Akademie der Künste: Uncertain States – Affective Societies Powerless Empowerment? Critical Reflections on Dealing with Flight


Flight and migration have been a dominant theme in discourse in Germany since 2015. While right-wing populists dangerously exploit the situation, many individuals and institutions are committed to a responsible approach to refugees and try to find answers to such difficult questions as: How can people seeking refuge in Germany be empowered and empower themselves? Where is assistance desired and meaningful? How can open encounters be possible? This discussion initiates a critical review of and reflection on dealing with flight from the perspectives of a variety of people involved. Refugees, volunteers, artists, scholars, researchers and students at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (FU Berlin) conduct a (self-)critical discussion with the audience on the possibilities and limits – on empowerment and powerlessness – in the debate on experiences of flight.

Presented by Olaf Zenker and Kristina Dohrn, social and cultural anthropologists at Freie Universität Berlin. Over the past year, they have conducted two research projects with students on the current situation of refugees in Berlin.

Panelists: Denise Garcia Bergt, Hansjörg Dilger, Mara Erlenmaier, Manaf Halbouni, Carolina Knerr, Marion Neumann, Christian Torenz, et al.

As part of the lecture series “Emotions and their Effects. Affective Dynamics of Flight and Migration“.

A cooperation between the Akademie der Künste and the Collaborative Research Center “Affective Societies” at FU Berlin.

What role does affectivity play in the social and cultural upheavals presently shaping our globalised world? How do emotions contribute to the impression of social stability and security, and how do they provoke insecurities, threats and marginalisation? Which affective dynamics accompany the loss of familiar environments, and which emotions promote or hinder arrival in a new life? How is emotion used to shape the political agenda, and why it is often so difficult to counter this by argument?
This series of lectures and talks looks at contemporary art as an outstanding location for investigating and reflecting on emotions and affectivity in the context of flight, migration and mobility. In the process, academics and scholars involved in the “Affective Societies” Collaborative Research Center at Freie Universität Berlin enter into a dialogue with the artists, works and topics in the Uncertain States exhibition.

The interdisciplinary “Affective Societies” research centre at Freie Universität Berlin is investigating the fundamental importance of emotions and affectivity for social life in the mobile, networked and mediatised worlds of the twenty-first century.

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