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Annual Conference of the Cultural Studies Association

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference -Mixed Audience


Organisation of panel 'Contemporary Performances of Power, Acquiescence and Resistance: Repertoires of Critical Thinking against the Grain'

Panel Abstract: This panel shifts the focus from the opposition of ‘power and resistance’ towards the interplay of power with acquiescence, which is met with the resistance to the status quo produced by this interplay. The four papers explore facets of the critical and artistic repertoire we have at our disposal to go against the grain of the status quo, or to pre-figuratively realize an alternative to it. Each paper explores a different layer of the interplay between power and acquiescence, and counters it: everyday routines of white supremacy are unraveled through critical analysis; the political use of the discourse of ‘homeland security’ is countered from a perspective that critically engages perspectives from the Global South and the Global North; well-intentioned NGO initiatives for culture and the arts with un-intended, disempowering side-effects are critically revisited with a view to not repeat, iterate and perpetuate; and an example of cultural resistance which evolves from a practice of resisting and subverting both power and acquiescence sheds new light on the potentialities of ‘utopia’ vis-a-vis ‘pre-figuration’.
The underlying questions brought out by the combination of the four papers revolve on the one hand around Nicholas Mirzeoff’s contemporary reflections on Hannah Arendt’s ‘space of appearance’ and the terms on which different actors are made visible or invisible in globalized societies. Everyday routines and discourses of power are explored in light of these questions with a view to calling them out. A second important angle concerns solidarity: what kind of practices and relationships can be generated in this present moment, under what conditions, to what ends, by what means, what are the obstacles that stand in the way of global solidarity, and what can we do to remove them?
Finally, the combination of the papers invites questions about the legacies of pasts in the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. Among those legacies are the normalized legacy of settler colonialism, colonial domination, and class domination, which are welcomed by many when they come (sometimes thinly or barely) disguised. Among them are also the legacies of anti-fascism, of survival against all odds, of the everyday struggles of oppressed and exploited populations. Through the potential crossings between the four papers the panel seeks to open up a space for the exploration and discussion of the possibilities and potentialities of thinking critically against the grain.

Look Here: Performing the Routines of White Supremacy in the Contemporary United States
Anne Shea, California College of the Arts
Hannah Arendt understood the political public sphere to be a  “space of appearance.” With reference to her work, Nicholas Mirzeoff argues in a 2016 NY Times interview that “who can and cannot appear in this space and on what terms is both the properly political question and the key to understanding the importance of the visible in globalized societies”. Following the election of Donald Trump, a white nationalist frame has governed the politics of appearance in the U.S. Its resurgence has been accompanied by a steep rise in white supremacist violence. Moreover, there have been numerous incidents in which white people – often, women – have called the police on black people for engaging in everyday activities. In this paper I examine how the narratives and the multiple visual streams generated around these ordinary moments draw boundaries of inclusion and exclusion in and from the space of appearance.

Performing International Solidarity in Spaces of Exception: International Cultural Events in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas and Palestine
Laura Fracalanza (Centre for Comparative Studies - University of Lisbon)
Sunaina Maira in Jil Oslo (2013) uses the concept of “localized cosmopolitanism” to describe segregated spaces where the local community interacts with people from abroad due to the presence of, for example, foreign NGOs. Taking the example of international cultural festivals organized in Palestine and in Rio’s favelas, I draw upon this concept to discuss the ways in which artistic and cultural practices create moments of exceptional exchange between locals and non-locals. In these events, the presence and status of foreign artists attract attention to the sociopolitical oppression in these territories. Such international solidarity, however, may become a symptom of what Mackenzie et al. in Vulnerability. New Essays in Ethics and Feminist Philosophy (2014) have called “pathogenic vulnerability”. I problematize such practices of international solidarity by showing how they might inadvertently stimulate new vulnerabilities, despite their intention of solving or denouncing preexisting ones.

‘With Hand, Heart and a Critical Mind’: Anti-Fascism and the “Other” of Fascism in the Collaboration between Microphone Mafia and Esther Bejarano
Cornelia Gräbner, Lancaster University
The HipHop formation Microphone Mafia and musician and Auschwitz survivor Esther Bejarano joined forces in 2008 to launch a project that created, performed and actualized a politically steadfast and culturally rich anti-fascism. They took a determined stance– at a time when the toxic cocktail of white supremacy, nationalism, xenophobia, and the consequences of neoliberal policies garnered little attention. I engage with three pieces that join music, HipHop, spoken word, and texts and musical motives from anti-fascist and liberation struggles. They bring together the opposition and resistance to fascism with the denunciation and subversion of class privilege. Drawing out the contrast between the ‘utopian’ and the ‘pre-figurative’ I show how the politicizing of the performance and the poeticizing of anti-fascist grassroots political practice create a pre-figurative enactment of alternatives that learn from the past to create an ‘Other’ to both fascism and elitism.

Event (Conference)

TitleAnnual Conference of the Cultural Studies Association
LocationTulane University
CityNew Orleans
Country/TerritoryUnited States