It could be different, but it is possible this way too ….
These are words of the last e-mail before the INKRIT-meeting, gathering for some general debates, and mainly working on the Historical-Critical Dictionary Marxism, referring to Brecht’s Three-Penny Opera.
The location of a rather intense couple of days: Esslingen, a small town, or even village in the proximity of Stuttgart, in Southern German. Writing: or even village means that I actually didn’t see it. Arriving there by train Wednesday night, I took the bus to a remote conference-hotel, not really seeing anything of the place. And remote means remote, giving an exciting view: the (low) mountains, the valley covered by the raising fog – a carpet – seen from the height, a ceiling from the other side … It actually is different, depending on the side from which we look.
The usual ‘regular verb’ behaviour, the meeting in of the editorial board of The Argument as new field of activities and then the workshops. A rather interesting, not to say exciting work. Discussions that seem to be as remote even from our daily academic work as the Jaegerhof and even Esslingen. And although the debates are intense, it is in some way relaxing: concentrated on such a wide range of areas as Human Rights to Laughing, as life conduct to courtesan ….. And ranging as wide rural exodus – a term in itself so varied if looked at by the colleagues from Germany or Cuba and Brazil.
And relaxing in any case, being directly engaged – ex officio so to say – with Étienne Balibar on whose draft I comment or as listener, just ordinary participant. And as relaxed as all this is, as open the debate is there is surely also the tension. How to describe it? Between those who own all the experience simply due to age and those who have all impartiality on their side – sure one may also say: the claim of authority versus, or going hand in hand with gormlessness, and the deadlock engaging with innovativeness. The productive tensions as well, growing out of so different people meeting there: Brasil, Cuba, Germany, Italy, France …; villages, large cities ….
Yes, all could be different. And perhaps that is what makes it so inviting: A tension one can perceive as relaxing in its open way, as it aims on producing something new, aims on making a difference rather than continuing to move along, the dogtrot. So remote, even the tensions being so remote that I only mentioning its actual meaning after Mehmet dropped me at Stuttgart’s train station. First plans for future collaboration – the hug when we say farewell – knowing it is this way possible too. And emerging in relaxed atmosphere around Stuttgart’s train-station: people enjoying the sun, licking ice or sitting in the sun” the German Sunday-tradition: “coffee and cake” ….
… and the flowers in front of the station: a reminder: Stuttgart 21 – not always as peaceful as it appears on the Sunday afternoon, not always as remote from daily quarrels as it suggests this sunny afternoon. And I feel as well how important all these apparently purely academic debates are in order to make sense, to change such reality.
It could be different, but it is possible this way too …. – and to make it possible that the daily, centered around commodities, consumption, so-called performance possible in everyday’s life we need the remoteness: clear, concise thinking: exhausting, focused, provoking to contradict and not allowing any contradiction.
It is also something that is so simple, and so difficult to achieve. An excellent, energising experience – though showing how remote we are ourselves from really living it, maintaing so many illusions, voluntarily chosen subordinations and authoritative deification. But at least there is an open field for contest – from which academic life distanced itself so much.
All has to be different, it only pretends to be possible this way too …