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Where lies the left governmentality?

Max Ernst-1926-The Blessed Virgin Chastises the Infant Jesus Before Three Witnesses

This entry is a translation of an article I recently posted on a Greek blog. In the light of the mobilization of  Left movements worldwide against the causes of the financial crisis, I think it would be interesting to form an idea of the confines that a radical left party is faced with in Europe, when it has a serious chance at government. I hope the entry proves useful. 

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The Unofficial View of Tirana (52)


Finally I have arrived back in Tirana (actually I write this in Prishina, but ok close enough), in the midst of the total 100 years independence craze. Amid the innumerable Albanian flags decorating the streets and houses, the nationalist fever is taking on epic proportions (proportions to which I would like to dedicate a separate post later this month). I can however not resist providing the following little announcement:

As was announced by the state media, on the day of the 100 years of independence, there will 1000 slaughtered lambs and 1000 slaughtered sheep on the dinner table, the meat of which will be served on tables and stands set up in the Tirana. There will be no sweets lacking from the table, as 4 super-cakes have been ordered.

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Open Access and Para-Academic Practice

There is a great post about Open Access over at The Disorder of Things, outlining several arguments surrounding the necessity for Open Access journals. I’m really looking forward to the next several posts they will share this week. Our own publication is very proud to be an Open Access publisher with no cost to the author and no cost to the reader. We are also proud to publish under a Creative Commons license (you may have noticed that other online publications have syndicated what we’ve published).

We, the editors of continent., along with the editors of Speculations, convened a panel discussion that touched on Open Access at the recent “Aesthetics in the 21st Century” conference at the University of Basel (you can read our preliminary remarks here).

It seems to me that we are witnessing the changing nature of academic practice. This change in practice is being spurred-on by the dramatic shift in the technologies through which knowledge work is done. Open software initiatives like those being developed at the Public Knowledge Project (their OJS platform is the WordPress of academic publishing) will continue to be adopted and developed by younger academics as they go about their work, to the point of ubiquity.

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Apolitics Now

The distinction between the representative, parliamentary democracies of capitalism, and vanguardists should be carefully marked (as Marcos does, in his way during his exchange with ETA). The Subcommandante shits on the vanguardists, whereas one of the designations of the representative, parliamentary system (and its attendees) is that this system is “full of shit”, as are the politicians. “Pork barrel politics” is the American phrase for channelling State funds into projects which benefit political representatives (and their mates) more than any possible, wider common good.
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Greek politics: the danger of the will, the poverty of the way.

Homeless greek citizens at the centre of Athens.


“I venture the judgment, however, that currently in the Western world, and especially in the United States, differences about economic policy among disinterested citizens derive predominantly from different predictions about the economic consequences of taking action – differences that in principle can be eliminated by the progress of positive economics – rather than from fundamental differences in basic values, differences about which men can ultimately only fight.” Milton Friedman


“Il y a bel et bien un pragmatisme chez Marx […]”

“Et c’est précisement cela, la définition «pragmatique» de la vérité. Le pragmatisme est un art des conséquences.” Isabelle Stengers



During the past decades the concept of politics has been shrunk, tweaked, even belittled. From Cold War efforts to eradicate Marxism with the birth of modern technocratic discourse to the post-68 and ongoing left-wing reformism, political weltanschauungs have been reduced to pocket-size fundamentalisms. From the right, it was the discourse of positive science (against values or ideology) that supported various marketization processes. From the left, a stance of pragmatic radicalization of concepts such as “democracy” and “human rights”, however important or necessary, has proven malignant for the reflexes of collective political action. The lack of a general consensus regarding effective counter-policies (one of the most significant downers of the Occupy movement) is partly due to the vagueness of political counter-liberalist pluralism. Let’s face it: the financial crisis poses equally crucial questions to both left and right. But while for the left it is a chance for yet another revisionism, for the “right” it remains a wonderful opportunity to perpetuate its dominance.

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The Silence of Pure Gravities

“…they’re going to abandon me, there will be the silence, for a moment, for a good few moments, or it will be mine, the lasting one, that didn’t last, that still lasts, it will be I, you must go on, I can’t go on, you must go on, I’ll go on, you must say words, as long as there are any, until they find me, until they say me, strange pain, strange sin, you must go on, perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

                                             —Samuel Beckett

John Cage’s 4’33” remains an echo, a repetition of the space of silence and all silence entails (shelters, holds). Performed for the first time by pianist David Tudor in 1954, it asks of the performer to sit at the piano, and to “perform” a piece of music. Tudor interpreted the instructions Cage had written and sat at the piano, with the lid raised, for two minutes and twenty three seconds. He then closed the lid, checked his watch and raised it again. He sat for another two minutes, and then left the stage. Whereas a traditional concert, in effect, banishes the sound of the world by filling a space with a sequence of pre-selected notes, Cage’s 4’33” beckons sound forth, to come forward, to intrude or even to rest in the space. Sound, noise, voice, music are all made present through “silence.” Their presencing is allowed to be revealed through the absenting of action, through the absenting of the intentional making (fabricare) of a note, of music. Though criticized as a sham and a farce at the time, 4’33” has become an iconic piece of “music” and describes perfectly a silence without words as the space between notes, between intentional noises. What is important about the piece, however, is not its shock value, but rather the attempt Cage made to say, or to think, silence within sounds, to think the unsignable within an architecture of signs, to say—or give voice to—the unsayable, that which refuses to be said.
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The Unofficial View of Tirana (51)

PrincValentino Corleone in Çani's talk show Zonë e Lirë

Sometimes I feel there are cultural signifiers that nobody in this country is able to explain to me. I have posted in the past about Artur Jaku, the outside film maker and Big Brother contestant, belly dancers from Tropoja, and I have simply not been able to comment on the Lek Plepi phenomenon that burst onto Albanian television last year. But now a cultural icon has emerged that I cannot resist touching upon: a 29-year old gentleman from Gjilan, Kosova with the name PrincValentino Corleone. Everything from the self-designed facial tattoo, has “Japanese” haircut, 4 Jack Daniels and energy drinks, his crazy outfits screams of total… what is it? insanity? queerdom? divaness? brilliance?? The essence of Balkan machismo???
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“Pedagogies of Disaster” – announcing the continent. conference 2013

The continent. team is proud to announce the call for papers for the first continent. conference, to be held June 6-8, 2013, in Tirana, Albania. Scholar, academics, and students worldwide are invited to address the theme ”Pedagogies of Disaster.” Keynote speakers will be French poetry scholar Judith Balso and Italian autonomist theorist and media activist Franco Berardi.
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The Unofficial View of Tirana (50)

Herman: Ivaca, please have a seat… on this giant black dildo

The 50th post! Now that numerical perfection should hold the promise of some rhetorical fireworks. Still half-jetlagged and waking up at 11 instead of my customary 8, I have only just returned from the US to find myself a paralyzed witness to the proceedings of Gay Pride Week in Belgrade. My initial ideas about this post revolved around a praise of Albanian vegetable and fruit culture, after having to deal with multiple chemically sterilized apples, Fukushima vegetables on plastic bagels, and coffee made from Ganges water. It’s a miracle that whole country hasn’t already suffocated in its own corn syrup… ANYHOW… It’s Pride Week in Belgrade and as my better half is joining the proceedings of communal exchange, diplomatic banter, NGO lunches, and blasphemous exhibitions, I’m here behind my computer hoping no one gets hurt.
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Fascism revisited: The banality of what?


Some of the readers of this blog may have wondered why I still haven’t written anything on the rise of the “national socialist” party in my country (Greece). Why I haven’t reported their hate-activism and their “miniature” pogroms, along with the extreme tolerance shown to them by the Greek society, the media, the political and the judicial system. Of course I am shocked and stupefied. And I could go on for pages analyzing the situation, both to myself and to the readers of this blog. Like most Greek or foreign posts on the subject, I could talk about the history of extreme conservatism in modern Greece, how it remained well alive under the guise of materialistic values that the former governments and the media invested into the social body. And I would menton the negligence of the left, the provocative stance of the police and an inherent racism that has been sleepwalking around the European continent for decades and has been violently woken up in Greece, not simply with the advent of the financial crisis but mostly through the way it is being dealt with.


But every time I try to explain the phenomenon in such terms, either to myself or to friends, I feel at great unease. Everything sounds second-handed: already known, already seen, a replay of memories not lived, a rerun of some of the cheapest moments in the history of my country. My tone becomes ex-post apologetic, in the sense that, in the final analysis, I am providing excuses in the guise of explanations. And worst of all: while every part of my account does indeed hold and is in fact true –on the whole it remains banal, trivial and ineffective.


For such explanations always imply given positionings. And it is the positioning, rather than the content of such an account, that is suspicious (potentially at least as much as fascism itself), as it implies a very specific structure of utterance:  a) A Greek addressing readers from some other country who, in one way or another, display feelings of sympathy towards what is happening in some faraway land; b) some of them happen to be fellow European citizens, whose countries might soon face the same danger; c) while a complex multi-national European government can be partly located in Brussels, the rise of fascism is located in one of its nation-members; d) while I can vaguely appeal to “Brussels” for the relaxation of austerity measures that I consider responsible for the phenomenon, I am nonetheless inclined (as a citizen of my country) to assume responsibility for something that takes place in my country, through its political system, within a localized society that has its own peculiar history.


In short: as the effects of otherwise multi-national decisions are being localized in nation-states, the limits of political action are also confined into countries and states. A situation that well allows for local protests against local (national) governments –but almost in principle excludes the possibility of protesting as a European against an elite of indirectly elected technocrats. Within a union of nations, the privilege of transcending your nationality is mostly reserved to those who govern. And the only space for a political action that transcends nationality is mainly confined to institutions such as the European Parliament or the ECB. Beyond the worn-out myth of the Lumières, the only thing that unites European citizens is nothing but an economic motive.


Within such a peculiar framework where the dream of federalism is essentially backed up by economic incentives and liberalist policies, where political-constitutional unification is presented as an accessory to the financial (see fiscal) unification, the concept of a European political subject (be it a class or not) is excluded. The conservation of national characteristics, under the alibi of cultural pluralism, essentially blocks any possibility of a bottom-up constitution (let alone emergence) of any such political entity. When at the same time a centralized European governance becomes more powerful than ever.


Hence, by alarming the reader about the rise of nationalist socialism in a given European state, I cannot but evoke a reaction that lately has become increasingly common: the transformation of political vigilance into a spectacle (to watch Tahir Square and dream of 1789; to witness the rise of fascism in a European country and think about the decline of of the Weimar Republic; or, if Greek, to relive the possibility of a new junta.  It is so ironic to think that fascism, once the aestheticization of politics (Benjamin), has now turned into a spectacle sponsored by liberal –oh, too liberal- democracies.


And all this be keeping it local. In the here and now of a society faced with the bully of fascism, with the leaders of the European Union “worrying” about a situation that politically is rather convenient: at the end of the day, memorandums are way preferable to fascism. And from the financial dilemma “drachma or euro” we have now passed to the political question “fascism or democracy.” And finally to “Europe or non-Europe” (as if E.U. is unimaginable on a radically different basis).


As much as I am appalled by fascism, I am much worried about phenomena such as the re-election of a pro-memorandum government in Greece, or the liberals’ win in the Netherlands elections. What I consider dangerous (as well as disgusting) is the transformation of European university departments into “think tanks” that expertise in social engineering, continuously promoting updated forms of indirect, “main invisible” steering methods applied to citizens that remain silent and obedient, but essentially intolerant and envious.


Quite recently I browsed through a research project run by a European research center. It focused on creating “compliance” tactics in favor of E.U. implementation in different member-states. My conclusion was simply: we are not reliving the decline of the Weimar Republic.


We are deep into Cold War.