which in turn placed them in greater danger of continued violence, not to mention the unwarranted state of vulnerability implied in the embodied act of reenacting traumatic experiences for the eyes of the ‘judicial arbiter’. As such, it is no surprise that many chose to remain silent. The kind of justice that these women were presented with only helped to create the illusion of dealing with violent histories; while making sure that production of injustice and a placebo pill for its ‘containment’ are both created and administered by the neoliberal state, ensuring the former’s legitimation through the apparent fulfilment of human rights. This is one case amongst many others where the inability of addressing nuances through an intersectional approach ends up translating into in-difference, separateness, and a conspicuous absence of plural voices – in this case, women’s voices.

Such “easy fix solutions” of moving “from – to” (Bell and O’Rourke 2007) through state-frameworks often go around structural inequalities and ongoing dependencies, they remain within the surfaces while ignoring the fact that what originated these forms of violence in the first place, remains active in the global present — to echo Denise Ferreira da Silva’s words. In most contexts, the processes of inequality are long-term and structural, and the legacies of coloniality are hardly contained within the binaries of retributive and restorative justice systems that stem from western epistemologies.

Centering on the idea that what is at stake in current neoliberal regimes is the dispossession of our ability to imagine, see, and desire differently, we are opening the call to papers, discussions, and artistic contributions that invite an alternative focus on ways of understanding and practicing justice and wound healing beyond the state structures (ways that already exist, albeit with limited visibility). As such, in this call, we are opening the field to thinking through/from/on art practices (among others) that aim to overcome justice as a process of going “from – to” as administered by the state and that go against the erasure of structural and colonial violence that this eurocentric western-centric binary entails. This could entail understandings of wound healing that surpass the tiresome formula for top-down effective repair, or even practices of what Eve K. Sedgwick (2002) has denominated as “reparative readings,” — readings of matters done “on the side of multiplicity, surprise, rich divergence, consolation, creativity, and love” (Love, 2010), wherein repair is not to be mistaken with compensating for the damage done.

Proposals (200-300 words) with attached résumés can be submitted until December 15th via redactie@tijdschriftkunstlicht.nl. Selected authors will be invited to write a 2,000 to 3,000-word paper (excluding notes). Authors who publish in Kunstlicht will receive three complimentary copies. Unfortunately, Kunstlicht is not able to provide an author’s honorarium. Two years following publication, papers will be submitted to the freely accessible online archive.

We also welcome image-based and experimental text contributions, as well as proposals for performances/installations/other works. The publication will be accompanied by a launch event in Amsterdam, coordinated by Emilie van Heydoorn, where selected works will be shown. We cannot, however, guarantee that all proposals will be given a stage and the editorial board reserves the right to decline contributions.

PhD Scholarship – Radioactive Ruins: Security in the age of the anthropocene

The Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) is announcing a three-year, fully funded PhD project on the nuclear origins of the Anthropocene. The project is expected to start 1 February 2019. The PhD project is part of a larger research program on “Radioactive Ruins: Security in the Age of the Anthropocene (RADIANT)”. The aim of the program is to explore the Anthropocene as the radioactive afterlife of the Cold War by asking how nuclear testing has shaped and continues to shape everyday life in the Marshall Islands, Kazakhstan and French Polynesia.
RADIANT is an international and interdisciplinary research program that brings together insights from the nuclear humanities, International Relations and Anthropocene Studies to study the everyday negotiations of radioactive contamination resulting from nuclear testing. The candidate is expected to contribute to this new research area by formulating an individual project around the case of nuclear testing in French Polynesia. France performed a total of 181 atmospheric and underground tests at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls between 1966 and 1995. During this time, nuclear testing was both the main source of economic security and a principle cause of environmental destruction, societal changes and health problems. The PhD project should explore how former nuclear testing has informed everyday ideas of security and survival in French Polynesia. The PhD project is built up around 6 months of anthropological field work in French Polynesia.
The applicant must have obtained a master’s degree in a relevant field and meet the general requirements for being accepted as a PhD student at a Danish university. We imagine that candidates with a background in anthropology, science and technology studies, International Relations, sociology or de-colonial studies would be particularly well suited for such a project, but this does not exclude candidates from other fields. The ideal candidate is fluent in both English and French, and has an independent, social and outgoing personality. Prior fieldwork experience from French Polynesia is an asset, but not a requirement. We emphasize research potential and academic qualifications as well as an ability to collaborate broadly and to communicate research findings competently in English.
The candidate will enrol in the PhD school at the Department of Anthropology at Aarhus University, but will spend most of her/his time at DIIS. The PhD Candidate will be jointly supervised by Senior Researcher Rens van Munster (DIIS) and Professor Nils Bubandt (Aarhus University). In addition to working on the project itself, the candidate will participate in PhD courses and international conferences, actively support research at DIIS, and gain teaching experience at the university. The project also includes funding for the candidate to spend three months at a prestigious research institution abroad.
General Information 
DIIS is a leading public institute for independent research and analysis of international affairs. We conduct and communicate multidisciplinary research on globalisation, security, development and foreign policy. Within these areas, we aim to be agenda setting in research, policy and public debate. DIIS offers a dynamic and innovative international research environment with a focus on professionalism, flexibility and mutual respect amongst all colleagues. The institute is situated in a modern building in Nordhavn, the new waterfront city district in Copenhagen, which is located approximately 3 km from the city centre and offers excellent public transportation options.
DIIS is a bilingual Danish-English workplace where we attach great importance to skills in written communication and dissemination of knowledge in both languages with equal weighting. It is possible to apply for the position without prior knowledge of Danish, but the successful candidate is expected to learn the language within the duration of the contract.
DIIS employs a relatively flat management structure with a high degree of staff participation through a free and open dialogue on the institute’s internal and external issues. It is important that all employees play a proactive and constructive role in the DIIS community. This means that we expect a high level of attendance and involvement in the workplace. At the same time, we show consideration for each other as colleagues and value different perspectives. Furthermore, we allow flexible working hours and seek to be a family friendly workplace.
We encourage all qualified applicants to apply for this position regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, or disabilities.
Contract and renumeration 
The PhD Scholarship is a temporary 3-year position, which is expected to start on 1 February 2019.
Remuneration and other job conditions follow the general agreement between AC (the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations) and the Danish Ministry of Finance, local collective agreements at DIIS as well as the 1 July 2013 Danish state protocol on PhD Candidates.
The application   
The application should be written in English and must be submitted to DIIS no later than 23 November 2018 at 12 noon CET. The application may only be submitted electronically via the link given below. Files uploaded must be either PDF (unlocked) or Word files and be of a maximum of 10 MB each.
The application must include the following items in order be considered:
  1. Cover letter (describing the candidate’s motivation for applying)
  2. A detailed Curriculum Vitae
  3. A brief preliminary project proposal of maximum 5 pages (excluding references), clearly indicating the following elements:
    • Field of study;
    • Research problem;
    • Theoretical framework;
    • Methodological approach
  4. Signed copies of degree certificates, including a list of all grades
  5. 2 reference letters with contact details
  6. A list of publications by the applicant (if any)

For further information about this project, please contact Rens van Munster, rmu@diis.dk.

For further information about the application process, employment, remuneration etc., please contact hr@diis.dk.

Possessive Individualism and Transatlantic Slavery in Early Modern Philosophy

NOG Masterclass by Katja Diefenbach, Thursday November 22, 2018, Utrecht University, 10:00-12:45

Possessive Individualism and Transatlantic Slavery in Early Modern Philosophy

One of Spinoza’s first biographers noted that the philosopher’s ink-and-charcoal drawings included a self-portrait in the pose and costume of Masaniello. The Neapolitan revolutionary was involved in one of the first mass insurrections of the Modern era. Recurrently, the existence of this portrait was used to illustrate Spinoza’s position in early modern philosophy as an »Anti-Hobbes« (Negri) who – under the influence of Machiavelli’s realism – was early to formulate a « mass standpoint in philosophy » (Balibar) with which he affirmed that legal authority « does not equal real force » (Montag) in that the stability of democracy rests on the potentialities of the masses which can never be subsumed under the name of the People, the Party or the State. Our Master Class will start by showing that at the foundation of this doctrine of the conflictual constitution of the Republic by and through the passions of the multitude, we find a concept of natural law which Spinoza took from Hobbes in order then, step by step, to turn it against the latter’s conception of ego-logical drives, possessive individualism and absolute sovereignty. What was thereby inscribed, deep in the origins of modern philosophy, is a fundamental disagreement about questions of appropriation, guilt and sovereignty, which also reflects the violent conflicts of early modern state foundation and colonial globalization. The seminar will revisit the pinnacle of Spinoza’s intellectual blockages, his silence on colonial slavery, while being a contemporary of Dutch colonialism, of the colonial engagement of the Amsterdam Jews in Northern Brazil and of the slave resistance shaking the region during the entire 17th century. By reading Spinoza’s texts with and against its author, we will put his concepts of conatus, affect, imitation and potentia multitudinis into the context of marronage and the fugitive communities of escaped slaves in 17th century Dutch Brazil.

Possible students’ presentations (10 to 20 min.) can engage with one of the texts from the reading list or with a selection of arguments from different texts. PhD and RMA students can receive 2 ECTS for attending the Masterclass and the Symposium ‘Caring for the World. Ethos and Partisanship’ (on November 23). And an extra 1 ECTS when writing a paper of 4.000-5.000 words. Please note if you wish to receive credit for the Masterclass with your registration at nog@uu.nl. You can register for the masterclass until November 12, 2018.

Katja Diefenbach is Professor of Aesthetic Theory at the Merz Akademie, Stuttgart. Her research interests are French philosophy and epistemology of the 20th century, with a special focus on the relations between Marxism and Poststructuralism. She recently published Spekulativer Materialismus. Spinoza in der postmarxistischen Philosophie (Turia + Kant, 2018). She is co-editor of the volume Encountering Althusser: Politics and Materialism in Contemporary Radical Thought (Bloomsbury, 2013), and author of numerous articles on political philosophy, aesthetics and cultural theory. She has taught at various universities, such as the Berlin University of the Arts, Humboldt University, and Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. She is an Editorial Board member of the publishing collective b_books, Berlin.

Click here for more information.

The Politics of Translation and Adaptation

Film and Literary Studies | LUCAS @ Leiden University invites you to: Two 20 Minute Lectures on African Theatre!
Thursday 6 December, 16:00-18:00 in Lipsius 148, Leiden

Dr. Paulina Aroch Fugellie
Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City

“Shakespeare, Nyerere and the Politics of Translation”
This lecture explores Mabepari wa Venisi (1969), a Swahili translation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice by Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first independent president. Shifting attention from the all too frequent reduction of African literature to its thematic interest, Aroch Fugellie claims that politics inhers in Nyerere’s adroit and complex handling of form. Nyerere’s “migratory cliches” produce meaning by engaging with the context of reception, with his own political writings, and with the Elizabethan play itself.

Dr. Sola Adeyemi
Goldsmiths University, London

“Negotiating the Landscape of Postcolony through a Spectral Frame”
This lecture explores the issue of “authenticity” in recuperating traditional performance culture among the Yoruba of West Africa, in particular the Egúngún – masquerades – masks, and using the narratives to translate and adapt Western literature for the African audience. Adeyemi locates the interrogation of the postcolony in the dramatic interpretation that questions the encounter between the African orature and Western literature


The DEADLINE for the ROSANNA Fund Scholarship applications is coming up: December the 1st, 2018!

The ROSANNA Fund supports talented and disadvantaged women students and researchers who intend to build their careers at Utrecht University. The fund offers women students and researchers financial support to help them achieve academic success. The ROSANNA Fund wishes to make higher education more accessible to women, so that no female researcher has to be excluded because of limited financial means.

Interested in applying for a scholarship? The ROSANNA Fund offers short-term scholarships between € 2.500 and € 5.000. The awarded amount depends on the candidate’s financial situation, academic record, and feasibility of the plans. A ROSANNA Fund scholarship can differ for each candidate, depending on the specific needs of the candidate in question. For more information, please visit our website or send an e-mail.


With best wishes, Prof. Rosi Braidotti and Prof. Anneke Smelik