DEPOSITS OF THE FUTURE

Deposits of the Future through Times and Spaces: African/Diasporic Safe Knowledge

“[I]t it is our visions which sustain us. Do not neglect nor shortchange them. Do not treat your dreams lightly. They point the way toward a future made possible by our belief in them and our labors in their name, which is also ours. There is a world in which we all wish to live. That world is not attained lightly. We call it future.”

 –Audre Lorde, I Am Your Sister.

My ideas are drawn from my work on digital Diasporic spaces, which mostly is theoretical and discursive. I work a lot with images, which I see as a carrier of collective knowledge translated into (a) different language/s to travel and re/connect with agents who weren’t present at the particularly moment. The translation part is multi complex, because it is drawing from and feeding into a constantly growing archive of collective knowledge. This body of symbols, codes and references, spread and re/negotiated through different media, academic and art representations as music, sound, pictures (in contrast to ‘images’), poetry, biographies, and various genres of fiction create/d a net of texts. I like to think of this archive as a map of our connected Diasporic experience, which probably manifests itself the best now in the digital representation. The archive of knowledge is passed on through generations of African/Diasporic people through times but also through geographic spaces, enlarging this map, which itself became part of the archive. As ways and modes of transfer may vary and academic scholarship usually just peaks into small ‘spaces’ of it looking for aspects relatable to their disciplinary embedded subject-matter, I believe that it is such an archive of knowledge where our key concepts i.e. future – and with that history and present –, time and, narration are informed by and re/negotiated through. Especially Western academic scholarship might not always find their research connected to this notion. The dynamics developing from such disconnect are in every research results embedded. Questions like, who’s story is been told?, which story is not been told?, do have a larger impact then just being references to the power of contribution. They rather go to the heart of that what is not communicated, what is held back. It is in this context the assertion that one is silent toward a certain mode of knowledge production is a valid (intellectual) intervention. This silence manifests itself in manifold ways and is highly consequential to everybody’s work. While most white scholars are not actively aware of it, it does mirror itself in their work as the void I discussed earlier. A work of void/s that will be passed on by citations and transformations as pioneering. It can be argued that the politics of knowledge (-production) are nowhere else so urgently present as in the left-out traces of lived realities of the other. But, while silence in all cases contains a certain kind of transgression, it can be read as a paradoxical performance, as a realm of the subversive. In any case that which often finds its way as a ‘void’ in normative research can be seen as a trace of resistance, a rupture within, so to speak. The silence of a self-authorized (collective) subject contains both, critique and crisis. Empirical research with/in an arguably very small pool of ‘informants’ often lives from human networks scholars are able to built. Those human networks aren’t necessarily able to translate or even be part of the collective experience behind the ‘void.’ To understand that the question, Whose story is being told?, is not just a variant of the question, Who can speak?, but points to the danger of a normalizing academic discourse where that which is being told is that which can be made intelligible and comprehensible to a certain knowledge is here ultimately important. Furthermore, assuming that all experiences can be analyzed by everybody ultimately leads to appropriations of collective experiences (see above). Chimamanda Adichie already warned us how entangled histories can nonetheless present parallel lives.

As the past has to become present or better a piece of the present in order to become history and as with access to the past comes access to the future, there is a lot at stake for African/Diasporic perspectives in the endeavor of re/searching African/ Diasporic futures. I do understand my work also in and as a response to a tendency of the commoditization of such ‘African futures’, which do use or operate on commodifying representations of Blackness in general. It is in this context that I first experienced kara lych’s work on Black imagination, time and spaces. Her speculative installation work is based on and embedded in many of the archival connections of collective memory. It speaks to me in a way that combines theory and artistic practice. As kara’s work is investigating notions of space in and through time/s I was trying to connect the idea of using an existing safe in the place of the exhibition (Iwalewahaus) as a safe space and a space that manifests voids, and exclusion at the same time. As we all work on new knowledge productions in the field of future conceptualizations in Africa and its Diaspora our work ultimately also paves the way for future past-memories. Thus our works, now here communicated (and translated) to a broader public point first and foremost to different imaginations and envisionings of the future. However, the value of multiple and even contested perspectives of Future Africa lies also in a disclosure of strategies of engagement and processes of this future past-memory-production. As memories are constructed so might be also our futures. This may open a way of actualizing our futures – as Audre Lorde once suggested –, where we negotiate and subvert conceptions of history and develop different conceptions of time and history, making a radically different future easier to imagine.

The very space of a walk-in safe can not only symbolize this but also make it physically tangible. Although the space itself is visible as there is a little room on the level of the main exhibition that lead to the stairs to get down to the safe, visitors do need some hints, symbols and codes of motivation get stimulated to explore this space on the margin. This speaks directly to the selective processes we executing everyday to ‘go’ or search for something or not: the ‘choice’ behind searching for knowledge will so be more physically tangible and the void of not doing so hopefully also be emotionally more accessible. This space – as a walk-in safe – will demonstrate both, the physical and intellectual consequences of knowledge on the margin, a knowledge (and by that, a history and future) that is – literary – left in the basement as well as the very fact that these spaces are always shaped and developed as safe spaces for African/Diasporic lives and stories. Because in the collective experience of African/ Diasporic histories and futures we live our theories, work and praxis not as some distant dream, but as something that can and will happen, that is happening right now. We should here look to and borrow from the discussions on the African continent, which right now are reclaiming these Futures. As Achille Mbembe pointed out: “So we wanted to recapture that category of the future and see to what extent it could be remobilized in the attempt at critiquing the present, and reopening up a space not only for imagination, but also for the politics of possibility.”

Written by Peggy Piesche

PEGGY PIESCHE

Peggy Piesche is a literary and Cultural Studies scholar who’s work is centered in Black European Studies. At the Bayreuth University she is currently working in the Academy for Advanced African Studies. Her book-length research project there, “Concepts of Future in MediaSpaces” is exploring how Diaspora is negotiated through notions of race and digitalized collective identities. Her book publications include AufBrüche. Kulturelle Produktionen von Migrantinnen, Schwarzen und jüdischen Frauen in Deutschland (Ulrike Helmer Verlag, 1999), May-Ayim-Award: Erster Internationaler Schwarzer deutscher Literaturpreis (Orlanda Verlag, 2004), Mythen, Masken und Subjekte. Kritische Weißseinsforschung in Deutschland (Unrast Verlag, 2005 and 2009), “Euer Schweigen schützt euch nicht.” Audre Lorde und die Schwarze Frauenbewegung in Deutschland (Orlanda Verlag, 2012). Piesche’s areas of research and teaching include Critical Race and Whiteness Studies, Black Feminist Studies, Diaspora and Translocality, and the Performativity of Memory cultures (Spatiality and Coloniality of Memories). Articles on these subjects appeared in several journals and edited volumes. Peggy Piesche is also an activist member of ADEFRA (Black Women in Germany) and the Black community in Germany.

SUSAN ARNDT

Susan Arndt is Professor of Transcultural Anglophone Studies at the University of Bayreuth. She studied literature, linguistics and cultural studies in Berlin and London and worked at the Universities of Oxford, Berlin, Frankfurt/Main and Bayreuth. Her major research interests are British, Anglophone and diasporic fiction as related to postcoloniality, gender, intertextuality, futurity, posthumanism and technology.

She is the author of Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen. Rassismus (München: C.H.Beck 2012, 2nd edition 2015),

The Dynamics of African Feminism. Defining and Classifying African Feminist Literatures (Trenton, NJ; Asmara: Africa World Press 2002) and African  Women’s Literature, Orature and Intertextuality (Bayreuth: Bayreuth African Studies) (1998).

KARA LYNCH

kara lynch is a time-based artist living en exilio in Brooklyn, NY. Born in the auspicious year of 1968. Ambivalent towards hyper-visual culture, she is curious about duration, embodiment, and aural experience ; and through collective practice and social intervention lynch explores aesthetic/political relationships between time + space. Her work is vigilantly raced, classed, and gendered – Black, queer and feminist. kara is a member of Interdiciplinario, La Linea, a feminist artist collective on the Tijuana/San Ysidro border. She completed her MFA in Visual Arts at UCSD, a Permaculture Design Certification from the Center for Bioregional Living, and and has been a research fellow in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, University of Texas, Austin and the Academy for Advanced African Studies at Bayreuth University in Germany. She currently earns a living as an Associate Professor of Video and Critical Studies at Hampshire College in Amhest, MA.

Major projects include: ‘Invisible’ – an episodic, speculative installation and performance project; ‘Mouhawala Oula’ – a trio performance for oriental dance, live video and saxophone, ‘Black Russians’ – a feature-length documentary; and ‘The Outing’ – a video travelogue. Awards for her video and performance work include iFilms and PlanetOut and Individual artist grants from Lila Wallace, NYFA, NYSCA, Paul Robeson Foundation, and Franklin Furnace. She has participated in various artist residencies: Arts International Residency in Moscow; the Banff Centre for the Arts; el Laboratorio Fronterizo de Escritores/Writing Lab on the Border; and the Civitella Ranieri Center in Italy. She is published in XCP Streetnotes, Ulbandus Review, BFM, contributed audio to Cabinet Magazine, video to PocketMyths, and drawings/writings to the Encyclopedia Project v.II F-K. lynch is currently co-editing the forthcoming anthology: We Travelled the Spaceways Black Imagination, Fragments and Diffractions.

MARIAM POPAL

Mariam Popal’s academic fields are ENGLISH & POSTCOLONIAL STUDIES. She received her PhD in Middle East Studies with summa cum laude with a work on the meanings of Law/Sharia from the perspectives of Feminist Postcolonial Theories and Comparative Law at the University of Hamburg/Germany. She is working on her second theses in English about the concept of touching’ and the works of Paul Auster and Zadie Smith at the Department of English & American Studies/University of Bayreuth.  Currently she is researcher at the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies. Her further work is a book on the Legacy of Malcolm X and the Notions of Diaspora, Nation and Language, and an anthology on the ideas and trajectories of Stuart Hall for current political, literary and film theory.

She additionally has initiated three further projects that she now is co-editing: an anthology on Afghan Nation and Narration (with Abbas Poya, University of Zurich/ FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg & Anders Widmark, University of Uppsala), a miscellany on Postcolonial Ethics (with Susan Arndt, Bayreuth University & Rinaldo Walcott, University of Toronto) and (with Susan Arndt/Bayreuth University) an Interview compilation and film pastiche with summer guests of the Academy regarding the idea and praxis of concepts.  She is also co-editing a book on Anti-Muslim Racism and Neo-Orientalisms with Iman Attia/Alice Salomon University, Berlin.

Her research foci are:

(Feminist) De-/Postcolonial Studies, Ethics, (Postcolonial) Shakespeare Studies, Literary Theory, Affect Theories, especially humor, Modern English/American Literatures, Modernism, Virginia Wolff, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, The Harlem Renaissance, Toni Morrison, American Short Stories, Film Theory & Photography, Critical Race Studies and Representation Theory, Critical Inter-artity Studies within different critical movements,  Diaspora Studies, images of Afghanistan in English Literatures and Modern Afghan Literatures & Cultural Studies, anti-Muslim racism, Neo-Orientalisms, Postcolonial New Materialism(s).

Some of her publications include:

Articles:

• Postcolonial (Theory in/and) Europe? – Flows and Flinders, in: Susan Arndt/Nadja Ofutey-Alazard (Eds.), Afrofictional In[ter]ventions – Revisiting the BIGSAS Festival of African and African-Diasporic Literatures, Bayreuth 2011-13, Münster: edition assemblage 2014, pp. 67-74.

• ‚Gender‘. Myths – Masks – Subjectpositions – and beyond [‚Gender‘. Mythen – Masken – Subjektpositionen – und beyond], in: Freiburger Geschlechterstudien, Ausgabe 25/2011, S. 47-64.

• Heine and the Orient? – Between Subjectivity and Othering or How the Other came to Germany – saw and – ? [Heine und der Orient ? – Zwischen Subjektivität und Veranderung oder Wie das Andere nach Deutschland kam – sah – und ?], in: Lawrence I. Conrad/Benjamin Jokisch/Ulrich Rebstock (eds.), Fremde, Feinde und Kurioses. Innen- und Außenansichten unseres muslimischen Nachbarn. Festschrift für Prof. Dr. Gernot Rotter, de Gruyter 2009, S. 67-114.

• Head Scarf Hip Hop – Bodies Narrating (Other) Stories [Kopftücher HipHop – Körper sprechen schweigend (andere) Geschichten], in: Kien Nghi Ha, Nicola Lauré al-Samarai, Sheila Myrosekar (eds.), Re/visionen – Postkoloniale Perspektiven von People auf Color auf Rassismus, Kulturpolitik und auf Widerstand in Deutschland,
Unrast Verlag 2007, S. 87-109.

Books:

Sharia as Religious Law – a Construct? Reflections on the Analysis of Islamic Law based on Methods of Comparative Law and from a Post-Colonial Perspective [Die Scharia, das religiöse Recht – ein Konstrukt? Überlegungen zur Analyse des islamischen Rechts anhand rechtsvergleichender Methoden und aus Sicht post-kolonialer Kritik] Peter Lang 2006.

KILUANJI KIA HENDA

Kiluanji Kia Henda is an autodidact which a profound springboard into this realm comes from growing up in a household of photography enthusiasts.His conceptual edge was sharpened by immersing himself into music, avant-garde theater and collaborating with a collective of artists in Luanda. Kia Henda has participated in several residencies programs and in the following selected exhibitions: Triennial of Luanda, 2007; Check List Luanda Pop, African Pavilion, Biennale of Venice, 2007; Farewell to Post-Colonialism, Trien- nial of Guangzhou, 2008; There is always a cup of sea to sail in, 29th São Paulo Biennial, 2010; Tomorrow Was Already Here, Tamayo Museum, Mexico City, 2012; Les Prairies – Les Ateliers de Rennes, 2012; Mondays Begins On Saturday, First Bergen Triennial, 2013; The Shadows Took Form, The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, 2013; The Divine Comedy, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2014; Surround Audience, New Museum Triennial, New York, 2015. In 2012 he won the National Award for Culture and the Arts from the Angolan Ministry of Culture.

INGRID LAFLEUR

Ingrid LaFleur uses multiple forms of media to investigate possible avenues for psychosocial healing. With a special interest in the idea of transcendence, LaFleur researches ancient practices of ritual and alter making, mythologies, alternative healing modalities and spirit science. Ultimately LaFleur creates receptive spaces for engaging “blackness” and dismantling the fear associated with the black body.

In 2012, LaFleur founded AFROTOPIA, an evolving creative research project that uses Afrofuturism as a social engagement practice. The project website is afrotopiaisnow.com

Based in Detroit, LaFleur has presented her work on Afrofuturism at Centre Pompidou (Paris), University of Bayreuth (Bayreuth, Germany), Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA), TEDxBrooklyn, TEDxDetroit, College for Creative Studies (Detroit) among others.

PICTURE:  http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-139OB8Bgih0/T2X6udIQf2I/AAAAAAAADwY/60e3OZ-avpM/s1600/Ingrid%2BLaFleur.jpg