Reimagining Pan-Africanism in Berlin by Edna Bonhomme

Yesterday, I did my best to listen to my African diaspora brethren and elders during the Afrolution 2019 festival in Berlin which was hosted by Each One Teach One (EOTO). This is a Berlin African diaspora literature festival which invites layers of the diaspora to think, write, and convene. This year theme was “Pan Africanism Revisited” which tried to imagine Pan-Africanism beyond the political sphere but as a cultural and social form of practice. Poets, science fiction writers, theorists, toddlers, the elderly, and everyday Black folks gathered to share and learn from each other. Not just on the level of discourse but on level of seeing each other through an emphatic lens. Upon entering various programs of this festival I pushed myself to wonder: What do we members of the African diaspora owe each other? How can we learn each other’s histories? What languages have been gained and lost? What does utopia mean to us?

I could not answer these questions fully and perhaps they never will be answered. However, what I found was a space and a growing community of people who are unlearning and learning the histories that have been withheld from us, the histories that are brutal and shocking and the traumas that are allowed to reign unchecked in European Cities.

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I went on a Postcolonial walking tour in the “African quarter” of Berlin which is located in the neighborhood of Wedding hosted by Berlin Postkolonial, a group that is committed to understanding Germany’s colonial past in Africa. About 60 of us went an intellectual and honest journey concerning German colonialism on the African continent. We gathered at the intersection of Afrikanstrasse and Petersallee. Petersallee is a street that was especially controversial since it was named after the German colonialist Carls Peter, who contributed to the slaughter of Africans in the early 20th century. Yet, this tour was not just about the colonial question in Africa but how street names revered German colonialists rather than the African leaders who resisted tyranny.

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Colonization did not just happen outside of Europe but it happened and continues to happen in the metropole. The first German concentration camps were enacted on the Herero and Namaqua people beginning in 1905. The German imperial army committed genocide on this Namibian people. The Nazis later used colonial tactics that they exercised on Africans before doing the same on marginalized Europeans (Jews, Romas, Black German, disabled, etc) during the fascist regime. The Postcolonial tour laid out the ways that Colonialism fuels fascism, an argument that Aimé Césaire and Hannah Arendt argued over 60 years ago. The tour allowed strangers to come together and hopefully this knowledge can carry us through Decolonizing our history, or minds, our streets, our communities, and so much more.



The Coffee Talk with Fred Moten, Nnedi Okorafor, and Felwine Sarr entitled “Pan-Africanism Reimagined” provided the ideal entry point to that decolonial process. Moten, Sarr and Okorafor engaged in an intimate conversation that transcended binaries and offering us to abandon the notion of the nation-state on our road to Afrotopia. While we sat in a room stuffed with 200 people, we engaged in an active Pan-Africanism that generates a multisonic and kaleidoscopic orchestra. Moten led us on a philosophical expedition to interrogate our connection to terms such as “freedom” and “slavery” while also indicating that being a revolutionary means committing oneself to rethinking everything.

Fred Moten, Nnedi Okorafo, and Felwine Sarr at EOTO, 15 June 2019. Photo by E. Bonhomme.

Fred Moten, Nnedi Okorafo, and Felwine Sarr at EOTO, 15 June 2019. Photo by E. Bonhomme.

Moten later remarked: “When I am in a room with this many Black people I assume we are talking about revolution.” Taking it one step further, he pondered: “How do we look at things closely and minutely while still surviving?” During our time together at the EOTO space, we discussed radical homelessness, dispossession, New World Blacks, European Blacks, and more. There was very little resolution, rather, it was a beginning and hopefully many sets of conversations where we can see each other in the cosmological brilliance that we possess. What this event showed is that Pan-Africanism is about exchange and hybridity, it is about learning from our layers of pain so we can imagine an Afrotopia with new languages, new methods, and new social relations. We have a world to win when we provide justice to the oppressed.If we want a future that is equitable for everyone racial capitalism needs to go.

Meditations on Black Love by Edna Bonhomme

Being loved feels like such a radical act because it was never apparent that women who looked like me (short, dark skinned, & assertive) could be the object of sustained desire. Whilst growing up in Miami watching telenovelas or sit coms, darker skinned women like myself were rarely portrayed as romantic interests. If women with my complexion were present, they were side characters, “too aggressive,” or providing care work.



When I used to articulate the ways that society racialized love, I was often told to look inwards and just love myself—with the assumption that this had been provided elsewhere. What was implied was that I should not question or harp over the very system that sidelined me or others like me. It made me realize that rather listen or find offer empathy, my feelings and my experiences were being dismissed.

Although I cannot change all the minds and hearts of a racist world that we have inherited, I am working on building a layer of people who listen to me, who care for me, and who empower me. Perhaps, it is in this radical act of surrounding myself around people who trust me that I can finally begin the work of self preservation and healing. That is, living in a world that can begin to love Black womxn*.
*inclusive of transgender folks/gender non-binary, intersex

The Contested Life of "People of Color" by Edna Bonhomme

Last night, the English language’s presence in Germany was impugned—not for what it offers but for what it represents in leftist and marginalized spaces. I attended an all Black women’s panel on intersectionality and film where the discussion was mostly on healing, liberation, and empowerment. As a member of the audience, I was drawn to how we were immersed into a multilingual space, where we were able to hear people weaving between German and English, similar to how I grew up in Miami shifting between Creole, English, and Spanish. Children of many diasporas swim through a sea of languages in their everyday experience. What sparked the debate about English language was not what was said last night but from the night before. That is to say, one person in the audience described how some people are concerned that the term "people of color" does not have applicability in Germany. Underlying this claim was also a concern that Americans are often dominating and/or colonising leftist spaces and the history of racism in the United States is not the only history to tell. This is not the first time time I have heard this commentary nor will it be the last.

The history of “people of color” dates back to the eighteenth century when French colonists in the Americas (including present-day Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe) referred to multi-heritage people of African ancestry as “gens des couleur.” This term, and many others, were politically charged to classify people with respect to their proximity to whiteness and subsequently freedom. By the mid-twentieth century, “people of color” took on another life. For people involved in anti-racist social justice work, “people of color” was one method of forming solidarity, for some people outside of formalized leftist spaces or the Global South the term was foreign. In a recent article by Nadra Widatalla, she commented on how the term “people of color” erases Black people. How can we understand “people of color” in the German context and why does it matter to have this debate?

In Germany today, some find it irrelevant in a space where some migrant and marginalized communities feel disconnected from each other. The alienation and fragmentation of migrants (or those who are perceived to be migrants) are grave and often occur along linguistic and cultural lines. We all have our stories, our struggles, our methods of survival and when resources and time are scare, solidarity is fleeting. What emerged in the conversation is that that one minority group’s visibility can be read as contributing to another' group’s invisibility. Yet missing from this logic is power. Who has the power to determine which groups are recognized, which histories are acknowledge, and which languages are told.

The English language is politically charged in Berlin, a city that was once divided along a wall and an ideological war. Beyond that, the English language can mean different things depending on who is speaking. For African descended people in the Americas, the English language, the Spanish language, the French language, the Dutch language, and the Portuguese language were imposed onto our ancestors. As was Christianity and European names. As Malcolm X said, “I didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on me.” The social and political conditions that led to Black people in the Americas knowing and speaking European languages did not come by choice but through violent measures—something that many of us still live through. So it may appear that a Black American speaking English in Berlin is doing the work of propagating US cultural and linguistic “imperialism” when for many generations, our ancestors were the ones who were dispossessed, displaced, and . When we speak English, it is because we have lost a history. Yet, many of us are reclaiming that history through solidarity. Perhaps the term “people of color” might be fitting to find linkages and connections with others, perhaps not.

English should not be the only language we speak in leftist or marginalized spaces in Berlin—and neither should German be the only language. As Mahmood Mamdani remarked in his London Review of Books Essay on “The African University,” we have a world to win if we speak Arabic, Pashto, Trih, Kreyol, Turkish, Yoruba, and more with each other. European languages are not the monolith and we have a world to win if we also find ourselves sitting in a sea of opacity. What I do know is that more can be done interrogate one’s intention with language, the histories that shape our migration, and the potential to work against a system that continues to classify and divide us.

Lecture on Medical Apartheid, Biomedicine, and Afrofuturism by Edna Bonhomme

Today, I gave a talk for the co-curated exhibition, Scan the Difference on Medical Apartheid, Biomedicine and Afrofuturism. Here is the abstract and highlights from the talk.

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Technological tools, albeit drones or spyware, are part and parcel of monitoring and circumscribing people’s everyday actions—including their movements, their thoughts, and their plans. Beyond that, surveillance creates racial subjectivities that are often intertwined with historical and political regimes. Within and beyond the United States Empire, Arab and Black people have been targets of surveillance, though for different reasons, under policing systems and military occupation. How do emergent technologies and surveillance dictate and engender health and illness? To what extent does global apartheid and postcolonial border regimes influence morbidity and mortality for womxn*? What types of medical knowledge gets remembered and whose deaths are worth mourning? In this workshop, we will interrogate cyborgs, therapeutics, and memory through one case study of medical apartheid, one biomedical record, and one Afrofuturist manifesto (as constructed by Dr. Bonhomme). We will work through archival practices and silences and see how they feature into fictive, tangible and narrative structures from a Black radical feminist and anti-colonial alens. This interactive seminar will provide a historical interrogation of surveillance along racial and ethnic lines especially as it is instrumentalized for womxn* and non-elite bodies. We will consider how former Black womxn* slaves, pro-choice activists, Black theorists, poets, filmmakers, and the subaltern created their own medical landscape within the backdrop of technoscience. The power and ethics of knowing is not only shaped by what we have inherited but by what we can create. So, we will consider how science fiction has the possibility of providing voice to womxn* who have lived under tyranny and occupation especially as they delve into constructing egalitarian societies or cosmic battles where engendered and racialized subjects can create their own radical feminist future.

*=the asterisk is meant to include transgender people, gender non-conforming people, and intersex people

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Scan the Difference: Gender Surveillance and Bodies (15-21 May 2019), Vienna by Edna Bonhomme

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VVKOE: Vereinigung bildender Künstlerinnen Österreichs (VBKÖ)

Maysedergasse 2/28 (4. Stock, Lift)
1010 Wien


Scan the Difference invites you to an interactive, critical seminar and educational training at VBKÖ May 15-21

Everyone is watched, but not everyone is monitored in the same way. Surveillance crops up in many features of life through cameras, the Internet, and cellular phones.

Using methodologies derived from intersectional feminism, Scan the Difference: Gender, Surveillance, and Bodies deviates from the traditional art show. Through a series of lectures, a zine-making workshop, and lecture-performances, the aim is to create awareness and visibility on how bodies have been scanned medically, culturally, and politically. Thinking about the base of Vienna with a universal health care system, it is important to reflect critically on what rights bodies have and how these rights are threatened by the rise of the Right. Over the course of the exhibition, we will explore questions relating to archiving the self in the age of data collection and digitalization. What strategies do we have to own our body, medically and/or politically? What is the difference between “scanning” and “positioning” (You are vs. I am) from a doctor’s exam, a police report to your cultural I.D., verbal, digital or on paper.

The notion of “the scan” is the tension point: scanning the medical, digitized or human body, scanning a page for the digital archive, the algorithm. Who, what and how are you being scanned for society?

With facilitators, Edna Bonhomme, Vanessa Gravenor, Nina Prader, and contributors, critical friends & allies: Power Makes Us Sick, Ariana Dongus, Elke Krasny, Luiza Prado and Hiba Ali.

My Article in The Nation by Edna Bonhomme

You can check out my latest article in The Nation here: https://www.thenation.com/article/feminism-nationalism-right-europe/

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The Disturbing Rise of ‘Femonationalism’

Across Europe, politicians are hijacking feminist language to further right-wing ideologies. 

By Edna Bonhomme

A Muslim woman passes election posters for Marine Le Pen in France, 2017. (AP / Winfried Rothermel)

In the fall of 2018, during an interview with Der Speigel, Nicole Höchst, a member of the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party claimed that she was concerned about the future of Germany and the protection of women from radical Islamists and migrants. Alice Weidel, a lesbian leader of the party, alleged that increased migration to Germany has resulted in the lack of protection of women and girls. By proclaiming their motivation for gender equality in racist, xenophobic terms, they are catering to a subsection of women—namely, anti-migrant and anti-Islam ethnic Germans—who are willing to join the AfD. Their goal is to build a larger base to advocate proto-natalist policies for ethnic Germans, allege Muslims as a danger for women, and appeal for the increased criminalization of non-German migrants.

“I believe we are the only party in Germany who is really fighting for women’s rights, because we point out we’re in danger of losing the freedoms and rights of women for which we’ve fought for centuries,” she said, referring to state-sanctioned programs for mothers, pay equity, and more public security in Germany.

This strategy of using women’s rights, interventionist natalist policies, and the language of feminism for the purposes of the far right is not uncommon. European liberals, secularists and right-wing politicians have usurped women’s rights and feminism to encroach upon religious freedom, women’s bodies, and migration under a banner that feminist scholar Sara Farris calls “femonationalism.” During the early 2000s, a number of Western European countries introduced measures to simultaneously criminalize migrants or Muslim women. In July 2002, the Italians passed Law No. 177, which required migrants to be fingerprinted and imposed severe sanctions on undocumented migrants. In France, the banning of the headscarf in public schools in 2004 culminated in the government’s wanting Muslim women to embrace France’s principle of laicité (secularism). These legal structures are some of the many iterations of how an ideological formation built on an anti-migrant and anti-Muslim foundation has become more dominant in European politics.

Femonationalism is also a wellspring for white nationalism, with figures such as the feminist Susan Moller Okin claiming that non-Western cultures are more oppressive to women. Unlike Moller Okin, Rita Chin demonstrates that the “crisis of multiculturalism” is not a product of migrants or ethnic minorities being a detriment to Western society; rather, it is a product of perennial 19th century legacies of racial nationalism and static notions of what it means to be European—white, Christian and secular. At the core of these anxieties is what Joan Wallach Scott describes as Western liberal democracies’ perspective through a “racist lens that had justified imperial conquest…[and viewing] mostly Muslim people…not only as different but as inferior.” This has been going on for some time.

As the scholar Gayatri Spivak noted, British colonialists in India justified colonization because they saw themselves “saving brown women from brown men”—which percolates from nationalist and far-right groups in Europe today.

How can we understand these racialized comments in the context of European nationalism? And why is it important to talk about this movement now? At a moment when racist, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic attacks are on the rise, it’s important to home in on the ways that feminist language gets used to fulfill right-wing populism’s objective of criminalizing migrants, dictating what Muslim women should wear, and deviating from the existing sexist policies in European society.

As this brand of populism has soared in recent years, it has attempted to rebrand itself throughout Europe to appeal to a new generation of voters, notably with Marine Le Pen minimally distancing herself from her father’s campaign by inviting more women and gay people to the Front National party. The rise of far-right parties has generated a litany of self-described feminists who propose nationalist cordoning from Scandinavia to Southern Europe. Adhering to national conservatism, parties such as the Sweden DemocratsSwiss People’s Party, and AfD jettison themselves from centrist parties by championing their burgeoning female members. They hope to do what their predecessors have not: achieve gender parity in their leadership.

European nationalist parties have

developed women’s caucuses. For example, AfD has tried to appeal to women under the leadership of Alice Weidel and Beatrix von Storch with the inauguration of the Frauen in der Alternativ, a working group that aims to increase female voters in their party structure. Some of the members of AfD went so far as to fight for women’s rights through the language of the MeToo movement. Yet they hold many nonwhite women in contempt; their position is entrenched in anti-Islamic rhetoric that then reproduces anti-feminist policies—tied both to productive and social reproductive forces.

AfD leader Dennis Augustin proclaimed Islam “was not compatible with our liberal-democratic constitution” and “Islam is totalitarian.” The party goes even further by claiming that Muslims refuse to integrate, which harps over the ways that Islamic religiosity might be expressed. At the same time, a recent article revealed that party leader Alice Weidel hired an asylum-seeker to clean her home.

European political leaders often make scapegoats of migrant and Muslim women without interrogating the ways that sexism gestates in their own society. As Elisa Banfi has noted, countries such as Switzerland have historically instituted burqa bans “in the name of women’s rights,” even though gender parity in electoral politics has not been fully achieved. While Switzerland operates as a direct democracy today, women make up only 30 percent of its house of representatives and 15 percent of the senate.

Across the continent, instead of addressing the uneven political representation and power of women—a demand that could also be directed at the ongoing global gender gap—legislation has fixated on the apparel of Muslim women. One German court prevented a Muslim teacher from wearing a headscarf, which left her temporarily unemployed and reassigned to another institution for work. In France the anti-hijab discourse is a constantly evolving and mutating obsession. In 2010 the country prohibited the wearing of full-face veils. In 2016 various politicians in France tried to ban Muslim women from wearing swimsuits that covered their entire bodies (popularly known as burkinis).

When European states use legislation to curtail educational access, job opportunities, and leisurely activities of women who decide to wear the hijab, veil, or burka, they prevent these women from having control over their labor and bodily autonomy. Femonationalism thus operates from a place of cynicism, presenting itself as liberating Muslim women while doing the exact opposite. Far-right and feminist politics should not be equated with each other, given that the former aims to have rights for a few, while the latter strives for equality for all. Conservative women are not heirs of feminism; they actively undermine it.

Far-right-party women have upheld oppressive anti-abortion campaigns. In Germany, Article 218 defines abortion as murder, and Article 219aprohibits health-care providers from advertising that they provide abortion services; these are Nazi-holdover decrees that were recently softened but not eliminated. In Poland, anti-abortion groups have described the morning-after pill an early abortion pill, calling for tighter restrictions on abortions. In Ireland, pro-choice activists organized walkouts to oppose the abortion ban. These accounts are not an anomaly but the standard femonationalist position.

At the core of these positions are European nativist fears that nonwhite European foreigners will replace them—a phenomenon rooted in legal and natalist policies since the early 2000s. Under the Berlusconi regime, the Italian government pioneered the Fondo Nuovi Nati (Fund for Newborns) in 2009 to give subsidized bank loans to new mothers—parents without Italian nationality were initially excluded from those benefits. Poland is giving people money to have more babies, though it is unclear if the universal child benefit can be applied to migrants. However, the Law and Justice Party said it was “weary” that the Muslim migrants would reap these benefits.

On the subject of large families, France’s President Emmanuel Macronalleged that uneducated and African women were having “too many children,” even as the French state has long provided subsidies for French parents who choose to have multiple kids. These legal measures and stereotypes signal that not all forms of reproduction are equal.

The history of feminism is full of traditions that have left some women behind. While Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg advocated for full suffrage and political participation, German feminist Helene Stöcker’s promoted eugenics for “für Hebung der Rasse,” or to “lift up the [white] race.” In the United States, the eugenics movement during the early and mid-20th century dovetailed with forced sterilization programs—mostly targeting disabled people, women of color, working-poor women, and sex workers. In her seminal text Killing the Black Body, professor Dorothy Roberts provides ample archival evidence for how black women were systematically sterilized in the United States. Yet they were not the only ones. Puerto Rican and Native American women were also sterilized, with beliefs of Aryan racial superiority serving as fodder for these policies.

Even more egregious is the collection of feminists who defended and continue to defend colonialism. More inclusive feminisms such as from the Combahee River collective and postcolonial feminists have stepped in to challenge racism and imperialist imaginations, but feminists in positions of political power across Europe certainly aren’t listening.

Challenging femonationalism is not just a question of moral posturing. Rather, it will mean highlighting the ways in which anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, whether implied or explicit, have provided confidence to the far right.

The growing international feminist tradition can provide a direct challenge. In a slim manifesto by feminist scholars Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser, the authors excavate the last several years of political struggle and write, “Standing for all who are exploited, dominated, and oppressed, it aims to become a source of hope for the whole of humanity. That is why we call it a feminism for the 99 percent.”

At the same time, the political test over the coming years is to develop open and transparent demands to challenge Europe’s growing far-right movement. As a new generation of feminists and queers are building a movement that speaks to the concerns of labor, migration, health, and incarceration, feminism will have to explicitly distance itself from nationalism. Because femonationalism has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with ethnic nationalism.


Happy Birthday Intersectionality! by Edna Bonhomme

Last night, I saw Kimberlé Crenshaw, Black American scholar and founder of Intersectionality as a praxis. The event was initiated by the Center for Intersectional Justice and. sponsored by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung in Berlin. A pioneer of Critical Race Theory and Legal Studies, Crenshaw eloquently laid out her politics and history in her own words—mostly in response to the haters who misinterpret or twist her sayings. She described the Ritualistic marginalization of Black womxn & Black trans/gender nonconforming people by Black men and white womxn (and so many other groups including white men...). The ways that Black womxn and Black trans/gender non conforming people who suffer are sidelined. This inequality is most apparent through the dual and disproportionately high intersection of sexual violence AND racialized violence that we Black womxn & Black trans/gender non conforming face under white supremacy and patriarchy. I was also struck by her words concerning “Asymmetric solidarity without fidelity.” Why should we Black womxn just wait around while our needs are pushed, when our ideas are dismissed, when we are excluded, when we are not that we are “too angry” or when we are told we are too much? As Crenshaw said, “I won’t ride or die for a politics that will not ride or die for me.” Moreover, Crenshaw appears to be a stellar mentor to her students and former students who were glowing from her charismatic and demi-god maneuvers. She takes care of her Intersectionality tribe and even goes so far as to have a writing month with her community so that they can all collectively #dobetter. Finding the crew of people who value your intellect and commit to building a better world with you can be the air beneath one’s Wings. Finally, Prof. Crenshaw knows how to have fun. As demonstrated last night, Our social movements and communities need more Black orchestras, more dancing, more laughter, and more melanin. While dancing at the Intersectionality after party with Malaika and Kate [two Black womxn friends], I cited Emma Goldman, “if i can’t dance, it is not my revolution 

Some books by K. Crenshaw to consider reading

  • The Race Track: Understanding and Challenging Structural Racism.

  • On Intersectionality: Essential Writings.

  • Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment (New Perspectives on Law, Culture, and Society)

Scan the Difference: Gender, Surveillance, and Bodies by Edna Bonhomme

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Really excited to be working with Nina Prader and Vanessa Gravenor on our upcoming exhibition, "Scan the Difference: Gender, Surveillance, and Bodies," an interactive, critical seminar and educational training at VBKÖ May 15-21. Using methodologies derived from intersectional feminism, Scan the Difference: Gender, Surveillance, and Bodies (STD) deviates from the traditional art show. Through a series of lectures, a zine-making workshop, and lecture-performances, the aim is to create awareness and visibility on how bodies have been scanned medically, culturally, and politically. Thinking about the base of Vienna with a universal health care system, it is important to reflect critically on what rights bodies have and how these rights are threatened by the rise of the Right. Over the course of the exhibition, we will explore questions relating to archiving the self in the age of data collection and digitalization. What strategies do we have to own our body, medically and/or politically? What is the difference between “scanning” and “positioning” (You are vs. I am) from a doctor’s exam, a police report to your cultural I.D., verbal, digital or on paper.


Check out Vanessa Gravenor's video teaser

https://vimeo.com/330362672/f8e62c182e

Ottoman History Podcast by Edna Bonhomme

Please check out the latest Ottoman History Podcast where I interview Professor Jennifer Derr from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Abstract: Colonialism and violence are frequently paired in studies of the modern Middle East, but environment and violence are less commonly paired. But in this episode, Jennifer Derr explains the indelible connection between the two in a conversation about her recent monograph The Lived Nile: Environment, Disease, and Material Colonial Economy in Egypt. According to Derr, the transformation of Egypt's economy under British rule was experienced as a form of violence for ordinary Egyptians. "The violence of colonial economy and specifically colonial labor was made manifest on the bodies of laborers." In our conversation, we explore the transformation of the Nile and its environment under colonialism and consider how these transformations changed the nature of disease in the region with damaging consequences for the workers in intimate contact with the new nature of the Nile.

Upcoming Talk: Gender. Class. Crisis. Perspektiven und Fragen feministisch-intersektionaler Klassenpolitik by Edna Bonhomme

I'll be speaking on a panel tomorrow in an East German village about Black Feminism. The talk is entitled: "»Ain’t I a Woman*? Schwarze feministische Kritik, De-Kolonisierung des Feminismus und Kapitalismuskritik.” The Spring Academy is sponsored by BdWi and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundaiton in Werftpfuhl from Friday, March 29 until Sunday, 31 March.

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We want to discuss left alternatives to challenge neo-fascist and far right politics by turning to feminist or women led movements such as women's strikes, #MeToo, "Ni Una Menos", Black lives matter many of which are directed against multiple violent relationships, they are politically plural and have a heterogeneous social base. 

We will collectively discuss intersectional forms of politics and organization, struggles for social reproduction and against racism, queer / trans * feminist, intersectional perspectives on precarity and class. Hopefully we can create the seeds to develop a politics of solidarity that is multiethnic, multiracial and grounded int eh working class.

Conference details are here: https://www.bdwi.de/termine/event_29712.html and

FB details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1985901788189476/

Deutschland und " Femonationalismus" by Edna Bonhomme

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Die Geschichte des deutschen Feminismus ist eine durchwachsene Geschichte, da sie von unterschiedlichen und widersprüchlichen feministischen Traditionen durchzogen ist. Es wurden aber einige Frauen* zurückgelassen. Im frühen 20. Jahrhundert plädierten sozialistische Feministinnen wie Clara Zetkin und Rosa Luxemburg für das vollständige Wahlrecht und die politische Beteiligung von der Arbeiterklasse und Migrantinnen, währenddessen aber die deutsche Feministin Helene Stöcker die Eugenik für „für Hebung der Rasse“ verehrte obwohl sie sich in der Natur unterschieden hatte. Der Feminismus im heutigen Deutschland beschäftigt sich auch mit unterschiedlichen Perspektiven und Versionen des Feminismus.[1] Auf der einen Seite hat der Aufstieg der Parteien eine neue Art von Feministin hervorgebracht. Die Gelehrte Sara Farris bezeichnet diese Entwicklung als Femonationalismust. Das heißt, selbstbeschriebene „Feministinnen“, die den Nationalismus befürworten und Menschen mit Migrationshindergrund feindlich behandeln. Im Gegensatz gibt es auch einen anderen Feminismus. Initiativen wie Frauen* Streik bieten eine andere Art von Feminismus, der hofft, die giftigen Elemente des elitären und bürgerlichen Feminismus zu reparieren.

In den frühen 2000er Jahren war der Femonationalismus vor allem in benachbarten europäischen Ländern wie Frankreich, Italien und den Niederlanden zu beobachten. Die Ideologie hat jedoch einen stärkeren Ansturm in der Wahlpolitik in Deutschland erlebt. Die Alternative für Deutschland Partei (AfD) hat versucht, Frauen unter der Leitung von Alice Weidel und Beatrix von Storch sowie die Entwicklung von Frauen in der Alternativ (FridA) anzusprechen. Die Arbeitsgruppe möchte ihre weibliche Führungsrolle für weibliche AfD Wählerinnen in der EU stärken. Einige Mitglieder der AfD setzten  sich für die Rechte der Frauen ein, und zwarmit der die Sprache der "Me Too" -Bewegung. Ihre politische Position ist jedoch in einer anti-islamischen Rhetorik verankert, die dann eine anti-feministische Politik reproduziert – verbunden (Mutterschaft) mit rechten Ideen zu produktiven und sozialen Fortpflanzung in der Gesellschaft.

Wie wird Femonationalismus im deutschen Kontext artikuliert und umgesetzt? Eine Möglichkeit, den Femnonationalismus in Deutschland zu verstehen, besteht darin, die wechselnde Skala von Produktion und sozialer Reproduktion zu beobachten. In Deutschland hat der Femonationalismus die Arbeitsbedingungen im Land beeinflusst. Zum Beispiel hat ein Berliner Gericht eine muslimische Lehrerin daran gehindert, ein Kopftuch zu tragen, wodurch der Lehrer vorübergehend arbeitslos wurde und einer anderen Institution zur Arbeit zugewiesen wurde. Femnonationalisten wollen, dass muslimische Praktiken im öffentlichen Raum verurteilt werden und muslimische Frauen in ihrer Handlungsfreiheit entmächtigt werden. Dies ist ein entscheidender Gegensatz, weil Feminismus definiert sich wenn es um Frauen geht, die Kontrolle überihre Arbeit und körperliche Autonomie zu bewahren, und keine rechtlichen Strukturen oder Einschränkungen werden verwendet, um das Verhalten und die Zusammensetzung von Frauen zu bestimmen - unabhängig von ihrer Religion.

Eine andere Dimension des “Femonatonalismus” hängt mit der sozialen Reproduktion zusammen. Auch rechtsextreme Parteifrauen haben sich gegen Abtreibungsrechte ausgesprochen und unterstützen Artikel 218 und Artikel 219a  in der deutschen Verfassung. Diese nationalsozialistischen deutschen Dekrete definieren Abtreibung als Mord und verbieten Ärzten die Werbung für Abtreibungen in Deutschland. Die Polarisierung zwischen Anti-Choice- und Pro-Choice-Aktivisten überschneidet sich in der Geschichte der öffentlichen Gesundheit und der Medizin. Feministinnen, die für Abtreibung sind, haben eine Bewegung entwickelt, in der Frauen und queere Menschen weltweit dafür kämpfen, Kontrolle und Autonomie über ihren Körper zu haben.

Der Frauen * Streik am 8. März formulierte ein Internationalist Alliance-Kontingent, das sich hauptsächlich aus Frauen*, Transgender Menschen  und Intersexuellen zusammensetzte, eine neue Form des Feminismus, die das Gefängnisungerechtigkeitssystem herausforderte. Etwa tausend Menschen versammelten sich außerhalb der Justizvollzugsanstalt für Frauen* Berlin, dem Frauengefängnis im ehemaligen Ostberlin. Diese Aktion war ein Versuch, solidarisch mit inhaftierten Frauen zu sein, die zum Teil wegen der Inhaftierung wegen Selbstverteidigung vor geschlechtsspezifischer Gewalt waren. Darüber hinaus artikulierte der internationale Block von Protestierenden ihre Wut mit einem Global Scream, der die verinnerlichte Frustration der Demonstranten festhielt, aber auch die kollektive Stimme von Frauen sichtbar machte.

Feminismus, der in Solidaritätskampagnen - innerhalb und außerhalb des Bundestags - verwurzelt ist, kann eine direkte Herausforderung für den Femonationalismus darstellen. Zugleich besteht der politische Test in den kommenden Jahren darin, offene und transparente Forderungen zu entwickeln, um die wachsende rechtsextreme Bewegung Deutschlands, diebeständige Fremdenfeindlichkeit in Europa, die Angriffe auf die Umwelt und die geschlechtsspezifischen Aspekte der Welt und Wirtschaftskrise in Frage zu stellen. Da eine neue Generation von Feministinnen und Queers eine Bewegung aufbaut, die sich mit den Anliegen Arbeit, Migration, Gesundheit und Inhaftierung befasst, muss dieser Feminismus mit übergreifenden, kompromisslosen und nuancierten Initiativen rechnen, die einen inklusiven Feminismus formulieren können.

[1] Helene Stöcker: Das Werden der sexuellen Reform seit hundert Jahren, in: Hedwig Dohm u. a. (Hg.): Ehe? Zur Reform der sexuellen Moral. Berlin 1905, S. 36–58. It must be noted that she fled from Nazi Germany and was in opposition to anti-Semitic policies.



Frauen* Streik in Germany by Edna Bonhomme

Edna Bonhomme

Frauen* Streik in Germany


“All women, whatever be their position, should demand political equality as a means of a freer life, and one calculated to yield rich blessings to society.”

-Clara Zetkin


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Over 100 years after German socialist Clar aZetkin proposed an International Woman’s Day (IWD) at the International Conference for Socialist Women, over 25,000 people demonstrated for Frauen* Streik in Berlin, Germany. Women at the turn of the nineteenth century and women living in the twenty-first century, organised themselves through various strike actions on the 8th of March for simple demands--to live in a world where they can be more free. This year marked the first time that March 8th was a public holiday in Berlin and the political acuity of the events reverberated from daybreak strike actions for health workers to nightfall solidarity parties throughout the city.


Thousands of transgender, intersex people, gender non-binary individuals, and womxn also marched throughout German cities such as  Leipzig, Hamburg, and Göttingen. The wave of activities speaks volumes to the growing economic and social frustrations that women of various backgrounds have been facing in Germany and internationally. Protestors linked the day’s activities to their struggle for abortion rights, their opposition to gender based violence, and their conflicts at the workplace.  When asked why she was participating in 8th of march demonstrations, Ruth a thirty-three year old hostel worker responded, “I think my boss is a sexist.” In Germany, political equality are driving forces and the increased participation of migrants and people of colour proclaiming, “no one is illegal” has also politicized the character and composition of IWD opening up room to challenging European and North American imperialism.

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Leading up to 8th of March, feminists and queer activists throughout Germany formed a national network and two national conferences (in Göttingen and Berlin) planting the seeds for a new international feminist movement. These initiatives were part of an effort to deepen and integrate the autonomous leftist, pro-choice, and anti-racist networks into a growing feminist movement. The radical character of IWD was not unique to Germany but was  part of a thriving international women’s strike movement in several dozen countries including Argentina, Chile, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. Not only were people pointing to the productive capacities of womxn’s labour, IWD activists sought to make links to ongoing strike campaigns, environmental initiatives, and immigration issues in Germany.


The strike actions were preceded by a set of events earlier that week, mostly concerning fair wages and precarity in Germany. For one, women editors at neues Deutschland, a leftist German newspaper, went on strike on 7 March leaving blank columns to show the power of their labour. Moreover, this action not only highlighted the wage disparity between men and women in journalism, i.e., which is approximately 21%, but it also called for comprehensive transparency of salary for permanent and freelance journalists.


Abortion rights has also featured into pre-IWD actions with 200 pro-choice activists gathering outside the Ministry of  Public Health to oppose Article 218 and article 219a on 7 March. These Nazi-holdover German decrees define abortion as murder and prohibit physicians from advertising abortions in Germany. The day before International women’s day 300 activities gathered outside of the Ministry of Public Health outside calling to end these oppressive policies. The basis of the resurgent movement weg 218/219a echos what women and queer people have been fighting for globally, to have control and autonomy over their bodies.


Strike actions were not merely symbolic but they were articulated by a number of workers who are embedded in current labour struggles in Germany. At 6am, Frauen* Strike activists showed their support for physical therapists who have been leading at 4 week strike at Charité, the largest public health institution in Berlin. As one health worker from that campaign indicated, “when women stop working, the world stands still.” Childcare workers who went on strike earlier in 2019 also gathered at noon for a 400 person strong sit-in at Robert Koch Platz in Berlin. Katrina, a thirty one year old kindergarten teacher spoke about their strike why how their were fighting for justice for “parents, students, and teachers.” The campaign continues because they have initiated a campaign for fair wages for cleaners at her workplace.  

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Moreover, an Internationalist Alliance contingent of mostly women, transgender, and intersex people gathered outside of Justizvollzugsanstalt für Frauen Berlin, the women’s prison in the the former East Berlin. This action was an effort to be in solidarity with incarcerated women, who were, in part, because of the imprisoned because of self-defense from gender based violence.  The international block of protestors further articulated their rage with a Global Scream which captured the internalized frustration of the demonstrators but it also allowed the collective voice of women were made bare. Activists also made sure to honour the socialist-feminist foremothers who helped to shaped early twentieth century feminism. For example, members of the Die Linke (Left Party) placed a rose for Clara Zetkin.


The actions on 8 March gestured towards the feminist history and the feminist futures. Hundreds of teenagers who were part of Fridays for Future, a global student led initiative that wants to make governments accountable to the climate protection, as outlined by the 2015 Paris agreements. It is no accident that these climate justice teach-ins and strike actions are led by young women who see the fight for the environment as a feminist issue.


Solidarity was a central feature of the Berlin IWD action and the assortment of strategies expresses the vivacity of the new feminist movement in Germany. At the same time, the political test over the coming years is to broaden the demands so as to challenge Germany’s growing far right movement, the ongoing xenophobia in Europe, and to address the gendered aspect of the global economic crisis. As a new generation of feminists and queers are building a movement that speaks to the concerns of labour, migration, health, and incarceration this feminism will have to reckon with intersectional, unapologetic and nuanced initiatives that can reformulate a feminism for the 99%.


Note: Frauen*-the asterik is used to include women, transgender people, intersex people, and gender non-conforming people


If Beale Street Could Talk by Edna Bonhomme

I finally watched Barry Jenkins “If Beale Street Could Talk” & all I can say is that it was a powerful film that showed the range of possibilities of Black life in the United States. The film found a way to bring Baldwin’s novel to life & echo the injustices of racism today while also showing our physical beauty and emotional capacity. I cried at various points during the film because of the elegant portrayals of Black love interwoven with depictions of Black dispossession. James Baldwin's masterpiece--as adapted by Jenkins--was an entry point for me escaping into another world, one that was both familiar and distant which then provided the fodder for me to let go of the weight I've been carrying. As I watched the film, I gave myself permission to let my tears flow after months of not being able to cry. At the same time, I am enamoured by love's omnipresence--familial and romantic. Love flows through the characters so seamlessly, trickling through their inner and outer core. We see it in their eyes, their smiles, and their commitment to each other. When we are confronted with Baldwin, we can take our masks off.

§218 + §219a wegstreiken - Keep your politics out of my uterus by Edna Bonhomme

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Today, on a mild grey, 100 pro-choice activists in Berlin gathered outside of the Ministry of Health to oppose article 218 and 219a, through a strike action. The core demand is that they want free and full legalisation of abortion, worldwide. What drives this demand is their collective disdain for Paragraph 218 of the German constitution which defines abortion as murder while article 219a makes it illegal for doctors to advertise, advise, or inform patients about abortions. If physicians violate article 219a, they can face penalties and potential jail time, which was the case for Dr. Kristina Hänel, who was fined under paragraph 219a.

During the day of action on 7 March, protestors chanted and stood on the streets with metal hangers, loud speakers, and colourful wigs. As the rain poured upon everyone, people maintained their resilience and shouted, “Keep your politics out of my uterus.” Moreover, organisers used this event as a teaching moment to do a quiz on German sexual and reproductive health. One shocking fact is that there are only 1500 abortion providers in Germany.

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German feminists have been fighting for the decriminalisation of abortion for decades and they have rightly noted that the anti-abortion laws is especially oppressive towards poor and migrant women. Pro-choice activists not only want the immediate abolition of articles 218 and 219a but they also want the public health department to provide free contraceptives upon demand.

We strike! #ichstreike8M by Edna Bonhomme

Frauen* Streik (International Womxn's Strike) in Berlin will be participating in a range of activities on 7 and 8 March. In a moment when the far right is mobilizing its forces in Europe, North America, and South America, it is important to deepen our historical understandings about oppression and political clarity about why they occur. Feminists, migrants, and leftists are gathering in Germany to challenge sexism, structural violence, displacement, and war. We want to amplify our voices oppressive through collective resistance. We believe in International Feminism and call for and end to borders. Strikes gives us the tool to articulate our grievances but we must provide the blueprint for our own liberation.

During our last general assembly in Berlin, we made a solidarity video which you can catch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r31VEmtHFGof

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That is why we (in Berlin), are asking womxn, transgender, intersex, etc people to wear purple, to go on strike at 11:55am, and post #ichstreike8M.

Also, here is the list of events in Berlin:

7. März:
10:00
Überlastet! Who cares?
Chic Care Catwalk und der Übergabe von Überlastungsanzeigen 
Bundesministerium für Gesundheit
https://www.facebook.com/events/238404880291818/

16:00
§218 + §219a wegstreiken - Keep your politics out of my uterus
von und mit Aktionskommando Kleiderbügel - AKK
Bundesministerium für Gesundheit
https://www.facebook.com/events/256903041896561/

18:30 
FLTI* Vorabenddemonstration 
Stuttgarter Platz, Charlottenburg
Marsch für das Leben? What the Fuck
https://whatthefuck.noblogs.org/…/vorabenddemo-maerz-bibli…/

...................................................
Freitag, 8. März:

6:00
Streikposten vor der Charité (Bettenhaus): 
vor der Frühschicht mit Flyern für die Kundgebung und #ichstreike8M Aktion am Robert-Koch-Platz mobilisieren.

8:00
Kiezfrühstück in Neukölln im Flamingo e.V. (Stuttgarter Str. 61, @flamingos.in.berlin) mit anschließender gemeinsamer Anreise zum Robert-Koch-Platz

11:00
Kundgebung am Hermannplatz

11:00
Frauen* und Queer-Frühstück im Roten Laden (Weidenweg 17) mit gemeinsamer Anreise zur Demo am Alexanderplatz, organisiert von DIE LINKE Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

11:55
Kundgebung am Robert-Koch-Platz & Aktion #ichstreike8M
https://www.facebook.com/events/2246843838862548/
https://www.youtube.com/watch

12:00
Purple Ride/Feministische Fahrraddemo vom Mariannenplatz (Feuerwehrbrunnen) bis zum Frauen*knast Lichtenberg
https://www.facebook.com/events/2153595954759451/

14:00
Frauen*kampftagsdemo vom Alexanderplatz zum Oranienplatz
https://www.facebook.com/events/2262407440470937/

Unter anderem:

LGBTIQ*-Block: Demo zum Frauen*kampftag / Wir.Alle.Gemeinsam
https://www.facebook.com/events/573320219815365/

Care-Block 
https://www.facebook.com/events/750919398640705/

Hebammen-Block 
https://www.facebook.com/events/2202197943173713/

Feminism is class war-Block
https://www.facebook.com/events/1991463394299691/

14:30
Treffpunkt für den „Bloque latinoamericano“ am U-Bhf. Magdalenenstraße

15:00
„United we get what we want“-Demo der Alliance of internationalist feminists - berlin vom Frauen*knast Magdalenenstraße bis zur Warschauerstraße
https://www.facebook.com/events/385789661970915/

17:00
Globaler Aufschrei
https://www.facebook.com/events/2266635623346806/

18:00
Große gemeinsame Streikversammlung/Assembly am Oranienplatz

19:00
Post-Streik Spa-Küfa in der B-Lage / Neukölln
https://www.facebook.com/events/371128800405877/

20:00
United We Get What We Want / 8th of March party SO36
https://www.facebook.com/events/287279038615424/

22:00
“Run the world: feminist strike back” Soliparty im Mensch Meier
https://www.facebook.com/events/453408378530459/

Solidarity from Berlin

Power in Medicine, A worshop interrogating the history of medicine in the Middle East by Edna Bonhomme

As some of you may know, I am a Marxist Herstorian (and also GEW union member) who has been researching and writing about medical and scientific practices in North Africa from the eighteenth century to the present. I am co-organising a workshop entitled “Power in Medicine: Interrogating the Place of Medical Knowledge in the Modern Middle East” which will take place in Berlin 11-12 April 2019. My co-organisers, Dr. Shehab Ismail and Dr. Lamia Moghnieh and I wanted to examine the history and politics of medicine and psychiatry in the Middle East from the 1800s until the contemporary period so we are bringing together scholars from the Middle East, North Africa, North America, and Europe together to discuss recent trends in the field.

Figure. Medical school in 19th-century Ottoman Empire

Figure. Medical school in 19th-century Ottoman Empire

You can listen to an interview I did with Professor Jennifer Derr (University of California, Santa Cruz), one of the participants of the workshop, about her upcoming research project on the history of Hepatitis and the liver in Egypt. The recording is available on Soundcloud. If you are interested in finding out more about us, you can check out our bios here.

Grandma, a poem by Edna Bonhomme

I am currently in Miami visiting family, mostly ironing out the ways that my kin have been tied to various lands, spaces, and their bodies. I am working on a poetry series that is an ongoing of the past and the present, the familial and the environmental. This is one of the current works in progress.

Grandma

Figure. From left to right: Aunt Melo, Grandma, Jean, and Aunt Fifi.

Figure. From left to right: Aunt Melo, Grandma, Jean, and Aunt Fifi.

Summer of 1996

was the first time that I learned about who grandma was

she transformed from the stern matriarch

who tried to suppress her Parkinson’s

into the fierce warrior

who glided through the Haitian landscape

Grandma learned to ride horses

in the arid desert

when I could barely ride a bicycle

she rode horses

not because she wanted to

but because they allowed her

to cut across

the rugged mountains protruding

from the sacred earth

and

the estuaries that were pulled

by the lunar gods

Grandma would ride past

the cacti where the Arawaks lived

Columbus was here

But even more troubling

is that

the Indigenous are not

Small-scale sharecroppers like

grandma could cultivate the land

during drought to produce:

plantains

corn

beans

Staples that fed the people

from Benin, Dahomey, and Senegambia

When my grandmother rode horses

she put her wavy hair into a bun

because

unruly curls could never vex her seers.

Women who rode horses

were incendiary because

they knew how to be free.

Copyright: Edna Bonhomme, 2019.

"For my Brother," a poem by Edna Bonhomme

Yesterday, I wrote a poem about my brother being shot in January 2019. He was unarmed and shot while grocery shopping in Miami. Florida is a state that allows for people to carry guns and “Stand Your Ground.” The poem is a reflection on the ongoing state, vigilante, and gun violence against Black people in the United States. This is a picture of him as a young boy during the late 1990s in Miami, Florida.

My brother outside Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary School in Miami, Florida during the late 1990s.

My brother outside Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary School in Miami, Florida during the late 1990s.

For My Brother

Society has failed you

mostly because it is afraid of you

Of your tightly curled hair

with cornrows that are

neatly braided from the hands of the

people who care for you

Society fears you

because you stand six feet tall

like your grandfather

and his father

your strength is part of our

intergenerational survival

Society has ignored you

because it cannot appraise

your humanity

your intelligence

your insight

This is a failure on society’s part

They don’t know

the brother

the son

the friend

that loves climbing banyan fig trees

at Morningside Park on temperate days.

They don’t know

the brother

the son

the friend

that adores eating friend griot with pikliz and bunun

while switching between Haitian and English or

what we call Henglish

They don’t know

the brother

the son

the friend

who loves swimming in the Atlantic Ocean

hoping to reach the edge of the horizon

What society thinks it knows is a false vision

of

all

the

men

that look like

you

All the Black men who just want to

cry

laugh

walk

read

pray

breath

and

live.

Copyright Edna Bonhomme, February 2019.

Do Objects Speak? by Edna Bonhomme

“It is not a dead society that we want to revive. We leave that to those who go in for exoticism.”

-Aimé Césaire

Colonialism was capacious for those in power and rapacious for those who were colonized. During the Berlin Congress of 1884-1885, European countries orchestrated the partitioning of the African continent ranging from settler colonialism to protectorate rule. The Congress was not just one meeting but a series of conversations and debates regarding the boundaries and political outline of the African continent. Berlin was not only a site for colonial planning but it was also the locale where African colonial objects remain. The history of museum objects and their circulation is being re-evaluated by activists, artists, and scholars often calling for formal apologies and repatriation of materials.

 

Why this resurgence of interest in understanding German colonialism? How have Berlin based artists and activists engaged with this history?

 

On 19 January, I visited the exhibit, “The Dead, As far as  [ ] Can Remember,” which invited viewers to convene with German colonialism on the African continent. The four-room exhibition was based at the Tieranatomisches Theatre (Animal Anatomy Theater) at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Positioned in the bustling neighbourhood of Mitte, the Tieranatomishces Theatre simultaneously functioned as an eighteenth century relic where laboratory experiments were performed and a place where historical memory was being reimagined. Each room was independently curated to engage with the legacy of European colonialism with a meditation on objects, folklore, testimonies, and expertise.

Photograph from “Chief Meli Remains”

Photograph from “Chief Meli Remains”

 

l“The Dead, As far as  [ ] Can Remember” used politics as an entry point but did not stop there. As I entered one room, the center of the room projected a grandfather’s tale on a broken ceramic, tiptoeing between an archeological and archival artifact. This room focused on an uprising led by Chief Meli, who opposed the German colonial occupation.

 

The exhibit begins with Chief Meli but it does not stop there. Rather, we come to get a glimpse of rural life, migration, and the shifting landscape of Chaggaland. One striking image are the passport pictures of five Chaggaland ambassadors who travelled to Germany in 1889 to meet the Kaiser. They were all male. One of them refused to meet the German leader. We learn about the brutality of Lt. Merker, the circulation of postcards with the marketplace of Tsunduni. It begs asking: Who were taking these photographs? By 1900, the German military forced sentenced Chief Meli and his collaborators to death. Part of what makes the exhibit harrowing is that their skulls were brought to Germany and still remains. The exhibition

Moving beyond these tales, one finds another room, which was concerned with access, digitization, and circulation. For some of the experts, the preservation of foreign objects somehow overshadows the concerns of the living. One researcher inquires: “Who benefits? Who do you do something for? Researchers are always welcome.” For him, experts should always have access yet he does not indicate their biases, their limits, and their positions. What one gathers from the interviews is that there is no consensus on the matter. Another scholar reflects a bit more about the political stakes by asserting: “We have a duty to be open and honest about things that are difficult.”

 

These tensions are precisely what give the “Just Listen” room such power. Repatriation and restructuring were taken up in the “Just Listen” segment that included the perspectives of people of colour and former colonial subjects. As Abdel Amine remarked, “We have to recognize that the bones come from humans.” This is precisely the humanity that is missing from the  Yet, even beyond that, these activists pointed out that the Humboldt Forum and the ethics concerning these objects. Yet, morality is not where it ends. A major element of the exhibition was restitution and the political elements of this. The people want reparations and the redistribution of wealth—from the former colonial power to the formerly colonized. These objects and their reception are part of an ongoing debate about history, memory, and retribution.

 

“The Dead, As far as  [ ] Can Remember”  exhibit will not solely live in Berlin, Germany, but it will find a home in Dar Es Salaam and Old Moshi in present-day Tanzania. Its circulation speaks volume to what is possible in shifting our understanding of history. For those concerned about the violent past, we do not only want to harp over the dead but to make space for the humanity of the living.

A Requiem for Rosa by Edna Bonhomme

“What do you want with these special Jewish pains? I feel as close to the wretched victims of the rubber plantations in Putamayo and the blacks of Africa with whose bodies the Europeans play ball… I have no special corner in my heart for the ghetto: I am at home in the entire world, where there are clouds and birds and human tears.” 
― Rosa Luxemburg

 

Berlin is a city haunted by its past. 1848, 1919, 1933, and 1989 are a series of dates that feature into several turning points for the left and right. The 15th of January marks the 100th anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg’s murder by the Freikorps, under the direction of the German Social Democratic Party. Rosa’s death is a requiem for the international Left especially given that our holidays are few and far between.

 

I first learned about Rosa Luxemburg in 2009 during in a Mass Strike reading group when I was living in Harlem, New York. Harlem is and was a neighborhood layered with the Black radical and literary tradition. Hence, it was no coincidence that the writings of a Jewish Polish Marxist would be acknowledged by Harlem residents. This was a place that Black Communists organized against rental hikes and the vilification of the Scottsboro boys in the 1930s. At the genesis of the economic crisis, New York City provided a political home for me to sharpen my socialist politics in the wake of capitalism’s failure.

 

Luxemburg’s reception has many lives. The Polish Jewish Marxist is lamented by orthodox Marxists and vilified by conservative social democratic tendencies. What is often missing from hagiographies and defamations is her political and personal complexity—a philosopher, and writer who strove for an international and anti-war socialist movement.

 

Through a convenience marriage, Rosa was granted German citizenship, which allowed her to live in Berlin during her political activities. For her, this city was a leftist mosaic for trade unionists, feminists, and communists. Berlin was her political home insofar that she had extant debates with her comrade Claire Zetkin and her opponent Eduard Bernstein. Rosa’s legacy survives through place and rhetoric, namely through the German Die Linke (Left) Party foundation appellation in her honor. In 2013, Verso Books published The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, which shed light on her intimate and political commitments (https://www.versobooks.com/books/1441-the-letters-of-rosa-luxemburg). Historian Helen Scott has remarked:

 

“Luxemburg was a product of these times, but also an unusual degree acted upon them, fighting for socialism and against barbarism. And she left a rich legacy for others who have taken up the struggle.” (Helen Scott, Haymarket Books, 2008, page 2)

 

For many on the revolutionary left, her premature death was a waterloo for German and European socialism. Yet, it proceeded a failed revolution months early on November 2018.

 

On 12 January 2019, I joined Ingar Solty and several other comrades on a tour traversing Rosa Luxemburg an Karl Liebknecht’s final days. We began on Budapeststrasse, opposite the Eden Hotel, where the Freikorps interrogated Karl and Rosa.

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Picture Taken 12 January 2019 on Budapestrasse, Berlin, Germany by author.

On that grey and wet afternoon, must like the day they were murdered, our group walked towards the Landwehr Canal. One hundred years ago, the group of men transporting Luxemburg, shot her and eventually threw her body in the canal.

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Picture taken on 12 January 2019 on Budapestrasse, Berlin, Germany by author. 

Her body remained frozen in the canal for several months—probably frozen by the long and protracted winter of 1919. Today, a monument is erected from the edge of the canal, with Rosa Luxemburg’s name bulging from the iron railing. This memorial is reminder of the political crises she relayed to Clara Zetkin, her friend and confidant on 11 January 1919:

 

 “The severe political crises that we’ve experienced here in Berlin during all of the past two weeks or even longer have blocked the way to the systematic organizational work of training our recruits, but at the same time these events are a tremendous school for the masses. And finally, one must take history as it comes, whatever course it takes. —The fact that you are receiving Rote Fahne so infrequently is disastrous! I will see to it that I personally send it to you every day. —At this moment in Berlin the battles are continuing.802 Many of our brave lads have fallen. Meyer, Ledebour, and (we fear) Leo [Jogiches] have been arrested. For today, I have to close. I embrace you a thousand times, your R.” (Rosa Luxemburg. The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, Verso Books, 2013)

 

One can take the history as it comes, and one can also use that history to shape a more radical and equitable future.