Jack Whitten, Virgin Space, Loop #20, 2012, Black Cat and Acrylic on Canvas 12 x 12 inch © Jack Whitten | Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth
Racial violence often masks itself in various forms and appearances. It is deeply inscribed in social structures, in language systems, in governmental tools, or in the interpretation of history. The genealogy of racial violence is closely connected to modern capitalist nation states. Which historical legacies enable racial classification systems to perpetuate? Against the backdrop of historic developments, continuities, and rifts, three leading thinkers of post-colonial theory will analyze the constant process of normalization of racial violence. How does one detect and address contemporary racisms? How is violence rooted in practices and languages of postcolonial capitalist societies? What does the illusion of a “post-racial” age reveal about the effect structures and camouflage tactics of racist hierarchies of violence? How can racisms be addressed in narrative form?
A short story developed for the evening by Taiye Selasi on mechanisms of “othering” and bias as racist demarcation is the starting point of the discussion. Using narrative images, Selasi shows how racial aggression is articulated and how it interconnects individual and societal experiences of violence. The analyses by Goldberg and Mbembe reveal, on the one hand, the close interrelation of racism and systemic, hierarchic, social structures. On the other, they discuss the patterns of legitimation of violence and question the existence of “legitimate” violence in the context of emancipatory movements such as Négritude or Black Lives Matter.
Taiye Selasi is an author and photographer. She holds a BA in American Studies from Yale and an MPhil in International Relations from Oxford. In 2005 she published the seminal essay Bye-Bye, Babar (Or: What is an Afropolitan?), sparking a movement among transnational Africans. In 2013 Selasi’s best-selling debut novel, the New York Times bestseller Ghana Must Go, was selected as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 by The Wall Street Journal and The Economist. The same year Selasi was named to Granta’s once-in-a-decade list of Best Young British Novelists. Her 2015 TED talk, Don't Ask Where I'm From; Ask Where I'm a Local, has reached over two million viewers, redefining the way a global society conceives of personal identity.
David Theo Goldberg is the Director of the system wide University of California Humanities Research Institute, Executive Director of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, and Professor of Comparative Literature, Anthropology, and Criminology, Law and Society. He has published broadly on race and racism, on digital humanities, on social, political, and critical theory and postcolonial studies, and on humanities and the university. His most recent books include Are We All Postracial Yet? (2015) and Between Humanities and the Digital (co-edited, 2015). In the 1980s he produced and co-directed award-winning independent films and music videos. Goldberg is a member of HKW’s Program Advisory Board.
Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He studied at Université de Paris I-Pantheon Sorbonne and at the Institut d'études politiques in Paris and has taught at various institutions in the United States, including Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, the University of California Irvine, Duke University, and Harvard University. He has published extensively on African history, politics, and decolonization, including On the Postcolony (2000) and Sortir de la grande nuit: Essai sur l'Afrique décolonisée (2010). His widely acclaimed book Critique de la raison nègre (2013; in German: Kritik der schwarzen Vernunft) won the Geschwister Scholl-Preis 2015. His work has been translated into numerous languages and he has recently been elected as a member of the US Academy of Arts and Sciences.