Pressekonferenz Wahl-O-Mat

12.7.2018

AFROLUTION 2018 - Berliner Literaturfestival für afrikanisch/diasporisches Denken (Berlin, 28. Juni 2018)

Beim Berliner Literaturfestival für afrikanisch/diasporisches Denken AFROLUTION 2018 sprach Thomas Krüger zu Beginn ein Grußwort und zeigte eine Utopie einer postkolonialen Gesellschaft auf, für die sich die Institutionen selbst jedoch ändern müssen.

Ms Nadja Ofuatey-Alazard, Ms Luisa Schweizer, Mr Thomas Heppener, ladies and gentlemen,

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

Allow me further to describe colonialism as a brutal materialization of power. As exploitation and systematic oppression brought about by racialisation. Our endeavors to analyze 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 which are deeply entrenched in 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 of this event that the nation building of the 19th century went hand in hand with the expansion and institutionalization of racism that had already served European societies in prior centuries as means of colonizing, oppressing, exploiting, enslaving and killing 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. That’s why interventions such as yours 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 that quote 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 make knowledge problematic and seek to unlearn the “epistemic violence” implemented by colonialism, to quote Gayatri Spivak, Professor of Literary Studies at Columbia University. 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, resisted from the outset their exploitation. They have been providing us with methods, knowledge and tools for many years. They have insisted on research into racism, gender issues and postcolonialism. We – the ones who are seemingly “benefiting” from these structures – obviously just haven’t been that interested.

There has long been 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.

Our goal must therefore be to ensure a firmly rooted awareness in the public conscience of the multiplicity of stories, perspectives and narratives. What is needed is transcultural education – a style of education that does more than merely engage people at the cognitive level. With their ability to engage at the emotional level, art, music, film and literature can serve as tools to this end. Transcultural education is most needed where there are sustained inequalities and where social exclusion determines the future of many.

Transcultural education can challenge established self-images and force institutions to take a critical approach to their own role within education processes that are still too heavily influenced by “them and us” thinking. Our aim must be to move away from the trite talk and see the pluralistic voices as a resource. This festival and the day-to-day work of EOTO are excellent examples of how this can be done. They do not simply adopt existing structures and reproduce canonized knowledge to promote social integration within the prevailing cultural framework. Instead, they create their own forms of participation – be it by artists or in work with refugees making a new home in Berlin.

I am grateful to this festival for opening its doors and minds to perspectives that have for decades been criticizing the “postcolonial illiteracy” that is dominant in German society.

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 programs 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 of our historical responsibility and stop ignoring 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 wish you a productive festival and engaged discussions on the most pressing issues of our time. Thank you for your attention.


bpb:magazin 2/2017
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bpb:magazin 2/2017

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