Imagine Going on Strike!
In the pre-lockdown spring of 2020, several members of the FMS gathered to read Ariella Azoulay’s “Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism” together, in preparation for her scheduled visit in October 2020. We had gotten through Ch.1 together when we were sent home to quarantine. The book is a magnificent 650-page endeavor, a 10-year project (as Ariella describes it) to unlearn by recognizing the imperial foundations of knowledge. It covers questions of archives, museums, sovereignty, human rights, and history, and posits a mode of practicing what she calls “potential history”.
As such, the book is a key guiding source and inspiration for a range of activities the FMS is committed to collaboratively building in the coming year in thinking the relation of the aesthetic to the political from a critical and creative perspective, and will provide a potential theoretical framework for other workshops, experiments, activities and events.
The book also includes a series of short segments that are forms of “imagining”: “Imagine Going on Strike: Museum Workers”, “Imagine Going on Strike: Photographers”, “Imagine Going on Strike: Historians”, “Imagine Going on Strike: The Governed”. These could potentially constitute prompts for experimental writing exercises also (in keeping with The Hundreds work some of us have done together).
Conscious of the persistent pandemic, and of our already overburdened lives, a couple of us proposed to reconvene on different terms: a new reading group model, in preparation for a new form of engagement with Ariella: Rather than meet to discuss specific chapters of the book, we proposed to hold monthly meetings to gather and discuss the book together. There would not be assigned readings for each session, simply the request that each be able to share something from the book together, where ever we are, whatever we’ve read, whatever we’re thinking. This would avoid assigning voluminous pages (the chapters are *long*), hopefully also avoid performative pressures to be polished or even intelligible (!) Each could read on their own time, participate as they can.
The general aim would be to think seriously about “unlearning imperialism”, in our various roles and participation in spaces (including the FMS), centred on four broad areas for “striking”:
- a) striking against expertise / knowledge, extraction ;
- b) striking against institutional shutters (faculty/student, academic/non-academic, disciplinary);
- c) striking against tools and technologies / how to;
- d) striking against colonial and extractive ecologies (territories, extractions, subject/object divisions, separations).
We hope to create red threads across these clusters or constellations of thinking.
PROMPTS FOR REFLECTION
Collectivity/FMS as Institution: What might it mean (practically, tangibly) to share space/time? What might this imply as a modality of “collectivity” or “co-citizenship”? What other models of collectivity (institutions, movements, collectivities) inspire us and might influence the FMS?
Dreaming: Azoulay argues that potential history involves the “refusal to accept that our predecessors’ dreams can no longer be ours”. What are these predecessors’ dreams for each of us? How might this invite us to go on strike against specific forms of imperial violence? To change our methods, or our objects of critical / creative practice?
Non-Toolkits/Rehearsals: What are the techniques, methodologies, practices that allow us to rehearse a “potentialized history”? How could these be articulated as approaches, pedagogies, toolkits?