Lectures, conversations, DJ set

Capitalism in Cosmological Terms

With Bedour Alagraa, Brenna Bhandar, Christopher Bracken, Fumi Okiji, Wendy Meryem Shaw and others

Sat, Dec 3, 2022
Auditorium, Restaurant Weltwirtschaft
1–8.30 pm
Free admission

In English

Updates and program information:
HKW Newsletter

Mariana Castillo Deball, Coatlicue, 2010, courtesy the artist

What does it mean to describe capitalism in cosmological terms? The third day of the public program seeks to elaborate on Sylvia Wynter’s propositions by focussing on narrative and theological structures underlying the genesis of colonial modernity and “racial capitalism” (Cedric Robinson). The violent decay of the current world order makes it inevitable to develop a new vocabulary for human modes of world-making. To envision different futures, the myths enacted by European modernity need to be unhinged.

1 pm
Welcome & Introduction
Denise Ryner

1.15 pm
Rituals of Disalienation: Ceremonies against the Violence of Expropriation and Extrapolation
Richard Drayton

Capitalist modernity and the colonial order of the world after 1492 depended, for Sylvia Wynter, on the reduction of complexity and difference. Conquest and dispossession were connected to ceremonies of brutal simplification. Maps, metaphors and measures turned nature and humanity into fungible things, valued only for their meanings and market prices in Europe. Resistance to this engine of dispossession, across centuries, included a carnivalesque revolt, both a comic dramatizing of the fraudulence of capital's rituals, and a refusal of "chosification", a noisy, colorful demand to be visible subject/ivities at the end of the modern.

Against the “Narrative Condemnation of the Earth”: The Interminable Catastrophe Breaks
Bedour Alagraa

In her talk, Alagraa presents her re-conceptualization of the catastrophic, via the lens of “cruel mathematics” and Hegel’s conceptualization of the “Bad infinity” regarding the idea of terminality . She considers the interminable in/against the idea of the Bad infinity, as a way of explaining how catastrophe appears to be never ending despite drawing its coherence from a fixed conception of the End. She then uses the work(s) of Sylvia Wynter, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite for a gaze at the many ways Black people have managed to break with the metronome of the Bad Infinity, and domesticate change (Wynter, 1974) in the process of moving on, via poetry, prose, music, painting, dance, sex, play and other expressive mediations.

Conversation with Bedour Alagraa and Richard Drayton, moderated by Denise Ryner

Out of Perspective
Wendy Meryem Shaw

European painting puts you in perspective, pinned like a chloroformed butterfly to a board. You imagine you are the only one looking, but really, it’s the world looking at you. Self-conscious? That’s the point. How could you flutter out of that picture? Try on other eyes, wings, heart? Move freely, decentered? You think God looks only from on high? Think again! What if God looks this way and that, fixed to precisely nowhere. What if your most authentic self, modeled on God, emerges only in the moment that you dissolve?

(Failing) to be Disturbed by Contradiction
Fumi Okiji

This contribution spins to converse Claudia Rankine’s aphorism indexing Man’s supposedly wild imagination and black death. It suggests that it is because the West is compelled to “police its imagination,” that the earth and its “people are dying.” This world, that valorizes the actual, feels crushing despair in the face of fantastic possibility. It suffers acute anxiety when met by the walking, talking contradictions that condition its founding. Confrontation with the relative ease and proficiency in resting in/with aporia, this impertinent want of despair, must be experienced as an affront. It must be neutralized.

Treating History as Alive: Democratic Modernity and The Third Way of the Kurdish Freedom Movement
Elif Sarican

What does it mean to bring history alive as a challenge to narratives of capitalist modernity? In this lecture Elif Sarican discusses the Kurdish freedom movement’s (KFM) theoretical foundations in the struggle for freedom against colonial-patriarchal-capitalism. By bringing history alive, the resistance of struggles - rituals and practices of indigenous societies, women and youth is acknowledged and brought alive. Applying this as a foundation, Sarican discusses Abdullah Öcalan’s paradigm that makes the case for a “third way” - breaking the deadlock of the often proposed “choices”, particularly in the Middle East, between advanced capitalism or theocratic dictatorships.

Conversation with Fumi Okiji, Elif Sarican, Wendy Meryem Shaw, moderated by Anselm Franke

6 pm
Autopoiesis in the Web of Life: Livelihood Ecologies and the Impasse of Culturalist Notions of Cosmogenesis
Bue Rübner Hansen

If global warming is capitalogenic rather than anthropogenic, Sylvia Wynter's question of what it means to narrate who we are against the cosmology and anthropology of capitalism becomes all the more urgent. Starting from the question of agroecology – defined as the assemblage of ancestral practices and the science of ecology in the service of material provisioning – we may begin to investigate the possibility of a cosmology of the inexhaustible variability of being human in the web of life.

The Question of Fascist Cosmogonies and Their Overturning
Ben Ratskoff

With especial reference to the work of historian George Mosse, Sylvia Wynter has diagnosed Nazi fascism as an expression of the nineteenth century, biocentric system of figuration that projected Western man as human Norm against the negatively marked figures of the “Semite” and “Negro.” This lecture will ask (if and) how Wynter illuminates a specifically fascist cosmogony, its relationship to the mythopoeia of colonial modernity and racial capitalism and the specific challenge fascism poses for overcoming them.

Reanimating History in the Colonial Theater: Some Impractical Reflections on the Practical Past
Christopher Bracken

This talk looks to the horror film for a ceremony to undo the racialization of testimony under settler colonialism. The procedure for racializing belief can be found at work in a lawsuit that made its way through the Canadian courts in the 1980s and 90s. In 1984, fifty-two hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en Nations claimed ownership and jurisdiction over 57 000 square kilometers of traditional territory in northwestern British Columbia. At trial, a Gitxsan elder told the court a story about a supernatural grizzly bear. Whether the story could be admitted into evidence became a test of whether the court would admit Indigenous people into history. But must all statements about the past tell the truth to speak justice?

Colonial Modern Law: property as power
Brenna Bhandar (via video)

Lockean rationales for the appropriation of Indigenous lands embody failed attempts to secularize the foundations of private property. The originary co-mingling of sovereign and private forms of power, firmly rooted in a racial, hetero-patriarchal kinship, is obscured by modern law’s performative attempts at universality and the driving imperatives of extractivist corporate interests.

Conversation with Brenna Bhandar, Christopher Bracken, Ben Ratskoff, Bue Rübner Hansen moderated by Anselm Franke

From 9 pm, Weltwirtschaft Restaurant
DJ Set
Marco Bruzzone