un_learning violence

Reading group (Berlin, since 2016, in English)

Un_learning Violence is the name of a reading and research group interested in the psycho-social effects of political violence. We assume that in order to overcome violence, one has to understand how its histories and enabling conditions are entangled with desire, affect, modes of embodiment, (the production, accumulation, and circulation of) knowledge; (the systems and technologies of) symbolization, aesthetic form, as well as fantasy and imagination. Framing the problematic like this is, for us, taking on a queer-feminist perspective. We ask: Are there gendered and sexual dimensions to violence? Are there queer practices of challenging it?

Yet, asking these questions also demands that we consider histories of colonialism, slavery, genocide, as well as various forms of repression, exploitation, and war. What does it mean to understand the violence of normalcy, of normative and ideological forms like heteronormativity and whiteness, as co-constitutive with institutional and legal forms of state violence like migration and asylum regimes, eugenics and medical violence, science and education? How do these material-semiotic forms influence embodiments, psychic formations of self and other, thinking, and fantasy?

We have chosen the headline Un_learning Violence, referring to Gayatri Ch. Spivak’s concept of “unlearning our privileges as a loss,” because we want to understand how we learn violence, how we take part in upholding systems of violence (those which provide us, the members of the working group, with privileged positions), as well as how to lead a relatively non-violent life in (avowed or disavowed) proximity to those who endure or have endured violence as a daily experience. We strive for unlearning our privileges as a loss, hoping that this will open up space for acknowledging how histories of violence define our biographical, social, and global relations, and which need to be witnessed and attended, if new queer socialities are to become livable.

So far we have studied articles by Leo Bersani/Ulysse Dutoit, Claudia Brunner, Margarita Palacios, Gayatri Ch. Spivak, and Jennifer Tyburczy.