• Summer School As School 2017
Sami Khatib: “Barbarism begins at home”
Sami Khatib at Summer School as School 2017
Thursday, 13 July, 2017, 19:00
Venue: Boxing Club, Mark Isaku Str. 10000 Prishtina, Republic of Kosovo

Stacion - Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina is pleased to introduce the presentation of Sami Khatib , part of the Public Program of Summer School as School 2017.

Sami Khatib: “Barbarism begins at home”
The Smiths, 1985

Historically, the barbarian was defined as the external other, the foreigner, the intruder whose language and customs differ from what was considered “home.” In ancient times, people of such kind were called non-Greeks or, later, non-Romans.
As such the term barbarian lacks a positive determination; its meaning is derived negatively, the barbarian remained a non-citizen. Still today the modern noun barbarism is broadly used as an antonym to culture and civilization. A barbarian is thus a non-person, someone who lacks the personal attributes of humanist culture and is indifferent to virtues such as civility, fairness, literacy, politeness, and judgment. Understood in this way, the image of the barbarian served the modern ideologies of nationalism, fascism and racism: the barbarian appears as the dangerous intruder from outside – the one who is undermining the boundaries and borders of civilization. Hence, the barbarian has to be kept at the gates, controlled and, if possible, defeated in his or her own hostile, barbaric habitat. The reverberations of this modern image of barbarism are still felt in today’s Europe. The contemporary narrative of the so-called “refugee crisis” and the discourses about inner and outer security draw on the specter of barbarism.

In 1915, while being imprisoned, Rosa Luxemburg famously wrote: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” In 1933, with the rise of fascism in Germany and Europe, Luxemburg’s Marxist wager seemed outdated and not feasible anymore. Imperialism had won the ‘Great War’ and fascism was ready to prepare the next one. In the same year, 1933, Walter Benjamin, Critical Theory’s predecessor and critic, published his small piece “Experience and Poverty”. In the wake of the rise of ‘really existing’ barbarism, Benjamin calls for a “positive concept of barbarism” neither derived from a nostalgic past nor a utopian future. Benjamin’s perspective of defeat, however, is not defeatist. His question is simple: what is the impoverished horizon of possibility once the world-historical question of socialism-or-barbarism has been decided in favor of the latter? What could be an emancipatory strategy in a world of capitalist and fascist barbarism? Is there a positive meaning of the figure of the barbarian as a mode of mimetic survival – as someone who is capable of dialectically surpassing capitalism’s barbarism?

In my presentation, I am interested in conclusions that can be drawn from Benjamin’s counterintuitive move to call for positive concept of barbarism. Today, once more, world politics seems to be on the verge of new forms of fascism and fascization. With the neoliberal dismantling of the Fordist model of the social welfare state and the denial of basic civil rights, the dialectical nature of home-grown barbarism challenges the concept of “Western” culture, identity and social values. If there is no way back to the “good old,” how can we mobilize the experience of what Bertolt Brecht called the “bad new” in order to escape the dystopian potential of the present? What are the experiences we can draw from the aesthetic regime of contemporary capitalism? What Mark Fisher aptly called “capitalist realism” – the tautological identity of what capitalism pretends to be and what its modern history actually is – could give us a clue of how to theorize the aesthetico-political stakes of (post)modern barbarism. If in the age of capitalist realism, capitalism “seamlessly occupies the horizons of the thinkable” (Fisher), the aesthetic scope of experience is colonized, impoverished too. Can we think of radically impoverished, posthumanist forms of surviving capitalism after culture?

Sami Khatib is a visiting professor based in Berlin, Vienna and Beirut. His research is in the fields of critical theory, aesthetics and modern continental philosophy. For recent publication see: https://fu-berlin.academia.edu/SamiKhatib

Full schedule of The Public Program of Summer School as School 2017 can be found at: http://www.stacion.org/en/Public-Lectures-and-Presentations-2017

Stacion – Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina and partner institutions with Summer School as School have created a unique international educational platform, based in Prishtina, as a progressing model; developing an interdisciplinary curriculum and engaging practitioners from the region and beyond in sharing knowledge and expertise with international students and the public.

The project’s larger context responds to the art education systems of Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia.

Summer School as School 2017 is organized in cooperation with Allianz Cultural Foundation, supported by ERSTE Foundation, Trust for Mutual Understanding(TMU), Federal Chancellory of Austria, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung office in Prishtina, Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Kosovo, Municipality of Prishtina, Independent Curators International (ICI), The Office for Contemporary Art (OCA), Norway and RIT Kosovo. Complete list of donors and cooperation partners will be announced in due time.