Now is the Time of Monsters – What Comes After Nations?

Haus der Kulturen der Welt , Berlin, Germany
23 Mar 2017 - 25 Mar 2017

Photo: Lonneke van der Palen – Souvenir

Photo: Lonneke van der Palen – Souvenir

The present moment is marked by one central political idea: the nation-state. It installs itself through a system of nation-states and a corresponding global framework that originated from a new world order after the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

By laying bare the framing conditions of the nation-state, their exclusionary mechanisms and the structural violence anchored within them, Now is the Time of Monsters picks up a phrase from Antonio Gramsci’s prison notebooks to open up a space for the decisive question: how can one think beyond the limits of the nation-state system?

From March 23–25, international artists, theorists, and writers will expose the structural inadequacies of the nation-state system in presentations, lecture-performances, discussions, and conversations. This three-day discussion is organized in four thematic sections:

The Nation-State System. The Abandoned Futures in the Era of Nations asks how the nation-state managed to replace all other ideas of political organization and what has gone lost in this process. Historian Cemil Aydin revisits the cosmopolitan empires of the past to recover the lost futures of inclusive and pluralistic political visions. Writer Ann Cotten asks which language one might use in order to speak about the nation-state. Artist Hito Steyerl looks at the recent hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and at futures, where nation-states fizzle into competing branches of deep state corporations; what if this goes rogue? In a performance devised by artist Kudzanai Chiurai, he takes up the synchronized past and present of (post)colonialism, seeking possibilities for an emancipatory future.

The Standard of Civilization. Asymmetries of the International System addresses inequality and global power asymmetries in international systems of state and law. International law scholar Antony T. Anghie, artist and cultural theorist Brigitta Kuster, and anthropologist David Scott provide close readings of this “History of Continuity.” An installation by the artist Christian Nyampeta allows the audience to experience the historical process while making room for opposing ways of reading. “Law and War,” with writer Slavenka Drakulić, sociologist Avery F. Gordon, and legal scholar and lawyer Ramzi Kassem aims to fundamentally challenge the humanitarian project claimed by the law of war by laying bare the asymmetry and violence that is reproduced within its legal frame. In “From the ‘Right to Trade’ to ‘Good Governance'” author In Koli Jean Bofane, legal scholar and writer Lawrence Liang, and globalization critic Susan George examine the institutions of the international system that have been maintaining unequal economic relations for centuries.

What does it mean to speak of migration today? How are rights—the right to have rights—treated in contrast to (national) law? And how does migration allow us to call political structures into question and to think about them in radically different ways? In Migration. A Political Movement these questions are tackled by the political theorist Sandro Mezzadra, the political scientist Kim Rygiel, the writer and jazz-pianist Zoran Terzić, and the artists Patrick Bernier and Olive Martin.

State Technologies. A Portrait of Contemporary Power deals with the contemporary transformations of the nation-state system due to the growing influence of technology and global financial circuits. Author Samar Yazbek speaks about Syria, which has, like so many countries, internalized the conflict as history. The sociologist and legal scholar Boaventura de Sousa Santos looks at the legacy of the European nation-state from the Global South. What new solidarities and commonalities, parties and movements are emerging from this perspective?

In a series of Conversations, the participants, along with the audience, will make connections between the questions that arise from examining the nation-state system. The focus will be on appraising the current lines of conflict as well as on questions like: to whom do human rights even apply?

With: Antony T. Anghie, Arjun Appadurai, Cemil Aydin, Patrick Bernier & Olive Martin, In Koli Jean Bofane, Kudzanai Chiurai, cinéma copains (Arne Hector & Minze Tummescheit), Ann Cotten, Slavenka Drakulić, Keller Easterling, Susan George, Avery F. Gordon, Bernd Kasparek, Ramzi Kassem, Brigitta Kuster, Lawrence Liang, Charles Lim Yi Yong, Sandro Mezzadra, Christian Nyampeta, Kim Rygiel, Isabelle Saint-Saëns, David Scott, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Felix Stalder, Hito Steyerl, Zoran Terzić, and Samar Yazbek

Curated by Rana Dasgupta, Nanna Heidenreich and Katrin Klingan.

Part of 100 Years of Now – Haus der Kulturen der Welt is supported by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media as well as by the Federal Foreign Office.


Opening: March 23, 7pm



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