Tate Modern Talk

Spaces of Transformation: Epistemologies of the South Reinventing Social Emancipation

Boaventura de Sousa Santos in conversation with Shiv Visvanathan, Suely Rolnik and Sarat Maharaj. Chaired by Brenna Bhandar

This panel explores counter-hegemonic transnational networks, global voices and cartographic practices that map the abyssal line between epistemologies of the North and the South. Reinventing social emancipation opens the processes of democracy to heterogeneous outside, de-territorialising universal topoi and spaces of power. These emancipatory processes are expressed in the struggles for participatory democracy manifest in the Arab Spring, the growing occupation movement and the landless workers movements. Another form of knowledge is possible.

The understanding of the world by far exceeds the Western understanding of the world. Northern epistemologies draw abyssal lines between zones of being and zones of non-being, thereby committing epistemicide and wasting social experience in a massive scale. Mapping the lines is as much a search for absent knowledges as it is a search for absent beings. Knowing otherwise is also being otherwise. Knowing and being in a post-abyssal way involves a constant exercise of intercultural translation.
Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Self-determination as Sumak Kawsay, Hindi Swaraj and Ubuntu

Shiv Visvanathan discusses Knowledge and Democracy: Between the Imagination and the Imaginary.

Democracy which functions in linear time is illiterate. Without a multiplicity of time, the diversities of citizenship cannot be sustained. Distributive justice without cognitive justice cannot democratize democracy. Only the epistemologies of democracy can rescue politics from the tyranny of an official science. The explosion of citizenship has created an epistemic movement where democracy can be reinvented in terms of the new dialects of emancipation.
Shiv Visvanathan, Knowledge and Democracy: Between the Imagination and the Imaginary

What is non-negotiable in my theoretical, clinical, curatorial and teaching practices? What is non-negotiable in my every day life practices? It is what demands to be embodied, the force that obliges me to think, that is, to create. This poetical force is the only non-negotiable element when the negotiation with economical or macro-political interests is unavoidable. In other words, what is non-negotiable for me is the force of desire in its negotiation with narcissistic or social recognition interests – be they my own interests or external ones. It is a kind of drive pragmatism oriented by an ethical compass. Isn't that the fundamental meaning of sublimation, if we understand it as sublime-actions, the actions we are always trying to invent in order to actualise drives?
Suely Rolnik, Beyond Colonial Unconscious

Suely Rolnik instantiates the production of another form of knowledge, exposing the topological relations between affect and thought, disquietude and creation: an ethico-aesthetic resistance to the repression of the drive, unconscious in the endless process of invention of oneself and of the world. For her, such repression is the main colonial operation from a micropolitical perspective. Through poetics/analytics/politics she mobilises affect and shifts stagnation in the micro-spaces of the body, the folds of the soul and pleats of matter.

This keynote conversation will be followed by a seminar led by Bernard Burgoyne on Saturday 5 May: Secrets of Space Seminars.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos

is Professor of Sociology at the School of Economics, University of Coimbra (Portugal), Distinguished Legal Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School and Global Legal Scholar at the University of Warwick. He is Director of the Center for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra and member of the research group Democracy, Citizenship and Law (DECIDe) of the Centre. He has been a prominent intellectual-activist of the World Social Forum. He has published widely on globalisation, sociology of law and the state, epistemology, democracy, and human rights in Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian, French and German. His books in English include Toward a New Common Sense: Law, Science and Politics in the Paradigmatic Transition (1995), The Rise of the Global Left. The World Social Forum and Beyond (2006), Cognitive Justice in a Global World (2007), (co-edited with Cesar Rodriguez-Garavito) Law and Globalization from Below: Towards a Cosmopolitan Legality (2005). He is the editor of the acclaimed series Reinventing Social Emancipation: Towards New Manifestoes, wide-ranging explorations of social struggle and progressive politics: Democratizing Democracy. Beyond the Liberal Democratic Canon (2005), Another Production is Possible: Beyond the Capitalist Canon (2006), Another Knowledge is Possible: Beyond Northern Epistemologies (2007),Voices of the World (2010). The last volume of the series, Epistemologies of the South: Reinventing Social Emancipations is forthcoming.

Professor Boaventura Sousa Santos at Birkbeck, July 2011

Shiv Visvanathan

is a professor at the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. An anthropologist and Human Rights researcher his work has explored the question of alternatives as a dialogue between the West and India. Closely linked to his current work is the attempt to demystify modern science and social knowledge as legitimising categories of organised violence and exploitation. His writings have explored the psychological, cultural and political relations of science; the growing control of society by technology; and linkages between scientific establishment and authoritarian structures of state. He is the author of A Carnival for Science: Essays on Science, Technology and Development (1997) and Foul Play: Chronicles of Corruption in India (1999).


Suely Rolnik

is a psychoanalyst, art and cultural critic, curator and Professor at the Catholic University of São Paulo, where she founded the Subjectivity Studies Centre in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program. Since 2008, she is guest Professor of the Programa de Estudios Independientes, MACBA. She has been a guest lecturer for the Official Masters Degree in the History of Contemporary Art and Visual Culture at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (2008-2009) and was guest researcher for the Fondation de France, at the Institut National de l’Histoire de l’Art (INHA), in 2007. She remained in exile in Paris for ten years in the ‘post-68’ period (1970–9), where she did her studies in Sociology and Philosophy (Université de Paris 8) and in Clinical Human Sciences (Université de Paris 7); she obtained her Masters in Institutional Analysis and subsequently her DESS in Clinical Psychology at the same university (1978); she has a PhD in Social Psychology at the Catholic University of São Paulo (1987). Among her books, she is author with Félix Guattari of Micropolítica. Cartografias do desejo (1986; 11th edition 2010), published in seven countries (in USA by Semiotext(e)/MIT, 2006 with the title: Molecular Revolution in Brazil). Creator of a research and activation project of the body memory of Lygia Clark’s work and its environment, in which she realised 65 films of interviews filmed in France, England and the United States by Babette Mangolte and in Brazil by Moustapha Barrat; a box with 20 of those out those 65 films and a booklet was produced in France and in Brazil (2011). This archive was the backbone of an exhibition she curated and the catalogue she edited with C. Diseren: 'Nous sommes le moule. A vous de donner le souffle. Lygia Clark, de l’œuvre à l’événement', at the Musée de Beaux-arts de Nantes (2005) and the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (2006). Among her translations into Portuguese: Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus (vol. III/IV). She has published numerous essays in books, journals, and art catalogues in Europe and the Americas and has lectured widely. Her research focus is on the politics of subjectivation and of creation in different contexts approached from a trans-disciplinary theoretical perspective, inseparable from a clinical-political pragmatic; since the 1990s, she has been intervening mainly in the field of contemporary art. She is currently based in São Paulo, Brazil, where she has a private practice in psychoanalysis.

Sarat Maharaj

is currently Professor of Visual Art & Knowledge Systems, Lund University & the Malmö Art Academies, Sweden. He was Professor of Art History and Theory 1980-2005 at Goldsmiths’ London University where he is now Visiting Research Professor. Maharaj was Rudolf Arnheim Professor, Philosophy Faculty, Humboldt University, Berlin (2001–2) and Research Fellow at the Jan Van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht (1999–2001).

His publications focus on Marcel Duchamp, James Joyce and Richard Hamilton and cover Monkeydoodle, Visual Art as Know-How and No-How, Textiles, Xeno-Sonics and Xeno-Epistemics, Cultural Translation, North/South divisions of work, manufacture and ‘creative labour’. Recent publications include studies in Non-Western modernities: ‘Small change of the universal’: beyond modernity? (British Journal of Sociology, 2010), 'Hungry clouds swag on deep': Santu Mofokeng at Kassel 2002: Chasing Shadows, Prestel, 2011.

His image, sound, dance and consciousness studies are exemplified in exchanges with Francisco Varela, the neuroscientist and Buddhist scholar, and have been explored in Knowledge Labs at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin, 2005 and 2006, with Liu Sola, Beijing, and Kofi Koko, Paris/Benin), New Media Art Lab (Banff, 2007) and Visual Arts Knowledge Lab (York University, Toronto, 2009).

He was co-curator of documenta XI, 2002. With Ecke Bonk and Richard Hamilton, he curated retinal.optical.visual.conceptual… at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2002. He was co-curator of Farewell to Postcolonialism (Guangzhou, 2008) and Art Knowledge and Politics (São Paolo Biennale, 2010). He was the chief curator of the Gothenburg Biennale: Pandemonium: art in a time of creativity fever, 2011

Tate Modern

Starr Cinema

London SE1 9TG
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Date & Time

28 April 2012 at 14.00–16.30