Prefigurative Politics on the Eve of the U.S. Presidential Elections

MOBILITY IN POST DEMOCRACY Mon 7 Nov 2016 4.00PM-8.30PM Conversation 4:00-5:30pm
Reception 5:30-6:30pm
Panels 6:30-8:30pm
The New School University Center, Starr Foundation Hall
63 Fifth Avenue, UL 102
New York City
Free Admission.

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With the penetration of global capitalism across sovereign borders, the Mobility in Post Democracy series connects to the simultaneous disdain and opportunity revealed in the contemporary crisis of democracy. With many dissatisfied with this political system, how can we think about organizing beyond the affordances of the current system? This seminar, entitled Prefigurative Politics on the Eve of the U.S. Presidential Elections, looks at prefigurative politics and social movement strategy and addresses historical examples as well as contemporary manifestations of so-called utopian societies that realize their own political ideals outside of mainstream society.

In the 1960s, social movements began organizing according to the logic of prefigurative politics. Occasionally labeled as utopian, prefigurative movements are practice-oriented, embodying the vision of society they aim to realize. Rather than work within existing structures, these movements developed separate languages, norms, and institutions that operate outside the mainstream social, cultural, and political systems. The strategy of prefigurative politics was revived with the anti-globalization movements of the 1990s and has gained in popularity with the visibility of Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and other contemporary movements.

Loisaida: A Conversation with the Artists 4 - 5:30 p.m.
The afternoon program explores gaps in our current democratic governance that are and/or have been occupied by creative forces, leading to spaces of occupation that can be built in and around. We will examine situations where new cultural imaginaries are unwittingly aided by staid democratic structures specifically because of their capacity to resist them.

The discussion focuses on the example of Loisaida, a center that provides cultural and economic resources to the Latinx residents of the Lower East Side. Libertad O. Guerra, director of Loisaida, will discuss prefigurative strategies and the center's programs with resident artists Mathew Galindo and Malinda Thursz-Galindo of Atomic Culture, in dialog with long-time collaborator, poet and artist Edwin Torres.

Prefigurative Politics on the Eve of the U.S. Presidential Elections 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
The suspense of the following day's presidential elections offers an ideal moment of pause to consider these alternative models of political engagement. What are current examples of prefigurative communities, and how do they compare to successful historical examples? Can prefigurative strategies be employed outside of collective efforts, and to what ends? Have social movements been effective in shaping the discourse of the presidential campaigns through prefigurative strategies? This seminar consists of an afternoon conversation with Loisaida, followed by a panel moderated by historian Claire Potter with presentations by Professor Erica Kohl-Arenas as well as artists Sondra Perry, Sean Raspet and Atomic Culture reflecting on major moments in the history of prefiguration as they relate to our current political juncture.

Conversation Participants 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.
Mathew Galindo and Malinda Thursz-Galindo, Atomic Culture
Libertad O. Guerra, Executive Director, Loisaida
Edwin Torres, poet and artist

Panel Presenters 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Mathew Galindo and Malinda Thursz-Galindo, Atomic Culture
Erica Kohl-Arenas, Assistant Professor of Nonprofit Management, The New School
Sondra Perry, artist
Claire Potter, Professor of History, The New School
Sean Raspet, artist
    • Prefigurative Politics
Mobility in Post Democracy
Post Democracy has recently arisen as a complex and contradictory term: for some it promises a new participatory platform for the mobilizing forces of social media, considered catalysts for political imagination. Others equate Post Democracy with democracy's demise due to the penetration of global capitalism into every regime type coupled with the increasing intervention of international actors in domestic politics. Decried as "democratic melancholy," such skepticism is considered ill placed by yet others for whom "democracy" was never a political system to aspire to.

Under the heading Mobility in Post Democracy, the Vera List Center is presenting a series of interdisciplinary panels, seminars, and lectures that examine Post Democracy as a condition informed by mobility – across institutions, states, and ideologies. The series brings together an international group of scholars, activists, students, and artists to probe the concept of Democracy more generally at the time of the contested U.S. presidential elections, and the concurrent emergence and demise of democratic regimes throughout the world.

Artist-driven, the events ask questions such as: How can new social movements counter networks of power? What creative organizing tactics are being developed to reinvigorate a democratic ethos? What forms of political institutions and alliances are flexible and resilient?

Prefigurative Politics on the Eve of the U.S. Presidential Elections is the second seminar in the series Mobility in Post Democracy. Other programs include:

Wendy Brown: Neoliberalism, Financialization and Democracy: Ten Theses
Keynote Lecture
October 20, 2016 6:30-8:00 PM

Right of Refusal
October 24, 2016 4:00-8:30 PM

Post Human, Affect, Proliferation
February 13, 2017 4:30-8:30 PM

Indigeneity, Stack, Sovereignty
March 2, 2017 4:00-8:00 PM

Mobility in Post Democracy is a Vera List Center public seminar series, supported by the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility.