Building Refuges and Sanctuaries: A Decolonial Feminist Antiracist Practice
In recent years, in Europe, the multiplication of what Frantz Fanon called “zones of nonbeing”— sites created by means of violence and overt dispossession and where people are dehumanized, considered as nonhumans/subhumans—is reflecting a systemic and structural violence against refugees according to their origins. Thousands of African, Arabs, and Asian refugees are hunted and attacked by the police, the army, by racists, fascists, and the far right, forced to live in subfreezing temperatures and mud, to see their tents being destroyed, their food spoiled, their demands rejected. In November 2021, on the border between Belarus and Poland, the respective governments created a zone of nonbeing where thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Africa were locked in, unable to escape the army and the police on both sides. Many died in the forests, and Polish groups which tried to help were criminalized. The expression “hybrid war,” used by the Polish government, transformed frozen, terrified, and desperate refugees into a menacing army. Anti-refugee policies do not stop states and capital from exploiting refugees and asylum seekers that they have fabricated as vulnerable beings. These individuals are victims of the economy of exhaustion that is endemic to racial capitalism and produces mental and physical depletion. The economy of exhaustion, which showed its naked brutality during the pandemic, has a long history in the modern world: it started with colonial slavery, mining human energy to death, and has continued to this day. The European bourgeoisie’s comfortable life still rests on the exhaustion of racialized bodies, still rests on mining to exhaustion the bodies and minds of displaced persons and People of Color. To counter the murderous anti-refugee European politics, antiracist and antifascist movements have created sanctuaries and roads of solidarity.
Drawing on the theories of political antiracism, abolitionism, and decolonial feminism, participants in the workshop imagine and create, collectively, a public performance that addresses the necessity and urgency of multiplying refuges and sanctuaries.
Curated by: Françoise Vergès
This conference is part of the discursive program of the 12th Berlin Biennale. Taking the restitution debate as a starting point, it explores how colonialism and imperialism continue to operate in the present.