<synthesis> Black Box East · Public Talks · Video Lectures, Online Assembly, and more

Krystian Woznicki kw at berlinergazette.de
Tue Sep 21 09:19:08 CEST 2021

Hi INC-folks,

In the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Berliner Gazette annual
conference’s public talks are an online matter once again. For this
year’s edition, entitled BLACK BOX EAST, we are offering six online
lectures in the form of videos (see below) and an online assembly on
Saturday, Sept. 25, at 3:00 p.m. CET at which workshop groups will
present their results. This assembly is open to the general public! So,
meet us on Big Blue Button, Chrome or Firefox is recommended! You will
find us here: https://bbb.berlinergazette.de/b/mag-6en-jvx-8kt

The video lectures take East Germany as a starting point for a critical
inquiry of “post-communist” spaces with a focus on processes of
blackboxed privatization and globalization. The lectures generate common
paths of transnational discourse and struggle by challenging the BLACK
BOX EAST as a damaging capitalist system of excessive economic and
political dispossession that can no longer be obscured or ignored.

*The Elbow Principle*
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, “the East” was intended to quickly
become a functioning part of Germany’s national economy. Shock therapies
were prescribed, including the largest ad hoc privatization of
state-owned enterprises in the world. Meanwhile, the dispossessed were
called on to make particular use of certain body parts, especially their
elbows: these were to be conspicuously extended, as a sign of a
successful appropriation of the individualism by which the free market
economy swears. What might be referred to as the “elbow principle” was
supposed to come into play everywhere, be it in job centers or in
basements that had been turned into undercover stores. Following this
call, some succeeded, others failed. In their BLACK BOX EAST video talk
the theater-makers *Johanna-Yasirra Kluhs* and *Tanja Krone* give these
people their say: many-voiced narratives of the economic realities in
the post-unification period emerge, running counter to the official
historiography written by capitalists (from the West and the East) as a
success story of liberalism.

Watch the video talk here: https://vimeo.com/604213507

*Capital and Memory*
Historic images of jubilant people in view of “German unity” are often
juxtaposed in Western media discourses with images of war in Yugoslavia
during the process of its disintegration. Used to illustrate that
nationalism can mean the fulfillment of longings for “us,” and death and
ruin for “others,” this juxtaposition advances the notion of “good” and
“bad” nationalism reserved for “good” and “bad” nation states
respectively. In the course of this, the common denominator of these
image-based memories is suppressed: after the dissolution of the Eastern
Bloc, the expansion of neoliberalism – be it in neo-Germany or
ex-Yugoslavia – was only possible as folk narratives appropriated by
commemoration. In the course of this, identitarian gifts were supposed
to make us forget economic robbery. In his BLACK BOX EAST video talk
political theorist *Gal Kirn* shows that “the enemy” of emancipatory
politics knows no borders, although it is continuously busy marking
(identitarian) borders.

Watch the video talk here: https://vimeo.com/606483038

*Bureaucratic Bordering*
On paper, Eastern Europeans from, e.g., Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and
Romania are considered EU citizens. In reality, they are systematically
degraded. In a perfidious interplay among authorities, employers and
placement agencies, a bureaucratic bordering is staged that makes a
dignified life practically impossible. At the same time, the degraded
migrants are indispensable for the labor market, especially in Germany.
In her BLACK BOX EAST video talk social theorist and activist *Polina
Manolova* reports from an EU that celebrates freedom of movement but
where, above all, precarization and injustice rule. Exploring how during
the Covid-19 pandemic these deadly contradictions are coming to a
crisis, she urges us to understand that mobile laborers from Bulgaria,
for instance, cannot simply be depicted as victims of an exploitative
and dehumanizing regime. Instead, it is key to see how they are managing
to organize themselves in loose networks of solidarity and care, without
which survival would not be possible.

Watch the video talk here: https://vimeo.com/591631518

*Ghost Workers*
Large and small online platforms have become “essential,” especially in
Western societies. These platforms are kept in operation – as are large
parts of the digital, seemingly fully automated world – by crowdworkers,
who are systematically rendered invisible. Bringing light into this
shadow world, research has brought “ghost workers” to the fore who are
located in countries of the Global South such as India. Less attention
is paid to the growing number of crowdworkers in Eastern Europe, and the
relationship between the European “center” and the “periphery” in the
global digital economy. This is despite the fact that a World Bank study
in 2015, for instance, ranked Romania and Serbia as the world’s leading
online outsourcing countries, defined as the proportion of crowdworkers
in relation to the countries’ total population. In her BLACK BOX EAST
video talk social scientist and ethnologist *Mira Wallis* takes stock of
the platform labor dynamics between Romania and Germany.

Watch the video talk here: https://vimeo.com/607305462

*Infrastructure Struggles*
Huge infrastructure projects were undertaken in the former Soviet Union
under the heading of “reconstruction,” holding a territory together that
stretched across Eastern Europe and the Caucasus to Central and all of
Northern Asia. Today, decades after the downfall of the centrally
governed, federal one-party state, the infrastructure network is in the
process of disintegrating. What is actually more alarming: Rather than
being halted or diverted in a more sustainable direction, the
disintegration process is accelerated by privatization – even, or
perhaps especially, privatization under the banner of “green” solutions
imported from the West. Here, as elsewhere, the interests of the private
sector are foregrounded, while the common good is neglected. Citing
debates about infrastructure projects such as hydropower plants and
public transport, critical geographers *Lela Rekhviashvili* and
*Wladimir Sgibnev* show in their BLACK BOX EAST video talk how images of
the past and future are activated to defend a compromised present.

Watch the video talk here: https://vimeo.com/591647451

*Disruptive Territory*
Starting to destroy the state economy of the GDR in 1989 and making room
for runaway capitalist nation (re)building, East Germany’s
transformation managers created perfect examples of ideologies such as
“creative destruction” and “disruption.” In doing so, they provided the
ideal situation for capitalist players including, most recently, Tesla,
Amazon, Google, and Red Bull. However, hailing disruptive conditions as
the necessary basis for seminal innovation, they are in fact ignoring
legal frameworks, bureaucratic procedures, workers’ rights, etc. This
radicalization of excessive and exploitative economies in “the East” is
possible last but not least because the media discourse suspends the
region between “backwardness” and “avantgarde” – the stigma of a dark
past and the promise of a bright future. In his BLACK BOX EAST video
talk political scientist and curator *Stefan Kausch* shows: by
constructing “the East” as such an ambivalent normality class, the
interests of capital can be served quasi at will.

Watch the video talk here: https://vimeo.com/607330400

You are welcome to share any of the video talks and/or the bundle which
is presented on the BLACK BOX EAST website:

And please re-tweet this:

Best wishes,

Krystian (for the BG team)

PS: We are happy to announce a cooperation with the Transnational
Institute Amsterdam and the editors of the book “The Political Economy
of Eastern Europe 30 years into the ‘Transition’: New Left Perspectives
from the Region.” We are co-hosting a series of four webinars on the
Berliner Gazette’s Big Blue Button server. The first one is entitled
“Class, geopolitics, and civil society in post-Soviet political
protests” and will take place on September 23, at 6 p.m. Amsterdam time.
Here is the link to more info and registration:


BG – Berliner Gazette | since 1999 | https://berlinergazette.de


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Results from BG’s 20th Anniversary Event: Videos, Audios, Projects + Texts https://more-world.berlinergazette.de 


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