Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Re/Positionierung - Critical Whiteness/Perspectives of Color

In the course of the last 100 years, various liberation movements have fundamentally reshaped the self-perception of marginalized groups, the position of diasporas in Western societies and the relationship of the Occident to the Tricont. Feminisms in the metropolises, anti-colonialist movements in the occupied South and the Civil Rights Movement have managed to initiate radical change.
One of the most crucial achievements of these multi-faceted movements was the insight that categories of identity, such as gender, ethnic affiliation, nationality and/or class are not essential. Until very recently, classifications of this kind have been used not only in order to produce social hierarchies within certain groups, but in order to ascribe physical and mental characteristics, as well.
Even though efforts are being made to reverse the negative consequences of these categorisations and to deconstruct identity ascriptions through current social discourse and UN-policy oriented laws, the fantasy of fixed identities continues to exist.
One aspect of identity that probably inscribed itself most fundamentally, historically and socially, remains relatively untouched by this analysis: this aspect is Whiteness.
Critical Whiteness Studies try to highlight the origin and various aspects of racism from a different point of view by focusing on those responsible for marginalisation rather than on the marginalised. The purpose of this is not to divide people into different groups according to their physical appearance, but to denounce the reality wherein this is happening, to mark structural hierarchies and to expose Whiteness as a social construct.

In the field of Racism Studies, the terms Black and White do not describe skin color. They stand for the positions that are ascribed to individuals by society. Whiteness constitutes the privileged position of those who benefit from a reality shaped by racism. Whiteness usually goes unnoticed and is regarded by White people as "the norm" as opposed to everything else that is different.
Moreover, being White in this sense entails a multiplicity of privileges that are not identified as such by those profiting from them, but are taken for granted.
The phenomenon of "color blindness" contributes to the occlusion and protection of these privileges. It undermines the dialogue on racial identity by arguing that all people are equal. The liberal assertion of equality however contradicts the racist reality that People of Color, who inhabit a less privileged position within the power structure, encounter every day.

While the term, “Whiteness” describes a structural category, People of Color is a means of self - empowerment and is usually preferred to "non-White“ or "minority“ because of its inclusive and positive connotation. Here, self-definition can already be seen as an intervention.The project will examine this and other interventions as only a closer look into the subject will make a repositioning possible.

One of the most important insights of Critical Whiteness Studies lies in the fact that the construction of Whiteness and its political and social effects are often excluded from public discourse. Critical Whiteness Studies have been established and accepted only recently as an academic research field but they derive from a practice of resistance as old as White domination. A critical examination of Whiteness is indispensable to People of Color in a White dominated context. During the brief period of its academic presence in Germany, Critical Whiteness Studies have accomplished the task of bringing to light the unconscious dynamics of racialisation and domination in the German context and to analyse them critically. The academic and artistic practice of People of Color goes further this deconstructivist perspective and highlights resistance but also refers to practical life beyond White domination.

What does it mean to be a Person of Color in a German context? In what way might the complementary fields of Critical Whiteness Studies and multifaceted Perspectives of Color affect political and artistic practice in contemporary Germany? What are the current trends in the research of these phenomena in contemporary art practice?

In collaboration with the NGBK, the artist group Metanationale will offer a platform for the discussion of these issues. We aim to make visible the work of German and interanational theorists and artists. The platform will secure and enrích the theoretical basis for a lasting engagement with art/cultural production of new German identities and inspire decision makers and producers in the cultural field oportunities for self reflection and re/positionings. Furthermore, we would like to bring together the results of current academic research as well as art practice, and to foster the exchange between academics, artists and activists in this field.

The discourse regarding Whiteness and Perspectives of Color is largely excluded from the artistic field. The reflection regarding a critical engagement with these themes is, however, of utmost importance precisely for creative artists, who often function as mirrors of their society. A solid, theoretical foundation forms the basis for a holistic, critical artistic practice.Today, more than ever, we feel a need to bridge the gap between research findings of post-colonial discourses and stereotypical representations in the German cultural mainstream. This gap is especially visible /present in cases where art and cultural institutions produce and exhibit insensitive reproductions of colonial stereotypes, ostensibly in an effort to criticize them in documentary exhibitions.

Re/Positionierung will offer a wide variety of presentations, peformances, panels including discussions with the audience and will be open to the interested public.This broad range of activities will be documented in a publication in English and German.

For more info: http://metanationale.org/index.php/home

No comments: