Beyond Repair: An Anti-Racist Praxeology of Curating

The exhibition conceived in 2014 by Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany) in Bonn, on the topic of Germany as an immigration country, was titled Immer bunter, which translates as “ever more colourful”. In 2016 the exhibition travelled to the German Historical Museum in Berlin. In the context of immigration in 2014, even the term “bunt” (colourful) on its own had a certain trivialising and trite ring to it. But what was even more baffling was how this was illustrated on the exhibition poster, with visual tropes drawn straight from the “Multikulti” (“multicultural”) discourse of the 1990s in Germany: a corner store with bright adverts on its outer walls advertising kebabs, “Vietnamese specialties” and hookah. On the one hand, this poster was clearly based on a culinary notion of ​​society; this representation had already been criticised two decades earlier for representing immigration as a backdrop of “digestible” enjoyment for the native audience. On the other hand, its visuals reduce the effects of migration to a few superficial clichés: the poster’s visual statement didn’t include the far-reaching effects of the post-migration turn, nor did it represent the game developers, trade union presidents, judges, doctors, or real estate agents with a so-called “migration background”.

The exhibition itself was just as problematic. Upon entering the exhibition space of the Berlin exhibition, the first thing that visitors found themselves faced with was a huge photograph of five half-naked “Mediterranean”-looking men. Another man, fully clothed and noticeably taller, was leaning down to inspect their genitals. Above, the words: “Wanted: 50 male workers […] recruitment agency contract, Spanish workers, 1961.” The photo is from A Seventh Man – Migrant Workers in Europe, a famous book by photographer Jean Mohr and writer John Berger, published in Germany in 1976. Mohr and Berger were anxious to tell a story that departed from the official narrative, and to show the individuals in the photographs as active participants in each given context. However, using this image in the exhibition objectified these men. Would someone who had come to Germany as a “Gastarbeiter” (“guest worker”) want to see themselves represented like this in the exhibition? Would descendants of these immigrants want to see their fathers or grandfathers like this, subjected to fitness tests?

The fact that this photograph was a loan from the DOMiD (Dokumentationszentrum und Museum über die Migration in Deutschland, Documentation Centre and Museum on Migration in Germany) makes this reversal of its original context even more bizarre. This organisation was founded in 1990 by journalists and intellectuals who had immigrated from Turkey precisely in order to centre the visions and memories of former migrants. Even though DOMiD offered to collaborate on the content of the exhibition, Immer bunter did not address these perspectives at all in this exhibition. Instead the exhibition’s position was that of the Federal Republic of Germany. In this narrative, the real subject of the story is Germany. The story begins with Germany putting out a call for foreign workers, who dutifully answer the call and come to Germany; the story ends with these workers having made the society more “colourful”. While rather abstract, this perspective nonetheless provided the viewer with an angle to identify with. Indeed, this purported position of “objectivity” was represented by the makers of the exhibition themselves – professors and PhDs who, oddly, were not specifically experts in ​​the field of migration. At the same time, the typical demographic of visitors to German museums – well-educated, middle-class Germans without so called “migration background” and school classes from the German bourgeois educational apparatus – were granted a look at “their” country from a position of professed “objectivity” seen as intrinsic to that country: “We” observe what happened when “they” entered “our” society. Consequently, the exhibition focuses more on the prominently placed “Zündapp” moped, which was a gift to the millionth “guest worker”, than on the actual person it was given to. This person was Armando Rodrigues de Sá, who died of the health effects of the heavy industrial labour he had done for his “host” country, aged 53. Throughout the exhibition, the immigrants’ subjectivity is hardly acknowledged: the only people represented as full individuals with their own story are those held up as model examples of “successful integration”.

Given the abundance of cultural productions and events that engage with the topic of migration, it may seem unfair to harp on about this extraordinarily bad exhibition. But its fundamental approach exemplifies a number of problems that are often seen in many visual culture projects and that stand in sharp contrast to the principles of “anti-racist curating”.

In the German-speaking museum field, “curating” often just stands for an extremely traditional idea of ​​scientific “objectivity”, disregarding the fact that, almost invariably, this objective approach produces a perspective that is nation-centred, state-aligned and bourgeois, especially in the case of historical exhibitions. “Scientificality” is the credo that is almost always invoked when interviewed about how this so-called “objectivity” is defined and what it aims for. Meanwhile, museum methodologies (and their system of references) have shown themselves to be self-serving and to subscribe to a definition of science that fails to consider paradigm shifts, contemporary debates or new modes of scientific work.

This perspective is produced in a social bubble, a close circuit made up of government agencies, “museum authorities”, academic elites and a public recruited from the same social groups. In the museum field, it seems to be very difficult to think outside of this bubble.

Approaches and foundations of anti-racist curating

For curating to be anti-racist, however, it first needs to consider both subjectivity and processes of subjectification, and needs to ensure multiperspectivity. It is crucial to explore and question all narratives and exhibits of an exhibition along different lines of inquiry. Whose history is being told? Whose perspective is being privileged? What kind of images are presented? Who reads these images and how? How have the exhibits been generated? How are the texts created? Do the narratives and images empower groups that have hitherto been either underrepresented or represented in a way that objectifies them? While these are essentially the very same questions that have – for a long time already – been guiding the discussions about “history from below” as well as feminist and postcolonial historiography, it seems that they keep being actively forgotten.

These kinds of approaches break free from the dictum of legitimised “objectivity”, but this does not mean that they do not stick to scientific standards. In fact, the opposite applies: for the work of knowledge production to be thorough and to follow lines of inquiry that critique representation, it must, methodologically speaking, operate according to a very precise, tried-and-tested working method that diligently expands and reflects on its own approaches and processes of knowledge formation, in order to avoid becoming a stereotype.

By contrast, commercial products such as US television shows afford such multiperspectivity and subjectification with ease. The protagonists are diverse in terms of their social position, background, and gender, and the story lines always offer an exploration of their diversity. This approach is mainly a commercial move for the financial benefits of the producers. These shows don’t aim to subjectify with a hammer or to rigidly deploy principles of multiperspectivity according to critical angles of representation. Nonetheless these shows prove that it is possible to convey complexity to a very broad audience.

In the museum, societal plurality had initially been identified and located solely in the field of education, which is still today the primary field that deals with questions of migration. However, a recent self-evaluation conducted by the British Tate museum group found out that Tate Britain in London had made a number of mistakes in regards to cultural diversity, such as developing special educational programmes that targeted specific ethnic groups. Not only did the targeted “minority” groups not participate in these programmes – they actively rejected them. They were not interested in being presented with an outside representation of “their” ethnic identity nor did they care about simplistic postcolonial revisions of art history aimed at incorporating their respective places of origin. What they wanted was, quite simply, more complex representations.[1]Cf. Andrew Dewdney et al., Britishness and Visual Culture, London, 2011.

Same same but different

Actually, what would be the “anti-racist” part of anti-racist curating? First of all, it should be pointed out that in a democratic society, this is not something that falls into a nice-to-have category. In fact, the term “anti-racist curating” is a tautology: within a society founded on the principles of legal equality and democratic participation, there can be no such thing as racist curating. In this text racism is understood as a system of social inequality, as a separation into “us” and “them” that works like an apparatus or dispositif in which exclusionary practices and processes of knowledge formation are interdependent and buttress to one another.[2]Cf. Mark Terkessidis, Psychologie des Rassismus, Opladen / Wiesbaden 1998, p. 74-81. Exclusionary practices are understood as the material discrimination of certain groups in society in regards to the distribution of services and resources, as well as the considerable over- or under-representation within the social hierarchy. The term “racialisation” denotes a process of knowledge formation that explains and legitimises the disadvantages produced by exclusionary practices, which should not exist in a democratic society. Its rationales discriminations with this explanation: certain groups of people have not reached equality is due to their alleged inherent negative characteristics, such as lower intelligence, lack of ambition or even laziness.

The “racist knowledge” we are speaking of is more than just “prejudice” and false judgements of misguided individuals: it is a repository of social knowledge. This knowledge operates like an inverted mirror: if one wants to see one’s “own” society as civilised, peaceful, nonviolent, philosemitic, non-sexist and gay-friendly, then the Others will be seen as inherently uncivilised, cruel, violent, anti-semitic, oppressive to women and queer people. The structural analysis of “racist knowledge” doesn’t focus on whether or not people who are categorized to certain groups according to certain stereotypes dis-/agree with these stereotypes in relation to their own or other perceived groups. The analysis is more concerned with the process of racialisation, which defines a group of people as a natural group according to certain characteristics, and, in addition, articulates their perceived essence in relation to one’s own percieved group.

Therefore, anti-racist curating must follow a twofold path. On the one hand, it must counter exclusionary practices, especially if the exhibition, understood as a “service”, is funded by government grants intended to benefit the entire population.

At present, institutions are far from being inclusive: all studies show that only five to ten percent of the population are regular visitors to these institutions, and out of these, most are educated Germans who belong to educated middle-class majorities. This does not mean that these visitors are a homogeneous demographic group – they are made up of very different social milieus, each formed around specific situations, that each have different expectations when it comes to exhibitions.

The argument frequently invoked in cultural institutions in German-speaking countries is that “culture” is a programme designed for the elite that does not reach the lower classes. According to this position, the popular slogan of the “new cultural policy” movement of the 1970s, “Kultur für alle” (culture for all), is just not realistic.

The veracity of this claim need not be discussed here, since this argument does not absolve curating from having to constantly work towards creating conditions for “accessibility”. This does not mean that a curator would have to negate their own authority or focus on the smallest common denominator of popular taste. It is also not about the the audience per se, nor about “audience development” – it is about the process of curating itself. This approach allows many points of access, engagement and collaboration to be created, for example when developing the idea, establishing the concept, thinking about how to convey them, during technical planning, exhibition set-up, etc. Therefore the task is to pull curating out of this bubble. However, curating has its own limits: it cannot transform existing and historical social inequality. Anti-racist curating must be careful not to be instrumentalised as a propaganda tool or touted as an easy solution to the problem of racism in society. The crucial point is that the process of curating must ensure to be anti-racist. From here, it can become one of the several necessary social points of departure, through which curating practices work towards social equality.

Working with the assembly

Another argument frequently mentioned against such efforts to open up the curatorial practice claims that the realm of ​​the aesthetic infringes upon the freedom of art. German law defines freedom of art as an asset that must be protected and supported. So far however, lawmakers have failed to consider whose art it is that actually enjoys this freedom. The criteria for defining what a “cultural asset” is are extremely vague and are themselves part of broader social arrangements. If cultural institutions are used only by a relatively small group of people, this group then constitutes a network that doubles the social pool to which the art professionals belong whom these institutions serve as a platform.

When Mustafa Akça started the project Türkisch – Oper kann das at the Komische Oper in Berlin in 2011, he noticed that there was not a single child of Turkish origin in the opera’s children’s choir. This seemed astonishing, given the vast number of people of Turkish descent living in Berlin: how, he wondered, had the opera managed to keep away all the potential candidates? It had to do, of course, with the networks that institutions of high culture usually tap into for recruiting young talent. This illustrates how important it is to expand the milieu of art professionals.

In an exhibition itself it is also crucial to pay attention to the processes of knowledge formation and knowledge per se, i.e. anti-racist curating must avoid objectification and racialisation. To ensure this, collaboration is essential. While objectification and racialisation can certainly be identified relatively easily when they occur from a normative perspective, this normative perspective – equality, democracy – may still fail to recognise the subjective aspects due to its “colourblindness”. The makers of the exhibition Immer bunter would certainly ascribe to these values. However, collaborative work with a broader scope could have helped to not only question their own perspective, but to also bring into equation what Michel Foucault calls “subjugated knowledges”, i.e. “unqualified, even directly disqualified knowledges […] which involve what I would call a popular knowledge (le savoir des gens) though it is far from being a general commonsense knowledge, but is on the contrary a particular, local, regional knowledge, a differential knowledge incapable of unanimity and which owes its force only to the harshness with which it is opposed to everything surrounding it.”[3]Michel Foucault, “Historical Knowledge of Struggles, Genealogies, and Scientific Discourse” in: Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon. New York: … Continue reading Foucault cites as example the knowledge of the psychiatric patient, of the ill person, and also of nurses and doctors if it their knowledge differs from that of medicine. In regards to anti-racist curating, we are speaking about knowledge that, by virtue of the marginalisation of its perspective, affords an insight into the mechanics of objectification and racialisation.

Like many other migrant artists, Dragutin Trumbetaš has chronicled the transformation in the everyday life, work and urbanity of guest workers with artistic methods. In the 1970s he developed for his graphic work about Frankfurt am Main a unique artistic mode of representation as well as his own repertoire of research methods. This kind of perspective from the “periphery” right within the centre had been sorely missing in official representations. Migrant artists in Germany had only been semi-visible, their work pigeonholed as “guest worker” art, “foreigner” art or “intercultural art”, which at best only some marginal socio-culture centers (or some other catch-all othering protagonists) would deal with. Some of these artists rejected these straitjackets, resisted curatorial encroachment on their own work, and demanded the right to self-define; Trumbetaš, for example, pulled out of an exhibition right before the opening.

Several “struggles of migration” (Manuela Bojadžijev) have taken place in German-speaking Europe, but none of these gave rise to a large-scale movement comparable to those in the US, nor did they produce interpretational criteria (for racism) or historical remembrance of social struggles and social exclusion.

Collaboration is a principle that makes excellent sense in order to create multi-perspectival knowledge and to deal with this gap curatorially. In the context of cultural work, however, close attention must be paid to collaboration in order to avoid the common risk of only involving people and organisations that form a buttressing perspective of hegemony from the get-go, and who are not concerned with equality and inclusion.

Curating the overflow of knowledge

What critiques of cultural institutions and migrants’ struggles for their right to determine representations of themselves, to break up the hierarchy of knowledge processes and to bring about changes in staff have shown is that official platforms of representation do not relate enough to the multiplicity of subjectivities that are present within a society. Who participates in the process of designing visions for another, new museum, and how do they go about it? How can a fair distribution in the production of multiperspectivity be ensured?

Despite being commonly placed in categorical margins, many cultural forms and platforms have developed over time. They generate new and intriguing concepts for cultural work by using multiperspectival narratives, de-hierarchised approaches to history and self-determined historiographies and modes of representations.

DOMiD had already acquired Trumbetaš’ work when the organisation was first established, as part of their growing collection of documents and objects that were to form the basis for their idea of a Museum of Migration in Germany. From the very beginning it had been conceived as a museum not for and about migrants, but about Germany as an immigration country, in order to allow for a new culture of remembrance. Aytaç Eryılmaz, one of the founders and DOMiD’s first director, stressed that the organisation was aiming for a completely different museum, a “laboratory for migrant self-empowerment and participation”[4]Aytaç Eryılmaz, “Ein Migrationsmuseum in Deutschland – kulturpolitische und soziale Bedeutung” [Cultural-Political and Social Significance of a Museum of Migration in Germany], paper … Continue reading and a space of equal rights to authorship. From 2015 new strategic steps were taken towards realising the museum project; its updated concept is now a thematic park and a group of buildings on a bridge.[5]Cf. DOMiD e.V., Auf dem Weg. Ein Forum für die Zukunft: Das zentrale Migrationsmuseum [On the Way. A Forum for the Future: The Central Museum of Migration], Köln 2016.

In hindsight it becomes clear that with the DOMiD museum project, the initial idea, the latest concept, and everything in-between emerged from networked collaboration in different constellations.

This work style also characterizes the association Génériques, founded in 1987 in France by immigrants, political activist intellectuals for the most part, in order to conduct research and act as an umbrella organisation for cultural projects on migration in France. From the outset, the association’s work has been multi-pronged and operating on multiple levels. In addition to running their own exhibitions, collections and research work, Génériques also acts as consultant for private individuals and small organisations across the country about questions of archiving and advises them on how to develop their own sources. Through their cooperation with these local groups as well as with national organisations, Génériques has been able to create a wide range of possibilities for research, storage and professionalisation. Networking has proven to be a useful strategy to expand the scope for action. Through networking and collaboration, DOMiD and Génériques were able to expand their collections and to multiply research activities.

Textures for shifts

Self-organised, small and non-centralised projects and platforms often have no other choice but to practice multiplication at different levels, given their very limited resources. The organisational diagram of Theater X in Berlin for example is not a pyramid with only one person at the top with exclusive decision-making powers. Instead, Theater X is led by a working group of young people who collectively decide on all areas of the theatre, decisions regarding the central affairs are taken by the young people and employees of the JugendtheaterBüro Berlin together, as a cooperative company.

Similarly, Wienwoche, an arts and culture festival in Vienna, is also collectively helmed by several people who are jointly responsible for artistic direction and management. For its annual festival, the team publishes an open call that explicitly addresses: “artists, workers, refugees, cultural workers, activists, researchers, students, immigrants, unemployed people, regardless of citizenship, residence permit or work permit, of any gender, age or size” to take part in Wienwoche.[6] (08.01.2017). The website provides a great deal of detailed information about the application process and criteria, the selection process and the jury as concrete measures to facilitate the participation of cultural creators with little or no previous experience in the fields of arts and culture. In addition, the management team holds public information sessions, offer consultation services for the applicants, and support participants throughout the production process. The festival is not about predefined artistic aspects, but about processes that create spaces for socio-political action.

There are more experiences and interesting examples of this type of collaboration in the US – for example the exhibition Chicano Art. Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985, at the Wight Art Gallery, at UCLA.[7]Cf. Richard Griswold del Castillo, Teresa McKenna, Yvonne Yarbro-Bejerano (eds.), Chicano Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985, Los Angeles 1991. For over a year, the exhibition’s “Advisory Committee” was made up of forty to fifty “Chicano scholars, artists, and administrators”. They determined a basic curatorial framework that stipulated that the focus would be on art (rather than ethnic artefacts) and that “Chicano sensibility” would be integral to the installation, design and communication aspects. As these demands had came out of the highly politicized Chicano movement in the US, the participants were evidently highly aware of and well-trained in the issues at stake.

Collaborative curating

In the cultural and institutional framework of a museum, collaborative curating shifts the focus away from the final product and towards processes of emergence. If a museum aims to look beyond its own backyard, to have positive effects and to be meaningful for a broader social spectrum, it must begin by departing from the current routine procedures utilized while developing museum displays.

This was particularly evident when working on a museum display about the ruthless series of murders and bomb attacks committed by the NSU, the so-called National Socialist Underground. Until the murderers were finally exposed in 2011, it had been the victims and their relatives who were suspected of having committed these crimes – despite the total absence of evidence – and accused of being entangled in criminal dealings “among migrants”. Despite all investigations in this direction coming to a dead end, authorities ignored the many statements pointing to the actual perpetrators and their links to far-right terrorist circles. They also delegitimised hypotheses that had been voiced that these were racist hate crimes. The politics of the gaze that arose in regards to these crimes was based on state authorities or bodies representing the state ostracising the victims from any legitimate belonging to German society and defining them as imagined outsiders. The victims’ families were severely effected by the consequences of how institutional racism was reiterated in the criminal proceedings and the media representations: they suffered long-term social stigma and exclusion, which, in turn, continue to shape narratives of the “NSU complex” and the ongoing examination about facts and backgrounds. To this day the perspectives of the victims, their families and communities remain marginalised. So far most media reports and art projects have primarily focused on individual perpetrators rather than to recognize structural large-scale state failure while objectifying the victims.

Curating can only develop a mode of representation that fractures the allegedly “objective” perspective (that turned out to be one-sided and completely wrong) on the basis of unconditional inclusion of the parties that had hitherto been erased and silenced. Only then it can allow for other cultural subjectivities to become manifest. When developing the concept for an exhibition display at the Munich City Museum (Münchner Stadtmuseum), curator Natalie Bayer (co-author of this article) chose the knowledge and questions of the families of the two Munich men murdered by the NSU as a departure point. Why, they asked, had Theodoros Boulgarides and Habil Kılıç been chosen to be killed, of all people? Why these two rather inconspicuous citizens based in unspecific urban locations in Munich? Why did society choose to ignore clear indications that racist motives were obviously at play in these murders? Why have people who recognise and call out institutional racism systematically been ignored and sidelined – and continue to be – for being migrant voices? Why did the normalization of racist violence in Germany manifest itself even in the language used to describe the series of murders?[8]Translator’s note: The NSU murders were dubbed “Döner-Morde” in the press, which translates as “the döner kebab murders” – a trivialising, clichéd and racist designation. Who do the right-wing terrorist murders and attacks aim to address?

Curatorially, the first step was to reach out personally to the victims’ relatives, who had experienced state institutions to be very untrustworthy. This way, the idea of ​​historicising the murders of family members in a museum, as a public narrative, became something that needed to be discussed and explained. This idea became an object of negotiations that required transparency about the institutional process and solutions to new challenges: How is history written on the exhibition stage and behind the scenes? How can the authority to make decisions about personal mementos remain in the hands of their owners when the design of the institutional framework does not provide for this?

By working together, the museum staff and families found a way to address these questions that are not usually dealt with at all in regular museum procedures. Despite the restrictive framework, collaboration made it possible for the bereaved and the curator to be actively involved in developing the display and to make decisions regarding content, exhibits as well as the display’s placement within the museum. The position assumed by the murder victims’ relatives was almost like the other museum employees; while working on the display they were also vested with the authority to negotiate meaning, for instance in regards to the production of all texts in the exhibition.

New frameworks for anti-racist cultural institutions

In anti-racist curating, participants collaboratively develop ways for displays to convey meanings and narratives that depart from the classic principle of self-contained explanations. What does it mean to work “collaboratively” when the power to act and make decisions is bound up in a hierarchy? Theodoros Boulgarides’ relatives did not expect the curators to work in this way. They did not insist on creating the narratives and the visual presentation themselves, nor did they want gestures towards a symbolic repair of an irretrievable loss. Rather, they repeatedly asked the cultural institution the question “why?”. This allowed for a dialogue to emerge that is still ongoing, in which the positions of who is speaking and who is listening, who is creating and who is observing are not fixed, in which these roles remain flexible. For the museum employee working on this project, Natalie Bayer, collaborative curating does not mean placing ideas, concepts and one’s own position either behind or in front of the subjectivities involved, but rather side by side, in order to work together.[9]Ayşe Güleç, co-founder of Initiative 6. April and the action group NSU- Komplex auflösen, describes her approach in similar terms The exhibition at the Munich City Museum does not pretend to speak for the victims’ families and communities, nor to be able to redress the injustice. Yet the narrative articulated through the display does not fix the people who have come to harm into positions of passive victims. Rather, it gathers the knowledge of different people who are pushed to the margins in relation to the NSU complex, and, in doing so, showcases hitherto unheard urban and historical dimensions of Munich as a migration city.

Therefore, collaborative curating aims to de-monopolise a museum’s practice and structure. To this end, organisations must be flexible and “pliable”, and must be able to break through restrictive, closed and predetermined sequences. In collaboration, the focus lies on the process that takes place before the exhibition concept is drafted, before the displays are designed, and before the museum narrative is articulated. Consequently, such a museum practice develops an administrative correlation that takes into account the positions of everyone involved. This inevitably produces situational shifts and role changes. This kind of anti-racist curating is therefore best understood as an ever-evolving praxis of asking questions, searching, and correlating.

One can only speculate as to whether collaborative curating can really influence and change societal structures, policies and debates, and how. “Reprogramming” curating in the museum towards an anti-racist, equitable society can be an attempt and an exercise in changing the architecture of governance and in shifting power relations. However, when considering the dynamics of collaboration, as long as access to social, cultural and economic resources remains unequal, the inequity in relation to who can even speak must be acknowledged.

And yet it is possible to act in accordance with explicitly anti-racist objectives and methods within the structure of a museum. The potential of collaborative curating lies in its ability to bring together many different individuals and to multiply the different positions they represent. However, new forms of organisation must be developed in order to accommodate the knowledge, the overflowing wealth of ideas and pronounced desire to act of marginalised people, whose presence and contributions are so urgently needed in cultural institutions. The apprehensions often voiced in regards to this way of working – the idea that such an approach misses the point of a museum’s purpose and scope, or might lead to “diminished scholarly or artistic quality” – are based on rigid, antiquated views of the museum as a self-contained box. But it is more important now than ever to restructure the museum, given the current exacerbation of social rifts along inherited, updated and new forms of racism. Likewise, the structure of representation is becoming more and more inadequate, since the very ideas of representation of standing in for someone or something, portraying and uniting one entity are still based on a selective, reductionist and limiting definition of what a “group” is. Modern democracy might afford a certain heterogeneity in this regard, but one that remains limited by certain predefined criteria, and thus does not offer the necessary space for real ebullient plurality.

Collaborative curating thus allows for organising curated collaboration and non-reduction. In cultural institutions sincerely dedicated to this principle there would be no need for explicitly anti-racist curating, as it would be a given. In that case the focus would be on shared interests, in terms of content, ideas, improvements and changes – and, above all, on doing exciting cultural work.

Natalie Bayer, Mark Terkessidis


This text was first published in German under the title “Über das Reparieren hinaus – Eine antirassistische Praxeologie des Kuratierens” in: Kuratieren als antirassistische Praxis (Curating as an antiracist practice), edited by Natalie Bayer, Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński, Nora Sternfeld. Berlin/Boston 2017: De Gruyter. ISBN: 978-3-11-054306-3.

The volume Curating as an Anti-Racist Practice reflects on museums and exhibitions by approaching them through postcolonial museology and theories from critical border and migration regime research. In assembling strategies and forms of action that allow for tactics and strategies of anti-racist practice in curating, the anthology goes beyond mere critical analysis. Looking at the power of agency the authors focus on relations of social struggles for and against representation. Curating as an Anti-Racist Practice presents texts and artistic contributions by Kemi Bassene; Natalie Bayer, Mark Terkessidis; Imayna Caceres, Sunanda Mesquita, Sophie Utikal; Nuray Demir, Nanna Heidenreich; Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, Minna Henriksson; Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński, Thomas J. Lax; Verena Melgarejo Weinandt; Sandrine Micossé-Aikins, Bahareh Sharifi; Katharina Morawek; Naomi Rincón Gallardo; Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung; Nora Sternfeld; Jelena Vesić; Christopher Wessels, Marianne Niemelä, Ahmed Al-Nawas.


1Cf. Andrew Dewdney et al., Britishness and Visual Culture, London, 2011.
2Cf. Mark Terkessidis, Psychologie des Rassismus, Opladen / Wiesbaden 1998, p. 74-81.
3Michel Foucault, “Historical Knowledge of Struggles, Genealogies, and Scientific Discourse” in: Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980, p. 82.
4Aytaç Eryılmaz, “Ein Migrationsmuseum in Deutschland – kulturpolitische und soziale Bedeutung” [Cultural-Political and Social Significance of a Museum of Migration in Germany], paper presented at the conference Expert Meeting on Migration Museums, Rome, 23.-25.10.2006, p. 6.
5Cf. DOMiD e.V., Auf dem Weg. Ein Forum für die Zukunft: Das zentrale Migrationsmuseum [On the Way. A Forum for the Future: The Central Museum of Migration], Köln 2016. (08.01.2017).
7Cf. Richard Griswold del Castillo, Teresa McKenna, Yvonne Yarbro-Bejerano (eds.), Chicano Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985, Los Angeles 1991.
8Translator’s note: The NSU murders were dubbed “Döner-Morde” in the press, which translates as “the döner kebab murders” – a trivialising, clichéd and racist designation.
9Ayşe Güleç, co-founder of Initiative 6. April and the action group NSU- Komplex auflösen, describes her approach in similar terms
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Max Czollek, Corinne Kaszner, Leah Carola Czollek, Gudrun Perko

Radical Diversity and De-integration: Towards a Political and Artistic Project

The concept of "integration" is all the rage in public discourse. There's no party manifesto where it doesn't occupy a central position, and there's no discussion about migrants in the media where it isn't used as a shorthand for the problem of "people who aren't like us".

Emina Bužinkić

What If Political Landscapes of Solidarity Were All We Cared For?

In this article, two examples of social experimentations are presented: one that intertwines concepts of culture(s) and public infrastructure, and the other one that meets concepts of food and socio-economic emancipation.

Alisa Lebow

Filming Revolution: a non-linear database project about filmmaking in Egypt since the Revolution

This interactive archive does not attempt to provide a history of the revolution, nor does it attempt to an exhaustive chronicle of filmmaking in Egypt since 2011. The focus is on documentary and independent filmmaking and creative approaches to leading the Egyptian culture and society after the events of the revolution.

Begüm Özden Fırat, Fırat Genç

The Commons, Class Recomposition and Strategy

The main thesis is the following: The global political topography of our time is being reshaped through uprisings that exhibit a global momentum and share the same moment - although they are independent of the specific social and political contexts of which they are emerge.

Damir Arsenijević

The Working Group `Jokes, War, and Genocide’ Emancipating the Modes of Commemoration

Bosnian society is presently locating, exhuming, identifying and re-burying its dead. After the war, there are still 10 000 missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina buried in hidden mass graves.

Ruben Arevshatyan

Disclaiming and Reclaiming the Public

Within these last 5-6 years, it has been possible to perceive an increasing wave of public activism in the capitals of former Soviet republics, supporting the protection of urban buildings and spaces which had public functions during the Soviet period.

Rastko Močnik, Jelena Vesić, Vladimir Jerić Vlidi

Interview with Rastko Močnik: There is No Theory Without the Practice of Confrontation

Dispossession is a complex term, and we would like to try to break it down to particular fields of operation and use cases. You are among the rare people we know able to simultaneously analyze in depth three of the most prominent domains of the operation of the term - political economy, sociology, and psychoanalysis.

Jelena Petrović

What Does Freedom Stand for Today?

Impossibility to change neoliberal systems which shape and oppress everyday life on all social levels, as well as the simultaneous and paradoxical act of playing and resisting dominant social structures, put us in the position to rethink what the politics of liberation or its revolutionary practices of today.

Marina Gržinić

What Freedom?

Freedom is coming with the adjective in global capitalism. It is exponentially doubled, given as a gift, naked, illegal, and therefore stays today for an emblematic point of analysis of capitalism, its history and present: sovereignty, citizenship, the subject, and humanity.

Vladimir Jerić Vlidi

Dispossession by numbers: 2017/10/70/100

Excerpts from a visual essay for Red Thread: for the multimedia version visit

Asena Günal

“Cultural Hegemony” by Means of the Police

This is a somewhat personal text. Osman Kavala is my employer, and also, since he personally works side by side with us in some projects, my colleague. I was not expecting what befell him.

Guillaume Paoli

Commonplaces and Peculiarities

Let us begin with this paradoxical statement: In a world which sets so much value on diversity, it has become virtually impossible to be different.

Red Thread Editorial Board

Issue 4 – Editor’s note

While preparing the issue on dispossession, one from among us is being taken into arrest. This has left behind powerful emotional traces. Is there a new doubt? Could we continue this magazine into the future?