EASA2018: Staying, Moving, Settling

(P098)
Art and nativism [Anthropology and the Arts Network]
Location SO-B497
Date and Start Time 16 Aug, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Jonas Tinius (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) email
  • Roger Sansi (Universitat de Barcelona) email

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Discussant Prof Manuela Bojadžijev (Leuphana University of Lüneburg)

Short abstract

Over the last years, we witnessed a spread of nativist movements across the globe. Reacting to perceived threats of migration and globalisation, they frequently stress nation and belonging. What can we learn from the relations between art, identity, and mobility to think through such movements?

Long abstract

Over the last years, we have been witnessing a growth (and return) of nativist populist political movements across the globe. These movements react against perceived threats of globalisation, migration, and foreign influence.

Art is central to nativism. Like any political movement, nativism needs to perform and represent itself, to create images, myths, and rituals. The objective of this panel is to address the intersection of art and nativism.

While anthropologists have studied nativism for a long time (Linton 1940), they have mostly been concerned with ´minority' and 'native' populations whose cultural practices and societies were perceived to be under threat from, usually, Euro-American colonial and capitalist populations. Nowadays, paradoxically, nativist movements are spreading amongst the very white Euro-American populations that in the past were threatening these other 'native' societies. However, even if nativism today is commonly associated with anti-immigration right-wing movements, left-wing anti-globalisation movements also mobilise nativist arguments.

This panel proposes to think about nativism through art. Activist art has been associated with left-wing, liberal, and cosmopolitan politics, in theory the opposite of nativism, but often cosmopolitan art has been fascinated with native, minority, and "local" politics ("the ethnographic turn") in opposition to globalisation. But what is the relation between activist art and decolonial indigenous movements today? And new European nationalist movements? How do artistic practices intervene in the tense relation between migration, nativism, and citizenship; staying, moving, and settling? We invite papers from any ethnographic context willing to address these questions boldly and without prejudice.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Conservative Murals: Paintings for the Russian Nation on the Wall

Author: Petra Rethmann (McMaster University) email
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Short abstract

In the last few years in the center of Moscow a number of nineteenth-century paintings have been reproduced on the walls of houses. Together they narrate a story of Russian sovereignty and national strength. I trace how these reproductions mediate a desire for Russian nationness and nativism.

Long abstract

From 2011 - 2017, along Tverskaya Street and Kamergerskiy Pereulok in the center of Moscow, approximately twenty nineteenth-century paintings emerged on the walls of buildings and houses. Including reproductions of Ilya Repin's Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, Vasily Vereshchagin's At the Doors of a Mosque, and Leon Bakst's Portrait of Serge Diaghilev, with his Nanny, the paintings differed in subject matter and style, but together they narrated a story of Russian sovereignty and national strength (derzhava). In building on discussions with Russian curators and artists, in this talk I am interested in tracing how the on-the-wall public reproductions of Russian nineteenth-century paintings mediated a desire for nation-ness and at times undemocratic values.

Perhaps deliberately vague and challenging to define, in Russia conservatism indexes traditional, nativist, and supposedly non-Western values, including obshchina (togetherness, the lack of individualism) and sobornost' (spiritual community). As a political and governmental buzzword, conservatism particularly emerged after the spectacular 2011/12 political protests had failed to prevent Vladimir Putin from taking up his third presidential term. In this talk I am asking how and why art mediates conservative and nativist values, and how and why Russian governmental art institutions support curatorial practices associated with such values. I also ask about the relationship between democracy and art, especially if democracy is understood not as integral to good government, but rather as an irritating form of governance.

A Smiling Revolution: Aesthetics and Ethics of the Catalan Independence movement.

Author: Roger Sansi (Universitat de Barcelona) email
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Short abstract

The independence movement of Catalonia is very concerned with producing a positive international image. It has been presented as a "smiling revolution", peaceful and democratic, not exclusively nationalist. This presentation will look at this movement through some of its images and performances.

Long abstract

Since 2011, the independence movement has grown exponentially in Catalonia. A civil society association called Assamblea Nacional de Catalunya (ANC) emerged then as the organiser of massive demonstrations of the national day of Catalonia (11 of September) calling for independence. Since that year, the demonstrations of September 11 took different forms and shapes, from lines crossing the country to arrows, with a strong emphasis on the visual image produced, aiming for a big international repercussion. The objective of the movement is to have a positive international image, as a peaceful and democratic movement aiming for a " smiling revolution". In fact some of the adherents to movement claim not to be nationalist, but that they want a "new state", a Republic to overcome the Spanish Monarchy. On the other hand, some of its critics argue that the independence movement is deeply nationalist and even supremacist, proposing the superiority of ethnic Catalans over ethnic Spaniards in Catalonia. To address these conflicting views, in this presentation I will look at the production of images and performances by the independence movement, its aesthetics and ethics.

Art and Heimat: Cultural contestations of a (German) notion

Author: Jonas Tinius (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) email
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Short abstract

The concept of Heimat is deeply rooted in ideas about German identity and culture. Yet, there is hardly a more contested term, especially since the rise of new nativist movements. This paper reflects how art and anthropology position themselves in relation to this notion and its (re)appropriation.

Long abstract

Since the election of the current German government in late 2017, the term Heimat is officially part of the tasks of the German Ministry of the Interior and has received renewed attention. Yet what kinds of practices - religious, cultural, political - and groups of people this term implies is contested and subject of rewriting and reappropriation. For nationalist parties such as the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, currently third strongest force in the German parliament, questions about Heimat are fundamentally tied to national identity.

This paper draws on fieldwork with curators, artists, and theatre directors in Berlin and the Ruhr Valley, who critically engage with notions of Heimat, identity, and alterity. In particular, I wish to examine in what ways artistic and curatorial ways of thinking about identity beyond Heimat and nativism may reinvigorate anthropological understandings of culture, identity, and nation as well as the very understanding of the subject and focus of anthropology itself.

Westerners heading East : Valeska Grisebach's "Western" as an anthropological study of European nationalisms

Author: Maël Mubalegh (EHESS) email
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Short abstract

In her third feature film, "Western" (2017), Valeska Grisebach examines a "clash of the cultures" between Germany and Bulgaria. Interpreted through the concept of "Balkanism", the film can shed new light on the problem of nationalisms in our modern Europe.

Long abstract

When it comes to looking for an anthropological viewpoint among arthouse filmmakers, the first names to surface are often those of documentary film directors.

However, since nationalism and national identities are tightly bound to the myths and tales of the communities they relate to, their investigation may benefit even more from an explicitely fictitious approach.

Valeska Grisebach's "Western" (2017) examines a « clash of the cultures » between western and eastern Europe by reusing patterns from the classical hollywoodian western in a modern framework - a cinematographic genre which has always questioned the very foundation of the United States of America and therethrough its underlying nationalism.

Shooting as usual with non-professional actors, Grisebach follows a group of German construction workers who have been sent to Bulgaria in order to build a small power plant in the local countryside. Most of them are behaving in way that seems rough, assuming they are bringing civilisation to a withdrawn area which has so far remained in the margins of the European Union. This unfriendly arrival gradually triggers patriotic and nationalistic feelings on both the Westerners' and the Easterners' sides.

By interpreting Grisebach's film through - among others - the concept of « Balkanism » made up by Maria Todorova in her magnum opus "Imagining the Balkans", the aim is to demonstrate to which extent a contemporary work of fiction, bearing an anthropological ambition, can shed new light on the problem of nationalisms in our modern Europe.

The speculative native: Art and complicity in the settler colony

Author: Kiven Strohm (National University of Singapore) email
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Short abstract

I consider the refiguration of nativism within contemporary Palestinian art. Animating these artworks are "everyday things" whose most striking feature is an unambiguous complicity with a settler colony. I trace this process of refiguration as an experimentation in settler colonial subjectivity.

Long abstract

Historically, nativism has assumed different modes within Palestine, serving both as a source of legitimation of distinctive cultural identity within greater Syria in the early 20th century to its role within a national movement set against a settler colonial project in the wake of 1948. Alongside and informing such modes of nativism, Palestinian art, often employed as the handmaiden of these cultural and national agendas and narratives, frequently evinced the native within the figures of the fellaheen and the land/scape itself. In this paper I consider the refiguration of nativism within contemporary Palestinian art. Being articulated in these contemporary art practices is a mode of nativism no longer tethered and bound to narratives of cultural and national identity. Rather, animating these works of art are a succession of evocative "everyday things" whose most striking feature is an unambiguous complicity with a settler colony. Unlike the primordial artefacts of the nativist that can easily be slotted into various cultural and national agendas, these artworks are improvisations of the native that have not been formally narrativized. As such, they call to us, asking us to take notice but do not provide a script. I follow a number of artworks to map out these movements between these everyday things and their remediation as/within art as a process of refiguring the native within the settler colony. They invite, I argue, the refiguring of nativism through an experimentation in settler colonial subjectivity: the speculative native.

Indigenous Art against Extractivism in North America.

Author: Aurélie Journée (EHESS) email
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Short abstract

Our paper questions how the last Indigenous resistance movements in the USA and Canada against extractivism projects deal with white majority, local migrations and artistic practices, through the examples of the pipelines DAPL (Standing Rock Reservation) and Kinder Morgan (Secwepemc Nation).

Long abstract

From April 2016 to February 2017, one of the most important Indigenous gatherings took place in the Sioux Reservation of Standing Rock (North Dakota, USA). More than 300 tribes joined together to fight the DAPL pipeline project (now built). In parallel, since June 2017, another Indigenous resistance movement grows up in the Secwepemc Nation (Canada) against the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

These projects have much in common. They impulse local migrations from the inside of the country; secondly, they are associated to Indigenous artistic practices. At Standing Rock was an art tent dedicated to the creation of screen printings for the Water Protectors can put it everywhere and dress it. The designs were made by Indigenous artists like Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch (Anishinabe). Art was a pacific way to express social and political claims during direct actions. Art still permits to Indigenous peoples to diffuse messages about their rights and their opposition to the building of other extractivism projects, like Kinder Morgan. The same artists are organizing art-actions in front of the main banks of North America to convince them to divest from these projects. Moreover, Indigenous artists develop new practices which mix architecture and paintings (the "Warriors Tiny Houses Project": some tiny painted houses are put on the road that would follow the Kinder Morgan Pipeline).

Then, these projects highlight the relationships between politics and Euro-American liberal economy which is based on the non-respect of the treaties signed with Indigenous peoples during the last centuries.

Stepping into 'Other' Shoes: Ethnografictional Routes to Counter Nativism

Author: Ellen Wiles (University of Stirling) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the potential of ethnografiction to counter nativism by enabling readers to step into 'other' shoes and travel through narratives that engage the emotional, sensory, embodied elements of experience, confronting nativist narratives en route.

Long abstract

This paper explores the potential of ethnografiction (Wulff, 2014) to counter nativism by enabling readers to step into 'other' shoes and travel through stories that engage the emotional, sensory, embodied, affective, temporal, psychological and multivocal elements of experience, crossing multiple imagined borders.

In writing her novel The Invisible Crowd (2017), Ellen Wiles drew upon experience as a barrister and volunteer, as well as in-depth research, to write about an Eritrean asylum seeker. The project had both creative and activist motivations, and the narrative form arose in part out of the prevailing nativist narratives' omission of the phenomenological complexity of asylum seekers' experiences. This paper discusses the writing process and the role of literary ethnographic narratives in the context of nativism.

Art, Nationalism and Nativism in Post Genocide Rwanda

Author: Erika Dahlmanns (Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation) email
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Short abstract

Art has become to play a vital role for re/defining and reviving »Rwandan culture« as a means for dealing with the past and shaping societal future. The paper explores the government´s understanding of art and the culture-symbolism in art works as facets of a Rwandan nativism and nationalism.

Long abstract

In Rwanda, art has become to play a vital role for re/defining and reviving »Rwandan culture« and identity, mirroring the government´s attempt to unify a society marked by conflict, genocide and migration. Based on the government´s political narrative of a nation stained and harmed by colonial infulences, the importance of art (including fine arts, songs and theatrical performances) is seen a. o. in its potential to rediscover and revive a genuine culture, to strengthen the new national order and to educate proud, moral and committed citizens as a means for dealing with the past and for shaping societal future. Based on field work with artists and in government institutions in Rwanda (2008-2011), this paper explores the specific understanding of arts and artists in Rwanda´s cultural policy as well as characteristics of the culture-symbolism present in art works as facets of a Rwandan nativism and nationalism.

Carrying hand gestures: spiritual souvenir in Wixarika jewelry

Author: Ingrid Arriaga (EHESS) email
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Short abstract

The most precious material left after Wixarika (Huichol) ceremonies is the jewelry produced by this indigenous group. Purchased and then carried by participants of these ceremonies, the pearl objects seem to crystallize and disseminate diverse spiritual expectations and understandings.

Long abstract

Surrounded by a renewal of indigenous spiritualities linked to ecological conscience, the Wixaritari (Huichols) have increased their spiritual activity for foreigners in the last decade. This Mexican indigenous group possesses an animated and robust communitarian traditional culture, thought today almost half of their population has migrated to urban centers.

However, Wixarika mobility is motivated by more than mere economic reasons. Movement is as well an essential part of Wixarika spirituality and ritual practice. Every year, selected community members become pilgrims to visit their sacred sites and prepare handmade offerings rich in symbolic and sacred content.

Among many other practices related to circulation, spiritual services and art commerce for foreigners have been a pillar of economic support for Wixaritari since the 1950s. Spiritual ceremonies, commonly known as "limpias" have become very popular in big and touristic cities where indigenous spirituality is perceived as a vibrant product. After the ceremonies take place, the shaman or his helpers offer "artesania" to the participants. Often with the hope of extending their experience, participants become clear customers and purchase souvenir jewelry. Today, Nativism and New Age networks seem to be an important economic niche for Wixarika Jewerly.

Life of necklaces, bracelets, earrings and miniature sculptures seem to be analog to Wixarika individuals. Moreover, iconography weaved within these pearled objects narrates Wixarika Mythology and in its circulation builds bridges between distant cosmogonies. What can the circulation of this jewelry reveal about the probable and pragmatic links between contemporary nomadic spirituality, commerce and aesthetics?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.