First of all – fighting Antisemitism again and again is an urgently necessary challenge. The concern of critically examining theory in terms of its political, social and historical backgrounds and consequences is especially important to us as people operating between political activism and theoretical production. A crucial characteristic of a successful debate is the ability to argue precisely and thus gain a bit more agency than before.
What seems to be the point in Edi Freudmann’s open letter is the complex debate surrounding Antisemitism and post-colonial theory, especially in the context of political activism. Public attacks, however, cannot substitute for this discussion. For this reason, we hope that there is a “desire” behind this scandalization as well, which can be made productive. It is in this sense that we want to respond to his open letter.
About the course of events: Edi Freudmann confronts us with the accusation of trivializing and concealing Antisemitic statements, in this case from Walter Mignolo, whose text “Geopolitics of Sensing and Knowing” was published in the issue “Unsettling Knowledges” of the eipcp web journal (see http://eipcp.net/transversal/0112). Mignolo was invited to write an essay for this web issue, which was intended to address the post-colonial dimension of knowledge production, in Autumn 2010 – prior to his lecture that was co-organized by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (specifically the Class for Post-conceptual Art Practices, for which Edi Freudmann works as assistant) and eipcp.
It was only later that we heard about Walter Mignolo’s text “Dispensable and Bare Lives”. We decided to confront Mignolo with our criticism of the passage at the end of the text that Edi Freudmann refers to, and we seriously considered not publishing the text that had been invited for the eipcp publication long beforehand and had meanwhile already been delivered. The debates about Mignolo, which took place at the same time in association with the Academy in Vienna and to which the open letter alludes, without specifically addressing them, have not been publicly articulated or discussed in any way up to the present. Now they appear to have found a new target in those who publish texts by Walter Mignolo.
When we finally decided, following highly critical and controversial discussions, in favor of publishing the text written for eipcp, we did so essentially for two reasons: on the one hand, the relevant passage in “Dispensable and Bare Lives” that makes use of Antisemitic cliches is obviously disproportionate to the rest of the text, which pursues a fundamentally different argument, namely that of a criticism of Antisemitism as part of European modernity (see also the argumentation from Jens Kastner and Tom Waibel, http://argument-wasnun.blogspot.com). Although a critical confrontation with the author therefore appeared necessary to us, categorically discrediting him as an Antisemite did not seem self-evident. On the other hand, Mignolo is being discussed in several contexts relevant to the aforementioned web issue, which is why we found the inclusion of his essay meaningful as a basis for discussion.
In our view, the present debate reflects a political and theoretical lacuna, which is not likely to be filled by apparently treating Mignolo as being representative of post-colonial theory, when a differentiated “no single issue” discussion about the thematic complex of Antisemitism and post-colonial/anti-racist theory and politics is still lacking. The eipcp has been and still is interested in a critical engagement with the topic – and specifically beyond the narrow local context of Vienna. We would like to conduct this discussion in multiple languages and with participants from different, transnational contexts and to consider concrete possibilities for organizing a discussion of this kind.
Finally, it is important to us to point out that due to a principle division of labor in the production of transversal, the individuals addressed in the open letter (editors of the web issue) were involved in very different ways and some not at all in the processes described above. This makes the personalization of this debate problematic – it should be addressed to the eipcp in general.
eipcp, Vienna on 12 April 2012