Thinking about Radicality in Postmigrant Europe

This symposium will explore the recent proliferation of concepts of radicality in discourses on contemporary art and culture, such as the concepts of ‘radical diversity’ (Max Czollek), ‘radical conviviality’ (Savyy Contemporary), 'radically democratic museum practices' (Nora Sternfeld) and 'radical museology' (Claire Bishop). These concepts all seem to resonate with the more established theory of ‘radical democracy’ developed by political theorist Chantal Mouffe, which has been central not only to political theory but also to the discourses on culture and the arts, and the stake they have in democratic societies and the formation of citizenship. Interestingly, in some of her essays Mouffe has considered ‘artivism’ as a radically politicised form of artistic practice. Furthermore, even while staying firmly within the domain of cultural institution and practices, cultural producers have appropriated the propagating practises of political movements for their own purposes, as seen, for instance, in the Maxim Gorki Theatre’s announcements of their Berliner Herbstsalons, or cultural festivals, under politically mobilising headlines such as DISINTEGRATE YOURSELVES! (2017) and DE-HEIMATISE IT! (2019).

The term ‘radicality’ refers to the state or fact of being radical. In other words, it signals change or action, usually a far-reaching change that goes to the root of something, touching upon or affecting what is essential and fundamental. The question remains, therefore, how the aforementioned conceptualisations of radicality relate to concurrent forms of nationalist and fascist radicality, and to the critical discourse on the troubling increase and spread of such right-wing forms of radicalisation. As a provisional answer, we suggest that these various articulations and manifestations of radicality can all be seen as, admittedly very different and sometimes even conflicting or contradictory, responses to the profound transformations that Europe is presently undergoing.

At the symposium, the speakers will unpack the topic in short statements before engaging with each other’s work in a dialogue that will merge into an open discussion.


  • Welcome and Introduction (Anne Ring Petersen)

Radicalising participation: Notes on curating as a politically mobilizing practice

Sabine Dahl Nielsen, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen

This talk will explore how a series of small-scale art institutions are currently seeking to establish social contact zones within today’s culturally pluralised European societies. More specifically, focus will be on how such institutions seek to address the societal conflicts created by the need to learn how to live together in postmigrant conditions of socio-cultural diversity by turning participation into central, debate-generating and democratically engaging aspects of their curatorial programs. Drawing on the theories of Chantal Mouffe, Nora Sternfeld and Oliver Marchart, the talk will analyse and discuss how a radical democratic notion of participation can contribute to the politicisation of curatorial practices, so as to enable dissent and differences to be negotiated, counter-hegemonic struggles to be staged, and new alliances of solidarity to be formed within small-scale art institutions and beyond.

Radical Diversity as Political Intervention: Some remarks on the works of Max Czollek and Sasha Marianna Salzmann

Moritz Schramm, Department for the Study of Culture, University of Southern Denmark

The concept of ‘radical diversity’ has increasingly found its way into artistic and cultural debates in Germany. In particular, the writer Max Czollek and the dramaturg Sasha Marianna Salzmann have explored the concept at workshops such as Desintegration (2016) and Desintegriert Euch! (2017), both held at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin. Insisting on the undisputable multiplicity of all individual backgrounds and focusing on the situational and shifting experiences of discrimination and/or privileges, the concept seeks to undermine traditional notions of solidarity based on stable identity-groups. Instead, the concept explores new alliances beyond notions of sameness, e.g. in relation to ethnic, religious and sexual categories. In the paper, I will introduce this developing concept and discuss its potential for new political approaches beyond traditional identity politics.

DE-HEIMATIZE IT! Notes on a radical articulation and staging of ‘postmigration’

Anne Ring Petersen, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen

The point of departure for this talk is the proposition that the sense of urgency that fuels the calls for ‘radical diversity’, ‘radical democracy’ etc. is linked to a growing awareness of the inability of the traditional notions of multiculturalism and peaceful coexistence to take into account the complexities and frictions of culturally diverse societies. Theoretically, I will turn to postmigrant thinking, which holds that Europe has been irreversibly shaped by immigration since the mid-twentieth century, and which engages with the ‘after’ (post-) effects of migration on societies that hesitate to acknowledge that these transformations must lead to political, cultural and institutional change. The discourse on postmigration emerged in the 2000s from the German ‘postmigrant theatre’ which later found an institutional home at the Maxim Gorki Theatre. The talk focuses on Gorki’s fourth Berliner Herbstsalon, DE-HEIMATISE IT! (2019), and reads it as a radical artistic, curatorial, discursive and feminist articulation of two basic tenets of the discourse on postmigration: equality and multiple, intersectional belonging.

Everyone is welcome.

If you wish to attend, please send an email to Sabine Dahl Nielsen before 20 April.

This research project and the symposium is supported by Novo Nordisk Foundation grant NNF19OC0053992.