siguenos en:

Síguenos en FecebookSíguenos en Twitter


Re-enlightening the Enlightenment (Seminar UNIA)

Venue: International University of Andalusia (UNIA). Monasterio de Santa María de las Cuevas, Av. Américo Vespucio 2. Isla de la Cartuja (Sevilla)
Date: 22nd >> 25th May 2006
Guest Speakers: Carlos Fernández Lira, Amador Fernández-Savater, Cecilia Flachsland, Monserrat Galcerán, Franco Ingrassia, Antonio Lafuente, Marta Malo
Project organised by UNIA arteypensamiento and co-produced by Arteleku-Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa in collaboration with Editorial Archipiélago




Re-enlightening the Enlightenment: universalism, citizenship and emancipation (SEMINAR UNIA)Free and equal citizens, citizens of the world. This was the emancipatory goal of the Enlightenment, rekindled in the last two centuries by democratic and revolutionary movements that attempted to embody this desire. The dream of international workers' unions, civil rights movements, women's movements... The dream of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mijail Bakunin or Martin Luther King. But an abyss lies between that dream and the nightmarish images (so enlightening in nature) shown on television of the New Orleans catastrophe, the barriers of Ceuta and Melilla, the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London or the riots in French city suburbs. An abyss built out of poverty, second and third-rate citizenship, denied rights, social relegation, discrimination by gender and skin colour, nihilism, identity fanaticism, or racism. An abyss of wild ethnisation of the (precarious) social issue in globalisation. An abyss that people try to survey, measure and interrogate.

Is the ethnisation of social relations, i.e. the growing perception of the world in terms of community and ethnic background, an antique, something left over from other times, an obstacle to progress? Rather, it seems to be the fatal partner of the capitalist globalisation process. Capitalist deterritorialisation and the strongly identitary reaction of bare-to-the-bone socialism: the former is always accompanied by the latter. Belated modernity is supported and underpinned at the same time by a fundamental paradox: like in the children's rope game, on the one hand global capitalism unites the world through the market while an unusual proliferation of more or less closed identities divides it on the other. On the one hand, imposed phenomena such as social and cultural fragmentation, balkanisation of the labour market and political-media racialisation of reality. And on the other hand, the basic fact that in our world improvements are only achieved collectively (think about the Irish or Italians in the USA) through the cohesive strength of profoundly ambivalent ethnic solidarity.

For decades, "progressist" political action has been based on abstract universals: models valid for all. Freedom as compliance with a duty to be, equality as equivalence and fraternity as formal love for the human race. This automatically prompted the deduction of a colonialist or assimilationist policy based on respect for one's "other", founded on the ideal of the tábula rasa (blank slate) and on the programmed purification of heterogeneous cultural practices and heritage. Supposedly, forgetting all the "archaisms" that immerse individuals in the endless circuits of racial vendettas and animosity would provide civilization and citizenship with "savages". The failure of multiculturalism and cultural relativism, "anti-colonialist" or "third-world" responses to abstract universalism, is also well-known today as a discourse and practice of emancipation: it suppresses the search for common ground, it incites indifference or warmongering between communities, it blocks transversal struggles for rights for all, it justifies, silences or minimises traditional oppression, it encourages victimism and racial glorification, etc. Finally, it is hard not to continue suspecting that "the crucibles of cultures" and other melting pots imply "a flow of insipid uniformity", to quote Randoulph Bourne, a banalisation of singularities that are too singular, the generalised levelling of cultural differences and the eradication of the memory of different communities.

In this context, re-enlightening the Enlightenment consists of recovering the subversive power of critical thought, open to more lucid considerations of human passions, the desire to belong, specific ties and the fundamental role of imagery in societies. How can we reinvent, beyond the null combat between abstract Republicans or Constitutionalists and cultural relativists, an emancipating, non-reducing, specific, situated universalism that accompanies the fight for a citizenship that is not tied to the criteria of territory or blood? Can we develop and apply a policy fuelled by a love for the things we share, understood not from the perspective of identity and abstraction but from the standpoint of variety or uniqueness? Can there be political action and cultural creation rooted firmly in a specific existential territory which, at the same time, opens its arms outward to embrace others? Can an intimate and specific experience be universalised and communicated (turned into something common) without becoming banal, levelled or standardised? What type of citizenship is being built and deconstructed by the immigrants who cross the borders of the old nation-fortresses? And how can we conceive policies that are used to radically defend common resources (from water to wisdom through the genome and ecosystems) which belong to everyone and no-one, which do not accept nations or borders?



Monday 22 May, 2006
· 19:00 h.
Lecture by Carlos Fernández Liria: The fatal emancipation: changes in the enlightened notion of universalism.
Counterpoint: Amador Fernández-Savater.

The new economic order, which is on the brink of becoming a planetary order, only questions men as subjects independent of their cultural identity. In a society that does not need us and only requires us for "labour" and "market", religion, the nation and even the family (understand as something more than just its fragile Western expression) can only appear as stubborn relics of a past condemned to disappear. But the current panorama is very different to the one we hoped for. We are witnessing the proliferation of nationalisms, ethnic and religious conflicts, all types of religious fundamentalism, xenophobia and racism. Precisely at the time when globalisation has made the world one, it seems that nobody has the least intention of becoming a citizen of this world, where each individual chooses his/her district, clan, tribe, people or nation. What has happened?

Contemporary society is characterised by the elimination or dissolution of cultural differences, and anything "modern" is presented as a generalised and profound "cultural crisis". Modern society is an unusually de-structured society, immersed in a "state of relative indifferentiation", unheard of previously, and possessing the cultural minimum required to exist as such. Various authors have associated the aforementioned dissolution of the cultural differences of modern society with the outbreak of violence to restore the dissolved cultural order. The connection between these two orders of events is one of the keys for understanding most violent ethnic, national or religious conflicts that proliferate today.

Tuesday 23 May, 2006
· 19:00 h.
Lecture by Cecilia Flachsland: Manu Chao and the end of alternative globalisation?
Counterpoint: Franco Ingrassia.

Music is one form of thought. In addition to fostering pleasure and shared experiences, popular songs have the power to give us an always contradictory vision of the world, of subordinate social sectors. Despite the way in which the market is designed, something of cultural conspiracy survives in many of these forms of music, just as some of them, in contrast to the process of globalising "hybridity", transmit the memory of peoples, territories, experiences and forgotten struggles.

During the 1990s the musician Manu Chao found the way to use music as a soundboard for social movements that sought to build new forms of organization and conceived the struggle against neo-liberalism at global level. These aesthetic and political approaches, brimming with good intentions, were overtaken by certain events that showed that it was not that easy to eliminate struggles associated with territory, class and blood.

The paradigmatic figure of Manu Chao, compared with that of other rock and folk musicians, will help us look at what is happening today in terms of the cultural dialogue between the different nations of the world. Is this toing and froing possible when only some people can be tourists while others find obstacles around every corner? Does "hybridity" exist or has this been transformed into market neo-populism? How can we defend ourselves against the steamroller effect of standardization (of industry or anything done in the name of "exotism")? The conservative lockout, the creation of pre-modern communities?

Can music, a space where we continue to weave links with others, find a way to express contemporary tensions without losing its tenderness, rage or beauty?

Wednesday 24 May, 2006
· 19:00 h.
Universalism from below.
Panel with the participation of:
Franco Ingrassia: Universalism as universalisation.
Monserrat Galcerán: Situated knowledge, shared universals.
Marta Malo: Specific universals against the borders of barbarianism.

How can we conceive a new universalism for an age marked by the hegemony of financial capital? If the functioning of the market does not make the world and consumption practices do not make social experiences, is there any chance that specific content and historical specification can be attributed to the term "universalism"?

The "depriving" effect of markets is a global process of de-universalisation that makes the elimination of roots the common contemporary experience. But can the eradication of roots be described as a common experience or rather as the generalised deprivation of common experiences? Should we refer to this as a type of "universal experience of the deprivation of common experience"? Whatever the case, the absence of ontological ground caused by contemporary mercantilisation is our starting point. We share a common problem of the disappearance of what is common.

This opens up the possibility of founding a new universalism capable of measuring up to contemporary mercantile fragmentation. No specific content, but rather an open and expansive dynamic, updated continually in the specific processes of universalisation present in the contemporary experiences of social self-organisation.

Experiences that reconstruct the intricacies of what is common without eliminating idiosyncrasies. In fact they do the opposite. These processes foster the continual development of social links that never stop, where the forms of (self)organisation are constantly redefined, where the experience of universalism coincides with the expansive process of the universalisation of rights, knowledge, production capacities, and material and immaterial resources to build common life.

Thursday 25 May, 2006
· 19:00 h.
Lecture by Antonio Lafuente: Cosmopolitics: technology, heritage and common wealth.

What is the Enlightenment? This is an age-old question. And there is still room for one more answer: the Enlightenment is the network formed by that immense proliferation of hybrids that clutter museums, gardens, libraries, together with all the protocols (virtual) and tools (material) that were used to value things and keep them as part of a (new) shared heritage.

Suddenly, cities are brimming with heterotopias, new spaces (buildings or crossroads) that proclaim their uniqueness and that protect rocks, plants, fabrics, machines, coins or glass objects. Simple, repeatable objects are converted into treasures that are proudly displayed to the public and upheld as emblems of botany, geology, archaeology, ethnography and engineering.

Therefore, objects represent distilled fragments of a common wealth that is supported by (and that itself supports!) new technologies and new values (truth, publicity, transparency, competence, objectivity, internationalism, rationality) which create different forms of sociability, from museums and gardens to newspapers, hospitals and balloon rides.

Museums (and all the paraphernalia of similar institutions) work like laboratories where experiments are performed with hybrids, either arranging and exhibiting them or linking them to one another or connecting them to the market. Whatever name we give them, our age is hungry to have institutions for experimenting with the new "commons", which is equivalent to: 1) identifying threatened areas in the environment; 2) controlling technologies that allow us to qualify uncertainty levels to improve governance; 3) designing areas where to experiment with hybrids (i.e. not with scientific objects but with hybrids) and cultivate the cities of new heterotopias.

It is important to remember that we are dealing with entities that, in addition to being produced (built) with new technologies, also share certain characteristics. For example: 1) they cannot fit into a building (but they can fit into a computer network); 2) they are transnational; 3) their identity is multi-natural; 4) they are associated with profound levels of uncertainty; 5) they represent global threats that would enable the rediscovery of human elements through a reconceptualisation of the living and the artificial.

* All the lectures will be open to the public.



Carlos Fernández Liria
He is a Professor of Philosophy at the Complutense University in Madrid. He has published the following books: Dejar de pensar (1986), Volver a pensar (1989), Sin vigilancia y sin castigo. Una discusión con Michel Foucault (1992), El materialismo (1998), and with other authors, La impaciencia de la libertad. Michel Foucault y lo político (2000) and Geometría y tragedia (2001). Recently he wrote about the resisting political reality in Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia in books published by Editorial Hiru. For many years he was a scriptwriter for "La bola de cristal" and he put subversive dialogue into the mouth of the mythical Bruja Avería.

Amador Fernández-Savater
He published Filosofía y acción (Santander, 1999) in 1999. He co-manages the magazine Archipiélago and the publishing company Acuarela, which explore the possible currents of a critically incorrect discourse. He collaborates regularly to the cultural supplement of the daily newspaper El País, the newspaper Diagonal and the magazine El Viejo Topo. He participates in social movements in Madrid.

Cecilia Flachsland
She published El Biombo for thirteen years. This was a free monthly rock magazine, a self-managed project that started with eight pages and developed into a noteworthy publication on the Argentine local rock scene. She participates in the Union of Independent Musicians, an organisation that represents around 600 bands from all round Argentina and which fights for better working conditions for self-managed musicians. She is currently teaching at middle schools, teacher training institutes and on the Communication Sciences Degree Course at the Faculty of Social Science at Buenos Aires University. She has written two published books: Pierre Bourdieu y el capital simbólico; and Rodolfo Walsh para principiantes.

Monserrat Galcerán
She has a degree in Classical Philology and Philosophy from the University of Barcelona, and a PhD in Philosophy from the Compultense University in Madrid (UCM). She has also studied in Heidelberg and Paris. From the late 1970s she participated actively in the anti-Francoist struggle. She is currently Dean of Philosophy at the Complutense University in Madrid, where she lives. She has published different books, including, most notably, La invención del marxismo (1997), Innovación tecnológica y sociedad de masas (1997) or Silencio y olvido; el pensar de Heidegger en los años 30 (2004). She has also made different written contributions to international repertoires on contemporary philosophy, Marxism and feminism, as well as a number of scripts for documentaries on philosophy. In recent years she has participated in new social movements, particularly following her active participation in the Study Group "Universidad Nómada/Globalización y Movimientos Sociales".

Franco Ingrassia
He participates actively in different social self-organisation experiences in Argentina and is currently carrying out research into the contemporary forms of production of subjectivity in dispersion conditions. As a collateral effect of these practices, he has participated in the preparation of certain articles published in magazines such as El Viejo Topo (Spain), Derive Approdi (Italy), Mute (England), Menos que Cero y El Rodaballo (Argentina). He currently belongs to the self-managed collective "Planeta X" and the Experimental Chair on the Production of Subjectivity.

Antonio Lafuente
He has a PhD in Physical Sciences and has been a Scientific Researcher at the Institute of History of the CSIC (Supreme Council of Scientific Research) since 1987. His recent publications include Elementos de la filosofía de Newton by Voltaire (Círculo de lectores, Barcelona, 1998), Guía del Madrid científico. Ciencia y corte (Madrid, 1998), the catalogue of the exhibition Monstruos y seres imaginarios (Aranjuez, 2000), Georges-Louis Leclerc, conde de Buffon (1707-1788) (Madrid, 1999) and Los públicos de la ciencia (Madrid, 2002). He is an associate editor of Quipu. Revista Latinoamericana de Historia de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (Mexico). He contributes regularly to Babelia (1999-2001), Blanco y Negro Cultural (2002-2003) and Periódico de Cataluña (2000-2003). He is co-director of the Novatores collection published by Editorial Nivela.

Marta Malo
She is a translator and social researcher and has been a militant in social networks in Lavapiés for 10 years. As a member of the militant research magazine "Contrapoder" she has just co-ordinated the collective publication entitled "Fronteras. Apuntes de Contrapoder I".