Social Contract Theory is the area of philosophy that deals with how an individual deals with the society that they belong to. In modern philosophy, it is mostly closely associated with Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hobbes, in particular, thought that humans were naturally in an "all against all" violent state before civilization, and in order to avoid this, individuals cede authority to a sovereign. Rousseau argued for a more democratic society (although Hobbes was neccesarily arguing against democracy, but merely for a unified society), where instead of a single sovereign, we cede our rights to the will of the majority. He attempted to reconcile individual freedom with this sort of ceding of rights to the majority, or to a society as a whole. For Rousseau, in some sense, in order to fully become free we had to give up some of our freedom, because a society which individuals did not give up freedom would be less free. Although not an example Rousseau gives, we can see that a society where individuals give up the right to own slaves becomes more free, on the whole. If we do not form some kind of social contract, then it becomes very difficult to guarantee any kind of legitimate freedom for anyone, because anyone's freedom could be taken away by arbitrary force.
Camus, while he didn't explicitly talk about social contract theory, was something of an anarchist, and wrote in The Rebel that an individual must always have the right to rebel against an unjust society.
Bestselling author Ta-Nehisi Coates answers an audience question about the power and ownership of words at the Family Action Network event with Evanston Township High School while on tour for his newest book, WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER. The full appearance is here:
Written in between 1979 and 1982 and printed in 2010, Jenny Holzer’s “Inflammatory Essays” employ her so-called “truisms," gleaned from popular ideas and ideologies. Rather than being projected in public spaces or casting them aglow in LED, here sentences form individual “essays.” Originally pasted around New York City, many of the texts reveal the polemical tone of manifestos, as they are oftentimes excerpted from speeches. Posted anonymously, the texts become relatively open signs, applicable to several situations. Holzer insists that the reader consider the texts and slogans with which we are inundated.
"Grada Kilomba's book 'Plantation Memories. Episodes of Everyday Racism' has exposed the violence and trauma of racism through its incisive language and profound writing. This staged reading is a compilation of episodes exploring everyday racism in the form of short psychoanalytical stories. It offers a strong and moving insight into the experience of racism, alienation, and transformation, through the different characters." Theater Ballhaus Naunynstrasse
"Com uma escrita profunda e uma linguagem cortante e eloquente, Grada Kilomba expõe a violência e o trauma do racismo no seu livro' "Plantation Memories. Episódios de Racismo Diário." Esta leitura cênica traz o livro ao palco, através de uma compilação de episódios que exploram o racismo diário em forma de histórias psicanalíticas curtas. Oferecendo uma visão forte e comovente, através das diferentes personagens. " Teatro Ballhaus Naunynstrasse
Written and Directed by / Escrito e Dirigido por Grada Kilomba
Performance Martha Fessehatzion Moses Leo Michael Edode Ojake Araba Walton Sara-Hiruth Zewde
Camera Zé de Paiva Kathleen Kunath Thabo Thindi
Grada Kilomba é uma escritora, teórica, e artista interdisciplinar portuguesa residente em Berlim. O seu trabalho baseia-se na memória, trauma, raça e gênero, e foi traduzido em várias línguas e publicados em inúmeras antologias internacionais, bem como encenado internacionalmente. O seu trabalho é especialmente conhecido por criar um espaço híbrido onde as fronteiras entre as linguagens académicas e artísticas se confinam, usando uma variedade de formatos desde a escrita à encenação dos seus textos, assim como instalações de video e performance, criando o que ela chama de "Performing Knowledge.” Grada Kilomba tem apresentado o seu trabalho em renomeados espaços de exibição, teatro, e academia, como o Vienna Secession Museum, Brussels Bozar Museum, London Maritime Museum, Centro International de Artes José de Guimarães, Kampnagel House, Oslo Literature House, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berliner Festspiel Haus, Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Theater Münchner Kammerspiel, University of Stockholm, University of Amsterdam, University of London, University of Accra, Universidade do Rio de Janeiro, Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, among others. Grada Kilomba tem ensinado em diversas universidades internacionais, tendo sido por último Professora de Estudos de Gênero e Estudos Pós-Coloniais, na Universidade de Humboldt, em Berlim. Actualmente, Grada Kilomba é curadora no Teatro Maxim Gorki, em Berlim, onde está a desenvolver uma série de Artist Talks e Post-colonialismo. http://gradakilomba.com
Escrito e Dirigido por Grada Kilomba
Performance por Martha Fessehatzion Moses Leo Michael Edode Ojake Araba Walton Sara-Hiruth Zewde
Música por GEISBABA
Camera por Zé de Paiva Kathleen Kunath Thabo Thindi
On Saturday hundreds of white nationalists, alt-righters, and neo-Nazis traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia to participate in the “Unite the Right” rally. By Saturday evening three people were dead – one protester, and two police officers – and many more injured.
“VICE News Tonight” correspondent Elle Reeve went behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, including Christopher Cantwell, Robert Ray, David Duke, and Matthew Heimbach — as well as counter-protesters. VICE News Tonight also spoke with residents of Charlottesville, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Charlottesville Police.
From the neo-Nazi protests at Emancipation Park to Cantwell’s hideaway outside of Virginia, “VICE News Tonight” provides viewers with exclusive, up close and personal access inside the unrest.
This episode of VICE News Tonight aired August 14, 2017 on HBO.
I could write a whole thing here, but I will try to keep this commentary short. This poem has been through a lot of drafts-- even this video is subtly different from the one on the album, and both are different from what I've been performing over the past couple of weeks. Just a couple of quick thoughts (all of which are in addition to the album commentary I already wrote):
Probably the biggest theme on "Post-Post-Race" is the importance of having a more critical, wider perspective on issues of race and racism. Racism isn't just about "bad people being mean to other people because they look different;" it's about history, it's about systems and institutions, and it's about power. This poem is maybe the most direct exploration of that idea on the album.
Especially today, in the context of Trump (and the movement that he represents) it's important to see racism and xenophobia as bigger than one individual's bigotry. We should work to defeat Trump, but we should not labor under the delusion that defeating Trump will be enough. It won't. Electing a Democrat won't be enough either. Even electing a progressive Democrat won't be enough. Defeating racism (and sexism, homophobia, etc.) will take a multi-tiered approach, and I'd argue that step one is affirming that these problems are fundamentally bigger than individual attitudes or actions.
And "bigger" doesn't mean "invincible." It just means that our work is not just the work of changing people's hearts and minds; it's the work of changing our institutions, laws, policies, media, and systems too.
I get that this is a tough thing for some people to wrap their heads around. I also get that this particular poem might be a little tough to stomach as an intro to this concept, and might be better suited as a supplementary tool. So here are a few recommended links/readings:
I'd encourage everyone to read Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow," which might be the most important book of the last decade. I'd also recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates' "The Case for Reparations,"which describes the system that we call "racism" as clearly as you're likely to read anywhere. For all the visual learners out there, here's the NYT's "The Faces of American Power," which lets us just look at the literal faces of people in positions of power in this country; hard to argue with that. Also, be sure to watch "13th" on Netflix! Feel free to add other good resources in the comments.
Humanæ is a “work in progress” by the Brazilian Angélica Dass, who intends to deploy a chromatic range of the different human skin colors. Those who pose are volunteers who have known the project and decide to participate. There is no previous selection of participants and there are no classifications relating to nationality, gender, age, race, social class or religion. Nor is there an explicit intention to finish it on a specific date. It is open in all senses and it will include all those who want to be part of this colossal global mosaic. The only limit would be reached by completing all of the world’s population.
A photographic taxonomy of these proportions has been rarely undertaken; those who preceded Angélica Dass were characters of the 19th century that, for various reasons - legal, medical, administrative, or anthropological - used photographs to establish different types of social control of the power. The best-known is that of the portraits of identity, initiated by Alphonse Bertillon and now used universally. However, this taxonomy close to Borges´ world, adopts the format of the PANTONE ® guides, which gives the collection a degree of hierarchical horizontality that dilutes the false preeminence of some races over others based on skin color or social condition.
These guidelines have become one of the main systems of color classification, which are represented by means of an alphanumeric code, allowing to recreate them accurately in any medium: is a technical-industrial standard. The process followed in Humanæ also is rigorous and systematic: the background for each portrait is tinted with a color tone identical to a sample of 11 x 11 pixels taken from the face of the photographed. Aligned as in the famous samples, its horizontality is not only formal also is ethical.
Thus, without fuss, with the extraordinary simplicity of this semantic metaphor, the artist makes an “innocent” displacement of the socio-political context of the racial problem to a safe medium, the guides, where the primary colors have exactly the same importance that the mixed ones. It even dilutes the figure of power that usually the photographer holds. The use of codes and visual materials belonging to the imagery that we all share, leaves in the background the self-referentiality of the artist, insistent and often tiresome.
The will that the project evolves in other directions beyond their control (debates, educational applications, replicas and a host of alternatives that have already triggered by sharing Humanæ on social networks) contributes also to the dilution of the hierarchy of the author.
Many of the ingredients that characterize the [best] spirit of this time appear to be part of this project: shared authorship, active solidarity and local proposals likely to operate globally, networking, communication expanded to alternative spaces of debate, awareness without political ideology, social horizontality…
The spectator is invited to press the share button in his brain.
“... it is middle England territory, a town dominated by skilled manual workers ... whose values, habits and preferences are believed by both left and right to hold the key of electoral success.”
Magic Party Place takes you to the heart of BREXIT England. It is a series of intimate encounters documenting contemporary England through the paradigm of the new-town of Basildon, in Essex. Located 25 miles outside London, it was built as part of a massive urban renewal program following the devastation of London in the Second World War. As a constructed community, the town is statistically close to the national average, which makes it the perfect paradigm through which to explore the state of the nation.
Published by Kehrer Verlag, the book will be released in July 2016. To purchase a copy, visit the shop.
You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.
You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.
Why do you feel okay saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, be propelled forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.
As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable, hasn’t happened before, and the before isn’t part of the now as the night darkens and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.
When you arrive in your driveway and turn off the car, you remain behind the wheel another ten minutes. You fear the night is being locked in and coded on a cellular level and want time to function as a power wash. Sitting there staring at the closed garage door you are reminded that a friend once told you there exists a medical term — John Henryism — for people exposed to stresses stemming from racism. They achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure. Sherman James, the researcher who came up with the term, claimed the physiological costs were high. You hope by sitting in silence you are bucking the trend.
When the stranger asks, Why do you care? you just stand there staring at him. He has just referred to the boisterous teenagers in Starbucks as niggers. Hey, I am standing right here, you responded, not necessarily expecting him to turn to you.
He is holding the lidded paper cup in one hand and a small paper bag in the other. They are just being kids. Come on, no need to get all KKK on them, you say.
Now there you go, he responds.
The people around you have turned away from their screens. The teenagers are on pause. There I go? you ask, feeling irritation begin to rain down. Yes, and something about hearing yourself repeating this stranger’s accusation in a voice usually reserved for your partner makes you smile.
A man knocked over her son in the subway. You feel your own body wince. He’s okay, but the son of a bitch kept walking. She says she grabbed the stranger’s arm and told him to apologize: I told him to look at the boy and apologize. And yes, you want it to stop, you want the black child pushed to the ground to be seen, to be helped to his feet and be brushed off, not brushed off by the person that did not see him, has never seen him, has perhaps never seen anyone who is not a reflection of himself.
The beautiful thing is that a group of men began to stand behind me like a fleet of bodyguards, she says, like newly found uncles and brothers.
The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.
At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?
It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.