Mecila

#26

Memória, silenciamento, apagamento e identidade na escrita de Lúcia Hiratsuka e Rafaela Kawasaki

Simone Toji (Junior Fellow Mecila)

Sombras III. Arquivo pessoal de Simone Toji.

Sombras I. Arquivo pessoal de Simone Toji.

Um enterro de livros. Uma detenção por se falar outra língua que não o português. Estas são algumas das imagens que as escritoras Lúcia Hiratsuka e Rafaela Kawasaki evocam ao escrever sobre a vivência de famílias de migrantes japoneses e seus descendentes no Brasil durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial. Para elas, estas imagens não são somente elementos que constroem suas ficções, mas ecoam memórias que de diferentes maneiras habitam suas experiências pessoais e familiares.

Nascidas no Brasil, de avós que emigraram do Japão ainda nas décadas de 1920 e 1930 respectivamente, ambas atribuem um papel central à memória no desenvolvimento de algumas de suas narrativas. Em Os livros de Sayuri (SM, 2008), Lúcia Hiratsuka partiu das reminiscências de sua mãe sobre o momento em que viu os pais enterrando os livros de casa quando era criança. Em Peixes de aquário (Urutau, 2021), Rafaela Kawasaki se voltou aos relatos esparsos de seu avô sobre as proibições a que ficou sujeito durante a Segunda Guerra. Enquanto o primeiro livro foi concebido como narrativa infanto-juvenil, o segundo é considerado um romance histórico. Apesar das diferenças de gênero entre as obras, ao explorar memórias familiares pouco comentadas, as duas autoras trazem à luz histórias há muito tempo silenciadas, que surgem como testemunhos da violência realizada por autoridades e cidadãos brasileiros a inúmeros indivíduos e grupos de origem japonesa nas décadas de 1930 e 1940.

Silenciamento e apagamento

Para Rafaela Kawasaki, constituir seu texto e personagens a partir da memória dos atos repressivos executados pelo governo brasileiro dessa época é poder “falar dos impactos dessa condição de ser estrangeiro em um lugar, no caso no Brasil, e falar também sobre o silenciamento”. Para a autora, sua narrativa é “uma investigação sobre como é ser proibido de falar o seu próprio idioma, ter sua circulação restrita, ter a possibilidade de ter seus bens apreendidos, de ser considerado inimigo num lugar que por um período você estava construindo uma vida. Como era isso para a existência daquelas pessoas?”. Dessa maneira, ela considera que seu trabalho ficcional questiona as falsas ideias de que o Brasil é um país receptivo e hospitaleiro a todos. “A gente tem de tocar nestas feridas para não criar essas falsas ideias, porque essas falsas ideias ajudam a propagar mais xenofobia e mais intolerância. Mas é preciso fazer isso trazendo também os momentos de afeto”.

Nesse sentido também, para Lúcia Hiratsuka, escrever sobre este período não é somente uma forma de denúncia. “Para mim, tem que ter alguma coisa que me emociona, que me toca para começar a criar. A partir daí uma história vai se construindo. No caso de Os livros de Sayuri, tocou primeiro o enterro dos livros. Que imagem forte, me veio a vontade de contar uma história”. Mas, para Hiratsuka, as experiências dos migrantes japoneses e seus descendentes não foram negligenciadas apenas no Brasil. Ela acha que “houve um pouco de apagamento dessa história dos emigrantes no Japão e não parece haver um grande interesse para que os jovens conheçam esta história”. Segundo ela, havia um pensamento no Japão de que os emigrantes fossem considerados “como se tivessem fugido da guerra, como se fossem covardes. Durante as comemorações dos cem anos da imigração, creio que alguns seriados e documentários talvez mudaram um pouco essa ideia. Mas não sei se chamou a atenção dos jovens”.

Ser migrante, ser diferente

A sensibilidade para dar atenção a essas memórias subterrâneas e silenciadas por meio da literatura de ficção emergiu não somente das relações das autoras com seus familiares de ascendência japonesa, mas também da própria vivência delas enquanto migrantes no Japão, ao experimentar a condição de serem consideradas diferentes pelos japoneses. Para Kawasaki, sua percepção de que no Brasil “ainda existem muitas microviolências com a comunidade nipo-brasileira, que vem na forma de piada, de fetichização ou de brincadeiras na pronúncia de palavras” está estreitamente associada à sua experiência de ter passado parte de sua infância e adolescência como dekassegui no Japão. Apesar de às vezes haver uma curiosidade amistosa com relação a brasileiros neste país, ela sente que também há muita violência no dia-a-dia de brasileiros que migram para trabalhar temporariamente por lá. Por pertencer a uma família na qual seu avô japonês casou-se com sua avó brasileira, e seu pai nipo-brasileiro com sua mãe ítalo-brasileira, Rafaela sempre foi considerada alguém diferente pelos japoneses. Nas suas palavras, “eu tenho algo de japonês, mas eu tenho algo de japonês misturado. Um brasileiro dekassegui de aparência não tão nipônica, ele se sobressai como diferente. Nas ruas, a gente sofre muitas situações de violência, tanto de pessoas nas lojas ficarem grudadas na gente, como se a gente fosse roubar, nos seguindo ou alertando outro atendente sobre nossa presença, quanto de crianças jogarem pedra e falarem ‘Volta pro Brasil!’”.

No caso de Hiratsuka, sua experiência no Japão não se remete a episódios tão explícitos de preconceito. Ainda assim, ela também foi surpreendida quando se deparou com a vida por lá. Ao receber uma bolsa de estudos de uma universidade da região de origem de seus pais, ela relata que, “além de conhecer o Japão e ter contato com meus parentes, foi uma oportunidade importante para pensar a minha identidade também. Percebi que eu era muito diferente de uma pessoa da minha idade nascida e crescida no Japão. De início, foi um choque, porque aqui no Brasil me consideravam japonesa. No Japão, você descobre que não é bem assim, você se sente brasileira. Então fica um pouco desse sem-lugar, mas eu achei bom entender melhor essa identidade, principalmente o lado brasileiro”. De maneira semelhante, Kawasaki também questiona o lugar de sua identidade. “Eu não sou japonesa? Eu não sou brasileira? Em que lugar eu estou? Ou eu sou brasileira e japonesa? Qual é a minha identidade?”

 

Sombras III
Uma literatura entre identidades

É justamente no movimento sempre inacabado entre estar consciente destas questões e ir em direção a alguma resposta que ambas as escritoras exercem sua escrita, cada uma produzindo uma presença literária singular. Hiratsuka menciona o seguinte: “À medida que estou fazendo um novo livro, percebo que vou descobrindo mais do Brasil e de mim mesma, dessa identidade que não é só nipo-brasileira, mas também é a minha individualidade”. E ao explorar essa identidade, a autora considera que “quando construo uma narrativa, o cenário pode ser da roça, pode ser do Japão, pode ser a cidade de São Paulo, ou qualquer outro lugar, mas o ponto de partida é sempre uma questão humana, de como a vida é cheia de surpresas. Essas coisas inusitadas que a gente não espera, quando perguntamos se foi o acaso ou um fato do destino, ou um livre arbítrio. O ponto de partida sempre são os sentimentos humanos, de curiosidade, espanto, ciúme… O resto serve como pano de fundo”. Nessa direção, não se sente à vontade quando Os livros de Sayuri é classificado, por exemplo, apenas como obra associada à imigração japonesa ou associado a algum tipo de cota de diversidade, já que percebe seus livros circularem para além de tais rótulos.

De outra parte, é com tranquilidade que Kawasaki considera Peixes de aquário um livro que “entra nesse movimento de busca de identidades históricas e étnicas”, também produzindo uma certa descentralização, pois “apesar da história se passar em São Paulo, ela está num eixo de interior”, tendo sido escrita por uma autora que reside no momento no Paraná. Ademais, Rafaela reconhece que “é um livro que faz parte desse movimento de valorização da escrita pela mulher ­– se não de valorização, pelo menos de uma abertura maior”. Por isso, é também de modo afirmativo que ela reivindica uma identidade brasileira e amarela. “Eu me identifico como uma pessoa brasileira e como uma pessoa amarela. Para quem é mestiça como eu, você pode passar por branca no Brasil, mas você também não é branca e é importante ter consciência dessa raiz étnica. Então para mim, esses dois movimentos, tanto de reafirmação como brasileira, como de afirmação como pessoa amarela, são bastante importantes para a integridade da minha visão de mundo, até como mulher”.

É justamente na diversidade de estilos e experiências pessoais de vida e escrita que autoras brasileiras de legado nipônico estão trazendo para o debate público histórias que estavam “esperando” para ser escritas, conforme, citando Marina Colasanti, observa Hiratsuka: “às vezes a gente espera pela história, mas às vezes a história espera por nós”.

Sombras I

Global Convivial Forum 

#27

From South-South Epistemologies to the Reflection on South-East Relations: putting on a decolonial lens

Global Convivial Forum 

Joanna M. Moszczynska (Junior Fellow Mecila)

Mecila/ DALL.E

Global entanglements, Souths within the North included, read through a decolonial lens, provide interesting impulses for transregional studies, such as those dealing with relations between Latin America and Eastern Europe.

 

With the concept of the Global South, a desire emerged to make visible the literary and cultural communication between different geo-cultural peripheries since the end of the nineteenth century. South-South entanglements have been subject to research in critical thought and theory, historical relations, and the study of non-hegemonic and heterodox knowledge production. The Global in the Global South, as observes Sinah Kloß, underlines that “the concept should not be understood as merely geographical classification of the world, but as a reference attending to unequal global power relations, imperialism, and neo-colonialism” (Kloß 2017: 4).

However, the concept has met criticism from scholars who see the Global South as part of the imperial and Eurocentric binaries of East-West and North-South (Levander and Mignolo 2011: 9). From this perspective, the Global South indicates a “conservative return to the older ‘classical’ geopolitical and civilisation models”, neglecting regions and countries that do not neatly fit into either category (Tlostanova 2011: 69). To critically engage with the North/South differentiation, immanent to the concept of the Global South, Tlostanova proposes that we pay particular attention to those areas and places that cannot be easily identified as either North or South but are in between, such as post-Soviet and Eastern European post-socialist states (Tlostanova 2011: 69). Global entanglements, Souths within the North included, read through a decolonial lens, provide interesting impulses for transregional studies; for example, those that deal with relations between Latin America and Eastern Europe. Just like “South”, the notion of “East” carries a series of epistemological challenges that both comparative and transregional research can profit from.

Latin America (and the Caribbean) and Eastern Europe are two geopolitical areas that have been under economic, cultural, political as well as military pressure from the imperial powers, with whom they had to negotiate their national projects and visions of the future. The stigma of the (semi-) periphery bound by the postcolonial and post-socialist consciousness and the contested ideas of “the invention of the region”, in Anderson’s terms, that are found in the discourses from and about those regions show how the experience of oppression, marginalisation, and dependency have been crucial for the political and cultural (self-)understanding of those two parts of the world. Bringing together the scholarship on both regions, that is, Latin American Studies and Slavic Studies, should not limit itself to traditional comparative study but also allow searching for transregional and decolonial methodologies. What seems like a challenging task can nevertheless help better understand and map the entangled modern realities and representations of the regions, their spatial and temporal constellations and regimes, that is, their histories, cultures, institutions, trades, political transformations, migration processes, diasporas, negotiations of belonging, etc.

DALL·E 2022-12-06 16.17.39 - old fashioned map of latín america

 

Manuela Boatcă, for example, underlines the ontologically peripheral position of the “forgotten Europe”, one that “has been defined as Eastern Europe and is often still reduced to being an Other within” (Boatcă 2019: 96). The scholar further observes that “Eastern and Southern Europe are often considered lesser Europes and have to be specifically mentioned to be included” and proposes “creolisation of Europe”, that is, “the project […] contingent upon creolising social theory so as to re-inscribe the transnational experiences of regions othered as non-European and non-Western or racialised as non-white – such as the Caribbean – as well as the multiple entanglements between Europe and its colonies into sociological thought” (Boatcă 2019: 96; 108). Of course, “creolisation” does not have to limit itself just to the social sciences nor to “Europe”, but be a transdisciplinary and transregional project. A similar reflection on epistemic violence, yet committed against Latin America and the Caribbean, is provided by Ana Nenadović:

 

In its transition from colony to coloniser, the United States of America monopolised the name ‘America’. The linguistic exclusion of the peoples south of the US border lead to their othering and marginalisation. Donald Trump’s slogan ‘Make America great again’ is perhaps the most recognisable contemporary expression of this neo-colonial and racist monopolisation of the name. Trump’s ‘America’ is, without any doubt, white settler USA (Nenadović 2022).

 

The reflection on the use of language is part of a decolonising project, or, in the words of Madina Tlostanova and Walter Mignolo, a practice of “decolonial border thinking”. Decolonial border thinking enables displacing European modernity and empowers those who have been epistemically disempowered by the theo- and egopolitics of knowledge: “Decolonial border thinking” […] is grounded in the experiences of the colonies and subaltern empires. Consequently, it provides the epistemology that was denied by imperial expansion. […] It also moves away from the postcolonial toward the decolonial, shifting to the geo- and body politics of knowledge” (Tlostanova and Mignolo 2012: 60).

Border thinking emerges from the anti-imperial epistemic responses to the colonial difference, that is, the difference that hegemonic discourse endowed to “other people”. This somehow subaltern position turns into an advantage as it implies the awareness of the “double consciousness” (DuBois 2007), “which is not the case in the world of imperial difference that longs to belong to modernity’s sameness so much that it often erases its own difference” (Tlostanova and Mignolo 2012: 68). The imperial difference then comes in two modulations: external and internal. External is the difference between the Russian Czardom and later Russian Empire to Western empires, whereas internal imperial difference refers to the one among Western capitalist empires. The idea of the imperial difference can also be applied to the Cold War context of the struggle for domination between the US and the USSR, perceived as superpowers and distinct areas to be compared only from a modern and imperial epistemological assumption, each one having its own zones of influence, that is, spaces, that belong to the same universe.

Anita Starosta, in her book Form and Instability: Eastern Europe, Literature, Postimperial Difference, elaborates on the notion of postimperial difference as a more accurate account of the condition of Eastern Europe while rejecting the category of Eastern Europe as obsolete and inadequate, at least within the area of literary studies. According to Starosta, the idea of postimperial difference is related to the emergent and overlapping ways of thinking about the region – that is, post-socialism and post-colonialism. This articulation raises the question, “Is the post in post-imperial the post in postcolonial?”* or even, as David Chioni Moore puts it: “Is the Post in Post-Soviet the Post in Postcolonial?” (Moore 2001).

Tlostanova draws attention to the complexity of such questions when she warns against both conflating the post-Soviet with postcolonial discourses and excluding it from them, as this kind of operations either invisibilise the post-Soviet space or strips it of its agency. The solution could be brought by a decolonial method to address the post-Soviet imperial and colonial difference and the ontological othering the post-Soviet has been subject to within the modern system of knowledge. Russia is a paradigmatic case of a “Janus-faced racialized empire which feels itself a colony in the presence of the West and plays the part of a caricature civilizer mimicking European colonization models and missions in its own non-European colonies” (she refers here to Caucasus and Central Asia, but with regard to today’s situation we may think of Russia’s European ex-colonies) (Tlostanova 2015: 47).

The scholarship cited here raises many engaging and thought-provoking issues, although not always directly having both regions, Latin America and Eastern Europe, as a joint case study. They nevertheless engage with the concepts and ideas such as: creolisation, imperial and postimperial difference, colonial difference and post-colonialism, and knowledge production, and thus broaden our perspective and incentivise us to rethink and improve our methodologies and enable us to open for a better historical, geopolitical and cultural understanding of those regions and their states:

According to a rough consensus, the cultures of postcolonial lands are characterized by tensions between the desire for autonomy and a history of dependence, between the desire for autochthony and the fact of hybrid, part-colonial origin, between resistance and complicity, and between imitation (mimicry) and originality. Postcolonial peoples’ passion to escape from their once colonized situations paradoxically gives the ex-colonials disproportionate weight in the recently freed zones. And the danger of retrenchment, or of a neocolonial relation, is ever present (Moore 2001: 112). 

In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, and many Latin American intellectuals have been reluctant to condemn Russia’s war crimes. Maybe putting on a decolonial lens on the gaze upon Eastern Europe could make the above-cited words of Chioni Moore effectively resonate among Latin American minds.


*It is a question inspired by Kwame Anthony Appiah (Appiah 1991).

Appiah, Kwame Anthony (1991):
“Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in
Postcolonial?”, in: Critical Inquiry, 17, 2, 336–357. Boatcă
 
Manuela (2019):
“Forgotten Europe: Rethinking regional entanglements from the Caribbean”, in: Cairo Carou, Heriberto and Breno M. Bringel (eds.), Critical Geopolitics and Regional (Re)configurations.
Interregionalism and Transnationalism between Latin America and Europe. London: Routledge, 69–116.
 
Cairo Carou, Heriberto and Bringel, Breno M. (eds.) (2019):
Critical Geopolitics and Regional (Re)configurations. Interregionalism and Transnationalism between Latin America and Europe. London: Routledge.
 
DuBois, W. E. B. (2007):
The Souls of Black Folk, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 
Kloß, Sinah Theres (2017): “The Global South as Subversive Practice:
Challenges and Potentials of a Heuristic Concept”, in: The Global South, 11, 2, 1–17.
 
Levander, Caroline and Mignolo, Walter (2011):
“The Global South and World
Dis/Order”, in: The Global South, 5, 1, 1–11.
 
Moore, David Chioni (2001):
“Is the Post- in Postcolonial the Post- in Post-Soviet? Toward a Global Postcolonial Critique”, in: PMLA, 116, 1, 111–128.
 
Nenadović, Ana (2022):
 
Rapping the Decolonisation of America – Rapear la
decolonización de América, in: SOAS History Blog, May 24, 2022, at: blogs.soas.ac.uk.
 
Tlostanova, Madina (2011): “The South of the Poor North: Caucasus Subjectivity and the Complex of Secondary “Australism””, in: The Global
South, 5, 1, 66–84.
 
Tlostanova, Madina (2015):
 
“Can the Post-Soviet Think? On Coloniality of Knowledge, External Imperial and Double Colonial Difference”, in:
Intersections, 1, 2.
 
Tlostanova, Madina and Mignolo, Walter (2012): Learning to Unlearn: Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas , Columbus: Ohio State University Press.

#25

Pensar la escuela desde la Convivialidad

Global Convivial Forum 

Osvaldo Barreneche (Associated Investigator Mecila)

Osvaldo Barreneche con el libro Pensar la escuela desde la Convivialidad. Un libro para directores. 

Con la reciente publicación del libro de Inés Fior y Fernando Zullo, Pensar la escuela desde la Convivialidad. Un libro para directores, de la Editorial Autores de Argentina, se obtiene una respuesta concreta a la pregunta que muchas veces, en soledad, nos hacemos: ¿Es que hay alguien, fuera de los especialistas y estudiosos de un tema académico, al que le interese todo lo que hacemos?

Los autores de este libro cuentan con una amplia formación pedagógica y con una experiencia de gestión importante en el ámbito educativo. Fue casi de casualidad, pocos meses antes del inicio de la pandemia, que uno de ellos se enteró de la existencia del MECILA y de los estudios sobre convivialidad y desigualdad en América Latina. Entonces, por cuenta propia, los autores utilizaron todos los recursos disponibles en el sitio web MECILA, a partir del cual profundizaron la bibliografía sobre Convivialidad y la pusieron en diálogo con sus propias elaboraciones conceptuales y con su experiencia profesional.

IMG_7097(1)

El resultado, totalmente inesperado y sorpresivo para el colectivo académico del MECILA, es este libro, fruto de dicho recorrido. Más allá de las consideraciones que se puedan hacer sobre este producto y su contenido, es muy alentador como hecho en sí.

Que los recursos disponibles en nuestro sitio web y sus derivados hayan sido la base para este libro, muestra la importancia del esfuerzo que continuamente se hace para difundir y ampliar el círculo académico específico del proyecto MECILA. Aquí, de manera totalmente independiente y centrado en un tema como el pedagógico, Fior y Zullo nos presentan este resultado, el cual, como se indica en la contratapa de la publicación, propone “como marco interpretativo y de acción el concepto de convivialidad para explorar las formas de comprender, intervenir y mejorar la manera en que suceden las relaciones escolares”.

#24

A Short History of Aquariums: Scientific Curiosity, Aesthethic Delight and Conviviality

Global Convivial Forum 

Ana Carolina Torquato (Junior Fellow Mecila)

Lady with a Japanese Screen and Goldfish, James Cadenhead (1858–1927).

In my research year as a Junior Postdoctoral fellow at Mecila, I have been dealing with the subject of animal captivity as means of entertainment. I am primarily interested in the representation of such establishments as zoos and aquariums in literature to understand better what kinds of thoughts, impressions, feelings, or questionings these “face-to-face moments” arise in the stories I delved into.

In the contemporary world, it is very common to find zoological gardens and aquariums in basically every big city around the globe. Their purpose as institutions which promote human/animal contact as their basic means for entertainment has not changed much since their early formats. However, although zoos and aquariums have similar characteristics, their history is different in situation and time. Whereas zoological gardens date back to earlier forms of private (and royal) animal collections, to menageries, to finally having the layout they have now – a place which displays animals, mostly terrestrial ones, to a wide public – aquariums have a more recent and somewhat multipurposed appearance in history.

A Brief History of the Aquariums

Human beings have a long tradition of keeping fish and other aquatic animals in the surroundings of the home. Naturally, the purpose behind such practice has changed significantly over time. There are signs of humans keeping fish at home as a food supply and an ornament to beautify their living spaces and gardens (Vernon 2001). In my research, I am particularly interested in the latter form of fish keeping, for they show us light into the history of aquariums as objects of aesthetic observation.

 

Although these species seem to have lost part of their ancient charm in contemporary times, one of the most beloved species in the history of fish keeping for ornamental purposes was the goldfish (Brunner 2005). These golden beings may be one of the kick-starters of a tradition that would become a fever in places like China, Japan, and some European countries.

While raising fish in water gardens has been a tradition in many places around the world, the modern idea of domestic conviviality between humans and aquatic animals was first popularized in the mid-nineteenth century with the creation of the at-home aquariums. Since then, the popularity of home aquariums grew fast and gave room to a genuine Age of aquariums: a time when educational interests, aesthetic curiosities, and the domesticity of unconventional pets revolved around one object.

The history of aquariums as we know them today starts with the creation of home aquariums. Such history was shaped by the collective work of many intellectuals and natural historians worldwide. Among these, two of the most frequently mentioned names belonged to two women: Anna Thynne (England, 1806–1866) and Jeanne Villepreux-Power (France, 1794 –1871).

Jeanne Villepreux-Power street in Paris is located in the vicinity of the Parc Zoologique Bois de Vincennes, a true Victorian aquarium kept at the Horniman Museum’s aquarium in London. (Personal archive.)

A true Victorian aquarium kept at the Horniman Museum’s aquarium in London. (Personal Archive.)

Anna Thynne had an important role in the history of aquariums. She became quite well-known for her investigation of madrepores and stone corals and for discovering the recipe of one of the essential rules of the at-home aquariums: how to keep aquatic animals alive (in saltwater) at home (Scott 2003). Anna’s discoveries were considered fundamental for the development of the aquarium in its private and public forms. Her work was praised by Philip Henry Gosse, known as the creator of the public aquarium in its early form in Britain. In 1853, Gosse stocked the Fish House which was annexed to the London Zoo. Allegedly, the name ‘aquarium’ – as opposed to ‘aqua-vivarium’ –  was first used by Philip Henry Gosse in The Aquariums: An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Water (1854).

Jeannette Villepreux-Power was notorious for creating aquariums used mainly for observation purposes. She used aquariums as containers of marine animal life for conducting experimentation with aquatic organisms or studying their anatomy and form. Contrary to Anna Thynne, Villepreux-Power did not believe the home aquarium to be a good way to observe aquatic animals’ behaviour, so to embrace this thinking, she settled in a place where she could have easy access to the ocean. For this reason, most of her independent work was then carried on in Sicily, Italy. Villepreux-Power published a few books about her investigations, such as Observations et expériences physiques sur plusieurs animaux marins et terrestres (1839). Both Thynne and Villepreux-Power lived in a time when women could not attend university, and all that they knew or researched was mainly the result of independent work. Also, for this reason, although their interest in contributing to the history of sciences was genuine, not much of it was publicly credited for their real scientific importance.

The Age of Aquariums

In the nineteenth century, keeping aquariums at home became a fever among Europeans. Among the aquarium-maniacs, you could find naturalists interested in studying aquatic animals from up-close, people who would keep fish at home to use them for their diet, and people who wanted to display the aquarium as an object of prestige and high social status (Granata 2021).

Soon, as they became luxury items, the at-home aquariums became must-have items among the upper classes. Aquariums were particularly popular in Britain, and soon they started to occupy a central place in Victorian living rooms. Their earlier formats were quite simple and often did not promote 360º visibility, one of the qualities of modern fish tanks. However, since they became valuable decorative articles, aquariums started being produced with glass on all sides to guarantee unobstructed observation from any corner of the living room. Aquariums were said to occupy a similar value as television sets in modern houses. This object needed to be displayed in the centre while all the furniture was arranged around it.

The Public Aquariums

Most of the success of the at-home aquariums was due to their multi-purpose use: they were both exciting modes to observe marine life and also objects that promoted aesthetic observation delights and social entertainment. So, as aquariums became a more common trend by the day, they soon called the attention of naturalists/business people that saw their potential to become a similar leisure experience as that of zoological gardens.

Many public aquariums were inaugurated from the mid-nineteenth century onwards: The Fish House at the ZSL London Zoo opened in 1853, the Aquarium of the Jardin Acclimatation and the Vienna Aquarium Salon in 1860, the Hamburg Marine Aquarium Temple in 1864, the Naples Aquarium in 1866, the Berlin Aquarium Unter den Linden in 1869, the Brighton Aquarium in 1872, the Amsterdam Artis Aquarium in 1882, among others.

Some of these public institutions fostered similar qualities as those of the home aquariums since they combined educational values and artistic and aesthetic interests. Some of them were constructed in scenic art nouveau-inspired buildings. These buildings are an example of a tradition that established fine architectural structures in public zoos and aquariums that would continue to exist later. A few examples are Moritz Lehmann’s main portal of the Tierpark Hagenbeck in Hamburg (1907), Lubetkin’s Penguin Pool (1934) at the London Zoo, René-Félix Berger’s Grande Fauverie (1937) at the Jardin des Plantes, the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi’s belle époche portal (1883) or even the Quinta da Boa Vista Zoo’s English-style portal.

The quality of associating aesthetic beauty with animal keeping seems to have been elicited from the experience of the observation of aquatic animals. In an article discussing the artistic value of aquarium observation, Nola Semczyszyn considers the subject of environmental aesthetics, specifically around the observation of aquariums as artwork themselves: “Seeing natural objects in art categories can be creative, and “metaphorical seeing” can yield deeper aesthetic appreciation” (Semczyszyn 2013).

This historical trend that possibly started with the rise of nineteenth-century zoological gardens and has achieved its peak in the Age of aquariums, still exists in the present time. Architects of the twenty-first century have been experimenting even more boldly with public aquariums’ format and immersion potential. Now, it seems that the beauty around the observation of aquatic animals not only lies within spectatorship but also in having the feeling of being surrounded by the ocean itself.

+

Bernd Brunner (2005): The Ocean at Home: An Illustrated History of the Aquarium, Princeton Architectural Press.

Silvia Granata (2021):  The Victorian Aquarium: Literary Discussions on Nature, Culture, and Science, Manchester University Press.

Nola Semczyszyn (2013): “Public Aquariums and Marine Aesthetics”, in: Contemporary Aesthetics, 11.

Rebecca Stott (2003): Theatres of Glass: The Woman Who Brought the Sea to the City, Short Books.

Vernon N. Kisling (2001): Zoo and Aquarium History: Ancient Animal Collections to Zoological Gardens, CRC Press.

#23

Global Convivial Forum 

“É aquilo que eu vejo, aquilo que eu sinto”: convivialidad en la obra de J. Borges ​

Camila de Oro (Investigadora doctoral de Mecila)
Juan Recchia (Investigador doctoral de Mecila)

Estou muito alegre com essa exposição sobre meu trabalho na xilogravura.

Eu ainda quero viver bastante.

O que me inspira é a vida, é a continuação, é o movimento.

(J. Borges)

Del 6 de abril al 7 de agosto se presentó en el Serviço Social da Indústria (SESI) de la Federação das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo (FIESP) de la Av. Paulista de San Pablo una muestra dedicada al mestre da xilogravura: J. Borges y sus grabados. Probablemente uno de los artistas de xilogravuras y tapas de cordel más conocidos dentro y fuera de Brasil. Los diseños de J. Borges han sido altamente difundidos acompañando innumerables obras literarias, en un arco que va desde la literatura de cordel nordestina hasta libros de autores latinoamericanos de gran tirada como Eduardo Galeano.

Cantando Cordel 2016

Cantando cordel, J. Borges, 2016.

La exposición que estuvo recorriendo también otros espacios culturales (SESC-Serviço Social do Comércio) y salas de exposición a nivel nacional está planteada como una celebración de su obra, sin un orden cronológico ni histórico específico. El criterio curatorial propone un acercamiento festivo y sensorial a su trabajo. La exposición está compuesta por: copias y grabados, en su mayoría, realizados entre el 2016 y el 2022; una pequeña muestra de literatura de cordel regionalista nordestina, con tapas y diseños del autor, y una serie de matrices en madera, sobre todo de sus obras más recientes, que abordan el grabado con paletas de colores innovadoras frente a sus clásicos monocromáticos. Acompañan la muestra una serie de materiales paratextuales, audios, fotografías y videos en los que, en primera persona, escuchamos y vemos al autor hablar sobre su propia obra. Entre estos se encuentra el gran boneco con el cual fue homenajeado en el carnaval de Olinda del 2020 por Galo da Madrugada, el mayor bloco de rua del mundo.

Entre las fotografías que lo presentan hay una gigantografía muy particular en la que se ve a J. Borges caminando por una feira de rua o feira livre con su bastón, una camisa colorada y su chapéu característico. El cordelista está fuera de foco y avanza entre los puestos de venta para confundirse con el espacio que recorre, casi como si su figura, en un andar liviano y dinámico, condensara una definición misma del arte del cordel. Tal como nos canta la canción Chão de Estrelas del compositor popular Nelson Gonçalves, citado en los estudios del crítico Mark Curran:

A literatura popular brasileira vem inspirando os nossos bardos na rica produção literária que, como “roupas comuns dependuradas, na corda qual bandeiras desfraldadas, [parecendo] um estranho festival”, enfeitam as feiras de nossas cidades interioranas (Curran 1998: 49).

J. Borges nos dice abiertamente a feira para mim é uma festa y camina despreocupado, con su camisa desabrochada por entre medio de los puestos de compra y venta. En ese andar común entre la feira se mezclan y conviven autor, obra, mercancía, público, arte, fiesta y oficio. Esa colocación tan cotidiana nos lleva a pensar desde dónde la obra se vincula con dos mundos, al parecer inseparables: el mundo del trabajo y el mundo del ocio.

Entre estos dos mundos podemos dividir la mayoría de las obras expuestas en el SESI Av. Paulista. Aquellas que tematizan la ociosidad y las fiestas, como, por ejemplo, Vendendo bolas, dançando e bebendo (2016), No meu tempo de criança (2016), Na minha adolescência (2016); mientras que asociadas al mundo del trabajo encontramos, por ejemplo, las obras Serviços do campo (2016), Viagens a trabalho e negócios (2016), Plantio e corte de cana (2016), Plantio de algodão (2016), A vida na mata (2016). Estos dos agrupamientos responden a la temática dada por sus títulos y en cada obra las escenas parecen jugar en contra de la dicotomía otium/necotium que reina en el contexto de la exhibición: la Av. Paulista, uno de los centros más efervescentes del capitalismo financiero mundial. En ese cruce entre el contexto de exposición y la labor artesanal de J. Borges se desarrolla la curaduría de la muestra, realizada por Ângelo Filizola. La misma pone en escena particularidades que definen la relación entre trabajo y arte. Al decir del propio J. Borges en una cita de la exposición:

Veem meu trabalho como obra de arte, mas para isso acontecer eu tive que enfrentar muitos anos de luta com otimismo e esperança de vencer as dificuldades que me apareciam ao longo dessa trajetória.

Trabajo, entonces, se entiende en la obra de J. Borges como un oficio más de todas las labores que componen el espacio de la feira de rua y que coincide con la manera en que J. Borges se acercó al cordelismo durante su juventud: como un oficio, una fuente de ingreso económico. J. Borges está paseando a la vez que está trabajando y también, por qué no, vendiendo sus trabajos en esas feiras. Tal es como nos lo muestran las representaciones de les trabajadores en cada una de sus obras.

6.- Encuentro con J Borges en Bezerros (noviembre 2013)

Juan Recchia y J. Borges, 2013.

Detalles de las manos de los trabajadores en las gravuras de J. Borges

Cuerpos heterogéneos que, en sus claroscuros, en la diversidad de sus ropas, en sus gestos figuran toda una escenificación del mundo popular, y, sobre todo, de sus relaciones sociales. Las presentaciones de todas estas escenas van más allá de una simple descripción o “fotografía” estática; en estas obras se revive una narratividad muy potente. Movimientos y dinámicas que las posiciones de los cuerpos y de los objetos parecieran estar siempre desarrollando, o, de alguna manera, actualizando frente a nosotres. La propuesta de la curaduría, donde se deja al público tocar las matrices, escuchar la voz del autor y revivir sus obras sensorialmente, nos permite reformular una dimensión convivial: ¿Podemos pensar la obra de J. Borges no solo como una representación regionalista y descriptiva de los elementos “característicos” del nordeste o del sertão? ¿Qué ocurre si en plena metrópolis leemos la exposición desde una dimensión sensorial dentro de un mundo convivial, que se activa cuando estamos frente, escuchamos o tocamos las manos talladas de eses trabajadores?

 

En la feira como en un aleph, en el encuentro de estos mundos ajenos y propios, se habilita la convivialidad. En este espacio, como en la obra de J. Borges, convivimos autores y públicos. En palabras de otro Borges:

Se precisaron todas esas cosas para que nuestras manos se encontraran (Borges 1977: 24).

+

Borges, Jorge Luis (1977): “Las causas”, en Historia de la noche, Buenos Aires: Emecé.

Botrel, Jean- François (2006): “Entre material e inmaterial: el patrimonio de cordel” en: Simposio sobre patrimonio inmaterial. La voz y la memoria. Palabras y mensajes en la tradición hispánica, Urueña: Fundación Joaquín Díaz, 122-131. 

Blog con materiales de J. Borges producido por el Memorial de J.Borges & Museu da Xilogravura. 

Cavalcanti Proenca, Iván (1977): A ideología de cordel, Ed. Brasilia/Rio.

Chicote, Gloria (comp.) (2012): “Introducción” en Romancero. Buenos Aires: Colihue.

Curran, Mark (1998): História do Brasil em Cordel. São Paulo: Editora da Universidade de São Paulo.

Documental producido por el Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil de Brasília para la exposición A arte de J. Borges: do cordel á xilogravura (2004). 

Entrevista de divulgación Memorial J. Borges um dos Artistas mais famosos do mundo na Arte da Xilogravura. Canal: Mulher Versátil com Walkiria Diniz. 

Ferreira, Clodo (2006): J.Borges por J.Borges: gravura e cordel do Brasil. Brasilia: Editora da UNB

Portal de Literatura de Cordel del Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros de la USP.

#22

La Constitución y los dilemas de la convivialidad en un Chile desigual

Global Convivial Forum 

Daniela Vicherat Mattar (Leiden University College / Senior Fellow Mecila)

El borrador propuesto para una nueva Constitución implicaba un cambio en los regímenes de convivialidad del país, cambiar los términos en los cuales dicha convivialidad se fundamenta.

“Nosotras y nosotros, el pueblo de Chile, conformado por diversas naciones nos otorgamos libremente esta Constitución, acordada por un proceso participativo, paritario y democrático.”

(Epílogo de la propuesta para una nueva Constitución)

Y, sin embargo, no pasó. A través de uno de los plebiscitos más votados en la historia de Chile, más de 13 millones de personas rechazaron la propuesta para una nueva Constitución el septiembre pasado. En las semanas que han seguido a este evento electoral, en Chile y fuera de Chile, mucha gente se pregunta qué pasó: Cómo es posible que un país que votó abrumadoramente en octubre de 2020 por cambiar la Constitución a través de una asamblea constituyente (78 % del electorado aproximadamente), que eligió como representantes de esta asamblea en su mayoría a gente independiente en mayo de 2021, terminó rechazando el texto propuesto por dicha asamblea con un masivo 62 % del electorado en septiembre de 2022. ¿Qué cambió en este lapso de casi dos años, en que el país ha seguido un proceso de cuestionamiento constitucional que ha sido, por otra parte, impecable y legítimo en términos electorales?

Lo que no se discute tan abiertamente es que la comparación de estos dos momentos electorales –representados en la figura anterior– no es completamente correcta en términos metodológicos. Una gran diferencia marcó ambos momentos: el tipo de voto. En el caso del plebiscito de entrada (octubre de 2020), en el que se definía si era precisa una nueva Constitución y a través de qué mecanismo elaborarla, el voto fue voluntario. En dicha ocasión, de acuerdo con los datos del SERVEL, participaron poco más de 7,5 millones de personas, aproximadamente la mitad del padrón electoral. En cambio, dos años después, en el plebiscito de salida (septiembre de 2022) el voto fue obligatorio, y lo ejercieron más de 13 millones de personas, o sea, más del 87 % del padrón electoral. Cerca de 5 millones de personas que no se habían manifestado electoralmente con anterioridad lo hicieron en el plebiscito de salida, y definieron contundentemente el resultado de la elección.[1]

El problema metodológico de comparar ambos momentos electorales es también un problema político y de legitimidad. Es evidente que en una democracia liberal como la chilena la decisión sobre el texto constitucional concierne a quienes conforman esta particular comunidad política. Sin embargo, los contornos de dicha comunidad se definieron de manera diferente en ambos momentos electorales. El hecho de votar de manera optativa en el plebiscito de entrada y de manera obligatoria en el plebiscito de salida establece términos distintos para lo que uno podría definir como una configuración de la convivialidad política a través del proceso electoral. Es decir, si entendemos una configuración de convivialidad como la forma en que se define una cierta unidad de convivencia, en este caso electoral, es claro que el plebiscito de entrada lo hace en términos de participación voluntaria, de quienes presumiblemente se sienten interpelados en el proceso, en donde el acento se pone en el derecho a votar. Sin embargo, en el plebiscito de salida lo que se enfatiza es el deber de votar, una de las responsabilidades aparejada al ejercicio de ciudanía entre quienes habitan la comunidad política llamada Chile.[2] Dado el resultado electoral, aparentemente estos millones de nuevos votantes estuvieron, en su mayoría, disconformes con el proceso constituyente en general y con su resultado particular: la propuesta para una nueva carta fundamental. La ciudadanía es eso, una danza constante y ambivalente entre derechos y deberes; sin embargo, décadas de neoliberalismo económico y de luchas políticas identitarias han exacerbado la demanda y el reconocimiento de los primeros por sobre los últimos, especialmente en términos individuales. En este sentido, no es extraño que la propuesta constitucional fuera rechazada al percibirse como una amenaza para el ejercicio de las libertades y derechos individuales en el país.[3]

¿Qué hubiese pasado en Chile si en el plebiscito de entrada el voto hubiese sido obligatorio? Dados los resultados del pasado septiembre, no es tan evidente que el resultado hubiese manifestado el deseo compartido de la mayoría por redactar una nueva Constitución. De hecho, estudios de opinión en estos momentos plantean como dos opciones casi igualmente válidas la idea de reformar la actual Constitución y la de redactar una nueva. La pregunta que aún está abierta en este sentido, y lo que es aún problemático, tanto para una política de izquierda como una de derecha, es cómo legitimar la Constitución (actual o nueva) en términos de su poder para definir los contornos de la sociedad que los habitantes de Chile quieren habitar. Es un problema de legitimidad social y política porque ni las mayorías electorales (con sus resultados aparentemente opuestos en 2020 y 2022) ni las manifestaciones populares de descontento social (masivas en 2019, pero permanentes y cada vez más violentas desde hace más de una década) son en sí mismas propuestas normativas sobre las que articular la democracia como forma legítima de convivencia social.[4] Hoy no es claro que haya un consenso sobre qué tipo de orden normativo es necesario, deseado y legitimado para organizar la vida en común.

¿Qué rol juega la desigualdad en todo esto? Una de las mayores ironías de los resultados de la última elección es que el rechazo ganó de manera transversal, no solo, como era evidente, en sectores privilegiados, sino también de manera contundente entre grupos marcados por la marginalidad y la vulnerabilidad socioeconómica, cultural, y ecológica entroncadas en el país. Es decir, la inscripción rayada en varios muros durante las revueltas de octubre de 2019 no pasó de ser más que un deseo, quizás incluso, neoliberal.

El borrador propuesto para una nueva Constitución implicaba un cambio en los regímenes de convivialidad del país, cambiar los términos en los cuales dicha convivialidad se fundamenta. Hasta ahora, la Constitución actual, establecida en 1980 bajo la dictadura de Pinochet, aunque reformada en varias ocasiones durante los gobiernos democráticos, defiende el principio del Estado como un órgano subsidiario de la sociedad, es decir, un Estado que está al servicio de garantizar la libertad de las personas y sus elecciones, y que, al contrario que el Estado social de derecho, no prioriza formas de solidaridad y derechos colectivos como articuladores del orden social (Si bien hay quienes argumentan que subsidiaridad y derechos sociales no son incompatibles).

Instalación de la Conveción Constitucional de Chile en su primera sesión, presidida por Elisa Loncón, efectuada en el edificio del Ex-Congreso nacional de Chile ubicado en Santiago. Cristina Dorador, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107321183.

 

Dado el resultado del plebiscito de salida, en el que millones que antes se habían abstenido del proceso participaron con su voto, es posible suponer que las casi cinco décadas que han pasado desde el golpe militar, caracterizadas entre otros aspectos por el arraigamiento de una lógica neoliberal como estilo de vida, hayan generado una especie de atrofia social para imaginar que es posible una sociedad donde lo común (representado, por ejemplo, en la figura del Estado social de derecho, la plurinacionalidad o el derecho inalienable al agua) no opaque o medre el desarrollo, las capacidades, la posibilidad de elección o la acción individuales. Es precisamente en esta tensión entre lo individual y lo colectivo donde es necesario negociar cotidianamente la convivialidad. Es también en esa tensión donde se transforma aquello definido como diferente (lo otro, o lo normativamente no-normal) en desigualdad de manera estructural (en términos de desigualdades de género, étnicos, socioeconómicos, corporales, neuronales, etc.).

En este sentido, si bien está claro que hay malestar social, no está claro que este sea un malestar ni con el acuerdo normativo vigente, que presume al individuo como único artífice de su vida, ni que dé pie para generar acuerdos normativos colectivos que transformen el modelo actual.[5] El énfasis en lo colectivo es fundamental, porque es lo que permitiría romper la lógica individualista que sustenta la ideología neoliberal. En otras palabras, para transformar las desiguales estructurales que existen en el país, no es preciso solo establecer formas redistributivas de poder y de recursos, sino también promover una lógica distinta de convivialidad, en la que la solidaridad y el cuidado reemplacen el valor dominante en términos de acceso y reconocimiento individual. El rechazo no ha sido solo un rechazo al borrador de una nueva Constitución. El problema que revela este resultado electoral es también de convivialidad, y de una aparente desconexión entre las necesidades materiales derivadas de las múltiples carencias y desigualdades que se viven en el país (y cómo resolverlas), y de la definición de las normas básicas que legitiman la democracia (y cómo elaborarlas de una manera que trascienda el sistema electoral).[6] Quizás la cuestión más fundamental que está en juego hoy es el tipo de democracia que los habitantes de Chile quieren labrar, y, sobre todo, quiénes se sienten llamados y con deseos de hacerlo.[7] Esta cuestión puede resumirse en una pregunta sobre los principios que articulan la convivialidad en el país: ¿Es posible imaginar otras formas de constituir un orden social y de derechos, en el que la solidaridad y el cuidado sean los principios articuladores y legitimadores de la democracia, y en el que, a su vez, sean esos mismos principios en los que se asiente una concepción de los derechos individuales, y no al revés? La pregunta, no solo en Chile, sigue abierta.

[1] Cabe la pena destacar que, de acuerdo con el SERVEL, la elección del plebiscito de entrada congregó a la mayor cantidad de votantes voluntarios hasta entonces en la historia del país. Es decir, las preguntas sobre la necesidad de cambiar la Constitución, y a través de qué mecanismo hacerlo, concitaron la participación política voluntaria más alta hasta entonces.

[2] La distinción entre el derecho y el deber de votar es interesante pues demarca los términos en que la participación genera ciudadanía, de manera más o menos individualista. En un contexto democrático liberal, el voto voluntario es la epitome de la participación en términos de libertad de elección, mientras que el voto obligatorio combina la participación individual con una obligación colectiva para el mantenimiento de la comunidad política. Por tanto, cómo se ejerce el voto revela la tensión entre derechos individuales y colectivos en la conformación de la comunidad política, y cómo, incluso para el funcionamiento de la democracia electoral, no todos los derechos son individuales. Agradezco los comentarios de Samuel Barbosa que me han ayudado a enfatizar y elaborar mejor este aspecto.

[3] De hecho, al momento de escribir este blog, políticos de derecha han propuesto al gobierno del presidente Borić un numero de cortapisas para la elaboración de la nueva propuesta, enfatizando la necesidad de garantías para la protección de derechos individuales principalmente entendidos en términos de propiedad privada y capacidad de elección de servicios (salud, educación, pensiones), aunque no sobre la capacidad de las mujeres de decidir sobre su propio cuerpo. Ver Juan Manuel Ojeda, “Los ocho principales nudos que entrampan las negociaciones para sellar el acuerdo para redactar una nueva Constitución” (2022).

[4] De hecho, no solo en Chile, la democracia liberal lleva décadas dando señales de inestabilidad y una incapacidad aparentemente estructural para dar cuenta de los desafíos sociales, ecológicos y normativos de las sociedades contemporáneas. Ver Jan Aart Scholte,After Liberal Global Democracy: New Methodology for New Praxis(2019).

[5] El diario El País publicó una nota sobre Petorca, una localidad de sequía crónica, donde también ganó el rechazo pese a que el texto propuesto garantizaba el derecho al agua.

[6] En este sentido, es una constatación empírica de la tensión entre democracia procedimental minimalista y formas de entender la democracia de manera más sustantivamente.

[7] Lo que está claro es que la gran derrota en el plebiscito de salida es de representación y de deliberación democrática, no de participación política.

#21

“We Must Push Back Against Authoritarian Legalism”: An Interview with Prof. William E. Scheuerman

“It’s not old-fashioned dictatorship; it’s somehow a new form of authoritarianism. And I think we have to worry about that.”

Global Convivial Forum 

Gabriel Brito (NDD-Cebrap), Marina Slhessarenko (NDD-Cebrap),
Bianca Tavolari
(Mecila/ Cebrap/ Insper), Joaquim Toledo Jr. (Mecila)

Gabriel Brito, Bianca Tavolari, William Scheuerman and Joaquim Toledo Jr.
Image: Marina Slhessarenko

From August 3-10, Mecila hosted Professor William E. Scheuerman (James H. Rudy Professor, Political Science, Indiana University) for a Short-Term Research Visit, a new academic exchange modality inaugurated in 2022 as part of the Centre’s academic exchange program.

During his stay in Mecila’s São Paulo offices, Prof. Scheuerman attended workshops and meetings with researchers from Mecila and Cebrap’s Law and Democracy Nucleus (NDD), and delivered a Distinguished Lecture on “Politically Motivated Property Damage”.

In this interview, Prof. Scheuerman discusses his experience at Mecila and topics that are currently occupying his research interests, including the connection between civil disobedience and politically motivated property, the global crisis of democracy, and the emergence in the United States of a right-wing legal and political thought influenced by interwar conservative German intellectuals.

Scheuerman Convivial Forum 1

Joaquim Toledo Jr.: Can you tell us about the academic activities you’ve been involved in so far in Mecila and how the short-term visit has helped your research?

William Scheuerman: I’ve already been to Cebrap before, which is a famous institution. I’m familiar with many of the people who work here, and I’ve always learned a great deal from them. I think the research here is really important. This was the first time I encountered people from Mecila, and I had a very similar impression. I thought the group of fellows and PhD students are all doing exciting projects. During the second session, I was humbled because I realized how little I know about all the things they’re working on. The projects seem politically timely as well as scholarly significant. I’ve just been very impressed with everything I’ve seen.

Bianca Tavolari: You mentioned you had been to Cebrap before and that it seemed to have been a lifetime ago. What’s the difference between then and now? I’d like you to comment on those two moments.

WS: I was here almost five years ago. Trump had just been elected in the United States. As you know, we no longer have a President Trump, although he’s still active. Bolsonaro had not yet been elected; COVID hadn’t taken place. So yes, it seems like a very different world in some ways. Of course, those things were probably all in the making. But I don’t think you here in Brazil expected Bolsonaro to get elected at that point. And nobody expected COVID.

I’m really enjoying not just the formal discussions, presentations, questions, and so on, but also the chance to catch up with people and hear about their work. That’s at least how it works for me. During a conversation, something might just get dropped, I think about it, and it becomes something. And I think that’s something we did lose during COVID, and it’s just wonderful to have it back.

Gabriel Brito: You now have very practical worries about current social struggles and the state of democracy, especially in the work you presented during your stay. Could you comment briefly on how your work relates to the contemporary political climate?

WS: I like being here so much because I feel very much at home. The people here are also committed to serious scholarship but think that scholarship should matter in the real world. And that’s always been my view. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the view of everyone in the academy. Not because they’re bad people, it’s how the academy is structured. I don’t think it always encourages us to address timely political questions in a serious scholarly way.

I stumbled into the issue of civil disobedience. A colleague asked me in 2014 to do a presentation on Edward Snowden in our law school. I initially got interested in these debates about whistleblowing, and that brought me into a broader discussion about civil disobedience. I don’t want to claim to be prescient, but you could certainly see much more attention getting paid to these new protest movements, to these new forms of disobedience in the US and elsewhere.

And then, of course, Trump was elected. That was crucial. I received money to do a project in Germany, but when I got there, I decided to do something very different. I was fortunate that I was allowed to do that. I decided that working on civil disobedience was potentially very important, even if just in terms of sorting out the debate. I saw a lot of confusion there, and I thought it could be at least somehow useful for people worried about these authoritarian trends. There is a direct political link in this project.

Marina Slhessarenko: How do the debates on the crisis of democracy relate to your work on civil disobedience?

WS: There is a danger in speaking about crisis in an overly inflated way. It can also become a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy. Trump likes to talk about crisis, which is his way of justifying executive rule. That question requires some serious scholarship and discussion. We can argue about how best to define a democratic crisis, but the evidence, it seems, is there. We have authoritarian political leaders. Political parties that previously were not authoritarian have become authoritarian.

The Republican party was the party of Lincoln and abolitionism. Then it took a conservative, yet not authoritarian, turn. But now, it has become a kind of authoritarian cult in some ways. If that is not a crisis, I don’t know what is.

At the same time, history doesn’t repeat itself. I don’t think we’re going to see some dramatic democratic collapse. We don’t see as many coups as we used to, which is a good thing, but we are seeing this democratic erosion or backsliding process, and at some point, that becomes a crisis.

There are many examples of a step backwards in terms of some model of democracy you might have. Hungary, Poland and Turkey still have elections, but they’ve been hollowed out. The press is not free for all kinds of reasons. It’s not an old-fashioned dictatorship; it’s somehow a new form of authoritarianism. So yes, I do think it makes sense to talk about crises. And I think we have to worry about that.

JT: The idea of a crisis of democracy can be like a Rorschach test: how it is seen says a lot about who is looking. You are currently writing on how far-right US think tanks are appropriating conservative views from interwar Germany to denounce the decay of the US republic. What is their version of the crisis of democracy?

WS: The hard right describes the United States as being in a specific kind of crisis. I was looking for academic literature on states of emergency, and the first thing that came up was State of Emergency (2006) by Patrick Buchanan. He is this extremely right-wing, xenophobic politician. It’s about how the United States faces an emergency and how immigration has destroyed the American identity.

You can see different versions of a manipulated type of crisis thinking. Trump talked about crises from his political perspective. The phenomena you’re referring to is very specific, and I was also surprised by it. I’m happy that few American academics and intellectuals were enthusiastic about Trump. That’s partly because the right-wing in the US has been bashing universities. That’s also become part of the political program, which is disturbing.

When I started teaching in the early 1990s, I had many conservative colleagues, often in the “hard sciences”. But that is decreasingly the case because Republicans have committed themselves to climate denialism, among other things. They’re beating up on science. Many of these people would not vote for a conservative today.

Not many people in Academia got on board with Trump, but there was a group of enthusiasts based at the Claremont Institute. It’s a long and complicated story, but in the United States, many people, particularly in political theory, were influenced by Leo Strauss, a pretty complicated thinker. Very conservative, but in an unusual way. His heroes were Plato and Aristotle. He’s not a free market conservative by any means. Maybe a cultural conservative in some sense of the term.

The Claremont Institute is a group of hard-right Straussians on the West Coast. They have been coming up with a romanticized defense of the American founding as having certain moments that connect the US republic to what they call classical natural law. They’ve decided that Trump can be the vehicle for the resurrection of that lost moment which has been under attack. Some of the documents you’ll find on official websites are taken directly from this institute.

They tell this story of the United States, where it has declined since the modern government was formed. They don’t want to roll back the last twenty or thirty years of reform; they want to roll back much more. That’s the group that gravitated towards Trump. Not surprisingly, since there weren’t too many academics he could call on, they ended up being very influential in his government and having a quite important role. The most infamous of all these figures is John Eastman. He was a lawyer who recommended to Trump that he overturn the 2020 election results.

What drove this is the idea that Trump could be the strongman who could save the virtuous core of the republic, and there are echoes of the Weimar Republic here. Conservative reactions to Weimar were about alleged moral degradation. And this is the American right’s story about the American Republic, and they’re looking for a savior. The good news is that there are also followers of Leo Strauss who push back against this.

BT: This interview takes place during an important week for Brazil’s presidential elections. Tomorrow, August 11, there will be a manifesto for democracy in front of the University of São Paulo law school. Meanwhile, some threats from the right here in Brazil have been influenced by the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. How do you see the relationship between these threats to democracy, the rule of law, and renewed interest in the Weimar Republic?

WS: That’s a great question. I don’t have a good answer. I think the reason for the preoccupation with Weimar is because it culminates in National Socialism, which we universally believe was a total disaster. It was such a cataclysm that people had to come back to it.

There is a reason why in the US, and to the extent that American political science has been influential elsewhere, why Weimar is such a preoccupation for better and worse. I think there are some problems with that, which we’ll talk about later. We had so many refugees, and people also had lived through this traumatic experience, were involved in World War II, and were trying to make sense of what happened.

Regarding January 6, I find that interesting. Let’s hope anyone imitating it is as inept as Trump. He thought the Executive was his property, and the United States Attorney General was his personal lawyer. Trump didn’t get the distinction between office and person. This is another way in which he’s authoritarian. It’s almost pre-modern, before you have the modern state and we started distinguishing office from the person. Trump didn’t get the Constitution as a restraint on him.

The good news in the US was that these crucial elites in the military, in the Department of Justice, in the State Department and so on did not go along with this craziness. He had to rely on the kind of people I was talking about, who I hope will be viewed as ridiculous historical figures.

I’m hoping things look similar in Brazil and you have enough people in the military who recognize that a military dictatorship is not even a great thing for the military. They’re the ones who have to take responsibility. You may commit horrible crimes and, at some point, pay for them. I’m also hoping that the US government under President Biden plays a much more positive role than the US government in 1964 when it played a disastrous role, based on my understanding of what happened in this country.

Nobody should try to imitate it, but it could be an inspiration for people sitting in the Brazilian state to resist a president trying to overturn elections. If that’s an inspiration in some way, maybe something positive came out of that terrible day. I’m hoping something positive comes out of it.

MS: The judicial system has played a key role in the crises of democracies. It is expected to contain authoritarian advances, but also co-opting and packing courts with loyalists are two of the main authoritarian strategies. What role does the rule of law play in this crisis?

WS: I have an easy answer and then a hard answer. The easy answer is if anyone thought that the rule of law or constitutional government doesn’t matter, I don’t know where they’ve been the last couple of years. What we’ve been seeing is a frontal assault on the rule of law. Legal institutions and constitutional mechanisms are crudely instrumentalized to undermine the core of what they’re supposed to be about. That’s the ABC of the rule of law: nobody should be above the law. Trump and his followers still don’t understand that, which is terrifying.

Now the more complicated answer, and this speaks to this issue of these people who are advising Trump. One of the things I found fascinating in a kind of perverse way is that they rely on a reified notion of the US Constitution as a pristine document from the past that we shouldn’t touch. We call them originalists. They believe in an original meaning, which they somehow have access to. Constitutional originalism means there were these heroic semi-divine founders who read the classics, and God forbid we touch their masterpiece.

We must push back against these views of the rule of law and constitutional government. I would say that for Trump, the rule of law is what we would call authoritarian legalism, to the extent that you can use the law as an authoritarian mechanism to go after enemies. People in the United States think the rule of law is law and order, more police. One has to have a political battle about that and say, no, that’s not what it is.

We’re in trouble. That is just a reactionary agenda in the deepest sense of the term. We have a tradition of constitutional worship which is very problematic. On the one hand, it does lead people to respect the constitutional government. That’s a good thing, but it does lead or invite this reified understanding of the founders as these great men. That’s a profoundly anti-democratic notion of constitutional government.

Image: Crowd of Trump supporters marching on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, ultimately leading the building being breached and several deaths by TapTheForwardAssist CC4.0

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Recent works by Prof. William E. Scheuerman:

Good-Bye to Non-Violence?” (2022), Political Research Quarterly (online first), 1-13.

Politically Motivated Property Damage” (2021), The Harvard Review of Philosophy, 28, 89-106.

Civil Disobedience (2018), Polity Press.

#19

"Cachorros mortos": Biopolitics of Human-Animal Conviviality

Global Convivial Forum 

Jörg Dünne (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin / Mecila Senior Fellow 2022)      

Brazilian artist Nuno Ramos’ work exemplifies how biopolitical exclusion enables interspecific conviviality and makes unseen aspects of urban life visible.

Both Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s anthropological studies on Amerindian perspectivism and Philippe Descola’s Non-Western ontologies claim that the ways of associating human and non-human forms of existence in “animistic” collectives differ fundamentally from those in Western “naturalism”. But are such alternative forms of collectives equally relevant for contemporary urban (and rural) forms of interspecific coexistence? And how can different possibilities of constituting collectives between humans and animals be described, even under the conditions of naturalism and its consequences?

In contrast to animism, where the association of the human and the non-human takes place on the level of interiority, naturalism according to Philippe Descola attributes to humans and animals a common bodily substrate. This can also be described as zoé, in Giorgio Agamben’s terms. “Naked” biological life, according to Agamben, is split off from social life (bios) in the modern Western model of thinking human-animal relations. Around 1800 at the latest, but perhaps earlier, biological life becomes an object of political action. This is the beginning of what Michel Foucault calls “biopolitics”.

Biopolitics is also the starting point of Gabriel Giorgi’s reflections on alternative interspecific forms of coexistence under the conditions of biopolitical regimes. In Formas comunes: animalidad, cultura, biopolítica (2014), Giorgi assumes that such alternative forms of proximity between animals and humans, which are not limited to metaphorical relations of resemblance, are present to a great extent in contemporary art and literature in Latin America. According to Giorgi, however, biopolitical regimes, contrary to what one might expect, do not necessarily contribute to reinforcing the “naturalistic” animal/human distinction but rather draw boundaries that deconstruct the nature/culture distinction from within. Thus, even within the framework of what anthropologists like Descola would call the ontology of naturalism, new alliances of humans and animals can be conceived, which, with regard to the classification of animals, lie beyond the opposition of cultural “domestication” on the one hand and supposedly natural “wildness” on the other:

[L]a oposición ontológica entre humano y animal, que fue una matriz de muchos sueños civilizatorios del humanismo, es reemplazada por la distribución y el juego biopolítico, es decir arbitrario e inestable, entre persona y no-persona, entre vidas reconocibles y legibles socialmente, y vidas opacas al orden jurídico de la comunidad (p. 30).

With Roberto Esposito, Giorgi argues in this context for an “affirmative” understanding of biopolitics, “donde se imaginan y se piensan formas de vida que eludan la complicidad o la colaboración con los regímenes de violencia que dictan esas jerarquías al interior de lo viviente” (p. 27). The question is how such spaces for alternative forms of life can be described and what function art and literature have in this context.

A possible answer to this comes from Jens Andermann in his reflections on contemporary “bio-art” in Latin America. In order to take into account the permeability of the human/animal opposition and, at the same time, the nature/culture distinction, Andermann proposes the notion of the “unspecific” (lo inespecífico), which he understands in a double sense. Just as it makes no sense in the face of modern biopolitical regimes of the living to maintain fixed boundaries between different species and to insist on the demarcation of human life from other forms of the living, so too art must renounce its autonomous differentiation of specific genres or formats, and itself become “unspecific” in a way that combines, for example, bioscientific experimentation and artistic installation. Andermann gives an example of what such a conception of art can look like in the animal labyrinths of the Argentine artist Luis Fernando Benedit, who designed exhibitions in the late 1960s and early 1970s that resembled scientific experimental arrangements with living animals.

Following Andermann, one can describe a “vector de inespecificación” that serves to question existing collectives between human and non-human life forms. However, such an aesthetics of the “unspecific”, which is closely connected to basic ideas of New Materialism regarding the “activity” of matter, possibly gives away the chance to describe historically shaped constellations of certain interspecific relations, e.g. between dogs and humans, on the one hand, and on the other hand certain literary or artistic formats and genre traditions (such as the picaresque), in which this constellation is shaped into scenes of particular conciseness. Therefore, as an alternative to following Andermann into the aesthetics of the “unspecific”, it could be equally promising to deal with the interspecific aspect of human-animal relations and with some quite specific aesthetic and especially literary forms and formats that such relations can assume.

To remain for a moment with artistic explorations of the interspecific relations, I would like to return to a scene of the relationship between people and dogs, as examined in Gabriel Giorgi’s commentary on the work of a Brazilian contemporary artist, namely, Nuno Ramos’ Monólogo para um cachorro morto. This is a performance (and later also an installation artwork in the museum) in which the artist delivers a kind of funeral speech recorded on a tape for a dog that has been run over on a busy street in São Paulo. To play the recording, he goes (not without taking the risk of being run over himself) in situ, i.e. to the street itself, where the dog’s dead body is lying.

By not speaking directly to the dog, however, and instead letting a recorded voice speak to it, Ramos introduces an interruption of the “proximity communication” between two living beings communicating with each other. At the same time, this shift of communication to a repeatable form that can be shared with others (as seen in the exhibition of this performance in the museum installation) may also present animistic features through the invention of a ritual of mourning for a non-human companion.

According to Giorgi, this unusual way of mourning for a dog in Nuno Ramos’ Monólogo mostly makes the common biopolitical treatment of the relationship between life and death visible. Here, a corpse is mourned whose life is not usually deemed worthy of grief under the prevailing biopolitical regime because it is not considered part of a social bios. Another expression of the ungrievability of naked life, where the corpse of the street dog is paradigmatic, is that it is an animal without a name or other individualising features. Usually, such living beings do not leave the sphere of gender-neutrality designed in the English language by the pronoun “it” (instead of “he”/”she” for pet dogs or other domestic animals who have a name, an individual biography, and whose sex is known); neither do they usually have the right to a funeral which also presupposes a name that can be attached to a process of memory. Thus, Ramos’ mourning for a nameless street dog renders this cachorro not only a specified but a specific living being. Therefore, these are primal scenes of interspecific conviviality that, together with other scenes like sharing food, playing together, but also guarding etc., could be considered constitutive of a common history of humans and dogs as “companion species”, in Donna Haraway’s terminology.

As Giorgi’s analysis also points out, not only after its death, but already during its lifetime, the cachorro morto in Ramos’ performance/installation quite obviously lacks a place of its own in the city: “Desde el límite del animal, su presencia espectral y fuera de lugar, sin espacio propio, se ilumina la ciudad como dispositivo de gestión de movimientos, y por lo tanto de relaciones entre cuerpos y entre modos de relación” (p. 236).

Ramos’ Cachorro morto thus encourages us to perceive the ephemeral presence of a huge number of street dogs that inhabit urban space. From the perspective of an observer who has their own more or less fixed place in the city, such an ephemeral presence is expressed, for example, in the choice of a certain designation attributed to these dogs, namely the qualification as cão vadio (Portuguese) or perro vago (Spanish), i.e. as roaming dogs without a fixed place – or, alternatively, in such places for which the French language reserves the term terrain vague, that is, a terrain without a clear shape (from the Latin vagus) or that is empty, unoccupied (vacuus). The indeterminacy of such urban non-places where the cães vadios or perros vagos stay is constituted, as with humans, by the normative expectation of a fixed residence and an accompanying registration at a particular address or with a certain owner. Those who do not meet this expectation become, again, according to Giorgi, an opaque, indeterminate form of life in the biopolitically organised urban spaces – this is also a possible meaning of vagus.

Yet, in line with Giorgi’s thesis, it is precisely these urbanist-biopolitical processes of exclusion that can also potentially lead to new interspecific processes of association; and to the constitution of collectives that affect not only dogs but also people living on the “opaque” side of urban spatial orders. Thus, there seems to be a solidarity of the “placeless”, i.e., unhoused people who live with dogs on the street, sometimes developing such fixed forms of conviviality that often seem more important than being admitted to a homeless shelter, where dogs are not allowed.

Without describing this as a positive model for conviviality in a normative sense, this example shows how de facto biopolitical exclusion processes make interspecific practices of conviviality possible. They thus produce alternative – and quite specific – collectives between humans and dogs in contemporary biopolitical regimes, which create visibility for the forms of urban life that otherwise often remain opaque.

Cover image: Nuno Ramos, Monólogo para um cachorro morto, 2008, 2010.

Note: The following reflections are the slightly revised version of an entry in my research blog Quiltro Chronicles during my fellowship at Mecila in 2022 where I am working on a project on “Street Dogs and Interspecific Convivialities in Latin America”. I would like to thank Joaquim Toledo Jr. for encouraging me to publish it in the Mecila weblog and Puo-An Wu Fu for correcting the text.

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Giorgio Agamben (2003): The Open: Man and Animal, trans. Kevin Attell, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Jens Andermann (2018): Tierras en trance: Arte y naturaleza después del paisaje, Santiago de Chile: Metales pesados.

Philippe Descola (2005): Par-delà nature et culture, Paris: Gallimard.

Gabriel Giorgi (2014): Formas comunes: animalidad, cultura, biopolítica, Buenos Aires: Eterna Cadencia.

Donna Haraway (2003): The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness, Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

Thiago Köche (2020): O afeto e a rua (documentary), Porto Alegre, 15’.

Nuno Ramos (2008/2010): Monologo para um cachorro morto

#20

Biblioteca Mecila-CLACSO: Explorando los nexos entre lo que nos une y lo que nos separa

Global Convivial Forum 

Antología inaugura la serie de publicaciones que consolida la cooperación entre Mecila y CLACSO y busca ofrecer al público hispanohablante una introducción cualificada a los estudios sobre convivialidad-desigualdad.

La vida en sociedad se basa, al menos aparentemente, sobre una contradicción. Nuestra supervivencia como sociedad y también como especie está estrechamente vinculada a la interdependencia tanto entre los seres humanos entre sí, como entre éstos y otros seres vivos como las plantas y los animales. Esta interdependencia, sin embargo, es negada por las formas de vida concretas de las sociedades contemporáneas, casi todas ellas estructuradas sobre profundas desigualdades sociales y en la ideología del excepcionalismo humano, es decir, la creencia de que el futuro de la humanidad independe de la supervivencia de los demás seres vivos.

Al dividir las distintas dimensiones de estas interdependencias en varios campos de debate, la literatura disponible sigue siendo insuficiente para estudiar en profundidad la aparente paradoja entre convivencia y desigualdad. Es decir, normalmente la bibliografía relevante está divida en campos que no se comunican de suerte que, por ejemplo, estudios culturales y teorías del reconocimiento investigan las diferencias humanas y sub-áreas de la sociología y de economía estudian las desigualdades sociales. La convivencia de humanos entre sí es más bien investigada en la antropología y los estudios sobre diversidad y interculturalidad, mientras las interacciones entre humanos y no humanos son objeto de los llamados estudios post-humanos o de áreas específicas como la ecología o sub-áreas de la geografía. Al fin, esta segmentación del conocimiento, en lugar de facilitar, impide investigar y aprender cómo se articulan las diferentes dimensiones de la vida social en sus entrelazamientos entre si y con las otras formas de vida sobre el planeta.

En vista a ello, el nuevo campo de estudios que definimos como convivialidad-desigualdad pretende llenar este vacío mediante la construcción de un marco teórico-analítico y del desarrollo de estudios empíricos correspondientes, en el que se puedan investigar en toda su extensión los nexos inseparables entre la diferencia, la desigualdad y la coexistencia entre los seres humanos entre sí, así como entre éstos y otros seres vivos.

El término convivialidad fue introducido en las ciencias humanas por el filósofo vienés Ivan Illich en su libro de 1973 Tools for Conviviality, publicado en español bajo el título La Convivencialidad, en 1978. En esa época, Illich dirigia el Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC) de Cuernavaca (México), un espacio ecuménico y plural en el que confluían los ideales de solidaridad global de la izquierda latinoamericana y los valores libertarios del pensamiento crítico europeo. El libro de Illich combina estas influencias transformando la convivialidad en un programa de investigación y acción para la construcción de sociedades más democráticas, igualitarias y habitables.

Desde entonces, y más claramente desde la década de 2000, los estudios sobre la convivialidad se han extendido a diversas disciplinas y campos temáticos, desde la antropología y la sociología hasta la geología y la informática, convirtiendo la convivialidad en un término polisémico y catalizador de reflexiones y estudios innovadores.

La desigualdad es también una noción relacional y multidimensional. Las desigualdades pueden ser materiales, pero también de poder, de acceso a los recursos naturales y la protección contra los riesgos derivados de la acción humana, de derechos, de posibilidades epistémicas y de posiciones y condiciones sociales. La desigualdad, como una marca omnipresente de la vida social, es un punto inevitable de partida para entender cualquier contexto social y las interacciones que ahí tienen lugar. Así pues las desigualdades son tanto estructurales como (re)producidas en las interacciones cotidianas. Entender la vida social en sus múltiples aspectos y formas requiere, por lo tanto, comprender cómo esta está constituida por la desigualdad. Entender las desigualdades, a su vez, es comprender como esas se constituen y adquieren significado en las relaciones sociales.

En el programa de investigación de Mecila, el rasgo polisémico del término convivialidad se entiende siempre en asociación con los elementos multidimensionales de la desigualdad, potenciando sus posibilidades analíticas y su fuerza explicativa. El guion en el nombre del Centro (“Convivialidad-desigualdad”) subraya el íntimo nexo entre desigualdad y convivialidad y el hecho de que se constituyen recíprocamente. Investigar la desigualdad es investigar la convivialidad, y viceversa. En español, para no complicar desnecesariamente el uso del término, optamos por traducir la palabra conviviality por convivialidad y no convivencialidad como hizo originalmente Ivan Illich.  

 

La articulación de estas dos nociones, desigualdad y convivialidad, constituye la base de la colaboración interdisciplinaria que se lleva a cabo en Mecila. Desarrollados en varios campos temáticos, los estudios sobre convivialidad-desigualdad en el Centro ofrecen una plataforma abierta para la innovación en la cooperación interdisciplinar en el amplio campo de las humanidades, las ciencias sociales y en diálogo con las ciencias naturales. Buscamos proporcionar un entorno intelectual y académico en el que las diferentes disciplinas puedan desarrollar sus investigaciones en colaboración con el trabajo empírico, la síntesis teórica y métodos que van más allá de los límites disciplinarios habituales. En consecuencia, Mecila es un espacio abierto a la experimentación académica que desafía el nacionalismo metodológico, el antropocentrismo y el eurocentrismo que están profundamente arraigados en nuestras disciplinas.

Para los propósitos institucionales muy abiertos de Mecila, convivialidad-desigualdad se refiere a las constelaciones constituidas por lazos de solidaridad y cooperación, pero también por las diferencias, el conflicto, la violencia y la dominación. En este sentido, el compuesto convivencia-desigualdad nombra menos el punto de partida que los hallazgos (posibles, esperados, potenciales) de la investigación que pueden surgir al mirar la realidad desde las perspectivas desarrolladas en nuestro Centro. Así, convivialidad-desigualdad corresponde a una perspectiva, una mirada dirigida tanto a las interacciones cuanto a los elementos estructurales de los patrones de convivencia existentes.

Hoy en día, dado el actual contexto de vigencia del pluralismo teórico e institucional, es más probable que esfuerzos similares solo logren éxito cuando se emprendan no por una sola institución sino dentro de una red internacional de investigadores e institutos, de la cual CLACSO es un ejemplo muy exitoso. Asimismo, es relevante contemplar nuevas formas de cooperación capaces de superar o al menos mitigar las jerarquías regionales, generacionales, étnicas, de clase y de género que marcan tan profundamente los circuitos convencionales de producción y circulación del conocimiento. El desarrollo de nuevos formatos de colaboración no solo interdisciplinar, pero también transdisciplinar, incluyendo por lo tanto la cooperación entre expertas y expertos académicos y no académicos (chamanes, activistas, artistas, líderes de comunidades, etc.), es también crucial cuando se trata de producir conocimientos sofisticados y socialmente relevantes.

En Mecila creemos que podemos ofrecer una contribución única, aunque sea modesta, al tan necesario proceso de construcción institucional de una amplia reflexión sobre América Latina desde una perspectiva transdisciplinar y transregional. Para lograr nuestros objetivos académicos e institucionales, es esencial la estrecha cooperación con instituciones internacionales con sede en América Latina, como el Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO) y la Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), entre otras. También la cooperación con los otros cuatro Centros Merian (en Nueva Delhi, Guadalajara, Accra y Túnez) es indispensable para dar forma a nuestra perspectiva transregional.

El libro está estructurado en cuatro secciones para que las lectoras y los lectores con diferentes formaciones y distintos intereses por el tema puedan profundizar su reflexión en las diversas dimensiones abarcadas por el tema general convivialidad-desigualdad. La primera sección está dedicada a las definiciones conceptuales: ¿Qué es la convivialidad y cómo ella se articula con los debates sobre la desigualdad y la diferencia? ¿Cómo se incluyen los debates en campos afines, como la interculturalidad, la decolonialidad, el cosmopolitismo, en las discusiones sobre convivialidad y desigualdad? La segunda parte está dedicada a los debates epistemológicos, es decir, a las discusiones sobre las diferentes políticas del conocimiento y sus relaciones con la díada convivialidad-desigualdad, pensada no solamente a partir de las relaciones humanas sino también a través de las relaciones entre humanos y no humanos. La tercera parte estudia itinerarios de la convivialidad-desigualdad en América Latina, es decir, como se estructuran, en distintos niveles (de la nación hasta las ciudades), el lidiar con diferencias y desigualdades en la región. Por fin, la cuarta y ultima parte del libro busca aplicar el marco analítico convivialidad-desigualdad a casos limítrofes de coexistencia, como espacios de trabajo profundamente asimétricos y organizaciones criminales.

La expectativa del consejo directivo de Mecila es que este libro tenga una amplia difusión y discusión de suerte a promover un diálogo rico y fructífero entre investigaciones de punta en el plan internacional y las recientes investigaciones de excelente calidad desarrolladas en América Latina y aún poco conocidas y reconocidas internacionalmente.

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Feria del Libro de Ciencias Sociales Latinoamericana y Caribeña, de la 9ª Conferencia Latinoamericana y Caribeña de Ciencias Sociales.

Image Credit: Joaquim Toledo

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Mecila estuvo presente en la feria con su primer publicación de la serie de libros Mecila-CLACSO: “Convivivialidad y desigualdad explorando los nexos entre lo que nos une y lo que nos separa”.
Image Credit: Joaquim Toledo

Mecila (ed.) (2022): Convivialidad-Desigualdad. Explorando los nexos entre lo que nos une y lo que nos separa, Biblioteca Mecila-CLACSO, vol. 1, Buenos Aires; São Paulo: CLACSO; Mecila.

Autores: Arjun Appadurai (New York University), Sérgio Costa (FU-Berlin / Mecila), Tilmann Heil (UzK / Mecila), Fernando Baldraia (Mecila), Nilma L. Gomes (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais), Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt / Mecila), Maya Manzi (Universidade Católica de Salvador / Mecila), Peter Wade (Manchester University / Mecila), Claudia Briones Universidad nacional de Ró Negro), Ramiro Segura (UNLP / Mecila), João José Reis (Universidade Federal da Bahia / Mecila), Raquel Rojas Scheffer (FU Berlin / Mecila), Gabriel Feltran (Universidade Federal de São Carlos).

Acesso abierto.

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#18

Postmemory: The Holocaust and its Effects on the Lives of Brazilian Jewry

Global Convivial Forum 

Joanna M.  Moszczynska (University of Regensburg / Mecila Junior Fellow 2022)

Jewish-Brazilian post-Holocaust literature is a legitimate and integrated part of the global and transcultural efforts to work through the Holocaust.

Following the end of twenty years of military dictatorship in Brazil in 1985, a new literary phenomenon emerged, one that can be termed post-Holocaust literature. This literature consists mainly of short stories and novels by Jewish-Brazilian authors who, using a particular aesthetic involving so-called postmemory, traumatic realism, and blurred genres, work through Holocaust memory and its effects on the lives of Brazilian Jews.

My book A memória da Destruição na escrita judaico-brasileira depois de 1985: Por uma literatura pós-Holocausto emergente no Brasil (Peter Lang, 2022) provides a re-reading of texts published between 1986 and 2016, which have so far been discussed primarily as marginal and dispersed expressions of local Jewish ethnic literature. Instead, what I propose in my study can be understood as an act of theoretical-interpretive revival, reinterpreting the results of previous studies while aiming at a new systematic critical conceptualization that enables the identification of a literary corpus with common and distinguishable characteristics.

This aim is rooted in the perception of Jewish-Brazilian post-Holocaust literature as a legitimate and integrated part of the global and transcultural efforts to work through the Holocaust. Based on this, three hypotheses guide the definition, description, location, and contextualization of the subject of this study, which, after all, did not emerge in a vacuum but has a traceable historical genesis.

Based on this, I propose a second hypothesis concerning the emergent dimension of this literature. Emergence within a literary field, analogous to the cultural emergence defined by Raymond Williams refers to “new” meanings, values, practices, and relationships continuously created and received about what is dominant and generally established. Apart from being subject to the objective power relations within the literary field, emergence is viewed here as a characterization of a literary ensemble of particular substance and recognizable features.

Such a literary ensemble is defined as emergent when it irrevocably shares the conditions of the other ensembles that had emerged previously, even if it approaches them in a different way or, rather, approaches them through processes of selection and reorganization that favour change or rupture. In my book, I argue that emergent literature cannot be readily comprehended within the hegemonic view of literature or within the methodological and theoretical guidelines by which canons and national literatures are established. Finally, then, this literature has the potential to determine itself in relation to the cultural memory and historiography of the national, ethnic, regional, and global frameworks of the subject matter while forming its own cultural memory in Brazil.

While the subject of the Holocaust can be found in Brazilian literature as early as 1946, the year 1986 marks a turning point and the beginning of a new chapter of its existence. It is evident that an authorized post-Holocaust literature started to emerge at this point in Brazil, and it now extends beyond the boundaries of Jewish communal memory as it strives to participate in the transcultural and transnational memory of the Jewish extermination, the contemporary post-traumatic culture included. Authorization, or authorized memory practice, is understood here, following David Roskies and Noemi Diamant, in the context of the diversity of styles and genres, reception, as well as the degree of (un)reliability of narrative instances. It is further reflected in the shift from the languages in which the Holocaust was lived to those in which it can be relived and mourned, as well as have its discourses deconstructed and re-examined. Emergence further refers to the public memory in Brazil that both shapes and is shaped by this literature.

The third hypothesis arises in response to the primary importance of testimony in the first theories of Holocaust literature in Brazil. The term “witness through the imagination,” introduced by Norma Rosen in her 1974 essay “The Holocaust and the American Jewish Novelist”, through which the emphasis is placed on aspects of transmission and distance, has been well received by some scholars of Brazilian literature due to the reception of witness theory in Brazilian research. Witness theory has been advocated particularly by Márcio Seligmann-Silva, who applied it not only to the Holocaust but also to the experience of Latin American dictatorships.

Nevertheless, using this term could lead to the loss of the specificity of testimony and the witness figure and eventually drift into a metaphor for fictional writing. Moreover, it could suggest a tension or even mutual exclusion between witness memory and imagination, which ultimately creates analytical problems and is counterproductive in the context of the witness theory. Therefore, I propose using the term “postmemory”, which is already well-established in the study of trauma literature. The term refers here to the aesthetics and the socio-cultural context of the authors who can be said to constitute a Jewish-Brazilian generation of postmemory.

This last hypothesis further states that this literature offers a response to the demands of representation and a reading of the collectively traumatic past. Those responses are given through aesthetics that can be identified in post-Holocaust literature produced in the West, producing acts of individualized memory inscribed in cultural and transcultural Holocaust memory discourses, and reporting on contemporary post-traumatic culture. Postmodernism, Robert Eaglestone argues, should be understood as the time when people began to think about the Holocaust. Put another way, postmodern thought is the response given to the Holocaust using what Geoffrey Hartman has called the “instruments born of trauma”.

Given the evolution of the Brazilian literary field in the last thirty years, the urgency to update and advance the state of knowledge is recognized here. The cultural studies-based literary analysis is carried out within the frameworks of filiations and affiliations of texts. The reading method employed is close reading, including intertextual reading, which is maintained in contrast to the idea of the full autonomy of the text.

This approach favours tracing the text’s inscription in other discourses, resulting in a multiple cultural and sociohistorical contextualization on which the meaning of the text and its “worldliness”, to quote Edward Said, are built. Here, Michael Rothberg’s concept of multidirectional memory resonates and is applied in the analyses as a method to capture the processes of negotiation, borrowing and cross-referencing between different collective memories whose actors create a dialogue between the manifold traumatic past and the immanent aftermath of World War II. It should be emphasized that the emergence of Holocaust memory itself has been inflected by histories of slavery, colonialism, and decolonization and has even entered into a multilayered dialogue with military dictatorships, as exemplified by the case of Brazil, whose post-Holocaust literature provides a space for polymorphous working-through of the legacy of structural violence.

Jewish-Brazilian post-Holocaust literature is a literary ensemble that offers new insights into local memory practices as they are in the process of relating to its own cultural memory and creating the memory of the Holocaust in Brazil. Thus, the texts by authors: Cíntia Moscovich, Roney Cytrynowicz, Samuel Reibscheid, Giselda Leirner, Halina Grynberg, Luis S. Krausz, Michel Laub, Jacques Fux, Paulo Blank, and Rafael Cardoso, contribute to and are influenced by the development of a new public memory space in Brazil.

Cover image by brewbooks, CC licence.

A memória da Destruição na escrita judaico-brasileira depois de 1985: Por uma literatura pós-Holocausto emergente no Brasil (Peter Lang, 2022)

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Moszczynska, Joanna  M.  (2022): A memória da Destruição na escrita judaico-brasileira depois de 1985. Por uma literatura pós-Holocausto emergente no Brasil (Luso-Brazilian Studies: Culture, Literature and Audiovisual Media), Berlin: Peter Lang Verlag.

David Roskies and Naomi Diamant (2012): Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide, Waltham: Brandeis University Press.

Michael Rothberg (2000): Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

Regina Igel (1997): Imigrantes judeus, escritores brasileiros: o componente judaico na literatura brasileira, São Paulo: Perspectiva.

Berta Waldman (2003): Entre passos e rastros: presença judaica na literatura brasileira contemporânea, São Paulo: Perspectiva.

Márcio Seligmann-Silva (2005): “Escrituras da Shoá no Brasil.” in: Noah/ Noaj, 16-17, 137- 156.

#17

Postcolonial Resistance and Ecofeminism in the Latin American Jungle Novel

Madalina Stefan (Junior Fellow 2021-22)

Global Convivial Forum 

The narratives of the ‘novela de la selva deconstruct and subvert the colonial discourse by portraying nature as a moment of postcolonial resistance that opposes the white male master model

Colonial processes have usually been intrinsically linked to the exploitation of natural resources. and terms such as Decolonization and the Anthropocene have become keywords in the context of late postmodernity, foregrounding that ways of narrating nature are gaining increasing importance as nowadays threatening scenarios of natural disaster and social injustice overshadow our completely medialized realties.

Against this backdrop, it seems worthwhile  to reach out and see look at how nature narratives have been used in a productive manner, this is to say, as an empowering moment of postcolonial resistance that denounces the exploitation of nature and indigenous people.

In this sense the research project aims to focus on an particularly fit literary moment that is famous for its entanglement of postcoloniality and nature writing, namely the Spanish American jungle novel (novela de la selva), which turned to the rainforest and the indigenous communities and emerged between 1924 and 1953.

It is crucial to understand that since the discovery of America, the representation of the New World’s nature has played an important role in the process of colonization. and that nature discourses are at the heart of the debate on Latin American identity: from Colombus’ diaries to Humboldt’s romanticizing views, the European imaginaries of the New World were linked to nature and the exotic.

Nevertheless, with Latin American literary modernity, a change in the representation of American nature takes place. Characterized by the search for an American identity of its own, the Latin American literature of the first half of the 20th century marks a significant turning point, and, indeed, unlike colonial utopian narratives that mask the exploitation of nature and colonial violence by idealizing pristine landscapes of a lost terrestrial paradise that are in need of European male management, the narratives of the novela de la selva deconstruct and subvert the colonial discourse by portraying nature as a moment of postcolonial resistance that opposes the white male master model. Thus, these narratives present their own perspective, denounce the inequality of colonial conviviality and describe the jungle as a space of power struggle and exploitation of nature, indigenous peoples, and women.

In this sense, it has to be pointed out that besides focusing on human and non-human nature, the project aims to cover an often-overlooked perspective. Thus it is outstanding that the conviviality between colonizers, indigenous people, rubber workers, farmers, slaves, traders and explorers, on the one hand, side and flowers, trees, bushes, omnivorous ants, leeches, hippopotami etc., on the other, is not only depicted as marked by unequal power relations and colonial hierarchies but foremost as traversed by gender issues.

Given the striking female characters and the gendered representation of the rainforest, the research project proposes an ecofeminist reading that highlights how the hyper-separation between culture and nature is accompanied by the separation between male and female and how the exploitation and oppression of nature go hand in hand with the oppression of women. Since gender plays a crucial role in the novels but has not been studied in relation to colonial nature discourse so far, this approach promises new insights and perspectives in the context of Latin American Ecocriticism.

 

#16

My Research Experience with Mecila

Global Convivial Forum 

Léa Tosold (SCRIPTS FU-Berlin / Former Mecila Junior Fellow, 2020-2021)

Mecila Annual Meeting (Cologne, November 2021).

The partnerships I have established at Mecila will certainly outlive the duration of the scholarship; some may even last forever. I have learned a lot both in terms of content and in terms of the practice of working collaboratively.

I am an interdisciplinary researcher and activist. My academic work is on feminist and anti-racist epistemologies, from which I aim at rethinking collective forms of existence as resistance in contexts where violence is naturalised and ongoing. In my Ph. D., I engaged in a theoretical-political discussion of the politics of difference based on the Munduruku people and the riverside populations struggle to defend their territories against the construction of mega dams in the Middle Tapajós river region in the Amazonian rainforest. As a Mecila Junior Fellow in 2020-2021, I had the opportunity to work on memory politics and its global-local connections relying on Beatriz Nascimento’s notion of quilombo.

I was part of the first cohort of fellows since the Covid-19 health crisis. Even though we had to work online and the scholarship was cut down to seven months, I found Mecila to be a vibrant, respectful, and very stimulating space for the flourishing of my research. In addition to the colloquia, I participated in the activities of the three Research Areas (RA). The meetings were enjoyable and soon became a highlight of the week, different from the usual constraints of online work we have faced throughout the pandemic.

It was the first time I had worked with a group of researchers who were at the same time genuinely interdisciplinary and highly qualified, all of whom were involved in topics related to conviviality-inequality. It provided valuable insights for my research and dealt with specific theoretical issues that are common to all of us, conferring clarity for the onto-epistemological challenges we collectively face in our academic work.

This applies not only to the general colloquia but also to the meetings and activities of the different RAs. For example, in the RA (Hi)Stories of Conviviality, we had the opportunity to discuss the underlying notions of temporality in our work and its broader theoretical implications. The RA Medialities of Conviviality, among other topics, provided the chance to discuss the relationship between form and content in academic work. We discussed in the RA Politics of Conviviality how to deal analytically with collective resistance processes while simultaneously considering the (re)production of violence and testing the application of our knowledge regarding current pressing issues such as the pandemics.

I also appreciated the collaborative process with Senior Fellow Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez and Junior Fellow Juliana Streva to organise a podcast based on the common strands of our work — which is something I had only done before as an activist. Our podcast, inspired by the notion of quilombo by Beatriz Nascimento, dealt with different forms of producing knowledge. We had wonderful and inspiring support from the incredible Mecila team. I am sure we are all are very proud of the outcome!

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It was the first time I worked with a group of scholars managing three languages simultaneously: English, Portuguese, and Spanish. The ability to switch and deal with different languages, in my opinion, also contributed to the creation of a welcoming atmosphere of working together that enabled us — including myself — to find other ways of mobilising and expressing in the group our best individual contributions.

The partnerships I have established during my time at Mecila will certainly outlive the duration of the scholarship; some may even last forever. I have learned a lot both in terms of content and in terms of the practice of working collaboratively.

#15

Transformação urbana em disputa: o Plano Diretor Estratégico do Município de São Paulo

Global Convivial Forum 

Nesta conversa com a professora e pesquisadora Bianca Tavolari (Mecila/ Cebrap/ Insper) discutimos o que é o plano diretor, quais as disputas em torno de sua revisão e como o instrumento ajuda a desenhar os rumos da cidade.

Qual o papel do plano diretor?

O plano diretor é uma espécie de Constituição da cidade. Ele não só propõe como a cidade deve se organizar, mas também uma imagem de seu desenvolvimento futuro.

O plano define como a cidade vai crescer, o tamanho das edificações, como pensar os espaços públicos e seus usos, a rede de transporte público, onde estimular moradia.

Também regulamenta usos específicos. Onde teremos usos comerciais ou residenciais do espaço urbano; quais áreas específicas dentro da cidade merecem proteção ambiental e onde não é permitido construir, ou apenas construir pouco; como integrar a malha de transporte a oportunidades de emprego; onde estarão os equipamentos culturais.

plano diretor-post-BT

Como esse instrumento pode intervir nas desigualdades urbanas?

Um dos elementos do Plano Diretor Estratégico [PDE] de São Paulo de 2014 aborda justamente isso. Uma das propostas aprovadas é a ideia de eixos de estruturação urbana. Tomam-se todos os elementos consolidados e planejados de transporte público – as linhas de ônibus, de trem, de metrô, as estações – e desenham-se áreas em torno dessa estrutura.

O objetivo é adensar essas áreas, colocar o máximo possível de pessoas para morar perto dessa estrutura de transporte público. Assim aproximamos a moradia ao transporte, e consequentemente ao emprego. É uma maneira de enfrentar um dos principais problemas de cidades como São Paulo: o movimento pendular de pessoas que moram em bairros periféricos e vão trabalhar em zonas centrais, passando longo períodos no transporte público, perdendo momentos de vida. É uma forma de enfrentar uma desigualdade territorial que se expressa também em tempo de vida, na diferença entre ficar ou não três horas no trânsito para chegar ao trabalho.

Mas não é qualquer moradia que o plano prevê nessas áreas. Se construímos apartamentos de 120 metros quadrados com três vagas de garagem, não atraímos a pessoa que mora na periferia. Ela não vai poder comprar esse imóvel. Então o plano também propõe uma série de elementos construtivos para que se garanta uma mistura de unidades habitacionais nos eixos.

O contrário também é verdade, se pensarmos nos polos de criação de empregos nas periferias. Em vez de só trazer pessoas para perto do transporte público consolidado, é igualmente importante induzir, por meio de incentivos urbanísticos, a oferta de emprego em regiões residenciais já estabelecidas. Assim também evitamos deslocamentos longos e aproximamos as pessoas de oportunidades. Essa é uma ideia que também está no Plano Diretor de 2014.

A revisão do Plano Diretor envolve muitas disputas. Você pode contextualizá-las?

Costumo dizer que a política urbana é treta. É briga o tempo inteiro em torno do plano diretor e especialmente do zoneamento, que define os usos do espaço urbano em cada lugar. São instrumentos de disputa intensa que envolvem atores repetidos, pessoas que interagem também em outros contextos. São atores muito qualificados lutando por essas regras há tempos, e as disputas se expressam abertamente nesse campo de batalha.

Só em 2014 foram mais de cem audiências públicas temáticas regionais com devolutivas. O processo incluiu não apenas ouvir as pessoas, mas também contar o que foi incorporado ou não ao planejamento. E, mesmo assim, o plano daquele ano só foi aprovado depois que os movimentos de moradia organizados acamparam em frente à Câmara Municipal para garantir que ele fosse votado sem a inclusão de nenhum “submarino”, que são as emendas que emergem de última hora e mudam acordos já previstos no Plano.

Do ponto de vista da sociedade civil, tivemos no último Plano Diretor de São Paulo uma discussão muito intensa sobre mobilidade, com a participação de movimentos organizados de ciclistas, que reivindicavam a expansão das ciclofaixas. Há os movimentos de moradia, que são muito organizados e têm um conhecimento técnico preciso e rico sobre essas questões. Vários movimentos de cultura, pensando cinemas de rua, usos de espaços públicos. Há os movimentos e associações de bairro, como os que estão presentes em Zonas Exclusivamente Residenciais (ZER) e que não querem mudar as regras do entorno para incluir outros usos. Há o mercado imobiliário também, muito atuante. Mas muito depende de como é o desenho das audiências. É importante que todas as pessoas sejam ouvidas, inclusive aquelas não organizadas em movimentos.

Além disso, é difícil participar de um processo de revisão de plano diretor. É uma discussão muito técnica. Uma das propostas dos atores da sociedade civil é que a gestão democrática das cidades envolva não só o direito à participação e à palavra, mas também a tradução desses estudos técnicos, de responsabilidade do poder público. São decisões que impactam a vida de todo mundo e não podem ser blindadas por uma linguagem técnica excludente. Esta não é apenas uma demanda da sociedade civil, mas também dos órgãos do sistema de justiça, como o Ministério Público e a Defensoria Pública, que recomendam e exigem condições de participação com acesso pleno à informação.

A prefeitura de São Paulo propôs a prorrogação da revisão do Plano Diretor de São Paulo para 2022, após pressão de atores do sistema de justiça e da sociedade civil. Quais os principais conflitos à vista?

A revisão estava prevista. Isso é muito comum em planos diretores. Como é uma política que projeta para o futuro, ela tem que ser recalibrada em função de como a cidade se transformou no meio tempo. Mas agora tem o agravante de que é uma revisão proposta ainda em meio à pandemia. E a sociedade civil organizada tem trazido duas questões muito importantes.

A primeira questão é a impossibilidade de participação em uma política tão importante quanto essa se tudo ocorrer online. Há entraves à participação de pessoas menos organizadas, que não têm bom acesso à internet. Imagina uma audiência enorme com um monte de gente com as mais diferentes conexões, ou mesmo sem acesso à internet.

A segunda questão é que não é possível estimar com precisão alguns dos efeitos da pandemia na cidade. Vou dar um exemplo. A gente viu que parte dos serviços conseguiram funcionar em home-office, que foi adotado por boa parte das empresas que podem se valer do trabalho remoto. Isso impacta diretamente lugares com muitos prédios de escritório, como, por exemplo, as regiões das avenidas Faria Lima, Berrini e Paulista.

Será que essa tendência vai se confirmar, ainda que seja para uma camada muito privilegiada? Se as empresas decidem não mais ter escritórios grandes e optam por um regime híbrido de trabalho, porque entendem que funciona bem e custa menos, ficamos com um problema enorme de espaço construído. O que fazer com todo esse espaço? Precisamos pensar uma mudança de uso. Seria possível adequá-los para moradia? Isso envolve planejamento.

Ou seja, não faz sentido revisar um plano diretor pensando o futuro sem saber o impacto desse tipo de transformação. E não é por falta de dados ou habilidade, mas porque não temos como saber se essa tendência vai se confirmar ou não.

Eu escrevi um texto tratando de ilegalidades no processo de revisão do Plano Diretor, uma das quais está diretamente relacionada à sub-representação da sociedade civil no Conselho Municipal de Política Urbana (CMPU).

Então tem conflito em todos os lugares. Do ponto de vista do conselho que vai ser ouvido para falar de política urbana; do processo de aprovação; de incluir e ouvir mais pessoas; e do ponto de vista do conteúdo material dessa revisão.

Recentemente, a prefeitura propôs o adiamento após defender expressamente que o plano deveria ser revisto ainda este ano. Foi um recuo evidente. Ele pode ser explicado principalmente em razão de uma decisão judicial, em uma ação popular ajuizada por Guilherme Boulos, a Bancada Feminista do PSOL e os movimentos de moradia que questionou a contratação de uma fundação que faria estudos para a revisão, pelo valor de R$3,5 milhões, sem licitação. Este recuo gerou um xadrez importante entre sociedade civil, sistema de justiça, prefeitura e Câmara municipal. É neste impasse que estamos agora.

Além dos problemas novos trazidos pela pandemia, há também disputas antigas sobre a cidade que retornam à arena. Quais você destacaria?

Há uma disputa clássica que envolve setores empresariais, mercado imobiliário e suas associações em relação à chamada outorga onerosa do direito de construir. Parece complicado, mas a outorga é uma concessão, uma autorização. Onerosa porque ela não é gratuita, você paga.

O que isso quer dizer? Quando compramos um terreno, não podemos fazer com ele o que bem quisermos. É contraintuitivo, mas você não pode construir do jeito que quiser. Aqui em São Paulo foi estabelecido um coeficiente de aproveitamento, o chamado CA 1, segundo o qual você pode construir até uma vez o tamanho do terreno. Se o seu terreno é de mil metros quadrados, então você pode construir uma edificação de mil metros quadrados. Se você quer construir mais, você não está proibido, mas precisa pagar. Esse custo é a outorga onerosa do direito de construir.

Por que isso existe? Porque esse potencial construtivo é público, ele não vem com a sua propriedade. Imagina se todo mundo pudesse construir da maneira que quisesse, como planejaríamos a cidade? Além disso, esse espaço de construção, ainda que seja muito grande, é finito. Por isso faz sentido que o poder público precifique isso como um bem comum. E a um preço razoavelmente alto.

Esse dinheiro, que o construtor ou proprietário paga, vai para o Fundo de Desenvolvimento Urbano (FUNDURB), e com ele custeamos uma série de políticas específicas para mobilidade, habitação de interesse social etc. Ele está separado do caixa da prefeitura e tem algumas rubricas carimbadas. É um mecanismo de financiamento de políticas urbanas importantes para a cidade de São Paulo.

Uma das disputas antigas é sobre o preço da outorga. O mercado imobiliário vai dizer que tem que ser mais barato, porque o valor alto desestimula o adensamento. “Você quer que eu adense nos eixos? Eu quero construir, mas se você me cobra muito caro, eu não vou fazer”, raciocinam.

Outra coisa é como gastar os recursos que vêm do FUNDURB. O Plano Diretor de 2014 estabelecia uma cota de 30 porcento para transporte público e mobilidade ativa. Ciclovias, calçadas. Andar a pé, aliás, é o principal meio de locomoção de São Paulo. Mas uma lei em 2019 alterou esse critério, incluindo também obras de infraestrutura viária. Aí está a disputa: reforçar um modelo que sempre privilegiou os carros, ou colocar o transporte público no modelo e investir o recurso nisso?

Uma outra discussão é sobre miolos de bairro. Existe a ideia de que o adensamento e o crescimento são maiores quanto mais próximo das ruas, das grandes avenidas. Com isso, o miolo do bairro fica mais baixinho. Essa é outra demanda histórica do setor imobiliário, crescer em miolos de bairros.

Há ainda a discussão sobre as Zonas Especiais de Interesse Social (ZEIS), aquelas que devem ser destinadas para habitação de interesse social. Parte do mercado imobiliário quer tirar as ZEIS de onde elas estão, porque algumas são muito bem localizadas e impedem a expansão ou a construção de empreendimentos específicos.

O debate sobre o Plano Diretor parece uma oportunidade concreta de participação dos cidadãos no planejamento da cidade. Mas talvez muitas pessoas desconheçam o dispositivo.

A gente está muito capturado pela discussão federal. Com muitas boas razões, porque estamos diante de uma crise sem precedentes da nossa democracia, com um presidente que afronta a Constituição, todo dia um novo escândalo, um novo absurdo. Mas esquecemos a discussão municipal.

Vale a pena prestar atenção especialmente nas cidades que estão revisando os seus planos diretores, porque isso impacta concretamente o dia a dia.

As desigualdades territoriais passam pela formulação dessas legislações. Então, se queremos enfrentar essas questões e mudar a forma como as nossas cidades estão sendo pensadas, precisamos nos inteirar sobre esses processos.

Uma coisa que vemos nas audiências, seja do Plano Diretor ou de zoneamento, é que as pessoas querem falar sobre o seu bairro, a coleta do lixo, a iluminação. Às vezes essas demandas nem vão ser tratadas no plano diretor especificamente, mas você vê que é o lugar onde as pessoas vocalizam isso, pois não conseguem encontrar outros espaços. Então o plano diretor é também um espaço onde as pessoas podem ser ouvidas.

Fonte das imagens: gestaourbana.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/

Leia e ouça mais sobre convivialidade e desigualdade em cidades latino-americanas:

Mecila Working Paper Series No. 11: Ramiro Segura, “Convivialidad en ciudades latinoamericanas”.

Diálogos Mecila, ep. 10: “Cidades desiguais: modos de ver”.

#14

The Politics of Respiration: The Catholic Charismatic Movement in Brazil

Global Convivial Forum 

Ajay Gandhi in Conversation with Maria José de Abreu

Ajay Gandhi, a 2021-2022 Senior Fellow at Mecila and an anthropologist and faculty member at Leiden University, conducted this dialogue with Maria José de Abreu, assistant professor of anthropology at Columbia University. Building on her recent book, The Charismatic Gymnasium (Duke University Press, 2021), we discussed the crafting of bodies by religious actors and the politics of respiration in Brazil and elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maria José de Abreu: The ecumenical Charismatic movement – a new Pentecost – first appeared among university scholars in Arkansas and Pennsylvania in prayer groups. While it gained visibility and official recognition in the 1990s, it came to Brazil in 1969, brought by two American Jesuits, Father Eduardo Dougherty, and Father Haroldo Rahm.

The CCR evolves, like Liberation Theology, out of the Second Vatican Council, a reform within Catholicism. Liberation Theology will develop the tendencies of modern Catholicism toward rationalization introduced in Brazil in the late nineteenth century. Except that this modernized rational Catholicism also went for the vernacular, finding ways to articulate teachings and tendencies channelled through European thinkers’ influence and mediated via local realities and struggles. This tendency was exacerbated by the fact that around the same time as the second Vatican Council, Brazil and other places within Latin America were US-backed dictatorships. Thus, Liberation Theology’s fame as a left-wing Catholic movement emerges in this conjuncture of modern progressive Catholicism, grassroots movements, and political opposition.

At the same time, you have another group or clusters with ideological affinities who wonder, since when is religion “an option for the poor”? Since when is religion about politics? Clearly Charismatics –an economic and intellectual elite – resented the idea of a “theology for the poor”.

Charismatics in Brazil needed a theological principle that would allow them to accommodate a language of radical inclusion and that principle in the Greek pneuma: as the Greek term for breath, air, or Spirit, Charismatics claimed, is radically democratic. But here we come to the crucial point that I think is pertinent for what is happening today with the pandemic – namely, the capacity to hide the particular behind the universal. To co-opt and explore a vital structure that as substance seems to know no borders, but only to demarcate even more what separates them from others.

Thus, for example, in those early days when Charismatics came to Brazil, they did not go to a central metropolis, such as São Paulo, but to a peripheral, secondary city, Campinas. There, they disparaged Liberation Theology as exclusionary, temporal, political viz universalism. But what they were actually doing was to self-enhance the idea of marginality and the peripheral. This idea allowed them to authenticate that they were living an experience like the first Christians.

In the 1990s, this political geography changed. The dictatorship is over, and a Cold Holy War (guerra santa) between mainstream Catholics and Protestants is happening. What Charismatics do is jump into this rift and concoct a new religious-political agenda. This does not mean leaving the periphery behind, but rather taking the periphery to the centre. The periphery becomes even more important – they embrace corporate media. At the same time, the centre symbolized by the state and its “third-way” politics is hollowing out, becoming more like a donut, an infinite circle with a big hole in the middle. This is perfect for Catholic Charismatics.

Charismatics combine pneuma and mass media. They also employ a political model that goes back to an orthodoxy voiced by Carl Schmitt as the complexio oppositorum: the ability to speak to two opposite audiences at once. To the right as well as to the left, to neoliberalism and to neo-conservativism. But they also do something else: they recover an idea of charisma, which was very important to pre-modern audiences. This is anti-institutional, except that this time around neoliberalism is defined by the institution’s ability to be against itself.

AG: Your work is a diagnosis of power mechanics in contemporary Brazil. Pneuma becomes a way that conservative, reactionary forms use flexibility and freedom to co-opt the fundamental substrate of existence: breath. I wanted to ask if we might reflect on the wider politics of respiration. For example, Frantz Fanon, in A Dying Colonialism (1959), speaks of the conditions of colonial occupation in French Algeria in the 1950s. There, the “daily pulsation” of people is “disfigured”. Breath is not liberatory but “an observed, an occupied breathing. It is a combat breathing”. For Fanon, respiration, under such unjust conditions, is an artifice, a “clandestine form of existence” where natives, under the occupier’s gaze, learn to “dissemble, to resort to trickery”. Breath, Fanon suggests, is never self-evident or obvious when shaped by power. It is something constricted and contrived, the opposite of natural.

I am interested in that sense of laboured breathing, of unnatural respiration in current circumstances. Health care professionals, for example, know that socioeconomic deprivation catalyses physiological contraction. In our age of anxiety, where futures are abruptly terminated, many are short of breath, too worried, or physically exhausted to take in the full nourishment of oxygen. Yet our elites and politicians also practice what we could call “salvation as inhalation”.

For example, India experienced a catastrophic shortage of medical oxygen in early 2021, leading to thousands of deaths. As people gasped for air, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a tweet, instructing people to “Sit in a comfortable meditative posture… Gently close the eyes and raise the face slightly. Breathe normally”. This top-down command came in the idiom of wise yogic advice. But may we see it as akin to what you describe in Brazil: the appropriation of life’s structure?

MJA: Once again, we are talking about how the universal is recruited in order to better hide the particular. It is precisely because breath and air seem to be such equalizers, the fluid that par excellence transcends all socio-economic barriers, that it becomes a potent medium to manipulate. One would indeed think of air as the ultimate expression of what is natural and spontaneous. Yet, the very idea of being natural and spontaneous is itself the result of power, a constricting power. Michel Foucault would say that power is not only constricting, but precisely because it is constricting, it can be enabling. Foucault was preoccupied with the creative aspects of power. But we need to ask: Creative for whom?

Now, Charismatics have this very interesting capacity to flip between domains. I have heard them conflating the natural and the supernatural when it comes to pneuma more than once. This idea of a supernatural is interesting because it can mean both the superlative for natural – a natural more natural it could not be – and supernatural in the sense of spiritual and divine. That when it comes to breathing practices, a supernatural can also be a supernatural felt incredible to me. More so because this flip between supernatural and supernatural entails the use of mass media technologies. For example, the use of songs through CDs and videos also involves recording breath. It helps people relate to religion as a training (askesis), where all attempts at separating breathing bodies and recorded breathing collapses.

You mention a context in India via Modi, where people are instructed to breathe calmly in a moment of great anxiety. Charismatics did that, too. And by the way, in the late 1990s, it was common to see women on Paulista Avenue, the financial artery of São Paulo City, with a stethoscope to check your pulse and do auscultation of your heart. Neoliberalism was this moment when finance became increasingly attached to supple, healthy bodies whose efficiency was somehow connected with the mechanisms of fluidity and circulation. Breathing of all physiological activities seemed to speak the language of economics. Breath is that which is at once abstract and concrete, regulated according to a balance between inputs (inhalation/importation) and outputs (exhalation/exportation), circulation, flow and so forth.

A history of the air of Brazil has yet to be written, but one could detect this important transformation from when air was perceived as a substance well until the latter part of the nineteenth century and when air became conceived as a dimension. From substance to dimension, in other words. In the first we have a thick air, an air that is populated by spirits, odours, messages, and diseases. In the latter, you have air as measurable. The statue of Jesus at the Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro marks the moment when air becomes conceived as a dimension. It is Catholicism’s skyscraper put there by the Redentoristas who had migrated to Brazil in the late nineteenth century to reform Catholicism: to turn air from substance to dimension. This tendency changes with Catholic Charismatics. It is no longer about placing a subject within a dimension, but a subject poised for change, a subject that has incorporated a level of flexibility to adapt. No longer just prediction, but adaptability, a feature that reflects a shift from longer to shorter temporalities. In that sense, it is not surprising that so many gyms and spas mushroomed in the 1990s, in Brazil and around the world. We see an economic elite appropriating, as you say, “life’s structure” such as air, attached to a whole discourse of salvation. The discourse of breath is so effective because it echoes with “letting go” whereas in effect it is a way of capture. It is a way of saying that there is nothing you can do except staying alive and feeling that you stay alive. So do nothing. Just breathe!

AG: Reading your book, I thought of Total Recall, Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 science fiction film. In it, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character discovers a conspiracy on a human-colonized Mars in the near future. The red planet is now overseen by a powerful corporation. The company’s control rests on mining and controlling the planet’s artificial oxygen supply. On Mars, a racialized category of infrahuman – freaks and deviants termed “mutants” – aids an insurgency against this concentrated power. The film, in exaggerated form, stages the politics of possession and segregation in our own world.

Total Recall asks who is allowed to breathe and control the basic mechanism of life. Oxygen becomes saleable, a means of leverage and authority – the corporate leader deprives the semi-human “mutants” of breath to exert coercion. In the end – it is a Hollywood film, after all! – the Schwarzenegger character ends the artificial lack of oxygen on Mars. In this way, he democratizes the means of living.

I am interested in this film in relation to your book through the prism of climate change and the pandemic. The coronavirus suggests that what we take for granted – oxygen, breath – is a contingent fact. In the context of infectious illness, medical oxygen becomes a scarce commodity that can be hoarded, privatized, and denied to others.

It would seem rather that the pandemic is continuous with – rather than disruptive of – pre-existing asymmetries in our compartmentalized world. Respirators and filtration devices, after all, are largely not available to the poor in the Global South. And we can think of the disproportionate suffocation that afflicts the disadvantaged: asthma, tuberculosis, and other respiratory diseases stifle the capacity to breathe. In a planetary atmosphere where carbon dioxide increases, those inequities – except for the super-rich like Jeff Bezos, zooming off to on Mars – will only continue.

My question for you is about the management of breath. In your book, you suggest that Brazilian Charismatics have developed a logistics, an infrastructure, for moulding subjects around breath. In this managerial mentality, they are perhaps not that different from state planners or executive administrators. In this sense, religious subjectivity, political sovereignty, and neoliberal appropriation are indebted to a technique of control and intentionality. I am interested in the limits of human designs, two centuries after the Enlightenment imparted the myth of mastering our destiny. Are we at a point, on a planetary scale, where agents like viruses delimit our breath and where the earth’s atmosphere is no longer benign? Where we hit the limits of control, of calisthenics, of trying to shape breath like bodies at a gym?

MJA: I agree with you that the pandemic is not an interruption of the asymmetric privileges, but the exposure of what was always already there. The irony of air as a substance is that it tries to suggest that there is no compartmentalizing. That is precisely the illusion that a movement like the CCR has been trying to communicate for the last four decades or so. In your question, you mention a “religious subjectivity, political sovereignty, and neoliberal appropriation [that] are indebted to a technique of control and intentionality”. But one thing that I think has come up with the turn to “air” and “breathing” among Charismatics, if we can put it like that with Covid-19 still literally in the air and on air, is precisely the suspension of intentionality for something like indeterminacy. And the irony is that we kind of like it because of how we tend to equate intentionality with the logics of modern subject or sovereign – the idea that puts humans at the centre as capable of intentionally designing human destiny, whereas indeterminacy sounds like a more poetic form of going about things. It suggests letting go of control, a praise of the uncertain that only makes sense because of narratives of progress and the violences inherent to telos. But the thing is, it is precisely certain movements on the (extreme) right who are now criticizing intentionality and adopting, even structuring, indeterminacy. This is tremendous because our project of the criticism of secular modernity is not finished. However, we also need to be attentive to these right-wing logics of appropriating left-wing discourses.

On the other hand, because of my new work on Portugal, your question also brings to mind canonical discourses that appeared in the aftermath of the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755. What lessons could one draw from the fact that nature could not be fully domesticated and that it could, after all, strike back? As you seem to suggest about the coronavirus, that earthquake led to great philosophical reflections on the nature of evil, speculative theodicy, and the role of humans in controlling their destiny. This very reflection on limits was at the point that “the myth of mastering our destiny” was at its peak. This gives me hope that perhaps we are never just in one camp alone but are always invited to reflect on the realities that could thwart them. Indeed, we need contrarians in order to deny them. On the other hand, there is no doubt that we are exhausting nature’s resources, and without going too much into the idea that nature has agency, it will strike back in ever fiercer ways. Perhaps we are living a moment where friend and foe are really intimate partners, and we need to reflect on where that leads us as thinkers and as breathers.

AG: Breath entails an interval, a pause. I am curious about the potential politics of this interval or pause. In the space between, at the moment of interruption, can other paths be taken? We live in a time when the dominant metaphors are “flow, stream, torrent” – the oversaturation and compulsion of digital and real life. Is it possible to find an alternative rhythm of life, a space of reflection, in the interval or pause within breath?

MJA: This again brings us back to how we are so invested in equating freedom with flow and movement. But now we have two tendencies: the logic of walled states and a new valorisation of the rural and of nature. What does this mean? That we will go back to idealised romanticism? I would not be surprised. The problem is that these spaces of escape are not cut out/off from the digital. One thus needs to ask, am I going to nature to escape the digital or to make up for the fact that I use so much digital? It is difficult to say. I think the idea of interval is curious because the interval in breathing is precisely what allows continuity. But I think you mean the pause for breath, as in the pause for reflection. Walter Benjamin describes his “pausing for breath… Tirelessly the process of thinking makes new beginnings, returning in a roundabout way to its original object. This continual pausing for breath is the mode most proper to the process of contemplation”. We shall have to see. I really don’t know. Neither do I wish to conduct a futurology of where breathing will take us. I think the reflection might start with the fact that we are posing the problem like this. That we are aware that we do not take breathing, but breathing takes us. Perhaps that is the beginning of reflection.

Ajay Gandhi: Your recent book examines a Catholic evangelical movement in Brazil, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR), which was newly influential in the 1990s, as the country was increasingly entangled in global capitalism. You argue that this heralds a form of religious self-consciousness, prizing bodily elasticity and the management of opposites (the complexio oppositorum). As part of this, Catholic evangelicals recuperate a Greek vocabulary: that of pneuma or breath. These aerobics of faith intersect with electronic media; an episteme aligns with an infrastructure. It shapes the body in an individual and political sense. What is important is the way the spirit is connected to the material. Circulation happens in unbounded space alongside the creation of tangible substances.

Can you describe how you see this, first, in terms of near history, a rupture with how religion in Brazil conceived of the national and individual? Second, in the longer span of Christianity, is this a revitalization or recuperation of ideas going back to Greece and Byzantium – or is it a new way of crafting a religious and political self?

Charismatic Gymnasium copy 2 (1)

#13

Horizontality in the 2010s

Global Convivial Forum 

Horizontality is establishing itself in countless activities that have often prospered silently over the last fifty years in many domains where the participants are unburdened with submitting to hierarchies, vertical chains of command, or with taking on positions of authority.

Yves Cohen (EHESS/ Mecila Senior Fellow 2020-21)

A large and sustained wave of movements without leaders arose in the 2010s. Tunisia inaugurated the wave, followed closely by Egypt. These two countries started the “Arab Spring” whose blossoming would be aggressively suppressed. And yet the wave would continue in Turkey, Spain, Ukraine, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso: a raggedy incomplete list where the old democracies are conspicuously absent – until the Yellow Vests. This French social movement appeared in 2018 and would be followed by a series of leaderless movements in 2019 in Algeria, Ecuador, Bolivia, Lebanon, Iraq, Chile, Egypt, and Haiti. Not all the mass movements of the decade openly declare themselves leaderless such as those in Hong Kong and Sudan. But even though this dimension has hardly been studied by social scientists, this desire to move ahead with no boss should be taken seriously. This is an important part of the renewal of protest movements compared to the previous century, and of contemporary social sciences. It has a major impact on the central theme of the social bond – its composition, dynamic, and history across centuries if not millennia. As suggested by Ivan Illich’s call for conviviality, there’s nothing natural, automatic, or self-evident about this bond, including subordination or hierarchy despite what recent centuries, especially the twentieth, would suggest in a number of locations around the world. Subordination and hierarchy are not always already written in the great book of the social. They are part of an historical elaboration across the globe that is irregular in the times and places they occur.

The movements of the 2010s seize on very delimited spaces to become the locus of their meetings and their force. One hears the term “democracy of the squares” to convey this use of public spaces (that recalls the medieval use of commons). The Yellow Vests invented the use of traffic roundabouts as a place of action, deliberation, and conviviality. In Belarus, people refusing the electoral fraud of Alexander Lukashenko chose to gather in courtyards of apartment buildings. Hitting on the idea of using all of these micro-territories as democratic spaces where people of diverse social origins, genders, races, religions, ages, and professions can meet directly as themselves without representatives on an equal footing in the heat of action has been a first step in solving the deep crisis of representative democracy. It is a criticism through direct action of the preceding century and of its profound reticence toward all forms of open-air free democracy. The solution being sketched out at this beginning of what promises to be a long process is not a substitution of horizontal democracy of public squares and roundabouts to replace the reigning structures in parliamentary regimes around the world. This search for a new democratic legitimacy is not seeking to destroy representative democracy. It aims to radically and democratically question the established powers in all their forms.

Besides public squares and similar venues, horizontality is establishing itself in countless activities that have often prospered silently over the last fifty years in many domains where the participants are unburdened with submitting to hierarchies, vertical chains of command, or with taking on positions of authority. Historically, it is a refusal in deeds of the imperative in force throughout the twentieth century according to which a popular movement, whether social or political, must be organized and hierarchical, preferably under the authority of a political party – in other words, according to the Bolshevik model of an avant-garde where every single collective activity, including the family, had to be conducted under the authority of a chief who would with few exceptions be masculine. The social bond was endowed with a hierarchical dimension naturalized in a thousand ways.

The social sciences have an interesting worksite to develop around identifying as exhaustively as possible the activities in all domains that have been undertaken recently with no chief, no leader, in an egalitarian, cooperative, collaborative, or autonomous manner. First, squares, roundabouts, and high-rise courtyards are places of conviviality: participants become acquainted by working together; this could be around preparing a meal, taking measures to be ready for winter, treating the wounds suffered during confrontations, organizing the group’s self-defence, or by deliberating. Action and deliberation are not the only components of the activity in these public spaces; the communal life is another which, along with action and deliberation, make these places belong along a spectrum of conviviality that amounts to a communal living together that may be familial, relate to a certain community with its proximities and its conflicts of variable intensity, cross boundaries, or envelope some other more or less temporary groupings. One cannot help but think of the quilombo of fugitive slaves in Brazil, a territory recomposed since the sixteenth century with a free lifestyle and yet open to others.

Secondly, the embers burn red hot under the ashes. Under the surface of the “public” and somewhat out of sight, a deep work on the social fabric is taking place that recognizes at every point a need or even a desire for horizontality. These activities are quite varied: communal gardens in large metropolitan cities, presses, cultural or humanitarian activities, medical and legal offices, cooperatives of production or distribution – countless are the objects for the collectives and collectivities that have emerged, taken shape, and endured in this way for several years now. Many movements and organizations in France have been organized according to such principles of horizontality such as, for example, the movement to support the undocumented migrants and the Réseau Education Sans Frontières (Education Network Without Borders), and this is true in many countries around the world.

Following the example of squatters and the ZAD (a French acronym for “zones to be defended”) which have embraced horizontality, these other collectives are also seeking to offer a vision of the future via a dynamic of struggle and specific claims. In France, for example, they are linking with other transformations of institutions, such as the “collegial associations” that have neither president nor board. A law from 1901 regulates associations by a regime of declaration and not authorization. Over time the habit developed of creating an association “bureau” with a president, vice president, and secretary. This vertically organized structure became the norm and has only been questioned very recently. Association members who came to the prefecture to declare their association but without a president or bureau were told they had to follow the law.

And yet the letter of the law includes no such obligation and requires only persons “responsible for the administration”. In addition to the growing number of collegial associations, there has been since 2014 and the experiment in Saillans in the Drôme department a flourishing multiplication of ecological municipalities which are non-hierarchical, egalitarian, and more or less directly inspired by the “libertarian municipalism” of Murray Bookchin (Legros 2020). In France, the family unit no longer has a single “chief” as head of the household following a legal reform of 1970, an effect of the renewal of the women’s movement, and “parental authority” is now “shared”. In France and elsewhere, a growing number of organizations have adopted the formula of the Movimento Passe Livre (Free Fare Movement, MPL) in Brazil that erupted in June 2013 with the most powerful demonstrations the country has ever known. The movement, founded in 2005, invented a “charter” that proclaimed it to be “horizontal, autonomous, independent and nonpartisan but not antipartisan”. Following the demonstrations, all fare increases were blocked, leaving a deep imprint on the political history of the country – until the vultures of the far-right latched onto this popular agitation to turn it toward other goals.

The anti-hierarchical enthusiasm also extends to companies. In order to save itself and preserve the essential elements, capitalism since 1968 has sought to evade the insistent challenges to the authority of chiefs at all levels. For example, in one of the co-optation manoeuvres that are inseparable from all instances of power, it initiated the “project management”, “crushing hierarchies”, and even declared “freedom”. Internationally, one may note that the Internet was created on principles of horizontality that are endlessly opposed by nation-states and multinational companies.

With or without direct connection, from person to person and step to step, these more or less enduring and widespread activities resonate with free communities over large territories such as the Chiapas or the Rojava which have taken on global visibility even without occupying an entire country. The study of this ensemble – horizontal movements, collective egalitarian activities of all kinds, occupations, and free territories of various sizes – would require a global approach whose methods would have to be established carefully.

This article takes up most closely two cases: first, the horizontal practice of the Yellow Vests based on eyewitness observations within an assembly in the Paris region, and secondly, the initial steps of a cooperative school created recently in São Paulo in the aftermath of the June 2013 demonstrations and the occupation of high schools in the state of São Paulo that followed.

One of the challenges of this work is to avoid considering horizontality as an absolute that would arrive in opposition to hierarchy, but to observe instead in a pragmatic fashion what actually happens and attempt to identify the forms, the meandering evolutions, and the meanings, and in this way take part in a reflection that would be both that of the actors and the researchers in mutual reinforcement.

Translated by C. Jon Delogu

Cover image: Patrice Calatayu, Demonstrations of the Mouvement des gilets jaunes on Place Pey Berland, Bordeaux, 2 Feb 2019.

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Yves Cohen (2021): “Horizontality in the 2010s: Social Movements, Collective Activities, Social Fabric, and Conviviality”, Mecila Working Paper Series, No. 40, São Paulo: The Maria Sibylla Merian Centre Conviviality-Inequality in Latin America, http://dx.doi.org/10.46877/cohen.2021.40.