Seminar 1


Decolonising the Commune and its aftermaths

a dialogue with Bruno Bosteels and Massimiliano Tomba
29 April - 10 am EDT/4pm CEST

Introduction: Irene Peano

Whilst it is commonplace to speak of the Commune as an ‘expansive political form’, following Marx’s definition, the XIX-century Parisian experiment is often still regarded as a paradigm or a blueprint for subsequent emergences, an absolute precursor. In this first seminar/conversation, we wish to read the events that led up to the establishment and later the crushing of the Paris commune within wider colonial and imperial geographies and genealogies. A decolonizing gaze can help us better to understand the ‘expansiveness’ of the form as well as the peculiarity of its specific instantiations.

In 1870-71 a communalist experiment took place in Algiers, which in many ways inspired and was inspired by the Paris events, in the context of a nationalist independentist movement from which the Algiers Commune partly diverged (Tomba 2018, 2019). Likewise, the techniques for repressing the insurrection in Paris were replicated by the French government across the Mediterranean soon afterwards, leading in both cases to deportations to the penal colonies of New Caledonia. Here, some communards, and particularly anarchist Louise Michel, supported the indigenous Kanak rebellion against French colonists, and partly rejected the civilizational paradigm that sustained European imperialism (Bullard 2000; Eichner 2017, 2019).

At the same time, this was also the period when Karl Marx turned his attention to ethnology, in order to develop what several scholars defined  as ‘a multilinear approach to history and capitalist development’ through ‘an archive of diverse forms  of the common’ (Mezzadra 2018; cf. Anderson 2016; Bellamy Foster, Clarke and Holleman 2020; Marx 1974; Patterson 2009). Bosteels (2019) also proposes, based among others on Marx’s journalistic accounts and ethnological notebooks, to view the Paris Commune in relation to earlier forms of insurrection and socio-political organisation, ranging from pre-Hispanic Tenochtitlan and post-conquest Latin America to peasant revolts in XVI-century Castilla.

Thus, the conversation will explore the reverberations of the Paris Commune (and of the techniques employed to crush it) across the colonial/imperial world, not only in the future but also as they projected into, remade and appropriated several pasts anew. Furthermore, in this seminar we will relate such events and analyses to their protagonists’ wider interests in ‘other’ places and forms of organisation, which displayed connections as well as points of rupture  between various instances of communalism and the political form of the Commune. These trajectories lead to complex questions about forms of idealisation, appropriation and the re-making of histories, experiences, and forms of organisation.

Background reading
Anderson, K. 2016. Marx at the margins: On nationalism, ethnicity, and non-Western societies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
Bellamy Foster, J., B. Clark and H. Holleman 2020. “Marx and the Indigenous”. Monthly Review, https://monthlyreview.org/2020/02/01/marx-and-the-indigenous/
Bosteels, B. 2019 “La comuna americana.” In Horacio González, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Michael Löwy, Daniel Alvaro, Bruno Bosteels, Santiago M. Roggerone, Gisela Catanzaro, and Agustín Lucas Prestifilippo (eds.). Lecciones de la Comuna. Vicente López: Mariano Ariel Pennisi. 63-74. Bullard, Alice 2000. Exile to Paradise: Savagery and Civilization in Paris and the South Pacific, 1790–1900. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Eichner, Carolyn J. 2017 Solidarity vs Civilisation: Louise Michel and the Kanak. Salvage Quarterly 4, 84-97.
------ 2019. “Language of Imperialism, Language of Liberation: Louise Michel & the Kanak-French Colonial Encounter,” Feminist Studies 45(2-3): 377-407, Special Issue: Indigenous Feminisms in Settler Contexts.
Mezzadra, S. 2018. Marx in Algiers. Radical Philosophy 2(1), https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/marx-in-algiers
Marx, K. 1974. The ethnological notebooks of Karl Marx, transcribed and edited. With an introduction by L. Krader. Assen: Van Gorcum. 
Patterson, T. 2009. Karl Marx, anthropologist. Oxford: Berg.
Tomba, M. 2018. “The Paris Commune and the poetry of the unknown”. http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/uprising1313/massimiliano-tomba-the-paris-commune-and-the-poetry-of-the-unknown/
------ 2019. Insurgent Universality: An Alternative Legacy of Modernity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


About the participants

Bruno Bosteels is a professor in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures and the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. He returned to Columbia in 2016, after having taught for thirteen years at Cornell University, for three years at Columbia, and for six years at Harvard University. His research covers a wide range of topics in literature, culture, and politics in modern Latin America as well as contemporary philosophy and political theory. Among his publications are Badiou o el recomienzo del materialismo dialéctico (Palinodia), The Actuality of Communism (Verso), Marx and Freud in Latin America (Verso), El marxismo en América Latina: Nuevos caminos al comunismo (Vicepresidencia del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia). Between 2005 and 2011 he also served as general editor of Diacritics: Review of Contemporary Thought. He is currently preparing two new books, the first a sustained polemical engagement with contemporary post-Heideggerian thought, titled Philosophies of Defeat: The Jargon of Finitude (Verso) and the other, its utopian counterpart, The Mexican Commune (Duke). With Joshua Clover he co-edits the book series "Studies in Literature and Revolution" for Palgrave Macmillan. He is also the translator and/or editor of over half a dozen books by Alain Badiou.

Massimiliano Tomba (Ph.D. in Political Philosophy, University of Pisa) is a Professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He previously taught Political Philosophy at the University of Padova (Italy). He specialized in German classical philosophy during his stay in Germany (University of Würzburg, Münich, and Hamburg). Since 2012, he has been acting as co-director of an international project whose aim is to rethink the predominant schemes of interpretation of global society in order to overcome the prevailing Eurocentrism in conceptions of universalism, space and time. Among his publications Krise und Kritik bei Bruno Bauer. Kategorien des Politischen im nachhegelschen Denken, Peter Lang, 2005; La vera politica. Kant e Benjamin: la possibilità della giustizia, Quodlibet, 2006; Marx’s Temporalities, Brill, 2013; Attraverso la piccola porta. Quattro studi su Walter Benjamin, Mimesis, 2017. His latest book, Insurgent Universality. An Alternative Legacy of Modernity, was published in 2019 by Oxford University Press.





SPA

Descolonizar la Comuna y sus secuelas

Un diálogo con Bruno Bosteels y Massimiliano Tomba
29 de abril - 10 am EST/4pm CET

Introducción: Irene Peano


A pesar de que, siguiendo la definición de Marx, la Comuna como una "forma política expansiva" se ha convertido en un lugar común, el experimento parisino del siglo XIX sigue siendo a menudo considerado como un paradigma o un modelo para las emergencias posteriores, como un precursor absoluto. En este primer seminario en forma de conversatorio, nos proponemos colocar los acontecimientos que llevaron al establecimiento y al posterior aplastamiento de la Comuna de París dentro de unas geografías y genealogías coloniales e imperiales más amplias. Desarrollar una perspectiva descolonizadora puede ayudarnos a comprender de manera más amplia la "expansividad" de la forma política de la Comuna, y a la vez la peculiaridad de sus instancias específicas.

En 1870/71 tuvo lugar en Argelia un experimento comunalista, que en muchos aspectos inspiró y se inspiró en los acontecimientos de París, en el contexto de un movimiento nacionalista independentista del cual la Comuna de Argelia en parte tomò distancia (Tomba 2018, 2019). Asimismo, las técnicas de represión de la insurrección de París fueron replicadas  en seguida en todo el Mediterráneo por el gobierno francés, en ambos casos con deportaciones hacia las colonias penales de la Nueva Caledonia. Aquí, algunos comuneros, y en particular la anarquista Louise Michel, apoyaron la rebelión indígena canaca en contra de los colonos franceses, rechazando parcialmente el paradigma civilizatorio que sostenía el imperialismo europeo (Bullard 2000; Eichner 2017, 2019).

En este mismo período Karl Marx dirigió su atención a la etnología, para desarrollar lo que varios estudiosos definieron como "un enfoque multilineal a la historia y al desarrollo capitalista" a través de "un archivo de diversas formas de lo común" (Mezzadra 2018; cf. Anderson 2016; Bellamy Foster, Clarke y Holleman 2020; Marx 1974; Patterson 2009). De manera similar, Bosteels (2019), basándose entre otros en los relatos periodísticos y los cuadernos etnológicos de Marx, propone una mirada de la Comuna de París relacionada con formas anteriores de insurrección y organización sociopolítica, que van desde la Tenochtitlán prehispánica y la América Latina posterior a la conquista hasta las revueltas campesinas en la Castilla del siglo XVI.

Así, el debate se propone explorar las reverberaciones de la Comuna de París (y de las técnicas empleadas para aplastarla) en todo el mundo colonial/imperial no sólo en el futuro, sino también cuando se proyectaron, rehicieron y se apropiaron de varios pasados. Además, en este seminario nos proponemos poner en relación tales acontecimientos y análisis con los intereses más amplios de sus protagonistas en "otros" lugares y formas de organización, que mostraron conexiones así como puntos de ruptura entre diversas instancias de comunalismo y la forma política de la Comuna. Estas trayectorias conducen a complejas cuestiones sobre las formas de idealización, apropiación y reelaboración de historias, experiencias y formas de organización.

Lecturas de referencia
Anderson, K. 2016. Marx at the margins: On nationalism, ethnicity, and non-Western societies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bellamy Foster, J., B. Clark and H. Holleman 2020. “Marx and the Indigenous”. Monthly Review,
https://monthlyreview.org/2020/02/01/marx-and-the-indigenous/
Bosteels, B. 2019 “La comuna americana.” In Horacio González, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Michael Löwy, Daniel Alvaro, Bruno Bosteels, Santiago M. Roggerone, Gisela Catanzaro, and Agustín Lucas Prestifilippo (eds.). Lecciones de la Comuna. Vicente López: Mariano Ariel Pennisi. 63-74. Bullard, Alice 2000. Exile to Paradise: Savagery and Civilization in Paris and the South Pacific, 1790–1900. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Eichner, Carolyn J. 2017 Solidarity vs Civilisation: Louise Michel and the Kanak. Salvage Quarterly 4, 84-97.
------ 2019. “Language of Imperialism, Language of Liberation: Louise Michel & the Kanak-French Colonial Encounter,” Feminist Studies 45(2-3): 377-407, Special Issue: Indigenous Feminisms in Settler Contexts.
Mezzadra, S. 2018. Marx in Algiers. Radical Philosophy 2(1), https://www.radicalphilosophy.com/article/marx-in-algiers
Marx, K. 1974. The ethnological notebooks of Karl Marx, transcribed and edited. With an introduction by L. Krader. Assen: Van Gorcum. 
Patterson, T. 2009. Karl Marx, anthropologist. Oxford: Berg.
Tomba, M. 2018. “The Paris Commune and the poetry of the unknown”. http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/uprising1313/massimiliano-tomba-the-paris-commune-and-the-poetry-of-the-unknown/
------ 2019. Insurgent Universality: An Alternative Legacy of Modernity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



︎︎︎