24 Mar 2017

Carsten Friberg's report from Wroclaw



Appearances of the Political, third meeting.

Wroclaw, 24-26 February, 2017 at the University of Wroclaw.

Carsten Friberg

The following are reflections based on the third meeting in the study circle. The circle also joined forces with three other circles in NSU, "Understanding Migration in Nordic and Baltic Countries", "International Relations and Human Rights" and "Comparative Futurologies" and with the help of four local PhD-students known as the Polish Power Team the circles created an ambiance for the seminar with similarities to the summer session.

The circle was formed by 21 participants from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Italy, Finland and Denmark. The theme was Aesthetics, Politics and Material Culture.

An idea behind the circle is that the political appears in many forms and in many contexts of which some are more obvious than others and many are overlooked, ignored or simply not considered political. The political is concerned with the organisation of the society – whether the scale is the ancient polis giving name to our discourses on the political or modern societies bound to the borders of national legislation and international agreements.

Not all political discourses lead to legislation and not all political appearances are concerned with legal institutions but to be reminded of the relation may seem of increasing importance in the current political situation where more debates show disrespect for and even attack on the legal system in the name of other values such as a will of the people (populism), personal freedom and unlimited growth in economic activities. Questions like what the will of the people is and how individual freedom relates to responsibility for a community and the environment become urgent.

Throughout Western philosophical tradition a fundamental problem has been the relation between the particular and the general, which is a problem concerning epistemology: how is this particular object subsumed under a general concept, but also a problem of social relations: how is this individual related to a larger public? A parallel between nature and politics can be drawn: We cannot make sense of phenomena in nature without talking of general laws, though the perceptions of what kind of law have changed over the millenniums. Nature without laws is a chaos of random phenomena giving no knowledge whatsoever. Likewise we cannot have a social life without laws regulating individual interests – where the law is absent anarchy, in its sense of conflict, rules.

Nature, related to Latin nasci, to be born, is concerned with growth from inherent principles. Throughout Western history nature was the guiding principle for knowledge and for organising human affairs. Today it has become battleground for ideas. An idea of limitless growth, such as in the current dominating economic model, can only be seen as unnatural from an old perspective, while for a modern perspective nature becomes a resource to transform into economic value. According to such logic nature is not a limit to our activities but a potential for development. Where limits are reached the shortage will stimulate invention and innovative solutions and limits are then creative stimulations for human enterprises.

Such a perspective has an implicit agenda: our common wealth is based on making use of resources and opposing the use can be seen as a threat to the common good. Corinna Casi asked, with the Barent's sea as example – an area becoming subject to an increased interest due to the potential value of its resources and new traffic routes made possible by climate changes opening up the North Pole – if the economic view of cost-benefit could be met with values that are not economic. With reference to the American philosopher Mark Sagoff she argued for the need to investigate and clarify non-economic values in the natural environment evaluated through historic, ethic and ecological aspects of the ecosystem.

For centuries the relation to nature has been that nature gives value to culture. Today it is human activities that give value to nature. Kant can appear as a turning point when he insists we can view nature as if it is created by intelligence but we cannot know it – on the other hand we cannot know different either. Art imitates nature has for centuries been essential but with Kant it becomes nature we are able to see as if it is like art. The Enlightenment, to which Kant belongs, is a period of changing interpretations and another idea becoming dominant is the expectation of quantifying for measuring – measuring also value. An example is Jeremy Bentham’s struggle with measuring improvements in society based on the principle, essential to utilitarianism, of seeking the greatest happiness for the greatest number, an idea found in 18th century discourses – one can think of Joseph Priestly and Cesare Beccaria. A way to measure this for Bentham is money. We invest our resources in expectation of an outcome we benefit from – and the beneficial outcome is to be happy.
Monetary economy seems to be on a constant expansion into more fields that can be subject to economic activities, like experiences (Pine & Gilmore) and attention (Georg Franck, Ökonomie der Aufmerksamkeit) and human existence in a broad sense (Gary S. Becker, human capital) while other approaches have raised questions about the complex forms of giving value to something and what exchange is (George Bataille, La part maudite, Pierre Klosowsky, La monnaie vivante, Jean Baudrillard, L’Échange impossible – to name a few).

The monetary system appears to be omnipresent in current Western societies. The exchange of goods which formed the foundation of economy has long been exceeded by an economy of expectations where the fictive future activities matter most and the money exchanged are created not to give us concrete means in our hands, coins and bills, but to become fictive numbers in the financial sector. Johanne Aarup Hansen presented a project from her collaboration with an ethnographer, Pernille Gøtz, about investigating how different people relate to different forms of money. Through mapping out the relational and material properties of four different forms of money intended for an exhibition context, awareness will be created to the role that money plays in society and consequently the political implications.

Coming back to nature it can also have a role in ideas of national identity. The natural environment has, at least since 16th century (Jean Bodin), been referred to for its influence on moral characters hence also political constitutions, an influence due to impact of climate – Jean-Jacques Rousseau could see Poland as the most northern to take into consideration (Du contrat social III, viii). The importance of landscape became far more distinct in the Romantic movement but is not less present in contemporary ideas of how a specific landscape is and how it relates to memories and narratives of its inhabitants. Mateusz Salwa gave an example of it with the film “Polska. Where unbelievable happens” from 2014, produced by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs showing scenes taking place in different landscapes showing traditional or hi-tech aspects of Poland.

The nature we would once orient towards and see forming people may today be subject to ideas forming it so it can help forming national identity. Taking the cultivation of most European landscapes into consideration one must ask what the national landscape really can be. What is considered natural is formed to reflect social, political and cultural issues and used – or rather created – in order to offer an (official) image of national identity. But what we think of as the ‘natural’ landscape will often turn out to be cultivated only some generations ago and full of invasive species.
Identity is essential to knowledge which is about relating something to something else giving it a position within a complex pattern of different elements and relations. There is nothing surprisingly about the question of identification also concerning other people. It is the choice of legitimacy for the identification that is interesting. Many people have a last name which indicates the family relation: son or daughter of someone. For most of us today it has now become a name without this significance. So what is hidden in this exchange of family with a national identity, which is also to identify with a larger political unit – a legislative unit?

We carry with us papers for identification. But what do they really identify? Giorgio Agamben (in Nudità) draws attention to a shift from identifying the person, referring to how persona originally meant a mask – Thomas Hobbes can say »that a person is the same that and actor is, both on the stage and in common conversation« (Leviathan xvi, 3). It defined the juridical person to later, in 19th century, become a photo and a print of the thump dipped in ink. The identification is then made by stripping off the history and social position from the person to reach the biological individual – Agamben calls it Identity without the Person; in what seems a prominent strategy of the modern world, to insist on the naked truth, or to say like Odo Marquard, to be obsessed with striptease (Lob der Polytheismus).

Our face, writes Peter Sloterdijk (Sphären I), has for most of our history not been for ourselves but for others. Until mirrors became common – and for most people we talk about 19th century – we would hardly know our own face apart from occasional reflections in water. But we would know other people’s reaction to our face. A culture of mirrors also turns our gaze inwards; our personal identity seems to change from playing our role in society to become an idea of who we really are before engaging with others.

Why has identity politics become so prominent on the agenda today? Does it answer the disappearance of old patterns of identification? Is it about understanding or about claiming or exercising powers? And why has one particular answer to identity become so important: The national origin.

‘Where are you from?’ is a question we ask each other with specific expectations. ‘I’m from Europe’ is not sufficient. ‘I’m from Copenhagen’ may do, then the other can conclude ‘ah, so you are from Denmark!’ Why is it we find this identification so important? And even ask for the birthplace someone is from. How many years does one have to live in one country before the original country is no longer the right answer? Imagine the coloured person in the north – when the answer is ‘I’m from Denmark’ the counter question may be ‘yes, but where are you really from?’ ‘I was born in Ghana, but came to Denmark when I was three’. Now relief is shown on the face of the other: ‘I see, you are from Africa!’

The ancient philosopher Diogenes – and while there are more ancient philosopher’s with the name Diogenes we need to identify which of them, and will often say Diogenes from Sinope – was famously known for insisting he did not belong to one particular polis, one particular city, but he was a world-citizen, a cosmopolite. Whether this was a positive ideal or to make a virtue of necessity – he was sent into exile – one can only guess. But in the light of the importance of national identities in current political debates there is need for more than guessing about their forms, origins and legitimacy. A project like ‘Dancing Finland’ that Noora-Helena Korpelainen presented appears at first as a very sympathetic project for Finland’s centenary celebration year with the theme “Together” meant to help in the fight against exclusion and isolation. However, she made aware of questions to ask whether such a project in principle differs in its appeal from other choreographies celebrating the totalitarian state or becoming subject to mindless populism. Is the material culture we are permanently involved in forming us beyond what we are aware of or can we improve, or at least train, a conscious embodiment which makes us aware of one’s own and others material existence as body-minds, as suggested by the philosopher Richard Shusterman?

This relation between the material environment and its influence on us along with the physical training of our bodies in education is also what my own presentation intended to draw attention to. What we today talk about as aesthetic objects have throughout Western tradition been central for sensorial and bodily education of social skills. This is found in discussions about taste where we demonstrate cultural belonging and social categories as the outcome of exercising specific sensorial and bodily practices in order to be receptive in a specific way. It forms a foundation for our practical lives in which we are confronted with our interpretation of the world present to us in the products and organisations we are involved with. An awareness of the educational aspect of the environment directs focus towards how they affect us and hence educate us.

An explicit contribution to education and specific to the creation of national identity and character is through monuments of war. The controversies over such monuments reveal changing narratives. Tomasz Ferenc presented an example from Hamburg of a monument from 1931 devoted to soldiers killed during the French-Prussian war and First World War, a monument expressing grief and loss. In conflict with ideas of a new spirit of the nation and military power of the Nazi party a new monument was made in 1936 by Richard Kuöhl to be in accordance with Nazi ideas, a monument that should have been destroyed after World War II but is instead now met with a counter-monument made by Alfred Hrdlicka devoted to civil victims of war instead of to the soldiers.

Like landscape and dancing raise questions of their implications monuments do as well. They shape and sustain social memories and become tools of inclusion and exclusion of historical events, groups and individuals. Monuments appear as discourses one should be aware of and engage in. Like Hrdlicka’s comment in Hamburg Aleksandra Makowska-Ferenc showed how monuments in London reflecting the history of British empire also have alternative narratives such as in Monument to the Woman of World War II and Animals in War. Both show what is otherwise ignored and perhaps intentionally removed from the discourse of war as it could be considered not only irrelevant but also dangerous to the chosen discourse – it is not reserved Nazi regimes to insist on a particular narrative. Monuments challenging the dominant narrative represent change in discourses but a question raised is to what extent. Is the discourse questioning the narrative as we know them – adding to them other perspectives now to be included? Do they question the premises for the discourses of war, such as glorification, patriarchal narrative of war and similar implications of the war monuments? How much attention do we pay to monuments? Often they become sights of attraction for tourists; are we then still affected by them? And paying attention to their message and to how they convey it?

When it comes to the direct communication in the political landscape we know from classical rhetoric how important the presence of the person is. How the ethos matters to the reception by the audience. Attention, as mentioned above seen by Georg Franck as becoming scarce and hence of value in our society, is crucial for the politician and, as Giedre Vaicekauskiene discussed, media play the central role in creating it as well as the ethos of the politician. The non-verbal side of communication becomes emphasised through media making the political person present to us in ways we never experience – we rarely, if ever, meet the national politicians in real life and if we do it will be in contexts where we will not come very close to them. Often media will be used to bring them close to us and to make them become present as human beings to create trust in them as persons.
We know this is a production of the politician, we know others are writing speeches and staging their presence and also that media itself initiates the production of politics to the extent where they change political strategies and act as required by the mass media. Politics, has, as Elisabetta Di Stefano could
say, become a stage show and has long abandoned what in classical culture would be considered the art of politics as long with the art of rhetoric.

Rhetoric has often a bad reputation of being about manipulating the audience with any means possible, but one should keep in mind the definition of rhetoric from Quintilian, vir bonus dicendi peritus, that it is the good man, i.e. the citizen who is capable as performing the duties as citizen, who is skilled in speaking, i.e. in saying what the situation requires to be said. To manipulate the audience is no art – already Plato made, in the dialogue Gorgias, aware of this when he complained about the Sophists not being able to transmit insight and knowledge to the audience but only to generate pleasure. Many political discourses turn out to be more about making people feel good than making them feel convinced that the politician will be able to do good.

Images are in more ways replacing the presence of people in an exchange without the symbolic value. Like the monument once having significance because it made something of importance present now becomes a trophy for the tourist to be include into the collection of selfies in front of famous places, also symbols in the political discourses can be deprived of any symbolic value to become only images creating fascination for the time being like commercial brands.

It is strikingly how these discourses may have similarities to discussions from the 60’s such as the images becoming empty pseudo-events manufactured for creating an event to report (Daniel Boorstin, The Image), the importance of the media as no neutral means of messages but itself forming it and worth the attention for what it does (Marshall McLuhan, The medium is the Message) and the play of images in the spectacle of a capitalist consumer culture (Guy Debord, La société du spectacle).

Italian cases were brought in, the blue and the words: forza Italia in football appropriated by the political movement of Silvio Berlusconi and Artur Gałkowski & Łukasz Jan Berezowski could add to this Beppe Grillo and the Five Stars Movement appearing as a movement to enter the vacuum created after the collapse of the traditional political parties. While the collapse was in the 90s there seems still not to be a full recovery which calls out the combination of addressing different widespread concerns among voters, which may be considered a form of populism, as well as taking the fool’s role to the extreme of no longer being the satirical voice saying what needs to be said but cannot be said by others to now become a voice within the political discourse. Will this form of political activism also evolve into a democratic and open-minded platform for governance or remain a populist voice in a chaotic political battlefield?

The role of the media is essential, to the extent of not being the messenger but the messages themselves, and Marciana Krauze & Mara Neikena presented research into the complexity of online information in the context of modern capitalist markets where social media such as Instagram create stories. A question may be what kind of stories, or simply if there really are stories. It seems to fit perfect with what Boorstin calls pseudo-events but question is then who is to judge the relevance and what is real and what is ‘pseudo’? The Danish translation of Boorstin has chosen synthetic, which may as well have negative connotations but could also suggest the element of production – the production of events and entertainment which attract, Franck again, attention and generates a monetary value. More agendas seem to be present. The exposure of privacy which can both be seen as a narcissist exposure, seeking confirmation of one’s self-image but also as an interest in sharing with others what may be believed to be of interest and what editors of the media platforms as well believe to be to the benefit of not only their profit but people’s belief about what is good.
Are pseudo- or synthetic news really news? Or fake news? A critical culture has based itself on the distinction between appearance and being and has little doubt: a critical apparatus must be activated to unmask hidden structures of powers. But the unmasking is itself a matter of power imposing a
particular world-view on others. To what extent is the political critique able to unmask its hidden agendas?

We have seen more times how an attempt to be oppositional and radical in critique such as carried out by more avant-garde arts turn out to be only affirmative to the society criticised, like when Michèle Bernstein for a Situationist exhibition with Victoire des Républicains Espagnols could comment on the monochrome art of Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni, thought to be immaterial art exposing an affective presence and offering a different reality, by pointing at such attempts to be a delusive escape of the society of spectacles which needs an opposition from within and not an escape to immaterial and imaginative alternatives. Such escapes will again turn out to camouflage the consumer culture and even be affirmative to its offer of buying happiness.
Does art in any way have a privilege as critical – a privilege to the use of Instagram? While some, like Richard Shusterman, will argue that popular culture may be responsible for profound changes in our society because it can reach out in ways impossible for avant-garde art – such as creating a genre like rock and roll as a fusion of rhythm and blues, country, jazz, blues, gospel as well as black and white, and urban and rural – others will say these changes never challenge fundamental structures. How many of the liberations of the 60s were real liberation from cultural patterns or just creation of new groups of consumers?

What is, for example, something like street artworks? Adam Andrzejewski discussed it pointing at how it transforms the space around particular artworks. A street artwork may be seen as intervention into places which does not leave the space untouched. Interventions are manifold, the billboard is one, tags another – the first one legal the second illegal claim of right to use the public space. While street artworks are commissioned and, most often, considered an improvement they are also in a perspective similar to the Situationist’s affirmative as they do not challenge the structures, only compensate for the worst flaws. Tags and graffiti wish to claim the public space for some of its users – taking part in a fight for the user’s rights to the public space.
The value of artistic interventions can be subject for more controversies. As Jozef Kovalčik pointed out the art education has a huge influence on what is perceived as art. While the art academies apparently have moved away from a self-perception as safeguarding a high culture heritage to now also including elements of popular culture he questioned whether they really have become more inclusive and open or are still producing and reproducing high culture. The evaluative criteria within the institutions may still be in accordance with categories of the high culture insensitive to everyday life which is considered not to be intellectual or sophisticated enough. Perhaps it turns out that some liberals and leftists hold a perspective similar to a conservative like Roger Scruton, who has fiercely criticised popular culture for being empty, superficial noise in lack of artistic values, i.e. of transforming the spiritual content of the Western culture.
Artistic interventions into public spaces may often go wrong, communicating only to fellow critique and not to the public it intended to address. How to make art communicate, when communication is intended? To make Conversation Pieces as the title is of Grant Kester’s book on what he calls dialogical aesthetics? Not only may the intervention fail and the dialogue fall apart – if it was even established in the first place; aesthetics may also contribute to a cultural segregation by forming and enhancing certain standards demonstrated in the expression of taste and also to appropriate the artistic critique by reducing it to something that can be placed in institutional frames as object of aesthetic appreciation.

Perhaps such challenges are present in the considerations for a project in the suburb of Kontula located in east Helsinki that Raine Vasquez participate in and presented. An area regarded as a low
income working class area with a high level of unemployment and social conflicts today being transformed due to demographic changes. Not considered a place for cultural activities the project will give voice to the culture that nevertheless is present through a House of Culture set up by the museum of Impossible Forms. The question of balancing between high art and popular culture seem to underlie this project regarding engaging sincerely, ethically, and from within meaningfully. Giving voice to the present culture by offering space and expertise is no neutral approach despite intentions of not importing culture and to co-generate it with the community, which in return may ask for help to improve and change their own practices in accordance with what they believe they should do.
Anything we do is an intervention and a matter of participating in power structures – structures going behind our bag or structures we actively engage in. Those behind our bag call for different radical strategies – like the Situationists mentioned – and seem often doomed to lead to a form of political depression, as Max Ryynänen shared from his own works. Doomed to, or perhaps a better expression is cursed by, a curse, to follow Peter Sloterdijk, coming from being so occupied with opposing and performing resistance to power that the radical critique loses its oppositional power and even legitimacy when it ends in celebration of the critical position rather than having a political impact. Perhaps some philosophical patterns are recognised here. One of the few – perhaps even the only – philosophers recognised by all philosophical traditions is Kant. If we ignore he is not celebrated in the same way by all they will still agree that his merit is questioning the dogmatic character of his predecessors. Not many philosophers after Kant succeed in avoiding falling back into dogmatism, and those who do not are haunted by depressions similar to the political. Whenever we question something we are using a language already containing the possible answers to the questions. We may believe God is dead, but we will not get rid of him as long as we believe in the grammar is what Nietzsche fears in Die »Vernunft« in der Philosophie. We maintain a hierarchy in how we interpret anything because the langue gives us no alternative. And in practice we maintain a divine position in our organisation, like Agamben can draw attention to in Che cos’è in dispositivo? linking economy to theological discourses on how to explain the impossible of Christian theology that God is both one and three. The son is entrusted with the governance of the father’s house, the economy, but in that model he also becomes the governor of something removed from the being of the father – and when the father dies the economy can no longer find any foundation in being but is still present as a governance we are all subject to. The omnipresence of economy as ruling principle in modern society may be the substitution of the ontology abandoned with the critical philosophy of Kant and the disappearing of foundation with God’s withdrawal. Perhaps society becomes ontology, but society is nothing static and given – it is us.

22 Sep 2016

Ideas presented in the circle, part 1

Here is Plarent Aleksi's presentation from Summer 2016 in Orivesi.

And below, a short synopsis of Max Ryynänen's talk in Feb 2016 in Riga.
In my presentation I tried to ask if political concepts were actually at least partly aesthetic, i.e. if the meaning of e.g. "activism" in the end connects in a significant way to the forms of activism seen (flags, demonstrations, people making vegetarian food in flea market clothes) sometimes even more than to the political ideals which are at stake. One point in my presentation was that the culture of resistance often is more just culture without as much political impact as wanted, but I was not actually critical about this. On the contrary I think that if people don't go to the city council to change the world when there are plans to destroy an old building but rather come when it happens to repair bikes, play drums and so on, it is maybe some form of experiential culture which is good for the political health.

14 Sep 2016

CfP: AESTHETICS, POLITICS AND MATERIAL CULTURE (Wroclaw, Feb 24-26)

AESTHETICS, POLITICS AND MATERIAL CULTURE

Appearances of the Political 3/6 Winter Symposium: February 24-26, 2017, Wrocław, Poland,
in collaboration with the University of Wrocław

We invite scholars, students, artists and third sector agents to study together the forms, appearances and the aesthetic functions of the political. These can be discussed in social, artistic, aesthetic and cultural terms and with any method which is able to shine light on the problematics. We aspire to articulate the ideological forces underlying today’s political thinking. We also want to inaugurate a debate on the role of cultural approaches in political analysis. We wish to break new paths in connecting the cultural humanities and the political sciences and invite participants to bravely explore new ways of studying these issues. We believe that experimentation is crucial for rethinking the political.

Theme of the Symposium

What kind of objects (flags, megaphones) do we use in demonstrations and what is their actual role? What is the material culture of party politics – besides suits, microphones, soup kettles at marketplaces where politicians meet the people and the big black cars, which take the politicians from place to place? What is the material culture of administration, or has it all just become embedded in the computer screens?

What are the aesthetic orders and material resources of the human rights, human catastrophes and the warfare producing them - and how are these issues tackled in art? What is the future of the role of these orders and resources?

How do neoliberal and capitalist forces occupy spaces with material culture? In what ways do they embody certain political ideas, not the least ideas anchored to the free market and the consumer society. Benches are not anymore good for sitting, in many places, as many want the people to just walk and shop.

Design in general contributes to forming physical space in accordance with ideologies and intentions and plays a role in how we view space: how it is accessible, hierarchies, limitation of certain actions. Design is also used for changing actions like forming social and environmental sustainability.
And how are Western democracies constructing physical answers to migration and refugees? When borders are made again visible, camps for refugees established and also different forms of personal appearances such as dress codes become battlefields for ideologies.

The symposium is hosted by the University of Wrocław and will be organized together with the NSU-circles Understanding Migration in Nordic and Baltic Countries, Crisis and Crisis Scenarios and International Relations and Human Rights. There will be joint sessions shared by all circles.
About the Study Group The intention of Appearances of the Political is to create a platform for future collaborations and applications, and to exchange knowledge and share common interest. It is important for the group to consult a variety of fields as broad as possible including political theory, philosophy, communication, social sciences and cultural studies, and we hope that scholars from all areas of interest would join us. Participating in this third meeting of the group does not imply any obligation for participating in future meetings or participation in previous meetings. We hope, however, that participants will be involved in building a strong community on this topic for future activities reflecting the diversity of interests in the community.

Format(s) of the presentations

We encourage people to do both traditional and non-traditional presentations:
1) Oral presentation of ideas:
We strongly encourage giving a free oral presentation rather than reading a paper. We wish to facilitate open debates for sharing and ask for presentations creating platforms for debate. A presentation cannot exceed 20 min. but we encourage very short presentations (5-10 min.) of an idea and motivation making space for creating a discussion around this idea.
2) Performance, object or alternative forms:
You can present ideas, examples or reflections through other formats including inviting the participants to engage in experiments, situations, or individual and group activities. Please indicate the optimal time for this form of presentation, however there is a maximum of 30 min including time for feedback.

Please submit via email to the coordinators:
circle2@nsuweb.org

A written proposal (max. 350 words) with a title. This text should include your presentation proposal, its format, its duration, and technology and/or facilities you may need as well as a short bio (max. 100 words)

If you would like to attend the symposium without presenting, please email a short bio. Participants with presentations will be given priority.

The study circle provides a space for theoretical experimentation and the cross-fertilization of methodologies. It aims at developing insights that can be used in further research. We invite you for exchange and debates in an open environment of people with different backgrounds.
The deadline to submit proposals is December 15, 2016. Notification about acceptance will be given before 31 December. A preliminary program will be announced on January 15, 2017 on http://nordic.university/study-circles/2-appearances-of-the-political/appearances-of-the-political/ where you can also find more information about NSU. Applicants will be informed by e-mail.

Registration and fee

Professors, lecturers and other professional scholars 50€
Students, unemployed, freelancers and participants from Baltic countries and Poland: 30 € Fee covers expenses for lunch Saturday and Sunday, coffee breaks and reception Friday evening The fee should be paid ABSOLUTELY NO LATER THAN JANUARY 10. The letter of acceptance will contain a bank account. NOTE: Bank fees are at the charge of the participant. Please notice that fee or other costs will not be reimbursed if the participant cancels.

The Nordic Summer University (NSU) is a Nordic network for research and interdisciplinary studies.
NSU is a nomadic, academic institution, which organises workshop-seminars across disciplinary and national borders. Since it was established in 1950, NSU has organised forums for cultural and intellectual debate in the Nordic and Baltic region, involving students, academics, politicians, and intellectuals from this region and beyond.

Decisions about the content and the organisational form of the NSU lay with its participants. The backbone of the activities in the NSU consists of its thematic study circles. In the study circles researchers, students and professionals from different backgrounds collaborate in scholarly investigations distributed regularly in summer and winter symposia during a three-year period.

For more information www.nordic.university

29 Aug 2016

Wroclaw, here we come



Appearance of the Political will travel to Wroclaw Poland in late February and organize a syposium there. It will be organized together with the circles Understanding Migration in Nordic and Baltic Countries (1), Crisis and Crisis Scenarios (3) and International Relations and Human Rights (5). There will be joint sessions shared by all circles.

More info and CFP soon.

Papers from summer 2016

Plarent Aleksi, Political and Social Reality, “Panama Papers”; false politics and the social consequences (adherence to IS of young Europeans)
Epp Annus, Being singular plural: community, agency, authenticity in the context of Socialist realism
Corinna Casi, ”Political”: What does it mean. Open workshop.
Carsten Friberg, The Production of genius loci. Reflections on the ideologies of modern places
Aniruddha Gupte, Synthesizing Solutions. An exploration of the modern relevance of socialist East German design principles through the medium of plastics
Johann Aarup Hansen, Inventing the future – The making of neoliberal hegemony
Gioia Laura Iannilli, Design and Fashion, or the aesthetics of surface. How the immediacy of the aesthetic shape our everyday lives.
Iiris Konttinen, The Berlin wall as a heterotopian site
Noora-Helena Pauliina Korpelainen, Aesthetic Experience and Yoga Practice
Karolina Enquist Källgren, Figura, expression and the inauthentic subject in the thinking of María Zambrano
Eret Talviste, Affect and Nationalism: The Singing Revolution in Estonia between 1988 and 1991
Bill Thompson, What Happens to Deduction in the Here and Now?
Emma Ward, ‘The Real of Sex’: Identity and Authenticity, Sex and Gender Politics in Mina Loy’s Short Stories and Unpublished Manuscripts
Raine Vasquez, Towards the Possibility of a Political Art
Margus Vihalem, Is there a Soviet aesthetics? Experiencing the sensible of the Soviet era

Participanting also:
Stine Avlund
Þórný Barðadóttir
Max Ryynänen

Summer, CFP and report

Appearances of the Political was active in Orivesi July 24-31 as a part of the Summer Session of the Nordic Summer University. There were again over 20 active participants in the sessions. This time Max Ryynänen was taking part in organizing the infrastructure for the whole Summer Session and Raine Vasques was the coordinator together with Carsten Friberg.

Below you find the CFP for July 2016.

CALL FOR Presentation 2016

Appearances of the Political in 20th century culture

Appearances of the Political

Summer Symposium: 24-31 July, Orivesi, Finland

Invitation We invite scholars, students, artists and practitioners to take part in investigating the many forms by which we experience the presences of political reality, and in approaching these forms from social, artistic, aesthetic and cultural analysis. We wish to articulate the ideological forces underlying today’s political thinking. We also want to inaugurate a debate on the role of cultural approaches in political analysis. We wish to break new paths in connecting the cultural humanities and the political sciences and invite participants to bravely explore new ways of studying the issue. We believe that experimentation is crucial for rethinking the political.



Theme of the symposium:



In this summer session we explore historical examples from the 20th century of how the political has appeared, both intentionally and unintentionally. Examples can be movements with explicit programs for forming the modern, or future, world such as Russian Constructivism, Modernist architectural program and sub- or countercultural movements. Examples can also be cultural forms that are unintentionally, or at least without an explicit awareness, appearances of political ideologies, such as urban planning, consumer culture and fashion.



Such historical examples can take many forms, like the transformation of personal appearances in dress and hair-style in the '60s and '70s displayed in the period’s fashion and anti-fashion, including specific styles like punk and fetishized expressions of the military forms of guerrilla soldiers and freedom fighters. Or, for instance, the cold war had many forms of political expressions in both Soviet ideas of political manifestations in ideological decorations as well as the organisation of build environments.



The examples are numerous in art, literature, design and fashion as well as in organisation of work, culture, communication and entertainment, and include explicit political actions in fights for rights (workers, women, and minorities), movements of liberation across the world, and of political struggles, as well as the implicit forms of oppression preserved through cultural exercised routines.
We encourage the participants to share analysis and criticism of concrete examples and discussions hereof or to share texts throwing light on the topic and offering platforms for critical discourses.
Format(s) of the presentation:



We are encouraging traditional and non-traditional presentations, including:


1) Presentation of work:
We strongly encourage giving a free oral presentation rather than reading a paper. We wish to facilitate open debates for sharing and ask for presentations creating platforms for debate.
A presentation cannot exceed 20 min.


2) Presentation of a text:
You can offer to present a text, which can be either your own writing or the examination and presentation of another’s published text. The text will be distributed to all participants beforehand and should not exceed 25 pages. The presentation should have the form of a short introduction of the argumentation, facilitating participants to engage in discussion.
The presentation of the text cannot exceed 15 min followed by discussion


3) Performance, object or alternative forms:
You can present ideas, examples or reflections through other formats including inviting the participants to engage in experiments, situations, or individual and group activities.
Please indicate the optimal time for this form of presentation.


Please submit via email to the coordinators:
carsten.friberg@nsuweb.org
raine.vasquez@nsuweb.org


1. A written proposal (max. 350 words) with a title and descriptive subtitle. This text should include your presentation proposal, its format, its duration, and technology and/or facilities you may need.


2. A short bio (max. 100 words)
If you would like to attend the symposium without presenting, please email a short bio. Participants with presentations will be given priority.


The study circle provides a space for theoretical experimentation and the cross-fertilization of methodologies. It aims at developing insights that can be used in further research.
We invite you for a week of exchange and debates in an open environment of people with different backgrounds. Presentations are meant to be rather short, while space for discussions pursuing ideas are central for the circle and will be given considerate space during the week.
The deadline to submit proposals is 8 May, 2016. The preliminary program will be announced on May 15, 2016 on www.nordic.university where you can also find more information about NSU and sign up for the newsletter.


Application process and registration: The application process has two steps: (1) Application to coordinators for acceptance. Application starts 1st of April and closes on 8th of May.
(If you wish to participate without presentation you can apply until 25th of May. Also, you can still apply late in case of vacant slots by contacting the coordinators and submitting an abstract.)
(2) After you have been accepted, the next step is registration and payments, which closes on 1st of June. All registration and payment will be done electronically.
Note: if you apply late, the payment must still be completed by the 1st of June.


Accomodation – the prices include all meals during the entire seminar. All priaces in €: Single room: 550 Double room: 320 Family members (in double room): 380 Children over 12 years: 380 Children between 4-12 years: 250 Children between 2-4: 46 Children less than 2 years: 0
NSU offers a number of grants and scholarships: Grants: 100 Sholarships: 80
Application for grant or scholarship must be send to the coordinators no later than 15 April
Please cite motivation for the application for a grant (such as being freelance or unemployed).
We favour participants from Baltic countries for grants.
Notification for applicants is given 1 May.


Arrival: 24 July
Departure: 31 July


For any questions about presentation, registration and NSU, please contact:
carsten.friberg@nsuweb.org or raine.vasquez@nsuweb.org
About the Study Group The intention of Appearances of the Political is to create a platform for future collaborations and applications, and to exchange knowledge and share common interest. It is important for the group to consult a variety of fields as broad as possible including political theory, philosophy, communication, social sciences and cultural studies, and we hope that scholars from all areas of interest would join us. Participating in this meeting of the group does not imply any obligation for participating in future meetings. We hope, however, that participants will be involved in building a strong community on this topic for future activities reflecting the diversity of interests in the community. Future seminars will focus on Material Culture, Activism, Political Art and Aesthetics in the Everyday, and Communication. We are open to any propositions concerning collaboration, partners and sites. Please bookmark the study circle on NSU’s webpage: http://nordic.university/study-circles/2-appearances-of-the-political/ and the blog of the study circle: http://appearancesofthepolitical.blogspot.com


The Nordic Summer University (NSU) summer session is a one-week seminar bringing all 8 NSU study circles together. While each circle holds their seminar, the week also contains common activities, including two Key-note’s each giving two presentations, (this summer Professor Robert Pfaller and Professor Elizabeth Povinelli) as well as a cultural program. There is an additional Children’s circle, where caretakers look after the children while the parents are in their respective seminars - it is thus possible to bring family to the summer session. The summer session includes NSU’s political institutions and any participant is eligible. Participants are a mix of university professors, academics in different positions inside as well as outside institutions, PhD-, and MA-students, artists, cultural producers and any others with a relation to academic work.
The Nordic Summer University (NSU) is a Nordic network for research and interdisciplinary studies.


NSU is a nomadic, academic institution, which organises workshop-seminars across disciplinary and national borders. Since it was established in 1950, Nordic Summer University has organised forums for cultural and intellectual debate in the Nordic and Baltic region, involving students, academics, politicians, and intellectuals from this region and beyond.
Decisions about the content and the organisational form of the NSU lay with its participants. The backbone of the activities in the NSU consists of its thematic study circles. In the study circles researchers, students and professionals from different backgrounds collaborate in scholarly investigations distributed regularly in summer and winter symposia during a three-year period.