Decolonial Transformations Workshop @ Sussex (with SOAS)

There are two launches coming up for the forthcoming ‘Decolonising the University‘, an edited collection put together by Gurminder K. Bhambra, Dalia Gebrial and Kerem Nişancıoğlu. I have a chapter in this book, in which I critique how university managements perform internationalisation. The London launch will be on 29 August 2018 from 7pm at Housmans Radical Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX. Tickets are £3 and available here.

The second discussion of the book will take place at a 3-day workshop at the University of Sussex, entitled Decolonial Transformations: Imagining, Practicing, Collaborating and co-organised with people from SOAS (31 October – 2 November 2018, description further below). Here is the description for the panel:

Afternoon Workshop
Decolonising the University?
1-3pm, Friday 2nd November, 2018
University of Sussex campus (Falmer, Brighton)

This session aims to explore the discourse and challenges around current moves to decolonize the university. It draws together contributors from a forthcoming volume on the topic and ask them to outline the key points from their chapters before opening up to a discussion with the audience around the themes raised.

Panellists:
Kolar Aparna, Radboud University, Netherlands
Dalia Gebrial, LSE
John Holmwood, University of Nottingham
Rosalba Icaza, Erasmus University, Netherlands
Olivier Kramsch, Radboud University, Netherlands
Angela Last, University of Leicester
Kerem Nisancioglu, SOAS
Rolando Vazquez, University College Roosevelt, Netherlands

Chair:
Gurminder K Bhambra, Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies, University of Sussex

These are the book contents that will be discussed:

Introduction: Decolonising the University? – Gurminder K. Bhambra, Kerem Nisancioglu and Dalia Gebrial

Part I: Contexts: Historical and Disciplinary
1. Rhodes Must Fall: Oxford and Movements for Change – Dalia Gebrial
2. Race and the Neoliberal University: Lessons from the Public University – John Holmwood
3. Racism, Public Culture, and the Hidden Curriculum – Robbie Shilliam
4. Decolonising Philosophy – Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Rafael Vizcaino, Jasmine Wallace, Jeong Eun Annabel We

Part II: Institutional Initiatives
5. Asylum University: Re-situating Knowledge-Exchange Along Cross-Border Positionalities – Aparna Kolar and Olivier Kramsch
6. Diversity or Decolonisation? Researching Diversity at the University of Amsterdam – Rolando Vazquez and Rosalba Icaza
7. The Challenge for Black Studies in the Neoliberal University – Kehinde Andrews
8. Open Initiatives for Decolonising the Curriculum – Pat Lockley

Part III: Decolonial Reflections
9. Meschachakanis, a Coyote Narrative: Decolonising Higher Education – Shauneen Pete
10. Decolonising Education: A Pedagogic Intervention – Carol Azumah Dennis
11. Internationalisation and Interdisciplinarity: Sharing across Boundaries? – Angela Last
12. Understanding Eurocentrism as a Structural Problem of Undone Science – William Jamal Richardson

Here is the description of the whole 3-day workshop:

Decolonial Transformations: Imagining, Practicing, Collaborating

31 Oct to 2 Nov 2018

This workshop provides a space for conversations and collaborations around the theme of ‘Decolonial Transformations’. The world we currently inhabit has been structured significantly by imperial and colonial rule. While colonization was resisted over the longer durée, the decolonization movements of the last seventy years consolidated and institutionalised these efforts. This has led to the beginning of a fracturing of the colonial world order. This fracturing remains incomplete.

Coloniality continues to be pervasive as a structuring force in the world, often manifesting as the modernist control of nature and civil society, racialised divisions of labour, Eurocentric social theories, global governance regimes that institutionalise asymmetric relations (in trade, natural resources and capital), racialised migration regimes, disqualification of ‘non-Western’ modes of knowing, demonization of specific identities and xenophobia, and the silencing and erasure of subaltern histories. While struggling against these forms of coloniality, there is an urgent need for imagining and realising transformations that can help build alternate decolonial worlds and sustainable futures.

A key aim of the workshop is to think about and discuss how to move recent conversations around coloniality and decolonial transformations forward, linking academic scholarship with art, activism, and everyday life. This workshop brings together scholars, artists, students and activists to collaboratively imagine and reflect upon decolonial processes. It aims to further cooperative engagement in and among movements aimed at decolonial transformations, for realising educational justice, ecological regeneration and pluriversal futures.

The workshop will include a variety of different events and forums over two and a half days, including panel discussions, interviews, interactive and participatory workshops, and creative spaces and performances. The afternoon workshops will be streamed to bring together work in Scholarship, Art, and Activism.

This workshop is a collaboration between SOAS and the University of Sussex. We welcome you to join us in 3 days of conversations and collaborations on ‘decolonial transformations’.

Workshop Schedule:

Wednesday 31 October – General Theme: Decolonising Transformations, 13:00 – 17:00

Thursday 01 November – Theme: Decolonising Methodologies, 10:00 – 17:00

Friday 02 November – Theme: Decolonising Institutions, 10:00 – 16:00

The Workshop will take place at the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.

There is a 10.00 registration fee. Concessions are also available for students, and unemployed. Accessibility to the Workshop is an important issue. Please make sure to indicate on the registration form any specific accessibility needs.

Tickets are available here.

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Imagining “World Music”

My spot on last week’s Curved Radio programme was on ‘world music’. Since the topic overlaps with my research, I thought I’d post a short summary. Basically, I played three tracks by French bands that are classified as ‘world music’ and have quite different relations with the ‘world making’ of ‘world music’.

‘World music’ has been a controversial term since its conception. Mainly used as a Western marketing term for non-Western ‘traditional’ music in the 80s, it has expanded to included almost anything that isn’t anglophone Western pop music (which, could be argued, isn’t just ‘Western’ in the first place). As South African trumpet player and composer Hugh Masekela, interviewed by Anya Wassenberg for the Huffington Post, describes it: “At one point, the term ‘world music’ was coined,” he remarked dryly. “I woke up one day and people told me I was playing world music.”

Many have argued that it is practically meaningless, other than as a commercial, quasi-colonial construct. In a discussion on Reddit, contributor Scaredoftriangles comments: “World music has always been such a derogatory term to me…pan pipes, chimes, old men in non-ironic wolf shirts selling dreamcatchers.” Indeed, this sight can be experienced at many ‘world music’ events, and even bigger festivals such as Peter Gabriel et al’s Womad. One of the more famous rants against ‘world music’ is David Byrne‘s 1999 New York Times Commentary: ‘I Hate World Music’. In this article, he criticises both its absurdity as a category and its exoticisation. This exoticisation works down to the shape of award figurines given out for ‘world music’. For Wassenberg, the term ‘world music serves to ‘ghettoiz[e] great music’.

At the same time, there have been many defences of ‘world music’, even from people who are uncomfortable with the term. There appear to be two broad directions: the ‘conservation’ and the ‘decolonisation’. The ‘conservationists’ believe that ‘world music’ contributes to ‘discovering’, supporting and thus preserving types of music that would otherwise have gone out of fashion and thus cultural practice. From ‘ethnological’ recordings to Buena Vista Social Club, there is a huge spectrum of attempts to create ‘revivals’, some more successful than others. Advocates of this practice argue that the commercial appropriation, insufficient contextualisation and frequent dependence on Western valudation outweighs the benefits to the culture in question.

The ‘decolonial‘ direction is characterised by the impulse to use Western/non-Western cultural exchange to dislocate the West as a centre. This is also the direction that Curved Radio tries to follow. This direction more or less comfortably unites, for instance, people who have found their world expanded through hearing music from other places, and people who are struggling against losing further ground in the struggle over cultural hierarchies. Here, the entanglement of economic and cultural power are hotly debated, and the various means that could work toward subverting the worlds sonic hierarchies and towards creating a different one. Particularly here, the terms of presenting music from other cultures are constantly negotiated, although this impulse can also sometimes be found with the ‘conservationists’. I tried to illustrate some of these issues through three band that I encountered in France around the same time in the early 2000s: Edgar de L’est, Monkomarok and Lo’Jo.

Edgar de L’est (Isabelle Becker and Edgar Daguier), as the name already implies (a world play on ‘at Gare de L’Est’), hav a very tongue-in-cheek take on ‘world music’. If I remember correctly, I read in an interview that were founded on the idea to sonically imagine other places through music. To me, their chanson, folk and jazz inflected music reflects the German term Fernweh – a longing to be in a far-away place. With titles such as ‘Mon Cowboy’, ‘L’Orient’, ‘Slavinka’, they could easily be accused of exoticisation. At the same time, their music feels both innocent (like a child discovering the world, not being able to go anywhere and contextualise yet) and knowing (playing with Western/non-Western clichés through ‘trashy’ renditions). It is an approach that we have attempted with a song in my own band, now, where we took a ridiculous commercial jingle for Asian food and deconstructed it in a song called ‘Ethnik Snack‘. In the song ‘L’Orient’, Edgar de L’Est use a different method of subversion: they go through every imaginable orientalisation, but also give a look behind the scenes where the lonely, miserable narrator sits drunk in a bed in Paris, a city and sound fraught with its own struggle against commercial caricature. It’s about exoticisation as both a form of sad escapism and as an inevitable perpetuation of that which one is trying to escape from. (I did actually play ‘Slavinka’ on the programme, but now I think the ‘L’Orient’ song illustrates their method best – plus there is a video online!)

The second track that I played was from Toulousian experimental ‘world’ band Monkomarok (Alima Hamel, Laurent Rochelle, Sylvain Fournier, Loic Schild) – who were active from 2000-2008. Their first album blew my mind with its range of influences and its trippy sound. I still love how they worked with tension and energy, it felt like they were using acoustic music (although they sometimes also use synthesisers) to produce an electric surge. The sleeve notes to this 2002 album, entitled ‘Au plafond’, talk about the profundity of their own musical encounters and about creating an imaginary place within them. This is also reflected in the many thankyous to people they count as influences, supporters and collaborators. Their use of vocals is particularly interesting, with Alima Hamel (who is also a poet) singing in languages such as Algerian Arabic, French and German but also experimenting with sound textures. On ‘Au plafond’, she is doing a lot of impressive percussive work with her voice, as well ‘controlled chaos’ vocalisations which make her sound like a human randomizer. For me, this ‘what on Earth is this??’ reaction that the band often elicits, paired with their definite Western and non-Western influences, is an interesting musical provocation – to the imagined commercial ‘world music’ utopia but also to many music genres that appear to have ossified into particular forms such as ‘dance music’ or ‘jazz’. While I played the hypnotic ‘dance’ track ‘Le Sueur’ (Sweat), there is no online recording, so here, instead, is a rare live recording of ‘Au Plafond”s opening refusal, ‘Non Merci’.

The lyrics of this song are remarkable, too, especially through the play on the double meaning of the French word for ‘everyone’: ‘tout le monde’. For the current world to work, everyone is supposed to hide their anger – the machine must run smoothly – but she is celebrating refusal.

Je suis toujours en colère
Ca ne se voit pas
C’est parce que je m’applique
Je fais comme tout le monde
Je trompe mon monde
Je fais semblant

Ani kolwun mkelba
Ndil kime koul ness
Nralat lribed
Ndil bel reni

Ma colère?
Je l’ai soingneusement cousu contre mon sein
Les mains plenes contre mon coeur
Qu’est ce que je deviendrai sans ma colère?
Un pantin raide couleur glaise.
Une machine à fabriquer des ronds.
Une chose parfaite qui ne dit jamais non.
Un indigne mouton borgne sans rêves.
Non merci, sans façon…
Je fais l’apologie du refus.
Je fais l’éloge du pas d’accord
Aini mra ou nogrod wefka
Aini mra ou nogrod wefka

The final track of the show was from Lo’Jo, who are much more well-known in the offical ‘world music’ circuit due to their participation in WOMAD and collaborations with groups such as Tinariwen and Gangbe Brass Band. They initially started out in the early 1980s as a duo or trio (Denis Péan, Richard Bourreau), which seemed to grow into a community that combined music with street theatre, acrobatics, dance, film. The group did not become a more fixed formation and did not record albums until the mid-1990s. The sound of Lo’Jo is frequently described as ‘Gypsy’, tribal, nomadic (initially they were even called Lo’Jo Triban) or even shamanic, as they combine folk music from North and West Africa, Eastern and Western Europe and the Caribbean. I have also seen the term ‘global fusion’ applied to them, and one album review (for ‘Au Cabaret Sauvage’, 2002) reads “Tom Waits meets the Touaregs. Very tasty.”

What drew me to them were their epic, ecstatic sound, that is produced by a super-tight arrangement of string instruments (khora, violin, bass), percussion and vocal harmonies (amazing singers Yamina and Nadia Nid el Mourid, supported by Kham Meslien and Baptiste Brondy on bass and drums). John Lusk from the BBC argues that despite their many influences, they have a distinctive local sound: “As the barriers around ‘fortress Europe’ get ever higher, Lo’Jo’s open-minded and outward-looking approach to music seems to make them more and more identifiably French.” Lusk is quick to point out that around 56% of the French population identify as being of ‘foreign’ background, and that the band’s local support and ties very much contribute to the development of their sound:

“The group’s core still live and work collectively in a farmhouse given them by the mayor of Angers in return for providing local children with musical education. Another municipally inspired boost for the unlikely idealists came with twinning of their hometown with the Malian capital of Bamako.”

In many ways, Lo’Jo personify the utopian and problematic tropes of works music, and I cannot help thinking about them when listening to their undoubtedly beautiful music. The band describe themselves as ‘plantetary troubadours’ who maintain an ‘anarchic garden’ of ‘world rhythms and universal harmonies’, which may raise alarm bells with cultural and especially decolonial critics. At the same time, Lo’Jo emphasise and try to practice cultural exchange on equal terms. In and outside their music campaign for a multicultural French national ideintity (e.g. their song “La Marseillaise en Creole“), and in an interview in the New York Times, where Denis Péan explains: “The name Lojo means nothing. It is just a sound. Basically, Lojo is a school. Everybody learns. Everybody teaches.” For me, the sound and journey(s) of Lo’Jo exemplify that, especially for white ‘Westerners’, different forms of cultural exchange need to be attempted despite the many problems on the way. We all shape world music and the economy and relations it is embedded in, and music is a place as good as any other to start experimenting.

“In Catastrophic Times” review for Cultural Geographies

After temporarily getting lost, my book review of Isabelle Stengers’ “In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism” is finally out in Cultural Geographies. It can be accessed here (if you don’t have access, email me). It is one of those books that helps me think about the problem of how to affect change from the particular position that you inevitably occupy. The English version of the book is available at open access publisher Open Humanities press and can be read or downloaded here.

Researching the Colonial International Across, Between, and Against Disciplines @ Warwick

Am reposting this excellent workshop call from CPD-BISA. The event is organised by Nivi Manchanda, Lisa Tilley (Warwick Politics and International Studies) and Kerem Nişancıoğlu (SOAS Politics and International Studies) and is taking place here at Warwick.

Call for interventions/workshop participants
Travel funding available

Colonial/ Postcolonial/ Decolonial Working Group Annual Workshop 2017: 
Researching the Colonial International Across, Between, and Against Disciplines

With Goldie Osuri, Virinder Kalra, Rashmi Varma and Kojo Koram
University of Warwick, 22nd September 2017

“International Relations has often borrowed theories and methods from elsewhere to think beyond its own disciplinary limits. Similarly, interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary scholarship has long been central to thinking about the colonial question. Indeed, a key insight of postcolonial scholarship is that disciplines are themselves products of colonial practices. At the same time, in the field of International Relations and beyond, the demands of publishing, researching, teaching and hiring continue to reproduce strict disciplinary boundaries. More positively, disciplines often offer a scholarly home, a shared language and common problems that help orient our work.

This workshop will examine how such tensions affect and direct how we think about the colonial/ postcolonial/ decolonial. Conversely it will also ask how the colonial question reconfigures how we think about our own disciplines. At its core, the event will encourage a range of scholars to engage with the colonial question from outside of – and perhaps against – their own disciplinary (disciplining) homes.

Places and travel funding are limited. Please indicate your interest in attending no later than June 24th to Kerem Nisancioglu – kn18@soas.ac.uk

CPD-BISA workshops are not organized around “paper-giving”, but rather each session is introduced by a couple of five minute opening interventions. Therefore, if you are interested in attending please do also indicate whether you would like to provide one of these five-minute interventions, and if so, on what issue area.

We will calculate participation and funding with a sensitivity to career level (phd, postdoc, faculty etc) and job type (contract, permanent etc). Please do indicate your career and job attributes when you email.

Over the past four years, the CPD-BISA Working Group has become an established community of scholars drawn from within and beyond IR – this interdisciplinarity has enriched the work and activities of the community as a whole. Our annual workshop is our most important event and provides a vital space for early career scholars to connect with more established academics working through the colonial question in their research. As in previous years, this will be an innovative and participatory event with a range of heterodox sessions.”

British Academy/Leverhulme Grant for Mutable Matter Workshop


Image: David Alfaro Siqueiros ‘Cosmos and Disaster’ (circa 1936)

Mutable Matter will be hosting its first workshop this year, generously supported by a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant and Warwick Social Theory Centre. The workshop, entitled ‘Cosmos & Crisis: interdisciplinary conversations’ will be taking place in late Summer/early autumn. More details coming soon!

RGS-IBG 2017 RACE Working Group Call for Sessions

The Race, Culture and Equality (RACE) Working Group would like to invite proposals for sessions to be sponsored by RACE at the RGS-IBG annual conference 2017 titled ‘Decolonizing geographical knowledges: opening up geography to the world’. A key objective of the RACE Working Group of the RGS-IBG is to promote scholarship on topics of racial inequality, colonization, decolonization and whiteness, and to encourage dialogue on race that advances academic knowledge and progressive practices. The RACE Working Group therefore welcomes proposals on these topics more generally, but we strongly encourage proposals that critically and creatively engage with these topics in relation to the conference theme specifically, for example; by exploring the limitations, contradictions and injustices of organising a conference on the topic of decolonization in western neoliberal academic settings; and/or by examining the contemporary co-option of decolonial thinking in a range of settings. We are also interested in sponsoring sessions and activities by activists and scholar-activists, as well as artists and scholar-artists, that propose and explore practical initiatives for dismantling colonial processes within the discipline, within the university system, and within the RGS-IBG.

Please email proposals to raceworkinggroup@gmail.com by 22 January 2017. Submissions should include a title, an abstract (max 250 words), the format of the session or activity, the number of timeslots requested (if applicable), and name(s) and affiliation(s) of the organizers. The guidelines for organising sessions can be found here http://tinyurl.com/pdrjfek. We will endeavor to respond to organizers by the end of January 2017.

  1. For more on decolonization, please see Tuck, E. and Yang, K. W. (2012) Decolonization is not a metaphor, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), p. 1-40.

New Materialism & Decoloniality Workshop, 7-8 July, Duisburg

climate_duisburg

Next week, I will hopefully be attending (and speaking) at the New Materialism & Decoloniality Workshop at Duisburg University. I have to say ‘hopefully’, because the Home Office has still not returned my passport and other documents that I had to send off a few weeks ago for the first part of my citizenship application (fingers crossed that I get them back in time – any advice about alternative travel documents appreciated).

Organised by Olivia Rutazibwa and Pol Bargués-Pedreny of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Centre for Global Cooperation Research, the workshop seeks to bring the two theoretical directions into dialogue with one another. There will be three rounds of discussions in which two people present readings, followed by two discussants who engage with the presentations. The three themes are: 1) The Roots of the Argument. Deconstructions: Nature, Culture and Critique. 2) The Argument. Reconstructions: Infrastructures, Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Cosmologies. 3) Thinking ahead with the Argument. Implementations and Implications: Ethics, Ecology and Geopolitics. The three sessions will be followed by a round table. Speakers include:  Anna Agathangelou, Kai Koddenbrock, Mark Jackson, Lisa Tilley, Jessica Schmidt, Vanessa Pupavac and Ovidiu Tichindeleanu.

The dialogues will be preceded by an evening of dialogues and performances on the topic “Climate on the Rise, People on the Move. Understanding Today’s Global Challenges Differently”. Here, Rolando Vazquez (Utrecht University) and Doerthe Rosenow (Oxford Brookes University) “will explore our relation to the earth, vulnerability and what it means to be human in an increasingly uncanny world”.

Attendance is welcome and free. Please e-mail events@gcr21.uni-due.de .