« Une autre politique du monde ne reposant plus nécessairement sur la différence ou l’altérité, mais sur une certaine idée du semblable et de l’en-commun, est-elle possible ? »
– Achille Mbembe, Politiques de l’inimitié
The Minor Universality project aims to contribute to the debate on universality after Western universalism. Starting from the essential role narration plays in collective imaginaries, it seeks to understand how a new consciousness of universality is under way of being produced in contemporary social practices and cultural expressions such as oral transmissions and narrations of the self, literatures and archives, films and festivals, curatorial spaces and museums. Building on the importance of such concepts as concreteness, reparation, relation and translation, it wants to re-expand the material and medial turns to processes of experience, reflection and agency.
ERC Minor Universality in Tunis
The ERC project Minor Universality led by Prof. Markus Messling organised a week of international conferences in cooperation with Prof. Mohamed Kerrou (Université de Tunis El-Manar) and Dr. Leyla Dakhli (CNRS/Centre Marc Bloch) at the Académie tunisienne des sciences, des lettres et des arts (Beït al-Hikma) on the topic of Universalismes, hégémonies et identités and at the Centre des arts vivants de Radès on the topic of Universalisme et Incertitudes; with the participation of Giovanni Levi, Mondher Kilani, Jellal Abdelkafi, Vincenzo Chicchelli, Franck Hofmann, Essedik Jeddi, Faouzi Mahfoudh, Imed Melliti, Sylvie Octobre.
In the meetings, workshops and talks in Tunis, the ERC project involved numerous partners as well as artists from the Artists-in-Residence programme (Lynhan Balatbat-Helbock, Kelly Krugmann, Adania Shibli) for joint reflections and discussions with Tunisian artists (Hichem Ben Ammar, Mohamed-Ali Berhouma, Aïcha Filali, Slim Gomri, Nadia Jelassi, Mohamed Ben Soltane).
Universalism & narration
A Conversation with Adania Shibli (Palestine)
For our sixth conversation in the series “Universalism & … “, the Minor Universality research team speaks with writer and researcher Adania Shibli (Palestine).
Our conversation traces writing, in Shibli’s work, as an experience of learning to live as well as of approaching the unwritten, the stammered, the stuttered. We speak about the modern 19th century novel as a form through and against which to find other, minor, gestures and methods to enter writing as a non-hierarchal, anti-authoritarian form. How can writing be designed by fear, loss, and the unwritten? If literature has been complicit in nation-building and modern formations of identity, can writing also engender a different form of engagement with and for others? If so, what forms will it take?
Universalism & the partisan position
A Conversation with Arjun Appadurai (New York / Berlin)
In this fifth episode of our series, the Minor Universality research team is in conversation with the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, professor at the Bard Graduate Centre, New York, and at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where he is associated with the Department of European Ethnology. This conversation traverses thinking about globalisation and cosmopolitanism, but asking what happens to understandings of the nation state in an era of its reinstatement. Has the idea of a global life and consciousness been rendered illusory by its increasing challenge from identitarian movements and populist politics? Traversing his own biographical trajectory as a public intellectual, with movements from India to the US and Europe, we discuss the relation of theories of transnationalism with the real experience of émigré intellectual politics. We also discuss the legacy of Arjun Appadurai's own archive and its reinstatement as a local research library, asking what happens to the aftermath of the social life of things, once they move from academic to artistic spheres of valuation. After all, as we notice in a time of increasing standstill and questioning of flows of people and things, and diseases that render frontiers absurd, we also ask what role institutions like the academy or museums play in acting as facilitators or perhaps as immobilisers of such movements. The conversation ends with a fervent plea for a partisan position, a push to act, as academics and public intellectuals, as "mediators, facilitators, and promoters of the ethics of possibility against the ethics of probability”.