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Belligerent Accumulation: Natural Right, Valorization, and Aesthetics in Colonial Modernity.

Histories – Transformations – Resistances.

Event Label
Organisational Units
Art Theory and Cultural Studies
Location Description
European University Viadrina
Logenstr. 1
Frankfurt (Oder)

A conference in the context of a binational research project between the European University Viadrina in FfO and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

The conference discusses the constitution of colonial modernity, possessive universalism, and racial capitalism through the lens of their philosophical justifications. It reexamines the epistemic violence of European philosophy and its colonial dissemination between the 16th and 18th centuries with an emphasis on the political, legal, economic, and aesthetic discourses and their many entanglements. The term “belligerent accumulation” is introduced in response to the need for a critical reassessment and decolonization of the notions of historical time, agency, and universality as well as to facilitate a transformation of our historiographical, philosophical, and political practices. The conference convenes contributions that draw on decolonial, (post-)Marxist, or (queer-)feminist debates along with other approaches such as critical race and critical legal theory. 
The concept of “belligerent accumulation” refers to recent discussions concerning the idea of an ongoing “originary” accumulation, in order to delineate it as a warlike process underpinning colonial modernity and its aftermaths. This concept asserts that slave labor, land grabbing, expropriation, disenfranchisement, and their philosophical legitimizations represent neither external nor exceptional conditions of capitalist accumulation but rather manifest its irreducible coloniality. In this perspective, the usage of notions such as “primitive,” “prior,” “previous,” or “originary” in relation to the events of accumulation represent an Eurocentric and unilinear conception of history and should therefore be abandoned. In speaking of “belligerent accumulation,” the conference’s participants will debate a historically extended, aleatory dynamic of accumulation between different societal instances, that include philosophy and run in unpredictable superimpositions while nevertheless remaining interlinked. 

More specifically, the conference wishes to examine the dispositifs of natural right, valorization, and aesthetics by focusing on three universal legitimization narratives of Western Europe’s transatlantic colonial expansion: 
(1) the defense of the Castilian colonial project as undertaken by the School of Salamanca, which used discourses of universal theology but in effect argued secularly, e.g. by Luis de Molina;
(2) the natural right and natural law justifications of land grabbing, colonial war, and slavery in early modern English liberalism and classic contract theories, specifically in Thomas Hobbes and John Locke;
(3) the exclusion of the colonized from the world of sublimation, taste, and moral civility in Western aesthetics as exemplified by David Hume and Immanuel Kant.

Speakers: Robert Bernasconi (Pennsylvania State University), Ashley Bohrer (University of Notre-Dame), Sean Colonna (Bard College, New York) Kandice Chuh, (CUNY Graduate Center, New York), Jamila Mascat (Universiteit Utrecht), Mark Neocleous (Brunel University, London), Mary Nyquist (University of Toronto), Maïa Pal (Oxford Brooks University), Matthieu Renault (Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès), Monique Roelofs (Universiteit van Amsterdam). 

Organizers: Katja Diefenbach, Pablo Valdivia, Ruth Sonderegger (IKW)

Research Project: Perception, Jurisdiction, and Valorization in Colonial Modernity. On the Nexus of Accumulation, Race, and Aesthetics.
European University Viadrina & Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
Supported by Volkswagen Foundation

No registration necessary.
The European University Viadrina is 50 to 60 minutes away from Berlin East station by train.