Scrutinizing the double standards underlying capitalism’s post-1989 expansion, the Berliner Gazette (BG) project BLACK BOX EAST takes Germany as a starting point: a nation-state whose entrepreneurial agenda (“first we take East Germany, then we take eastern Europe and beyond”) has reached a critical limit. The most obvious signs of this would be the increasing precariousness and radicalization in “the new states,” as BG founding editors Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki show in their introductory essay. Read it in English (EN) or in German (GER).
In the course of this, three dimensions of the BLACK BOX EAST will be explored: First, the project will investigate how the black box in question is constructed and whose geopolitical and economic interests it serves. Second, the project will examine what economic and political realities the black box conceals and favors. Third, the project intends to create a common – and above all, decolonial – discourse about and from within “the East” and thus, not least, shape strategies to unlock the black box and recode it into a common space of transnational struggles.
The BLACK BOX EAST project will culminate in the international Berliner Gazette conference, which is scheduled to take place on September 23, 24 and 25, 2021. Check out the workshop program below.
Call for Registration
The workshops will feature a selected number of guests invited by the organizers (* = to be confirmed). Additional participants are able to join via a call for registration. This open call targets researchers, activists, artists, journalists, and producers of subjugated knowledge at large. Register by Sept. 1 for one of the five tracks at info(at)berlinergazette.de! The registration fee is 15 Euro.
Taking different thematic approaches to tackling post-communist laboratories of globalization, the workshop titles are:
New Cold War, The Wretched of “the East,” Post-Covid-19 States, Shouldering the West, and Politics of Liberty. Read the descriptions in the columns to the right and below.
Process and Goals
Using Big Blue Button, an open source alternative to corporate data extractivism tools like Zoom, participants will be invited to join a hackathon-style cooperation process. The goal is to come up with collective projects, ranging from multimedia stories to utopian scenarios. The resulting resources will be made available online. For reference and inspiration, please take a look at two projects from online workshops at Berliner Gazette’s 2020 SILENT WORKS conference: CAPTCHA Factory and Dull, Dangerous + Dirty.
New Cold War
Against this backdrop, the workshop wishes to explore the following questions: What if we don’t accept this logic of exclusion and instead analyze and challenge it? What are the real and virtual obstacles that Western propaganda (and Eastern counter-propaganda) create to unlocking and exploring the BLACK BOX EAST? What imaginaries of the Other are intended to hinder “us,” whoever we are, from discussing something that affects and implicates all of us on this planet? What does it mean to avoid the trap of binary bloc thinking and revitalize, for instance, the legacies of the Non-Aligned Movement?
Moderation: Ela Kagel + Max Haiven. Guests: Aleksei Borisionak, Lara Luna Bartley, Susanne Braun*, Magdalena Buchczyk, Masha Burina*, Petrut Calinescu*, Régine Debatty, Abiol Lual Deng, Greg McLaughlin, Kevin Rittberger, Gustavo Sanroman, Oliver Lerone Schultz, Andreas Schneider, Olia Sosnovskaya.
The Wretched of “the East”
Against this backdrop, the workshop wishes to explore the following questions: What does it mean to tell, share, and listen to stories from within historical and current social movements in former Yugoslavia (e.g., the Balkan Route), the former Soviet Union, and other parts of the former Eastern Bloc (Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, etc.)? Are these struggles linked among each other? What are the gaps where interventions have the best hopes of creating impact? How is it possible to pave ways for new common grounds and create bridges between struggles?
Moderation: Sabrina Apitz + Gosia Jagiello. Guests: Mika Buljevic, Kalina Drenska, Alina Floroi, Karolina Gembara, hvale, Lela Rekhviashvili, Juliane Rettschlag, Karolina Sobel, Martina Staneva, Elena Veljanovska.
Against this backdrop, the workshop wishes to explore the following questions: What is the fall-out of the Covid-19 pandemic-related multiple crises in the post-Soviet Union, post-Communist Eastern Europe, post-Yugoslavia? What kind of information is available? What are the criteria to measure the consequences? Moreover, who in the West and “the East” benefits from the pandemic-related disaster in the “Second World”? What are the political and economic dynamics in “the East” that in the course of the pandemic further aggravate structural problems?
Moderation: Jose M. Calatayud + Sotiris Sideris. Guests: Mark Cinkevich, Géraldine Delacroix, Anna Engelhardt, Andrada Fiscutean, Adriana Homolova, Monisha Martins, Julia Molin, Cristina Pombo, Lira Ramadani, Sasha Shestakova, Dzina Zhuk.
Shouldering the West
Against this backdrop, the workshop wishes to explore the following questions: Who are the Eastern workers shouldering the profits of the West? What are current struggles inside and outside the labor union context? What are the differences and commonalities between labor struggles in East Germany and Eastern Europe at large? What role does the rise of platform labor play here? And, last but not least, since “Eastern” workers are in demand at home and abroad (hence doubly needed and doubly exploited), what does it mean for mobile workers to struggle at home and abroad?
Moderation: Stefan Candea + Holger Kral. Guests: Sana Ahmad, Rutvica Andrijasevic, Miglè Bareikytè, Anna Calori*, Niccolò Cuppini, Slobodan Golušin*, Adela Hincu, Nelli Kambouri, Noémi Katona, Dunja Kučinac, Rena Raedle, Anna Stiede*.
Politics of Liberty
Against this backdrop, the workshop wishes to explore the following questions: What notions of “liberty” manifest outside of an East vs West ideological divide? What does it mean to disarm Western propaganda of “liberty” as an imperial weapon of capitalist expansion without replacing it with yet another oppressive system? And what does it mean to work in the shadow of imperialism from both “the East” and West while creating transnational solidarity for a more just and inclusive world?
Moderation: Mathana + Nina Pohler. Guests: Tania Arcimovich, Nicolás Bello, Laura Burtan, Aslı Dinç, Katrin Kämpf, Inga Lindarenka, Luise Meier, Shintaro Miyazaki, Yana Milev, Claudia Núñez, Nicolay Spesivtsev, Cagri Taskin.
Gastarbeiters & Migrants
Workers’ Museum Trudbenik
With invited contributions by historian Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk about the (un)friendly take over of East-Germany (GER); sociologist Yana Milev about the politics of blackboxed devastations in East-Germany (GER); researcher and writer Katharina Warda about ex-GDR as a black box; historian Claudia Weber about “backwardness” and the “democratic deficit” in “the East”; political theorist Stefan Kausch and discourse analyst Jürgen Link about East German normality between deviance and avant-garde (GER); historian George Bodie about decolonisation and the German Democratic Republic (1960-1989); culture theoretician Marco Abel about the role of “the East” for the birth of Germany as a neoliberal nation-state (GER); activist and researcher Christoph Marischka about technological landscapes in “the East” (GER); culture theoretician Neda Genova about knowledge production and the politics of transparency/opacity; curator Aleksei Borisionok and artist Olia Sosnovskaya about the concept of “the New East” as a paradigm of reinforced Othering; researcher and activist Inga Lindarenka about representations of post-Soviet space in UK media; conflict and media researcher/writer Greg McLaughlin about how Western media narratives of the “Fall of the Berlin Wall” and “Brexit” cater to capitalism and nationalism (GER | EN); social anthropologist Florin Poenaru about how the Orientalization of Romania is propelling unequal power relations in the EU (GER | EN); the photographer Petrut Calinescu about Western images of Romania, precarious archives, and the politics of documentary photography (GER | EN); cultural anthropologist Olga Reznikova about Anti-Slavic racism; investigative journalist Stefan Candea about the politics of cross-border journalism in “the East”; digital thinker and artist Darija Medic about the construction of the computer user in Yugoslavia; researcher Ana Vilenica about historical revisionism in urban transformations in Belgrade and London and how to read Western urbanism with the vocabulary of “the East”; artist Marina Gržinić about the EU’s turbo-politics in ex-Yugoslavia (GER); sociologist Sanja Milivojevic about the black-boxed mobility infrastructure in the Western Balkans (GER | EN).
With invited contributions by scholar-activist Sabrina Apicella about how Amazon’s logistical network connects “the East” with Europe at large; urban researcher Jochen Becker about Amazon’s logistical chains between Berlin and Poznań; urban transformation researcher Ina Valkanova about labor and technology in Eastern’s shrinking economies; researcher Mira Wallis about Germany’s digital ghost workers in Romania (GER | EN | RU); digital media researcher Miglè Bareikytè about the incommensurability of labor politics and AI strategies in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia (GER); geographers Lela Rekhviashvili and Wladimir Sgibnev about struggles over infrastructure that holds post-Soviet space together (GER | EN); anthropologist Sabina Stan about outsourcing healthcare labor in Romania within the EU’s new economic governance regime; scholar-activist Christine Braunersreuther about global care chains and Balkanism as a special form of racism; sociologist and activist Polina Manolova about the bureaucratic bordering of Bulgarian migrants in Germany (GER | EN); anthropologist Dace Dzenovska about emptiness as a novel spatial coordinate of post-migration realities in “the East;” anthropologist Tanja Petrović and journalist Maja Ava Žiberna about undocumented workers from the Balkans as drivers of “Europeanization” and neoliberal globalization of Eastern Europe; literary scientist and novelist Marlen Schachinger about the last-minute-society in Kosovo (GER); scholar-activist Rutvica Andrijasevic about worker struggles within and against China’s electronics industry in Eastern Europe; researcher and writer Lesia Prokopenko about how the working class in Ukraine consumes China’s shanzhai goods as a phantom of “Westerness” (GER | EN); decolonial researchers Kasia Narkowicz and Zoltán Ginelli about global historical roots of colonial discourse, including the decolonial capture by the Right, in Poland and Hungary.
With invited contributions by dramaturge Johanna-Yasirra Kluhs and director and performer Tanja Krone about social practice theater with networks of real people in East and West Germany; researcher and artist Anna Stiede about deindustrialization, labor struggles, and TreuhandTechno (GER); theater-maker Kevin Rittberger and artist Nicolas Mortimer about labor struggles and cybernetic futurism in the GDR (GER | EN); artist and activist Rena Raedle about how workers in the GDR organized themselves in writing circles (GER); theater director and poet Thomas Martin about the quest for real-existing (post)communist laboratories of globalization; artist and author Elske Rosenfeld about the legacies of GDR dissidence; political geographer Evelina Gambino about lessons from 19th century labor struggles in Georgia for today’s transnational fight against logistical capitalism (GER | EN); decolonial theorist Madina Tlostanova about what it means to decolonize (post)socialism; social thinker Max Haiven and historian Vijay Prashad about the role of “the East” in the Western radical imagination; scholar-activist Kalina Drenska about unboxing “the East” from within transnational activist networks; literary scholar Karolina Golimowska about social struggles in Poland during the COVID-19 pandemic; researcher and curator Doreen Mende about decolonial imaginaries of (post-)socialism; political theorist Gal Kirn about the partisan counter-archive; sociologist Paul Stubbs about the legacies of the Non-Aligned Movement for today’s activism (GER | EN); activist hvale about intersectional struggles in Bosnia and Herzegovina; journalist Mihajlo Vujasin about food sovereignty in neoliberal Serbia; scholar-activist Sara Nikolić about urban commons in New Belgrade.
The organization behind the BLACK BOX EAST project is Berliner Gazette (BG) – a nonprofit and nonpartisan team of journalists, researchers, artists and coders. We experiment with and analyze emerging cultural as well as political practices. Since 1999 we have been publishing berlinergazette.de under a Creative Commons License – with more than 1,000 contributors from all over the world – as well as organizing conferences and editing books. Latest BG projects include 2020: Silent Works – BG Winter School | 2019: More World – BG con | 2018: Ambient Revolts – BG con | 2017: Signals – Exhibition | A Field Guide to the Snowden Files – Book | Friendly Fire – BG con | 2016: Tacit Futures – BG con | 2015: UN|COMMONS – BG con | 2012: BQV. Büro für Qualifikation und Vermögen – Documentary | 2006: McDeutsch – Book.
The curators of the BLACK BOX EAST project are Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki. Magdalena is editor-in-chief of the internet newspaper Berliner Gazette and professor of Digital Media and Journalism at the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. She is the author of “Disruption des Journalismus” (2018) published by Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam and co-editor of numerous readers, including “Invisible Hand(s)” (2020) published by Multimedijalni institut, Zagreb. Krystian is a critic, photographer, and the co-founder of Berliner Gazette. Blending writing and photography, he has created books such as “After the Planes” (2017), co-authored with Brian Massumi, “Fugitive Belonging” (2018), and his most recent work “Undeclared Movements” – published by b_books in 2020.
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