Annual Seminar 2019: „The Making of Mankind: Tracing Race & Racism“
:: Guest contribution ::
by Lena Gumpert and Malin Wilckens
Group photo on the second day of the Annual Seminar 2019. Photo: Simon Grunert
Some time after the end of this year's Annual Seminar we would like to share our impressions with you here. As members of the organizing team, we were looking forward to the conference with both joy and excitement. In retrospect, we can say that the Annual Seminar was distinguished by a friendly atmosphere and an in-depth discussion. For us, all the work in the run-up to the seminar has paid off.
Flyer and lists of participants – the conference begins Photo: Rebecca Moltmann
Nikita Dhawan opened with an impressive keynote speech and it was immediately clear to us: This was the right start for the conference. Her critical examination of both the German Enlightenment and the German university system sparked a fiery discussion. Directly in the first panel, the topic of knowledge production in the Enlightenment was taken up and expanded with a perspective on modern Brazil. It also dealt with the scientific construction of 'race'.
Den Abend rundete Demetrius Eudell rounded off the evening with a comparison: How do 'caste' and 'race' relate to each other? Through his knowledgeable lecture he was able to extend the conference by a further perspective. We like to quote Mark B. Brown, political scientist at California State University, Sacramento: "This was a very rich talk. „This was a very rich talk.“ (Memory Protocol)
The conference dinner in the late evening offered the opportunity to get to know each other better and to fill the empty stomachs. The participants* were able to get to know each other and their projects better in an informal atmosphere and exchanged ideas with each other even apart from conference-related topics.
Nikita Dhawan during her keynote; Discussion before the lecture: Demetrius Eudell with Eleonora Roland and Ulrike Davy; Manuela Boatcă during her keynote (from left to right) Photos: Rebecca Moltmann
The next day Manuela Boatcă opened with her contribution to a current research discussion. She asked the question which mutual influences the worldwide distribution of wealth and the sale of citizenships and 'race' have. For many of us this was a new perspective.
The following two panels showed the closeness to the co-organising SFB: It was about the connection between 'race' and comparative practices. There was literally interdisciplinary discussion - from anthropology, sociology and law to literary studies.
Afterwards, the topicality of our conference topic was again clearly emphasized by means of educational institutions. The focus was on the one hand on how racism should be discussed in (German) schools, and on the other hand on the experiences of racism that students at German universities experience.
A personal highlight of the two authors of this article was the evening event in the Ulmenwall bunker. We wanted to bring the socially relevant topic of the conference into the urban public and to extend it by an artistic perspective in order to represent the diversity of the confrontation with 'race' and racism. We had the great good fortune to experience the perspectives of performance artist Taiwo Jacob Ojudun and graphic artist Diana Ejaita .
The presenter of the evening Ouassima Laabich in front of an excerpt of the video installation by Taiwo Jacob Ojudun Taiwo Jacob Ojudun during the performance. Fotos: Corinna Mehl
In his performance and video installation entitled WHAT IF?, Taiwo Jacob Ojudun presented in particular the brute violence of the colonial division of Africa by the Berlin Conference (1884-85) and its aftermath.
Diana Ejaita (Bild 2) introduces her work. Photos: Corinna Mehl
Diana Ejaita has pointed to a specifically European racism experience in her prints, in which she deals with May Ayim's blues in black and white. The series is entitled To May Ayim.
Discussion at the last panel Photo: Rebecca Moltmann
In the last panel the connection of space and race was discussed along different disciplines. The Annual Seminar came to a successful end with a stimulating reflection on the past days in the final discussion moderated by Sabine Schäfer
Our conclusion: High level, broad content and emotional experiences. All the work was worth it.
It was also nice to experience how productive working in a team can be. We are both writing this article, but the organization and planning was a joint task. That is why we would like to list the names of all team members: Lisa Baßenhoff, Andreas Becker, Ina Kiel, Julian Gärtner, Lena Gumpert, Malika Mansouri und Malin Sonja Wilckens.
A critical discussion did not only take place before in our team and during the conference, but continues. It is not only for this reason that we are planning a publication that makes these critical thoughts transparent. This also includes a critical examination of the title "The Making of Mankind". In the meantime, it has become increasingly clear to us that the title opens up a problematic perspective and we are grateful that it has been addressed several times. On the one hand, the title seems to refer only to men and, on the other hand, it possibly also refers to a very specific period of time: the emergence of scientific racism in the course of the enlightenment epoch. We explicitly wanted to go beyond the historical location and under no circumstances reproduce racist or gender-discriminatory assumptions. All this is not reflected in the title. We gladly accept this criticism and will work on a revised title for publication. So it remains productively exciting!
Many thanks for the Feedback!Lena Gumpert & Malin Wilckens
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