Pressekonferenz Wahl-O-Mat

25.6.2018

Planetarische Utopien – Hoffnung, Sehnsucht, Imagination in einer post-kolonialen Welt (Berlin, 23. Juni 2018)

Eröffnung der dritten Plattform "Colonial repercussions"

Im Rahmen der Tagung "Koloniales Erbe" eröffnete Thomas Krüger das Symposium III "Colonial Repercussions – “Planetary Utopias – Hope, Desire, Imaginaries in a Post-Colonial World”

Dear Nikita Dhawan, dear Johannes and Wolfgang, dear audience,

“Wealth is not the fruit of labor but the result of organized protected robbery”. Allow me to sum up these words of Frantz Fanon in “The Wretched of the Earth”, as follows: nobody is free of guilt.

Let me rephrase colonialism as a brutal materialization of power. As exploitation and systematic oppression brought about by racialisation. Our endeavours to analyse the repercussions of colonialism are not about righting past wrongs. Even today, the political, legal and psychological efforts to “reprocess” colonial crimes are still in their infancy. Instead, the objective is to create awareness of the fact that the power structures of the past have an impact on the present. They have an impact on today’s global power relations that are deeply entrenched in society.



It is therefore high time that a major institution such as the Academy of the arts and the Federal Agency for Civic Education (my institution) launch an event like the present one. That they open their doors and minds to voices that have for decades been criticizing the “postcolonial illiteracy” that dominates in German society.

Decades of ignorance and active forgetting lie behind us. In the current climate of new and revived nationalism and blatant racism, it is more urgent than ever that we take a stand against the rightwing attempts to shift the debate. Moreover, we as white parts of German society need to critically scrutinise our own racist structures and socialisation – by broadening our own perspectives, our way of thinking and outlook. Or, in Toni Morrison’s words, to shift the critical gaze “from the observed to observers” and unlearn White privilege and racism as harmful structures for all sides.

Needless to mention in this context here that the nation building of the 19th century went hand in hand with the rise and institutionalisation of racism that had served European societies already in prior centuries in order to colonize, oppress, exploit, enslave and kill people.

What is the situation today in those colonial centers that, for centuries, pursued the aim of bringing the world “within reach”? How do societies, including Germany, see the undeniable reality of their own interrelations across the globe? And their inner inequalities caused by colonial legacies?

What is missing in current debates around migration is an insistence on the century-long unequal entanglements between European societies, actors, capital and knowledge - and the spaces they conquered, colonized and exploited. – And therefore interventions such as the present one are so important. Contemporary migratory flows reflect the persistent inequalities caused by centuries of European colonial dominance. Sivanandan’s famous claim from the 1980s: “We are here because you were there” has not lost its relevance.

The multifaceted nature of the continuous imbalance of power expressed in this sentence makes it essential to take a clear stance. Empathy and the establishment of a sense of solidarity among the “mutually unacquainted” are required – what Paul Mecheril termed the “educational goal of the 21st century”. It is important not only that we call out injustice, inequality and racism in our society but also that we make an active contribution towards stopping them. That goes for all parts of society, including governmental institutions. We – the ones privileged by these structures – have to learn to think in an anti-racist way. The aim is not only to condemn open racism and hatred, but to ask who benefits from which privileges in society and on what grounds.

A key element of that is to rendewr problematic knowledge and seek to unlearn the “epistemic violence” – to quote Gayatri Spivak, who will speak here tomorrow – implemented by colonialism. And this level is crucial for us as Civic Educators. Because racism affects how we see ourselves, others and the world. To overcome racist structures we must question and break down the knowledge categories we take for granted. Against this backdrop a multiplicity of perspectives gains new significance. It provides the foundations for a decolonisation process across all segments of society.

Decolonisation must be about weaving new threads into the social narrative. About breaking down Eurocentric “single stories” – as Chimamanda Adichie has postulated – and devising new forms of the social and the political.

Utopia is a society free of any manifestation of racism.

Those oppressed by racist and colonial power structures have from the outset been resisting their exploitation. They have provided us with methods, knowledge and tools that have been available to us for years. They have insisted on research into racism, gender issues and postcolonialism. We – the ones who are seemingly “profitting” from these structures – obviously just haven’t been that interested.

There has long been a considerable hype about coming to terms with postcolonial issues – an aspiration to be welcomed. But things become difficult when a lack of the required knowledge leads to those issues receiving merely superficial consideration. When the differentiation based on ingrained power structures we still see today goes unchallenged.

We must stop thinking that we are taking a risk when we give a political voice to those who have been deprived of it.

We’re content in the comfortable knowledge that we do, after all, run numerous anti-racism programmes and contribute to the much-vaunted efforts to educate the public. But we need to simultaneously expose institutional and structural discrimination and develop an awareness of the contradictory nature of our own actions. We need to avoid a selective view at our historical responsibility and stop to ignore the continuous global inequalities that we currently see on a daily basis in the news.

If we are aware of the narratives, the power structures and their continued existence and evolution: Then we must tackle them and bring attention to them – loudly and unequivocally. In doing so, we leave behind us the sense of certainty, stability, security and direction we once knew in order to work together on building something new. Where there is no agitation, there can be no education. Where there is no uncertainty, there can be no certainty. Where there is no empathy, there can be no solidarity.

I am therefore deeply grateful for the promising program that Professor Nikita Dhawan has put together. It brings together some of the major protagonists of critical postcolonial, decolonial and anti-racist thinking and activism who have for decades been insisting on the need to confront persistent colonial inequalities on all levels. Your expertise and your interventions are urgently needed. I am looking forward to the debates and dialogues on the exciting panels of this symposium, and I hope to learn and unlearn a lot.

I wish you and us a productive symposium and engaged discussions on the most pressing issues of our time.

Thank you for your attention.

- Es gilt das gesprochene Wort -


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