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The Coming South: Struggles, Epistemologies, Solidarity was a three-day online symposium on 17, 18 and 19 December 2020. It responds to the deepening divides that sustain the polarisation and hierarchy justifying the Global North - Global South world order. Video documentation of all lectures and screenings is available on this page. 

The Coming South

This world order is made manifest not just in global geopolitics but also in the micro-environments of urban spaces, defining formal and informal relationships that range from those between nation states to those between local communities. Generations of political militants, intellectuals and activists have engaged with these issues - issues that are only exacerbated today, during the pandemic, and in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008 which has demonstrated and worsened a number of other crises as the status quo of globalisation.

Questions are asked about the value of "western epistemologies" to the struggles of the subaltern, but what actually counts as a western epistemology, and what does this adjective - "western" - perhaps hide from view? What and who is "the South" today? Is there just one, or are there in fact a number of Souths that organise the hierarchy of the global division of labour and the struggles that are tied to it? And finally, what is solidarity in this context - is it a mere declaration of intent, or can it be sustained as a long-term sharing of transformative social objectives that resist the current state of affairs? The conference brings together a range of experiences and reflections to address these questions.

Video documentation

Struggles: Frameworks for Theory & Practice
Thursday 17 December 2020

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Art Against Imperialism, Yesterday and Today
by Tings Chak

From Havana to Jakarta, this presentation looks at how art and culture have been central to the struggles for national liberation. As the Third World project came into being, cultural organisations such as Cuba’s OSPAAAL and Indonesia’s Lekra emerged to bring expressions to the people’s aspirations. They sought to build an anti-imperialist and anti-colonial culture that was at the same time internationalist. Sharing experiences from the Anti-Imperialist Poster Exhibitions – co-curated by the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research during times of CoronaShock – we find threads of history in the struggles of the present that help guide us into the future.

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The End of Radicalism: African Socialism and the Struggle for Anti-Imperialist Sovereignty
by Kevin Ochieng Okoth

With this paper Kevin Ochieng Okoth examines how African socialism descended into a re-articulation of a subservient capitalism. Drawing on the histories of left opposition to its vision of a harmonious social equilibrium based on African traditions, and its focus on export-oriented national development, it examines the role that ‘the end of radicalism’ played in enabling the transition to the neo-colonial state. The paper concludes by interrogating the ways in which an African Marxist tradition can help us better understand the ‘states without nations’ that emerged after independence, and their implications for our theorisation of sovereignty in the context of imperialism today.

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Reparation Architecture
by Paulo Tavares

In this talk I want to explore recent architectural and curatorial projects to speculate on the potential concept of “reparation architecture.” Architecture that seeks to redress structural injustices is generally labelled “social architecture.” Arguably the invention of this concept of the social, within which architectural knowledge has been instrumental, is the product of modern-colonial frameworks defined along class-based and racialized categories that objectify subalternized communities as sites of study and intervention – the “underdeveloped,” the “backward,” the “uncivilized,” the “primitive.” Dwelling on the concept of reparation may open new visions for spatial practices outside the managerial, disciplinary, positivist frame that still hunts architecture, a field of knowledge historically grounded on the ideology that its practice is inherently “good,” working for beautification, betterment, improvement, civilization, progress, development. Towards a concept of “reparation architecture” can enable spatial practices to be conceived as redressing and redrawing social, historic and political bounds beyond charity, help, state patronage, philanthropy and humanitarianism.

De/Exoticisations: Tourists, Refugees, Capital
Friday 18 December 2020

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Geographies of Freedom + Q&A
by Miguel Peres dos Santos

The Geographies of Freedom research project along the research meetings, public presentations, an installation by Jabu Arnell and several publications, consists also of an artistic research video essay that goes by the same name. Combining archival footage with contemporary imagery shot in Curaçao and The Netherlands, the film leads us throe colonial narratives of dutch petrochemical imperialism and its relation to notions of freedom. By realigning temporal perceptions, the film proposes reflections on the systems of petrocolonial imperialism and its relation with notions of colonialism. Navigating throe archival footage of cultural, socio-economical and political repression, the film proposes reflections on political, environmental and sociological issues. This Artistic Research video essay was funded by the Mondriaan Fund, and made possible with the kind support of Het Nieuwe Instituut.

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The Artworld. A Tourist Guide
by Yaiza Hernández Velázquez

Yaiza Hernández Velázquez's paper starts by offering an overview of the ubiquitous but differently inflected claims that since 1989, have been made on the basis of an "artworld" understood as a global entity. While some of the initial euphoria has been blunted by history, the interconnectedness of the biennial circuit and art market transactions continues to offer what for some is merely a mirage of the unfulfilled promise of a "borderless" capitalist world and for others a network that offers at least the potential for transnational solidarities. By taking some of this literature more seriously than it might have been intended, I will try to argue that we find in the tourist resort a better figure through which to understand the way in which the "artworld" has negotiated its global relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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A Lagoon of Paradoxes and Struggles
by Marco Baravalle

Venice is a city of paradoxes, a Southern European wonder governed by the Northern League party. Once gateway to the East, now chief town of a region where a certain Austro-Hungarian nostalgia is still perceptible. Venice emptied twice, first of its residents by over-tourism, now of tourists by the pandemic. The lagoon is the strange background where mammoth dams against the high tide intersect a mammoth corruption scandal and the threat of climate change. Venice and its crises, Venice and its struggles: against big ships, for housing rights, for the right to the city.

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Situated Knowledges of Worldmaking in the Ghostly Present Tense
by Athena Athanasiou

At the heart of this inquiry lies a critical engagement with the present that might work to performatively instate another possibility for the question of the South (or, the South as question) at a moment marked by the corporatization and the securitization of public space through migrant disposability and the necropolitical distribution of capital, resources, and bodies. Affirming the embodied situatedness of critical epistemologies, I ask how criticality maps out trails of historical and political response-ability through which alternative imaginaries are potentially put forward. Involving ex-centric temporalities of unending crises and dispossessed political subjectivities of resisting (in) the present, criticality has thoroughgoing implications for transfiguring the present’s no longer and yet-to-come.

Revolutions: Prospects in Counter-Revolutionary Times
Saturday 19 December 2020

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Many-Worlds Rising
by Jonas Staal

The Global South stands not only as a terrain of brutal extraction, but also as a site of resistance where the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) declared its struggle for a “world of many worlds.” The EZLN’s definition of a “Fourth World War” against neoliberalism (after WWI and II, and the Cold War), established a planetary front against a system that The Red Nation has described as fundamentally “anti-life.” From the EZLN to the Kurdish revolution in Rojava, the worldings of the South embody a non-proprietary relation to our many-worlds that have become just as important to guide popular movements in the Global North. Facing the increasing power of the trillion-dollar company and the nationalist international, how are these struggles shaping the progressive internationals, planetary commonisms and transnational terrestrial alliances we so desperately need? And what is the role of art and cultural work in helping to shape collective imaginaries to agitate and mobilize for our many-worlds to overcome?

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What Does it Mean to Produce Knowledge From Below?
by Vijay Prashad

"At Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research we work with a method to amplify the voices of our movements, to elaborate theory out of the theory and praxis of our movements. The general method is derived from the Marxist tradition of building theory from struggle."

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Expected Futures. The Right to Imagine
by Françoise Vergès 

The Coming South, or the coming transformation which is the very idea of the future, the right to imagine a path for a good life and reviving the idea of the human. Rien n’est écrit d’avance, (Nothing is written in advance) must be the principle for action. Reviving the idea of the human challenges the normalized authority to deploy total violence upon indigenous peoples, women, workers and peasants, sex workers, queer and trans peoples; it challenges an idea of the future captured by technology, the rhetoric of catastrophism and of green capitalism. It means smashing the patriarchy, holding together the struggles of depatriarchalization and decolonization, antiracism, anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism.

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Contributors

ATHENA ATHANASIOU
professor and writer

Athena Athanasiou is Professor of Social Anthropology and Gender Theory at Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences (Athens, Greece). Among her publications are the books Agonistic Mourning: Political Dissidence and the Women in Black (Edinburgh University Press, 2017); Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (with Judith Butler, Polity Press, 2013); Crisis as a ‘State of Exception’ (Athens, 2012); Life at the Limit: Essays on Gender, Body and Biopolitics (Athens, 2007); Rewriting Difference: Luce Irigaray and 'the Greeks' (co-ed. with Elena Tzelepis, SUNY Press, 2010). She has been a fellow at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, at Brown University, and at the Center for the Study of Social Difference, at Columbia University. She is a member of the editorial advisory board of the journals Critical TimesFeminist FormationsPhilosophy and Societyfeministiqά, and Journal of Greek Media and Culture.

 

MARCO BARAVALLE
scholar and curator

Marco Baravalle is a central figure at S.a.L.E. Docks, an independent space for visual arts, activism, and experimental theatre located in what had been an abandoned salt-storage facility in Dorsoduro, Venice, Italy. Founded in 2007, its programming includes activist-group meetings, formal exhibitions, and screenings. S.a.L.E. Docks was instrumental in assisting Gulf Labor Coalition at the Venice Biennial. Baravalle is a research fellow at INCOMMON. In praise of community. Shared creativity in arts and politics in Italy (1959-1979), a project hosted by IUAV, University of Venice. He is a member of IRI, ‘a think-tank inviting experts – political scientists, economists, lawyers, architects, hackers, activists, artists and cultural producers to share knowledge on a continuous base with the aim of defining and implementing zones of post-capitalism in Europe’s South and the Mediterranean. The think-tank works nomadically across the nodes of the network – Madrid, Athens, Istanbul, Cairo, Palestine, Naples – and connects with other nodes in “global south” – Eastern Europe, Latin America, South-East Asia’". His most recent article ‘On the Biennale’s Ruins: Inhabiting the Void, Covering the Distance’ asks questions about the interweaving of cultural industries and tourism in the present pandemic crisis.

 

TINGS CHAK
artist, writer, and organiser

Tings Chak is an artist, writer, and organiser whose work contributes to popular struggles across the South. Her current research focuses on the art of national liberation struggles. She received her Master of Architecture from the University of Toronto and is the author and illustrator of Undocumented: The Architecture of Migrant Detention (2017). She leads the Art Department of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

 

YAIZA HERNÁNDEZ VELÁZQUEZ
educator and researcher

Yaiza Hernández Velázquez teaches at the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, London. She researches art institutions, understood in a broad sense, as sites of philosophical and political import and on the way in which “theory” (in its post-68 inflection) has both informed and curtailed those political efforts. She has an ongoing interest in the cultural lives of tourism and their embroilment with forms of exploitation that draw from colonial models, primarily as a member of the research group turicom. She was Curator at the Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Director of the Centro de Documentación y Estudios Avanzados de Arte Contemporáneo (CENDEAC) in Murcia and Head of Public Programmes at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA).

 

KEVIN OCHIENG OKOTH
writer and researcher

Kevin Ochieng Okoth has recently published the articles The Flatness of Blackness: Afro-Pessimism and the Erasure of Anti-colonial Thought (January 2020) and Aufstehen’s Populist Revolt: Local Patriotism and the ‘Left-Behind Left (August 2020) for Salvage. He is an independent writer and researcher living in London. He holds an MPhil in Political Theory from the University of Oxford and writes on imperialism and 20th century anti-colonial struggles.

 

MIGUEL PERES DOS SANTOS
artist

Miguel Peres dos Santos makes films and photos. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, his films references post-colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system. His films demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves.

 

By using an ever-growing archive of found documents to create autonomous artworks, he absorbs the tradition of remembrance art into daily practice. This personal follow-up and revival of a past tradition is important as an act of meditation. His works are an investigation of concepts such as authenticity and objectivity by using an encyclopedic approach and quasi-scientific precision and by referencing documentaries, ‘fact- fiction’ and popular scientific equivalents. By contesting the division between the realm of memory and the realm of experience, he reflects on the closely related subjects of archive and memory. This often results in an examination of both the human need for ‘conclusive’ stories and the question whether anecdotes ‘fictionalize’ history. His collected, altered and own works are being confronted as aesthetically resilient, thematically interrelated material for memory and projection. The possible seems true and the truth exists, but it has many faces, as Hanna Arendt cites from Franz Kafka. Miguel Peres dos Santos currently lives and works in The Hague and Rotterdam area.

 

VIJAY PRASHAD
historian and journalist

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian and journalist, and Director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, an international, movement-driven institution focused on stimulating intellectual debate that serves people’s aspirations (https://www.thetricontinental.org/about/) Prashad is the author of thirty books, including Washington BulletsRed Star Over the Third WorldThe Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World and The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. He is the Chief Correspondent for Globetrotter and a Columnist for Frontline (India). He is the Chief Editor of LeftWord Books (New Delhi). He has appeared in two films – Shadow World (2016) and Two Meetings (2017).

 

JONAS STAAL
artist

Jonas Staal is a visual artist whose work deals with the relation between art, propaganda, and democracy. He is the founder of the artistic and political organization New World Summit (2012–ongoing) and the campaign New Unions (2016–ongoing). With BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, he co-founded the New World Academy (2013-16), with Florian Malzacher he is currently directing the utopian training camp Training for the Future (2018-ongoing) and with Laure Prouvost he is co-administrator of the Obscure Union. Exhibition-projects include Art of the Stateless State (Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, 2015), After Europe (State of Concept, Athens, 2016), The Scottish-European Parliament (CCA, Glasgow, 2018) and Museum as Parliament (with the Democratic Federation of North Syria, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2018-ongoing). His projects have been exhibited widely at venues such as the V&A in London, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, M_HKA in Antwerp and Moderna Museet in Stockholm, as well as the biennales of Berlin (2012), Kochi (2013), São Paulo (2014), Gothenburg (2017), Warsaw (2019) and Taipei (2020). His most recent publication is Propaganda Art in the 21st Century (The MIT Press, 2019).

 

PAULO TAVARES
architect, researcher, and writer

Paulo Tavares is an architect, researcher, and writer based in South America. His design and pedagogic practice spans different territories, social geographies, and media. He is the author of the books Forest Law (2014), Des-Habitat (2019), and Memória da terra (2020), he co-curated the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2019.

 

FRANÇOISE VERGÈS
public educator

Françoise Vergès is a public educator and intellectual, an antiracist decolonial feminist. Growing up in an intellectual anticolonial and feminist family in Reunion Island, she has lived in Algeria, France, Mexico, USA and UK. In the mid-70s, she worked for a feminist magazine and a publishing house on topics intersecting race, class, gender and State violence, collecting testimonies on torture, murder, disappearance, and repression in countries under military dictatorship (Chile), civil war (Salvador).

 

Françoise Vergès left France for the USA in 1983. In 1986, she obtained a double BA at san Diego State U and a Ph.D at Berkeley University. She has taught at Sussex University (1996-2000) and Goldsmiths College (2000-2007) and has been a Visiting professor. Between 2004 and 2010, as the co-director of the scientific and cultural program for a forthcoming museum on Reunion Island, she proposed a “museum without objects.” She was president of the French National Committee for the Memory and History of Slavery (2008-2012), a project advisor for Documenta 11, organizer of the program The Slave in Le Louvre. An Invisible Humanity for the 2012 Paris Triennial. She has worked with filmmakers and artists (Isaac Julien, Yinka Shonibare, Kader Attia) and is the author of films on Caribbean writers.

 

 

Closing Panel

Closing Panel led by Marina Otero and Angela Dimitrakaki.

Rotterdam for Real

The Coming South is part of Rotterdam for Real, a programme by Het Nieuwe Instituut that puts the use of, involvement with and control over urban space on the agenda. This programme is made possible in part by the City of Rotterdam. The Coming South is additionally supported by Het Nieuwe Instituut's International Visitor Programme.

Marina Otero Verzier
Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Katia Truijen, Marten Kuijpers, Anastasia Kubrak
k.truijen@hetnieuweinstituut.nl
Alex Walker