with these provocatory abstracts, we plan on stir a debate on language in contemporary culture and beyond. the full papers will be published on our “publications” page shortly.

Think Twice: Power-full language Abstracts

Postcolonial Discourse and Museum Display in the Netherlands: The Frans Hals Museum

Carolina Monteiro & Patricia Nistor

What language is used by Dutch museums today to frame the colonial contexts of art production and to what extent do they succeed to re-frame their collections through decolonial gestures? The essay stems from the observation that decolonising the museum is a widely discussed problematic in major cultural institutions in The Netherlands today, acknowledging that, despite the efforts, there is still much work to be done on the implementation of this project. In this context, the essay will analyse the Frans Hals Museum collection in Haarlem bringing together Dutch Golden Age masterpieces and contemporary art. The analysis intends to study and understand how new meanings are formed and proposed through the use of language and museographical projects in the museum space. As such, it will take into consideration the language proposed by the institution through its official texts, present both in the museum and other channels, such as their website and curatorial statements. This survey will side with Walter Mignolo’s concept of the decolonial as a delink from coloniality, or the matrix of power that governs the life of subjects in a postcolonial situation. We will determine to what extent Frans Hals Museum’s strategy to bring together two chronologies has had any effect on changing the still-prevalent colonial mindset around cultural objects in the museum.

Equality as Aesthetic of emancipation

Denisse Vega de Santiago

The project of critical art, which as defined by French philosopher Jacques Rancière (b. 1940) “intends to raise consciousness of the mechanisms of domination in order to turn the spectator into a conscious agent in the transformations of the world”1, is constantly threatened by the appropriation of artistic production by our present day capitalistic technopower structures. In times in which the artistic and the aesthetic realm has been appropriated by neoliberal economy, how could art offer a subversive experience? This paper will analyze different theoretical approaches of emancipatory politics to the question of how art can offer a critical space of resistance in the neoliberal societies of today. It will focus specifically in Rancière’s notion of equality as the basis of the emancipatory project. Emancipation in this context is understood as an experience of dissociation of the body, space and time of work.2 The main research question is: How could notions of equality in contemporary art foster alternative modes of identification which in turn function as an emancipatory process of subjectivization?

1. Ranciere, J. (2004). ‘Problems and Transformations in Critical Art’, in : Bishop, C. (2006). Participation. Documents of Contemporary Art, The MIT Press, Cambridge : Massachusetts, 83-93, 83

2. Honneth, A., Rancière, J., Genel, K., & Deranty, J. (2016). Recognition or disagreement : A critical encounter on the politics of freedom, equality, and identity (New directions in critical theory). New York; Chichester: Columbia University Press, 142-143

“REN” Studies: an Alternative Concept to Academic “Humanities”

Alice Simionato & Giovanni Bottacini

The present paper will be focusing on the proposal of an alternative term, the Confucian concept of Ren for “humanities” currently in use for the contemporary academia. In fact we deem this term to be unable to clearly define the field it indicates. We will begin by justifying the need for new non-western terminology for contemporary academia in general through the previous researches on the field by transcultural studies specialists such as artist and curator Marion von Osten (Transcultural Beginnings), professor of Global Art History in Heidelberg University Monica Juneja and critic Christian Kravagna (Understanding Transculturalism). See Transcultural Studies: a Journal in Interdisciplinary Research, Brill for more references. Thus, we will first present the term Ren itself arguing for the reasons why the term should not be translated or rendered with western terms such as “benevolence” as pointed out by philosopher Wing-Tsit Chan (The Evolution of the Confucian Concept Jên), but simply well-explained in a comprehensive framework, including all of the different contextual nuances of its meaning. Furthermore, we will define the concept of humanities as it is used now, and pointing out its weaknesses and the reasons for which we do not consider it fit for representing the field it is connected with. Finally we will be proposing Ren as an alternative meaning-maker to the term of humanities, explaining its nuanced meanings and their possible impact on contemporary society and academia. In fact, we argue that academia is bound to leaving its current elitist torpor in favor of a more open approach towards society and the non-Western world, thus acknowledging the importance of the social impact as an outcome of what we might call an ethically conducted “Ren” research.

The Language of Relationality: Art as Moral Imperfectionism Practice

Paula Kaori Nishijima

The essay aims at drawing a parallel between the Leela Gandhi’s concept of ‘relationality’— a reading of Derrida’s theory of politics of friendship—and the affinity of art with practices of resistance to globalization and its imperative models. How can art convey the meanings of anti-imperialist minor groups in the context of western imperialist cultures? In her work, Gandhi relates cross-cultural dissident individuals and communities—queerness, vegetarianism, spiritualism, among others—to ‘ethical enterprises,’ whose subjects seek to escape from the status quo, leading to the dissolution of it. This ‘moral imperfectionism’ challenges the western neoliberal hetero-patriarchy and functions as a decolonising agent, as long as it contributes to destabilizing institutional structures. The sense of this ‘imperfection’ is compared by the author with the grammatical denotation of the imperfect verb form: unlike the preterit form, which entails a completed past action, the imperfective form deploys the limits of the time, turning the supposedly concluded action to unfinished. Hence, the moral imperfectionism acts upon the subject making her/him into an eternal work in progress. The essay will analyse contemporary artistic practices that are inscribed within this theoretical framework presented by Leela Gandhi, highlighting the emergence for relationality —the anti-imperialist alternative to sovereignty—and the moral imperfectionism aspects—as the essential political value of art.


  1. Gandhi, Leela. Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought, Fin-de-Siècle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship, Durham: Duke University Press, 2006.
  2. “Utonal Life: A Genealogy for Global Ethics,” in Cosmopolitanisms, ed. Robbins, Bruce, Horta, Paulo Lemos (New York: New York University Press, 2017).

The Aesthetics & Politics of the Representation of Refugees 

Alison Ranniger

RQ: How can the activities of the We Are Here media platform, as well as other refugee artists, overcome nationally constructed identities and national restrictions by means of self-presentation and representation of refugees in limbo? 

This topic investigates how the activities of the We Are Here media platform, based in Amsterdam, as well as museums and relevant artists, can create a platform to overcome nationally constructed identities and national restrictions by means of self-presentation of refugees in limbo. This research will reflect on their paradoxical and poignant position located within the interstices of the legal framework regulating  immigration. I will aim to analyze how artistic and cultural practices are used as strategies for creating visibility and advocating against the structural denial of refugees’ human existence. Through this investigation, I will also explore the connection between the world of the aesthetic narrative and the language of rights and how this relationship fosters political visibility and social mobilization. In the end, I hope to present different modes of display and establish how these practices can be effective beyond simply making things visible or putting them on the map. 

“The forces of change take place within the frame of representation.”1 In other words, the work of art itself and its aesthetic are the “cultural and epistemological frame which should mold our critical language.2 Quoting Bhabha, this interlocutory voice of change and cultural expression lies: 

at the heart of the aesthetic experience […] which is the basis of human creativity and political democracy. [Interlocution] is the recognition of communication – talk, conversation, discourse, dialogue – as it comes to constitute the ‘human right to narrate’ which is essential in building diverse, non-consensual communities.

This dialogue regarding the “human right to narrate”4 is amplified by the rhetoric of artistic practices fueled by the self-presentation of refugees. This literature highlights my expected claim that the performance of freedom of expression and expressions of human beingness, becomes a claim to human rights. 

  1. Tawadros, Gilane. “The Case of The Missing Body.” Part Three: Beyond Diversity and Difference. Ed. Jean Fisher. Global Visions: Towards a New Internationalism in the Visual Arts. London: Kala, 1994. p. 111. Print. 
  2. Ibid, p. 111 
  3. Bhabha, Homi K. “Ethics and Aesthetics of Globalism.” The Urgency of Theory. Ed. António Pinto Ribeiro. Manchester: Carcanet, 2007. p. 3. Print. 
  4. Ibid, p 3