Geen categorie

XXX, the unknown

The Arabic word tanaaqush (تَناقش, discussion) stems from naqasha, which refers to chiselling a stone. I was pondering these meanings as a tombstone was placed on my mother’s grave in the Aida refugee camp in Palestine, with a chiselled inscription identifying her nationality and place of birth and death. Three days later, and thousands of kilometres away, in the Netherlands, the Dutch government changed the information on my residence permit identification card. My nationality now reads ‘unknown’, and my place of birth the code ‘XXX’. This brief anecdote places these two versions of language (one for the dead, the other for the living) into a discussion (tanaaqush) to demonstrate how language can mask the complexity of our knowledge system. It intends to challenge the Western intellectual law that renders the ‘unknown’ – stateless and refugees – out of place, out of time, and thus incapable of political agency. Finally, the stateless are not citizens of the nation state model; can their social and political experiences open up a space to imagine – and perhaps realise – forms that might exist outside of what is possible or even conceivable today?

Like most Palestinian refugees, my mother and I were born in a refugee camp and inherited our refugee status. The legacy of such status embodies an enduring inheritance of violence. Initially, humanitarian institutions established Palestinian refugee camps (59 of them) in response to the Western-backed genocide committed by Jewish Zionist paramilitary groups, such as the Irgun, Lehi, Haganah, and Balach. With their destruction of Palestinian society – the displacement of 750.000-900.000 Palestinians and the occupation of 78% of the land in 1948 – the Zionist dream culminated in establishing Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people in historic Palestine. Two decades after the new settler colonial state was legalised under international law, Israel invaded and occupied the remaining Palestinian territories, creating more refugees and camps. More than seven decades have passed, and the occupation of the land, forced displacement and ethnic cleansing against the indigenous people of Palestine have not stopped.

Today, Palestinians (among others) scattered across the world are registered either under other nationalities, or as ‘unknown’ or ‘stateless’. These registrations confirm the status quo of a political impasse. International law defines a stateless person as ‘a person who is not considered a citizen by any state under its law.’[1] However, the Dutch authority assigns an ‘unknown’ classification to people who ‘lack’ the documents necessary to prove their nationality.[2] The legal difference between the two classifications is that an individual registered as stateless in the Dutch Personal Records Database (Basisregistratie Personen, BRP) can eventually apply for a Dutch travel document and citizenship. Meanwhile, ‘unknown nationality’ is not eligible for these rights, therefore, is prohibited from international protection. According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, 13.169 children under ten years of age are registered with ‘unknown nationality’, many of whom have been born in the Netherlands.[3] Most recently, the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP) stated that ‘80.000 people are registered as “nationality unknown”, in the Netherlands.’[4] Meanwhile, the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation office (IND) ‘estimates’ that 40.000 individuals with ‘unknown’ designations and 12.000 ‘stateless’ are registered in the BRP.[5] In all cases, only a few of them are Palestinians.

The Dutch government presents identity documents as impartial statements attesting to objective facts about people. So, an ID card is merely a bureaucratic record of objective facts about a person. However, ID cards consist of multiple layers. Manufacturers use heat, pressure, and cooling to bind various layers of polycarbonate – a type of thermoplastic material – and create an ID document. The fusing of different layers means that the structure of the finished data-page card is very robust, and the individual layers cannot be separated or split after lamination. Ultimately, the formed surface composed of photos, discourse, fingerprints, biographical data, laser ink colours, and resources, renders histories and the politics behind them invisible. Therefore, emphasizing the disembodied layers of the material document subverts such violence and opens the possibility of liberating the material images from such dominant readings. It enables us to look at the ethical, theoretical, and practical challenges of capturing emotions, silence, subjectivity, experiences, and politics beyond the material image of the identity document itself.

In 2019, the Dutch House of Representatives held a hearing about incorrect registration in the Personal Records Database with the then State Secretary, Raymond Knops. Questions 2 and 3 were:

‘Is it true that the person concerned, born in occupied Palestinian territory, is registered in the BRP as being born in Israel, and this can only be changed to «unknown», and in that case, it is not correctly displayed where he was born? If so, why is this the case?’

‘Is it true that in 2012 it was announced by the Ministry of the Interior that the registration «(occupied) Palestinian territory» would be added to the system of the Key Register of Persons, but that the ministry later changed its mind about this? If so, why did it come back to this?’

The State Secretary answered: 

The Country Table must be used to register the country of birth in the Personal Records Database (BRP). The policy of the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Minister of Foreign Affairs is based on the principle that only states and territories recognized by the Kingdom of the Netherlands that are politically part of a state recognized by the Kingdom can be included in the Country Table. Under Article 23 of the BRP Decree, the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations may exceptionally decide to include other areas in the Country Table. The listing of areas must fit within the system of the Country Table as an administrative/political list. It must also be in accordance with the foreign policy of the Dutch government. The designation «(occupied) Palestinian territory» does not fit within the system of the Country Table and is therefore not included in the Country Table.

The person registered in the BRP as being born in Israel was born in East Jerusalem. With the “Guideline for inclusion of country of birth of persons in East Jerusalem”, issued on 17 April 2014, it was decided at the time to offer persons born in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the option upon request to use their country of birth as a code 0000 with the description “unknown”.’[6]

The hearing in the Dutch House of Representatives occurred six years after the Dutch citizen born in East Jerusalem had finally reached the legal age and requested recognition of his Palestinian identity. He was born to a Palestinian mother, but his country of birth was registered as Israel. The Dutch authorities refused and instead offered him to be ‘unknown’. The person entered administrative and legal proceedings and invoked his ‘right to identity’ under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which ‘provides’ the right to ‘respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence.’[7] On 11 April 2018, the Utrecht District Court and the Administrative Law Division of the State Council decided that they had not found a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights; however, it supported that the entries ‘Israel’ and ‘unknown’ are incorrect.

The case, perhaps, shows how the Dutch authority’s bureaucratic theory that identity documents describe objective facts about people negates the performative nature of such documents. Documentation not only describes facts about people and their relationship to the nation state but also ‘creates’ these facts.

I got a visa stamp on my travel document to enter the Netherlands through the Dutch representative office in the West Bank, Palestine. Upon arriving in Utrecht, I registered myself with the city council. I soon received my first Dutch residency card, which stated Palestine as my place of birth. Less than a year later, I renewed my residency, but this time the Dutch authorities replaced Palestine with the codes ‘XXX’ and ‘unknown’. The former inclusion of Palestine on the ID card was not a methodological or technical error but an act of human solidarity.

When the Dutch authorities decided to intervene in both cases, they did so in a way that they considered ‘objective’ and maintained a reputation of impartiality. The solution was to group human judgments into quantifiable variables. This is because the decision-making process would be better if the decision could be aggregated and converted into a mathematical function. Nevertheless, how does mathematics suppose for itself to deal with perfect knowledge? How can the process of coming into being and passing away, of growth and decay, be captured with the beauties of mathematics?

Walter Benjamin warned us against turning violence into law: when violence becomes law, we all obey that law and forget the violence. The embodiment of the aesthetic symbol ‘XXX’ into a legal form points to the classificatory practices of Western modernity that serve to reinforce the nation state model of its own making. Likewise, the term ‘unknown’ suggests a language of the state which denies the very existence of Palestine and our struggle not merely out of place but out of time – out of sync with a (Western-modern) political time in which any political transformation would be possible. The Dutch authorities consider ‘space’ and ‘time’ two commodities that are embodied in the relationship between ownership and improvement. It is a policy that aims to create differences between people by forming Otherness, defining time and place for some as one of care, and for others as one of control. Neither suitable for nor relevant to modern times, Palestine and Palestinian exist neither in this place nor in this time.

Here lies one of the main entrances to this text. It remains the canon of modern Western thought that has the power to represent and construct discursiveness around the ‘Other’. But memories are the antithesis of the colonial power of the colonised subject. The Western desire to discover and control ‘unknown’ lands created a global consciousness, where the world’s dominant subjectivity (as an unimaginable place) ended up giving colonial subjectivity a place for global consciousness. This account encourages us not to understand the West as a geopolitical project but as a kind of entity with no fixed time.

‘X’ is the Latin symbol for the Arabic word, shay (شيء), which means ‘something’; something to learn, uncover or figure out. When he arrived in America, Christopher Columbus recorded in his diary on October 12, 1492, addressing the Spanish colonial monarchy, ‘these are people without religion.’ In the late fifteenth century, during the ideological rule of the European Catholic Church, the new concept of ‘people without religion’ meant that they had neither a God nor souls and therefore were non-human in nature. By applying this classification, the West carried out ‘encomienda’ – structural forced labour and forced conversions of conquered non-Christian peoples – enslaved native Americans and committed atrocities under the pretext of enlightenment while assuring themselves that they had not committed sins.

Less than a hundred and fifty years later, the father of modern Western philosophy, René Descartes, famously released his philosophical phrase, ‘I think therefore I exist’ – from the heart of Amsterdam, thirty years after the Dutch defeated the Spaniards – declaring that Western man is the basis of knowledge in the era of Modern European Societies. Descartes’ celebration of the Western man was conditional. It arose after the Western expulsion and genocide against Muslims and Jews from Spain, which included the theft and burning of libraries in Granada and Cordoba. Burning women accused of witchcraft in the West. The colonisation of America. The colonisation and enslavement of free African peoples. All are genocides that shaped the contemporary Cartesian assumptions of the intellectual definition of ‘humanness’ as entities and processes separate from emotion.


Today, while the settler-colonial state of Israel is ethnically cleansing the Indigenous Palestinian population, a computer chip is being reprogrammed in the Netherlands. In this obfuscated language, we can understand the Dutch government’s policy to erase structures of knowledge, memory, and the present history of the Palestinian struggle. In the end, a new device is produced with software that creates a contemporary colonial subject with a colonial narrative of history, identity, etc. 

To end at the beginning. The title of this text is ‘XXX, the unknown’. Consider it a tautology – we don’t know what we don’t know. The central point here is the position of enunciation: the geopolitical and body-political location of the subject that speaks. The one who narrates is the one that finds themselves in the middle of their narration. While I am the story’s narrator, I suddenly find myself also being a character inside my own story, where the text swallows up my subjectivity. However, subjectivity is not a deterministic assumption but has its roots in experience. The experience does not define it; instead, we use the experience to serve our political selves.

For decades, scholars, theories, and policies have focused on citizenship and the nation state with less regard for all other forms of social formation and the fabric of relations outside of these models. I am not interested in an immaterial view of language or the exacerbation of feelings as a desperate and historical reaction to an overwhelming reality. On the contrary, I am interested in talking about the aesthetic orientation of stateless autonomy, which is the preferential choice of Palestinian refugees. As nation states deteriorate across the Arab world (and beyond), shaping a future of necropolitics for its citizens, Palestinian refugees remain caught in a nostalgia for the future lost, a constant state of anticipation for a more just future. This is why we ask; if we, the unknown, have nothing, what does the known have? And how does this ‘having’ affect deprivation? What I mean here is the deprivation of ‘stateful’ – basically, those who have nothing; have everything and nothing to lose.

The Palestinian state-building project, which emerged from the Oslo Accords and was framed by neoliberal institution-building, came to challenge the camp and deviate from the Palestinian liberation struggle and the refugee prospect. This nation state structure came from the social formation of capitalist slavery – racial capitalism – and the relations of production of colonialism. However, the camp is an extraterritorial space; no state has direct authority over it. And the way refugees understand and inhabit camps goes beyond the delimited conception of the camp by institutionalized international humanitarian providers as a space exclusively dedicated to providing humanitarian aid.

Indeed, we must remember that refugee camps were meant to be as envisioned by humanitarian aid providers. They were meant to be limited and temporary places; no one would have imagined that it would be a place where people would make a life out of their limitations. Eventually, tents were modified first with vertical walls, later replaced by shelters, and then new houses made of concrete were built, making the camp dense and durable urban spaces. Such a radical shift did not normalize our political struggle. On the contrary, the prolonged exceptional temporality of the camp has opened a new horizon for political and social formations, a counter-site for emerging political practices and a new form of urbanism. Seventy-four years after its founding, its current spatial manifestations bear witness to the genocide perpetrated against Palestinians in 1948. The camp’s history is replete with international crimes and political failures.

Nonetheless, over the years, camps have become fully fledged realms of political life. They become spaces where people organize political movements and take political action. But also spaces of political theories – thinking about the political future in a new way and not just organizing people into a classic movement. It is our secret weapon of political prospect heritage, the unnatural habitat and habitus of analytic engines with innovative abilities – the embodiment of the Palestinian struggles.

The political theorizing of the camp is not only a possibility for refugees but for citizens too because it is not a utopian project that imagines that everything will become new as if the future lies in an entirely positive sense. On the contrary, its presence is part of its history of disposition. Its continuation, in some ways, is a symbol and a sign of a lack of a resolution of this politics that the future has not arrived. It is a space where many people are disadvantaged and vulnerable. So, all these things are facts and can’t be ignored. However, it is within this that possibilities emerge. That makes it even more potent because it must start with the full complexity of life. Not from a fantasy of perfect politics or a perfect future. Or a fantasy of being together as only good. Being together involves politics, hierarchy, and differences of opinions that are always resolved in the complexity of those matters – but starting from a place freed from some of the structural thoughts and constraints of nation state modality.

We have come from the unknown, which the known misunderstood. The unknown is not the property of the state but an open set of social lives whose materialized exhaustion remains an irreducible chance. The unknown – the anti-colonial and decolonial struggle – is, after all, an active effort of a possibility in the present that is not readable to the global hyper-connected mind. It is, however, an aching archive – the known unknown that contains our constant grief, the dispossessed longing for the bodies that were once among us and have gone over the known side that we will go to, too. The unknown is not to doubt our very own subjectivity. After all, we might be as artificial or as real as you are. The unknown is not to look for an origin or an essence in a lost past but a creative act. The real challenge is building empathy between cultures and challenging the dominant power structure that is racist, sexist, and epistemicidal.

[1] UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons: Implementation within the European Union Member States and Recommendations for Harmonisation, October 2003 <>.

[2] ‘Statelessness’ Government of the Netherlands <>.

[3] ‘The Netherlands violated child’s right to acquire a nationality, UN Committee finds’ United Nations. 29 December 2020 <>.

[4] ‘Statelessness’ The Public Interest Litigation Project. 11 August 2015 <>.

[5] (See note 2).

[6] ‘Antwoord op vragen van de leden Karabulut en Sjoerdsma over foutieve registratie in de Basisregistratie Personen’ Tweede Kamer der Staten Generaal. 11 Februari 2019 <>.

[7] European Court of Human Rights. ‘Guide on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights’ 31 August 2022 <>.

We’re still alive, so remove us from memory. Asynchronicity and the Museum in Resistance

The museum in resistance is not as we imagine: a material structure and archive of a past struggle of emancipation. It is rather the generative collective disintegration of this material in the struggle for forging collective myths. The museum in resistance is a museum outside of time, as time is always controlled by the hegemonic power. It is a museum which does not reserve a record nor a trace, but rather a shared knowledge in continuous circulation and transformation.

Take One: The Museum Object in Battle

In her essay A Tank on a Pedestal: Museums in an Age of Planetary Civil War,Hito Steyerl writes about a military tank that was stolen from the pedestal of a WWII monument in Ukraine and used in battle during the 2014 conflict.[2] Borrowing from Giorgio Agamben’s work on the relationship between civil war and stasis, Steyerl accuses the museum of being the site – perhaps even the engine – of a history which keeps returning and remains stuck in a loop. She defines the kind of history that returns by the re-use of the tank as ‘partial, partisan, and privatized, a self-interested enterprise, a means to feel entitled, an objective obstacle to coexistence, and a temporal fog detaining people in the stranglehold of imaginary origins.’[3] In other words, the exhibition of the tank on a memorial site is complicit with this history, as it embodies it, makes it available and visible, causing its return. Following her argument, the museum functions as a time travel machine that hurls us back into loops of violence: ‘[t]he museum leaks the past into the present, and history becomes severely corrupted and limited.’[4] National museums work under the assumption that its objects are representative of its citizens, tacitly equal and homogeneous. However, this only continues to aggravate residual tensions. Civil Wars thrive on historical tensions and are usually propelled by national, ethnic or religious binaries, which mask class struggle and injustice caused by the ruling national bourgeoisie.[5] Still, museums present themselves as public institutions and the objects within them as owned by the citizens of the state. Exhibitions in this sense become a means for the representation of the nation. Thus, it is not illogical for citizens to re-use its objects. Once the objects are exposed and re-used, the museum’s time seeps out of its doors, infecting all its citizens, trapping them into a loop.

The birth of the modernist museum has always been associated with revolution, with the Louvre as the emblem of this history. If the museum is post-revolutionary, it is also postcolonial, as it is often one of the first institutions to be built post-independence. In the Palestinian context however, time outside the museum is still under settler colonialism, and resistance to this is still underway. So, while the debate around decolonising the museum is rooted in a ‘postcolonial time’, the colonialization of Palestine continues, and the struggle against it ensues as an elongated present. We therefore find ourselves in an uncanny situation where we suffer the symptoms of a new post-independence nation state, with new national museums, local authorities, and a neoliberal economy, while still under settler colonial rule and without sovereignty over land, people or infrastructure. Considering this asynchronicity with the temporal rhythms of the national and modernist post-revolutionary museum, what happens to the objects within them, and how do they remain active in the present?

Take Two: Fugitive Objects

The Yasser Arafat Museum in Ramallah exhibits a number of weapons, some with a symbolic provenance. One such weapon is the personal pistol of the late Yasser Arafat. Another gun belonged to the late Khalil Al Wazir (Abu Jihad), co-founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization and commander of the armed wing of Fatah.[6] Yet there is a stark difference in the ways the two pistols are exhibited. While the pistol of Arafat is displayed behind museum glass, near the famous speech he gave at the 1974 UN General Assembly, Abu Jihad’s is only represented by a photograph. Arafat’s pistol has had a symbolic function ever since he spoke the most famous lines from his 1974 speech: ‘Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.’[7] Almost fifty years later, encased in museum glass in Ramallah, the pistol is evidence of the death of that revolutionary era for the leadership. It represents the trigger for the museum’s present day politics; their collaboration with settler colonial powers through censorship, repression and security coordination.

The picture of Abu Jihad’s pistol on the other hand, is like a hole in the museum. From this crack, present day reality seeps in. Underneath the photo, the label reads: ‘The gun was obtained from the family of the martyr but the museum has not yet been able to bring it from Gaza.’ Abu Jihad was assassinated in 1988 in Tunis by the Mossad. The pistol carries traces of the assassination, as the handle is shot off. The reason why the museum cannot physically obtain the pistol is because it is impossible for his widow to transport it through Erez, one of the Israeli checkpoints encasing Gaza in an impenetrable siege for over ten years.[8]

Every time I visit the Yasser Arafat Museum, I wonder why the photo of Abu Jihad’s pistol is exhibited, since the museum is an obvious site for claiming the death of a revolutionary era and setting the stage for the narrative of the present political regime: peaceful negotiations, security coordination and political complicity with the Israeli settler colonial regime. The photo of Jihad’s weapon posits an opposing narrative of the museum. Naturally, we all know that the museum (and any other conduit for hegemonic ideology for that matter) is not omniscient and that it leaks, breaks and falters. However, this looks like a very deliberate curatorial decision. A photo of the pistol behind museum glass. I would postulate that it is an attempt at de-functionalising the pistol even while it is outside the museum. The museum would like to capture both militant past and present and put them to their death, thus, it situates resistance to settler colonialism in the past in an attempt to frame everything in a postcolonial time. The photograph of the pistol, therefore, carries within it the contradiction and tension within this museum.

However, contrary to the desire of the museum, the photo of the pistol has invoked various stories, rumours and myths as to why the pistol is missing. In fact, the photo looks like a wanted poster. The museum wishes to capture the fugitive pistol, but as sometimes happens with wanted posters, its purpose backfires, transforming the outlaw into a popular figure of rebellion. In The Undercommons, Stefano Harney and Fred Moten write of the fugitive as the outlaw, as the rebel, the one who stands their ground against the settlers.[9] Evading the relationship between the powerful and powerless, the fugitive is rather the one who transgresses this relationship of binaries by refusing ‘to be corrected.’[10] Similarly, some objects are compelled by colonial powers to refuse to enter the museum, to refuse to be transformed into pure postcolonial form, into corpses of colonial time.

Take Three: The Museum Before or After the Revolution?

As stated above, the Louvre is considered by many to mark the birth of the modern museum. The conversion of the palace into a museum was propelled by the French Revolution. As discussed by Boris Groys, the decision by the revolutionaries whether to destroy the palace or not was resolved by converting it into a museum, an iconoclastic response which turns everything in the museum into material evidence of the death of the past regime/s.[11] This irrevocable death marks a new political era outside the museum, de-functionalising its objects, transforming them into art.[12] So, the museum’s time, according to Groys, is after the end of a revolution. The museum in this way functions to deem not only what is inside of it irrevocably dead but also the revolution itself. Revolutions are defined by the present, as they are usually the moment of destruction of the present regime. Once this regime is destroyed, the revolution is destroyed along with it. Museums are built to commemorate those revolutions; they become both evidence of the death of a past regime and guarantor that another revolution is unnecessary. This is precisely the case with the Yasser Arafat Museum; it commemorates the history of the militant era, or what Palestinians refer to as the Palestinian Revolution, subsequently hurling it into the past. With the post-revolutionary museum in place, there is no longer a reason to revolt. Time in the modernist museum moves between history and the future. The present is only a tunnel. History is employed to determine the future, and the future is rather posited as the present.

Take Four: The Secret

There is another notorious gun in the Palestinian imagination. During the – continuing – Nakba of 1948, many Palestinians buried their valuable belongings (ranging from photos to gold) in their backyards or secret locations, so they would be able to retrieve them once they returned, not knowing that many of these belongings would remain buried for decades. However, the stories of those underground remainders keep circulating in the diaspora and across generations. The satirical novel The Secret Life of Saeed: The Pessoptimist by Emile Habibi, tells of is such a story. The novel centres around the strange time of the Nakba aftermath. Chronicling the struggles and transformations of the anti-hero, Saeed, and his family, the story spans two generations, wherein his son is empowered by the buried objects. Two secrets haunt the novel: the first is that Saeed is a collaborator with the new regime, and the second is a buried treasure box that his wife’s family hid in a cave in their village, Tantoura, before they were forcibly expelled in 1948. Eventually, their son finds the treasure box, which contains guns and gold, and becomes a Fida’i (resistance fighter).

The Nakba of 1948 defined the Palestinians as a collective through the shared experience of death and expulsion. The moment of death and burial is simultaneously the moment of birth and reproduction.[13] Therefore, the novel’s return to the buried treasure follows this form of movement. Throughout the novel, the buried treasure functions like a promise of salvation, a reminder of a possible return, the potential for some kind of emancipation. Indeed, the story of the treasure box enables the son to become a resistance fighter. The act of burial produces life; the stories of the buried objects circulate among the Palestinians, they are kept alive through continuous oral chronicling.

Take Five: What About the Present?

In All Shall be Unicorns, Marina Vishmidt writes about the notion of the commons and art activism in relation to time. She juxtaposes communist time with commonist time. Vishmidt argues that the fulfilment of communism takes place after the revolution; thus, it exists in the future while commonist time takes place in the present. Commonism is rooted in the present because, instead of waiting for the future revolution or political mobilisation against the state, or making demands of the state, it launches its affirmative projects in the here and now. In the modernist conception of time, and its association with progress, the present and the future become binaries, as we resist the present and work towards a ‘better’ future. According to Vishmidt, the commons is still ‘future oriented’ but embodied rather than using time as a medium for its realisation. The commons ‘does not oppose the present, but proposes an active reconstruction of it from within.’[14] Moreover, this idea of progress, which sees the present as the tunnel for the future, is at the very core of capitalism, as financial markets are based on future projections and speculation. Postponement and delay are tactics of the market and a means to control the present. According to Timothy Mitchell, even the construction of infrastructure is built to delay and accumulate interest and profit.[15] However, the future orientation of the solution to come is futile in the case of settler colonialism. For the oppressed, the present and the everyday are determined by struggle and resistance. Thus, a deferral into the future constitutes self-denial.[16]

Practices of the commons are also rooted in the everyday. Capitalism pervades every aspect of our lives; its violence is slow. Vishmidt discusses the different discourses of the left around the fight with capitalism, and a futurist orientation seems to pervade. Those discourses are set after the destruction of capitalist institutions opens the way for communist living. Commonism is instead situated in the present and is rather affirmative, building communities and support structures which are based on alternative economies, slowly and silently leaving those hegemonic institutions to falter and fall. So, is the time of the museum in resistance the present?

The museum in struggle needs to be a site of burials. As Groys writes, contrary to the prevalent narrative of calling the museum a graveyard, the graveyard is a space full of possibilities.[17] Stories about graveyards abound. Death in the graveyard becomes generative. Spirits inhabit the present. In popular culture, there are many stories about corpses awakening at graveyards, less so at museums.[18] The secret and promise of finding the treasure box in The Pessoptimist functions in the same way. The buried treasure box reminds the son of his mother’s village and the necessity for return. Similar to Abu Jihad’s missing pistol, the story of the object and its emancipatory powers survives because of its lack of exposure.

Take Six: Archives in Resistance

The museum of resistance is a museum engaged in struggle. Therefore, it is a museum outside of time. During the first intifada in Palestine, underground communiqués were discarded by burial; they were deemed illegal by the Israeli military, and any Palestinian caught reading or in possession of one was arrested. So, the communiqués had to disappear after they were read. Burning was not an option since the traces are incriminating, so it is said that they were dumped in wet concrete construction sites or buried underground. The future material exposure of these documents implicated their readers and authors. This is precisely the danger of the exhibition of a material archive during a struggle. Any record is incriminating. To be outside of time is to be outside the reaches of the archive and surveillance. It is through the collective practice of struggle and resistance that a community can attempt to be outside of time. It is through preserving a secret together.

The late eighties in Palestine were distinguished by collective emancipatory knowledge production and radical imagination. Another form of an archive in resistance is a book named Falsafat al Muwajahah Wara al Qudban or The Philosophy of Confrontation Behind Bars. This book was smuggled in fragments inside of capsules by political prisoners and circulated outside and inside of Israeli prisons to educate Palestinians about how to confront political imprisonment. The book does not contain any publishing information; neither the author, the publication date, nor printing information are mentioned. Scholar Esmail Nashif writes about the deliberate absence of this information:

The main characteristic of the space/time of the no-naming practice is the fact of being out of reach of the colonizer’s surveillance practices. But in the case of Philosophy of the Confrontation Behind Bars this being out of reach is not a passive fragile insulation. On the contrary, the invisibility is capitalized on to resist the colonizer whose eye is blinded by the secrecy. The act of no-naming blinds the colonizer’s eye/discourse.[19]

The absence of the information places the book outside of a record of time and space which the coloniser controls. To achieve this resistance to the time and space of the coloniser, authorship should encompass the collective: ‘The author is the collectivity… By not naming it, one reproduces the myth of the We.’[20] The record of knowledge by the Palestinian collective body was materialised and circulated because it was necessary to share in and for resistance. However, the way it was disseminated protected the collective instead of exposing it. The absence of a date places this body of knowledge outside of time, making it impossible to capture yet available to everyone. The underground authorship and circulation of collective knowledge is one of the aspects of a museum in resistance. The medium of this museum is continuous collective dissemination rather than a building made of concrete with an immovable collection about resistance.

[1] The title of this text inspired by the poem ‘The Exiles Don’t Look Back’ by Maḥmūd Darwīsh In: Darwīsh, Maḥmūd. Now, As You Awaken. Transl. Omnia Amin and Rick London. San Francisco: Sardines Press, 2006.

[2] Steyerl, Hito. ‘A Tank on a Pedestal: Museums in an Age of Planetary Civil War’ e-flux. February 2016. <>.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Amel, Mahdi. ‘Al Thaqafa Wal Thawra.’ Al Hiwar Al Mutamadden, Al Hiwar Al Mutamadden. 23 May 2016. <>.

[6] Afbeeldingen pistolen

[7] Arafat, Yasser. ‘Yasser Arafat’s 1974 UN General Assembly speech.’ United Nations General Assembly, New York. 13 November 1974.

[8] In the larger context of the PA the Palestinian police cannot even move with their weapons between different zones and ghettos, as connecting roads are under Israeli control.

[9] Harney, Stefano, Fred Moten. The Undercommons. Fugitive Planning & Black Study. New York etc: Minor Compositions, 2013.

[10] Ibid.: p. 1.

[11] Groys, Boris. ‘On art activism’ e-flux journal, no. 56 (2014): p. 1-14.

[12] Groys even suggests that it is the modernist museum which marks the transformation of design into art

[13] Nashif, Esmail. Images of a Palestinian’s Death. Beirut: Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, 2015.

[14] Vishmidt, Marina. ‘All Shall Be Unicorns: About Commons, Aesthetics and Time’ Open! Platform for Culture, Art & The Public Domain. 3 September 2014. <>.

[15] Mitchell, Timothy. ‘Infrastructures Work on Time’ e-flux architecture. 28 Jan. 2020. <>.

[16] Joseph Massad uses the term postcolonial colony to describe Palestine with which he presents a historical argument where Zionism presents Israel as a postcolony. In: Massad, Joseph A. The Persistence of the Palestinian Question. Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians. New York etc.: Routledge, 2006.

[17] Groys 2014 (see note 10)

[18] Ibid.

[19] Nashif, Esmail. Palestinian Political Prisoners: Identity and Community. New York etc.: Routledge, 2008.

[20] Ibid.

The Palestinian Pavilion 


A Manifesto Against the State of the World

In a world where genocide unfolds before our very eyes, shielded by nation-state rhetoric and bolstered by the imperial powers of our times, we bear witness to unspeakable horrors. This witnessing is not metaphorical—it is stark reality. To witness now is to be complicit; ignorance is no excuse, and inaction is cowardice.

What is it that cannot be stopped?

The global state structure, which dominated the 20th century, not only allows but actively enables genocide in Gaza and elsewhere in this world. Every genocide is perpetuated by a state. This machinery of destruction, guided by settler colonialism, fueled by capitalism, empowered by technological might, and covered by complicit media giants, must be dismantled. We are confronted with ongoing efforts to alienate us from our political agency and the ability to strive towards a moral and just world for all. We ask: If this level of atrocity is now acceptable, then what is deemed unacceptable? We must reconsider what structures national identities have produced and restore our severed connection to the land as a source of our identity and political existence.

The Palestinian struggle and resistance comes to remind us of what should not be forgotten: the people and the land embody each other, in time and place. It is within this unbreakable bond that we envision the future, it is within this bond that we learn from the past, and through it we engage with our present. We refuse the state of the world: the brutality of maintaining the hegemony of the powerful and the complicity of those who turn a blind eye to injustice.

What role can art and poetry play in a future built on genocide?

The Zionist state’s atrocities permeate every level of existence. It devours all human knowledge and science by utilizing technology and social engineering to produce killing targets and destruction lists. Within these new artificial intelligence technologies, every total meaning can be devoured, every total meaning can kill. 

Now is the time for art and poetry. For art that rejects the logic of prevailing power. For poetry that resists the totalizing narratives that fuel the killing machines of the perpetrator. Art is inherently political—in its message, production, and presentation. It engages with society, assuming a role either in complicity or resistance. 

Art and poetry represent our liberated knowledge, freed from the belly of the beast. This moment demands that we reclaim our political agency; in its clarity, it empowers us to turn imagination into affirmative actions, forging poetic structures of collectivity—a return to the essence of our humanity. We belong to the world, to the earth, to the land, and through this agency, we move, act, and refuse to be silent accomplices to the state’s atrocities. We cannot ignore the oppressive conditions under which creativity thrives. Faced with censorship or co-option, we must resist glorifying the regime or fading into obscurity.

We must defend our agency as political beings, stateless as humanity itself, collective as what our societies are, we are bound to organize and resist on multiple fronts to halt the genocide and prevent it as a future. 


Open call: Embodying Resistance

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The role of the body in struggles for liberation, from all geographies and histories, including but not limited to Palestine
  • Theorising the muscle as the vital force of resistance (in the Fanonian sense) from a decolonial, anti-capitalist standpoint2
  • Sick or crip strategies of resistance3
  • How the individual body in resistance becomes part of a collective body
  • (Feminist and/or anarchist) organised self-defence groups and movements
  • Liberating tools that are used by the system to modify play with one’s body against the normative order
  • Performances and rituals as forms of alternative embodied opposition
  • Intimate spaces of resistance

Your proposal:
Because it is our aim to give form to the idea of a pluriversal world, we resolutely reject the idea of a universal way of knowing emanating from a neutral, general and/or anonymous perspective. Instead, we look for contributions that are concretely situated, personal, fragmented, specific, etc. and from all possible backgrounds, disciplines and/or embodied knowledges. We also look for and welcome contributions that come from a different epistemological knowledge or language that the editors of Errant do not understand. Additionally, we welcome all possible forms that can be conveyed in the format of a publication: academic writing, fiction, poetry, images and experimental forms we have not thought of ourselves yet.

Proposals should not exceed 300 words, accompanied by one piece of previously published material and a short bio. You may also propose an existing text, artwork or other material, if so please specify. The deadline for proposals is 1 April 2024.

After selection, the deadline for contributions is 7 July 2024. We aim to publish this issue in October 2024.

Proposals or questions about this open call can be sent to:

We aim for max. 3-4,000 words for an essay or short story, max. 2 or 3 pages for a poem, and max. 10 pages for a visual contribution. Amount of words/pages is open for discussion and depends on the contribution.

Contributors publishing new material especially created for this issue of Errant receive a fee of € 400,- incl. VAT per contribution upon acceptance and publication.


  1.  Dorlin, Elsa. Self-Defense: A Philosophy of Violence, translated from the French by Kieran Aarons. Verso Books, 2022. ↩︎
  2. As inspired by: Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth, translated from the French by Constance Farrington. Penguin Books, 1961 ↩︎
  3. See for instance: Hedva, Johanna. ‘Sick Woman Theory,’ 2022 <>. Originally published in Mask Magazine (Jan. 2016). ↩︎

The Cane Burners by Jamie McGhee

Pitit mwen chèri. My dear daughter. You are doomed.


The black on her skin wouldn’t come off.

“Do you want to die here?” Celine dunked her hands into the boiling river, once, twice, scrubbed her palms and wrists and fingertips with a corn husk full of gravel. “Hurry, hurry, hurry.”  

Pink light spread across the cane fields. “Diyab!” She snatched her satchel and ran — then spun back around and attacked her hands with new fervor. Celine couldn’t face her like this. The blasphemy of staining those milky white pages with soot and furnace oil… 

Somewhere behind her, shrieks tore through the sucrerie — a fire must have leaped from cauldron to skin. She stiffened. You don’t have time. She scrubbed harder. The driver would wait for her. Right? No. She scrubbed until the stones tore up tiny flecks of her palms and leaked red into the hissing waters. She raised her hands to see if she could still smell charcoal and animal fat. Yes. Of course.


She gritted her teeth. “Bonjou, Madame la Prophétesse.”

Leathery palms pressed harder against Celine’s eyes. “Don’t run to that woman.”

“I — ” Celine jerked away, but the prophétesse pushed her head down, forced her to bow to the mad old lady eclipsing the sun.

“If you run while we’re still fighting for freedom, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

Celine stiffened beneath the weight of her hand. “You won already, Madame la Prophétesse. Twenty years ago, Madame la Prophétesse. Remember?”

A blood-crusted saber glinted on her waist. “Libète se yon chan batay.” Freedom is a battlefield.

So many things Celine wanted to say: It sounds like you received another mystical message from the Virgin Mary, Madame la Prophétesse? And: I’ll miss the papery folds around your eyes.

Instead, she twisted away and clasped the satchel across her chest. “I have to go.”

The prophétesse sucked her remaining teeth. “You know, Marie-Jeanne never ran. And she — ”

“Please don’t.”

“Your mother died free and proud.”

Celine broke into a sprint.

“Do you think that other woman won’t throw you away?” the prophétesse called across the plantation. “She’ll torch you like an old book!”

The distance between them yawned wider. Her words echoed out but vanished once Celine passed the sucrerie, where the moulin à canne’s clanking and rolling iron teeth gnashed raw sugarcane into juice. Burned workers slathered lalwé across their blistering cheeks. Others fed more cane to the moulin. Most were missing fingers, hands. Sacrifices to the beast.

“Free?” Celine muttered. “You think my mother died proud?”

The watchtower clanged: The sound vibrated down the hill and expanded into the soles of her feet. She fled past the boilers that belched smoke, flame and flesh into sticky September air. Her throat seared with thirst as one-armed men labored machetes through mazes of sugarcane; her muscles spasmed as children dislocated their shoulders reining wild ox carts. For this, revolutionaries like Toussaint, and Dessalines, and the prophétesse, and her mother Marie-Jeanne had sliced Haiti’s veins and spilled the blood of 200,000 people. Called it victory.

The workers weren’t chained here. Not anymore. But the new revolutionary government made sure they had nowhere else to go.

Twenty years after alleged victory, when everyone was dead or forced back to the fields, her mother spent catatonic nights slumped in their moonlit barracks. Unblinking. Body wrung dry. She wouldn’t move until Celine cracked open her Bible and said, “Let me read you what the missionnaires taught me.” Stories brought her mother freedom. Revolution didn’t. Bloodshed didn’t. Onion-skin pages and tales of Persia did. And when stories weren’t enough, her mother — who had once marched the ramparts of Crête-à-Pierrot with a rifle and a rapier — died on the same plantation she’d twice razed.

Celine would never admit her mother’s sadness to Madame la Prophetess, would never ruin the older woman’s image of her; everyone needed stories to believe in, especially when they’d lost their own children in the flames. One day, Celine would return to give the prophétesse a proper goodbye, and she would bring books.


Celine locked eyes with an ox.

It hurtled toward her, hooves clopping and clattering, kicking up a hurricane of dust. The driver yanked the reins. The cart careened. Sugarcane bundles toppled off the back. She hit the dirt and rolled, flinging her arms above her head.

“I’m so sorry!” The driver clambered down. A child. “Mwen dezole. I’m so sorry.”

In front of her eyes, ink blots burst into spinning stars. Her heart pounded in her throat, her fist, her mouth. Her ankle wouldn’t let her stand. It throbbed. Her satchel tore open: Paper littered the ground. She tried to stand again. Fell on her back. Could only stare up at the sky as it bloomed tangerine and she realized she was going to be late, desperately late.

It was too easy to die here. Just like her mother.


Ti cheri Celine, I cannot write this letter down, because I don’t know how to write.

And I can never say these things to you, because I am not strong enough.

You see the world with such hope. You are nine now. When the prophétesse speaks of liberation, you thrust a stick into the air like a saber and declare that you will fight until every shackle is shattered. Once we get off the plantation, you swear you will eat sugar for every meal.

You aren’t yet old enough to ask yourself, Slavery is over. So why are we chained to the same fields?

For now, I will repeat this letter in my head until I am strong enough to break your heart with the truth: Freedom is not a straight line. You will never reach it.


“I’m here! I’m here!” Celine limped through the market and flagged down the vegetable stall. “Where’s Tonton?”

A marchand polished the soil off a corkscrewed manioc. “You must be that girl.”

“Did he leave?”

“You’re lucky,” he said.

She exhaled. In books, the heroine always arrived in the nick of time. “Where is he?”

The marchand fished four coins out of his pocket. “You’re lucky he offered a refund.”

He dropped them into her hands like rocks into water. Heavy. Final. Suddenly, they weighed so much that she couldn’t lift them. She couldn’t lift her body anymore, either. She sat in the dust and stuck her head between her legs and let the sun whip stripes down the back of her exposed neck.

So she would die here. No. No. Think like a heroine. “Could you — ”

“Does it look like I can take you?”

Wind blew guava leaves through the empty square.

“…Business will pick up anytime now,” he said.

On Sundays, Croix-des-Champs swelled with the aroma of bananes frites, pikliz and tasso, of fried plantains, pickled vegetables and marinated beef. But when all their customers were chopping cane, buildings sat shuttered. Goats chewed bagasse and a mule dozed in front of the cabaret.

Wait. A mule.

Beside it, two men huddled over a bottle, cursing the sun. She curtsied while gripping a beam for support. “Excusez-moi, Mons — ”

“That snake sold us anyway!” The cabaretier made the sign of the cross and flung it into the air. “I knew from the moment Boyer put on that tricorne, you know, and the prophétesse warned me, warned us all.”

“Monsieur, are you going to Jacmel?” she asked.

“Don’t blame the president,” said his compatriot. “Blame France.”

“I blame both! Let France try to steal us back. We fought to the death once. Let’s do it again.” The cabaretier slammed down his cup. It missed the table and sloshed down his leg.

As he swore and shook his boot dry, Celine swiped his bottle. “Koute’m!”

The cabaretier jerked around. His eyes zig-zagged up her body, appraised her from muddy knees to torn satchel.

“Jacmel?” she asked again.

He flicked dirt from the rim of his cup. Whistled. “Today?”

She rolled four gourdes across the table.

He rolled them back. “Have you seen what the president’s charging in taxes?”

“I’ll take war over inflation,” his friend muttered into his drink.

Celine gaped. “You’re asking five?”

“More-o-ver, you try getting through those mountains. Our tax money isn’t going to roads, that’s for sure.” He patted the mule. When she hesitated, he lifted five fingers, then one more.

She counted, recounted, counted, recounted. This wasn’t the scene she’d written in her head. But soon she’d be tracing her fingers over velvet book covers and inhaling the mahogany smell of ink. This town, like the plantation, would be a distant memory, as remote as Persia and Biblical kings.

“D’accord. Afè.” She started to count — until metal thunder crashed in the hills. She jumped. The coins skittered.

A carriage charged toward the town. When it shot between two peaks, the scarlet emblème d’Haïti, the insignia of the government, caught the light: Heaven itself was racing to rescue her.

Celine shifted the satchel to cover her dirty dress. “She came for me.”

The cabaretier chucked his cap down. “Them again! Ale kote ou sòti!” His friend palmed a knife.

Townsfolk leaned out of windows and trickled into the streets, calling:

“Poukisa ou isit?”

Why are you here?

“Ou vini ak lòt manti?”

So you’ve brought more lies?

The marchand seized a papaye. “Every time the bicornes arrive, life gets worse.”

Don’t worry, Celine wanted to tell them. It’s not what you think.

The horses clattered to a stop beneath the church. The carriage’s scarlet curtains rustled: She was in there right now, making room for Celine. Celine paced forward. “Hélène!”

A man emerged instead, an official. Celine paced backward. Who was he?

Even though the official walked through the same dirt as everyone else, nothing seemed to stick to his polished boots. His bicorne balanced delicately atop his head like a scale. Was this…? She groped in her satchel for one of Hélène’s letters:

The sous-préfet? He takes his poisson frit without salt. If he could, he’d take it without the poisson. He treats the Song of Solomon like a Marquis de Sade.

Celine didn’t know who the Marquis de Sade was, but she’d written back, The sous-préfet sounds like a terribly dull character.

Monsieur le Sous-Préfet Leclerc halted. Turned. What was he waiting for?

Enter the horses. Two, eight, twenty-four galloped forth in sterile columns, an entire cavalry of glinting bayonets. The crowd braced: “Troops! Sòlda? Are you planning to attack?” Parents hid their children. “Kisa ou vle ak nou?” and “What do you want with us?”

Only now did the sous-préfet crook his arm, and a small woman with parchment pale skin took it as she descended from the carriage. A woman who was curious and bright, who knew a thousand worlds and a million words and loved listening to stories by the stream.

“Traitor!” The marchand hurled the papaye straight at her.

Sous-Préfet Leclerc blocked it like a bullet, spinning Hélène against his chest. It exploded into fleshy orange pulp on the back of his frock coat.

His voice lilted softly. “If you mock me, you mock Haiti.”

The first soldiers barreled into the square.Without dismounting, one blunted the marchand in the temple with a bayonet. He fell.

“But if you harm my wife, I will have you killed.”

“Son of a — who does he think he is?” the cabaretier demanded. The crowd swarmed to the marchand’s aid.

Celine shook her head. No, no! This was going all wrong. She looked to Hélène, but Hélène was no longer watching the scene, massaging the bridge of her nose. Pain, Celine realized, was detonating across her forehead again, and her knuckles turned white as she clutched Sous-Préfet Leclerc’s hand. How much longer did Hélène have left by now? Don’t hold his hand.

“Girl? Girl?” The cabaretier shook Celine, who’d forgotten to breathe. She tried to wipe her face of all emotion, to make herself blank as a sheet of paper. The cabaretier’s voice folded gently at the edges. “Mademoiselle, are you okay?”

Celine heard herself say, “Of course.”


I used to have your hope.

When we started the Revolution, the world was clear and easy. The black of our skin was as strong as iron. The French soldiers glowed like demons in the moonlight.

When we burned the plantations, the orange flames were passionate and just, while the masters’ pale eyes were empty and cold.

We fought to the death because we believed that freedom was waiting on the other side. None of us would ever have to work a plantation again. We were certain.


Celine huddled in the cabaret storage room. Authentique Tafia Haïtien – Saveur Naturelle. She set down one bottle, lifted another. Mélasse du Pays – Gout Authentique. As light slithered through the thatched roof, she read every cask (Gingembre du Jardin – Boisson Locale) and crate (Tabac Haïtien Fin – Sec & Prêt) and jar (Poivre, Curcuma, Cannelle). She needed to lose herself in words.

The cabaretier extended a cup. White fibers floated in seasick green pulp.

She reached for it, then let her hand drop. “I can’t afford this.”

“You need it.”

She gave a small smile by way of thanks. There were no tables so she clutched it in her lap. Jiggled her good leg and tried not to spill.

A triangle of orange-silver light broke through the darkness: The door creaked open, clanged closed. The cabaretier hovered over Hélène as she arranged herself on a wooden crate, and as Celine’s eyes adjusted once again his jaw tightened.

Hélène leaned forward. “Mwen ta renmen yon kabann nan ròm, souple?”  The creole stood stiff on her tongue, and Celine’s cheeks burned.

He grunted. “Kenz sous.” Triple the posted price.

Hélène gave him one gourde, which was twenty. He didn’t offer change and she didn’t ask.

“Ah, before you leave, Monsieur! Céline, is that smell bothering you?” She rubbed her temples. “Could we light a candle?”

The cabaretier shot Celine a look: The building is full of alcohol and made of wood. Do you want to burn me to the ground?

Hélène undid her pursestrings. “My husband would be much obliged.” He grunted again and shuffled to prepare the drinks on a slab in the corner.

Celine sipped her jus de canne. “What smell?”

“No smell.” Hélène pressed kisses to her cheeks. They prickled. “But it’s so dark. I want to be able to see you.”

In the low light, she searched Hélène’s eyes, tried to gauge how much cloudier they’d become since their last meeting, and folded her hands to hide the soot stains. Hélène stroked the back of Celine’s wrists. “Céline.” She always wrote Celine’s name with an accent mark, so perhaps she said it that way too.

Shouts erupted outside. Through the closed door, Celine couldn’t tell whether they were from soldiers or from townsfolk. She didn’t know how to ask.

When the drink arrived, it wasn’t rum, but clairin — a faint grassy odor wafted from the calebasse cup — but Hélène sipped and smiled as if it was exactly what she wanted.

“Can you tell me, Hélène… ” Celine’s eyes drifted to the cabaretier, who was resting the candle on a cask. “Madame la Sous-Préfète. Why are you here?”

Hélène pushed a leatherbound book to Celine’s chest. It smelled the way she imagined autumn, and she read aloud, “La Philosophie dans le boudoir. Marquis de Sade.” Celine opened it — and snapped it shut. “Maybe we should, ah, save this for your library.”

Hélène pinched her own arm. “Stupid. Stupid, stupid.” Celine bit the inside of her cheek until she clarified, “I’m talking about myself.” The leaping orange candlelight cast shadows on the foggy glass of her eyes.

The cabaretier stumped outside. He left the door ajar and, through the crack, Celine saw Sous-Préfet Leclerc standing above a crowd.

Celine wanted to ask, “What aren’t you telling me?” Instead, she rooted through the letters in her satchel. “If you’d like me to read to you now, I’ll start with my favorite. Ma tendre Céline, I’m counting the hours until I hear your voice again, until you read me into les rêves les plus doux, the sweetest dreams, every night.” She pretended to read the words she’d already memorized.

“You’ve just got to let it happen,” Hélène said. “It will be better if you don’t fight.”


“It’s not his choice or my choice, it’s the President’s, with the debt — ”

“What are you talking about?”

Outside, a man’s voice rumbled. “By the President of the Republic of Haiti…”

Jeering. Celine leaped up so fast that she hit the candle. Hélène snatched it before it fell. 

“…His Excellency Jean-Pierre Boyer…”

Celine threw the door open, but Hélène slammed it back and grabbed her arm. “It’s not our fault,” she said. Celine studied the lines of her forehead before she shook her off to join the crowd.

The sous-préfet extended the scroll further.

Agriculture is the foundation of natural prosperity!

The words rolled cold through her. The revolutionaries who’d forced people like her mother to surrender their guns and return to the fields had said the same thing.

In order to increase productivity and make our nation prosperous, the honorable President Boyer is enacting the Code Rural!

“Prosperous?” someone shouted. “He got us into debt!”

“Ou pa byenveni isit!”

“Take your laws and leave!”

From today forth, everyone in the rural areas, except soldiers, civil servants, professionals, artisans and domestic servants, must work the soil.

“What?” The cabaretier charged forward. “You want me to give up my business to slave away on a plantation?”

“Ou pa konnen anyen sou lavi n!” a woman shouted. “What do you even know about our lives here?”

Anyone who lives in the rural areas cannot engage in retail trade. They, too, must work the soil. 

Fury rippled through the crowd. A boy hurled a rock. The nearest soldier trained a gun directly between his eyes. Someone else threw a manioc. The soldier spun and shot in one motion. The bullet blasted through a wooden stall. Screams erupted.

On the plantations, labor will begin at dawn on Monday and must not stop until sunset on Friday, although if the Master decides it’s necessary, it can extend through Saturday. The military will inspect each plantation at least twice a week.

Exploding glass drowned him out. Townsfolk hurled tafia bottles and terracotta roof tiles and warped horseshoes and splintered stools.

“Ne tirez pas. Don’t shoot,” the Sous-Préfet said with a dismissive wave, so the troops spun their bayonets to the blunt side and clubbed everyone in their path. The crowd surged forward anyway. They swung rusty shovels and dented hammers. Metal cracked against metal. Metal cracked against skulls. Celine grabbed Hélène. “Let’s get out of here.”

Hélène didn’t budge. Celine followed her gaze, followed it, followed it, until she was looking Monsieur le Sous-Préfet Leclerc straight in the eye. His lip curled, or she imagined it. He glared straight through the crowd at the woman standing beside his wife, that strange woman his wife had been babbling about for so long, that strange woman who sent his wife letters and would suddenly be moving into their home — or Celine imagined that too. As soldiers roared around him, he kept his gaze steady. 

And anyone who lives in the rural areas is forbidden from moving to the city. Effective immediately.



Celine yanked Hélène out of the crowd. Pinned her against the cabaret wall by her ruffled collar. “Hélène, you’re not serious. You’re not…”

Hélène busied herself tending to the candle’s little flame, shielding it from a breeze, and didn’t answer. The light flickering across her lips reminded Celine of the first time they’d met, when the sky had dappled Hélène with sunlight. But the woman had looked so innocent, then.

Celine ran.


When did I lose hope, cherie Celine?

Was it in 1800, when Toussaint forced us back onto the plantations we had once burned? When he said that Haiti had to make money and sent soldiers to make sure we worked hard?

Was it a few years later, when Dessalines put the light-skinned gens de couleur into his government, but kept the rest of us chained to fields?

Was it when you were born on the same plantation I swore I’d never return to?



Two years earlier.


Celine tightened her grip on her Bible as she tiptoed closer to the stream. Prepared to swing if necessary.

The intruder braided loranyens into a flower bracelet as she sunned herself. Without turning her head: “My grandmother worked on this very plantation. Whenever she told me stories about it, it sounded so far away, like a fairytale. Are you a storyteller too?”

Who? Celine scanned the horizon for more intruders, but they were alone. Mwen — are you talking to me? Her voice stuck in her chest, rarely used.

“Well?” asked the intruder.

“No,” she said. The intruder’s bottom lip buckled in disappointment. Celine heard herself adding, “But I do read.”

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

— 1 Samuel 18:1

The intruder lowered the flowers and turned for the first time. Celine was suddenly aware of the soot stains on her own skirts, of the furnace smoke clinging to her wrapped hair, but she held the woman’s gaze until the intruder asked, “Are you trying to tell me something?”

Celine didn’t know what she could possibly be trying to tell her, so she settled on, “Perhaps I am.”

Light ran like ink down the woman’s delicate face. Celine realized that, despite her matronly square collar and lace-trimmed bonnet, they must have been around the same age, yet this woman clearly had the money to travel the world. Perhaps she even owned a library. Her eyes were already starting to cloud, but Celine didn’t know what it meant; she thought they were blurred with daydreams.

“Read to me.”

The woman hugged Celine’s knees while she continued the chapter. When she’d read to her mother, it felt like they were fleeing. With the woman, with Hélène, they were traveling.

The next time she ventured to Croix-des-Champs, the facteur at the bureau de poste shoved a twined bundle into her arms. “Pick up your mail more often. Someone’s been writing you every week for the last two months.”

Celine pressed the letters to her nose. The ink smelled like spices from the other side of the world.

“Oh, and this.” He handed Celine a book. Robinson Crusoe.


And yet.

I know in my heart that you will never be truly free. Yes, on paper you are free to come and go from the plantation as you please. But you will never have enough education, enough money or enough opportunity to do whatever you really want to do. And neither will your children.

And yet. And yet.

Here is the impossible part. You have to fight anyway. You have to, because you’re not fighting for yourself. You’re fighting for the generations who come later, and later than later. And you keep hoping that every day is a little bit freer than the last, although this will rarely be true.

You must work the plantation. But you must also learn to hold a knife. You must plant sugarcane, but don’t forget to practice burning it down.


“Don’t you want to be free?” Celine wrestled with the rope, but the donkey fought back; it kicked and brayed, bucked and snorted. The more it struggled, the more pain swelled her ankle. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Céline?” Hélène emerged from the shadows, balancing the candle in one hand and her cup of clairin in the other. “Doesn’t that donkey belong to the église?”

“I have to get to Jacmel before Boyer blocks the roads.”

“The soldiers would just send you back.”

Celine struggled against the knot as the donkey chomped at furious air. “Why didn’t you warn me about the Code?”

In the distance, the first gunshots split the air.

“Do you think I knew?” Hélène asked. “Do you think Monsieur le Sous-Préfet Parfait let me read the order? I overheard him arguing with a subordinate, and I raised hell until he let me come this far.”

Celine spun. “I can be your domestic worker. Take me as your maid instead of your reader, and tell people I’ve always lived in Jacmel.”

Hélène gripped the clairin with both hands; the Marquis de Sade book had been lost or sacrificed. “Fernand swears he won’t allow it.”

“He won’t allow it, or you won’t push for it?”

“He says the nation couldn’t bear it.”

“But what do you say?”

“Of course I want it.” She waved the words into a puff of smoke. “But how would it look for a public official to illegally import girls from the countryside?”

“What girls? It’s me.”

It’s not forever — ”

“When? Until the debts are paid? They’ll never be paid!”  

Hélène drained the calebasse. “Mon ange, don’t get political. I get enough of that from Fernand.”

“I…” Celine tried to form words around her anger, but they failed her. The most she could do was stand up straighter, to be a little taller than Hélène.

Hélène touched her shoulder. She didn’t try to push her back down, just held her. “I’ll still bring you books.”

“And you?”

She knelt to examine Celine’s ankle. “You’re hurt.”

Celine extracted two of Hélène’s letters from the satchel: the first, inked and curved in precise cursive. The last, scratched and scrawled in wobbly, childlike print. “How much time do you have left?”

“Shall I carry you? You shouldn’t walk on this.”

“Fernand won’t read to you,” Celine said. “What will you do stuck in a world without stories?”

“Don’t be so theatrical,” Hélène said, but her voice was gentle and Celine wasn’t sure how to interpret it. “Do you want to know something? Every single night, I used to pray to wake up as Robinson Crusoe, up until my wedding night. Then I stopped praying. There’s a time for stories, mon ange, and a time for real life.”

The donkey kicked dangerously close to Hélène’s head. Without thinking, Celine swung her fist to strike it across the eyes, not to hurt it but to make it see. She stopped herself in time. Hélène hurried her away. Celine’s body was trembling, and she hated that she couldn’t control it.

“Endure the plantation for a little while longer, and when the Code Rural proves effective, I’ll convince Fernand to let you come.”

Celine imagined herself in Hélène’s library: She turned a page and heard the click of a rifle. She dropped a book and it shattered like a fist through glass. Why didn’t it feel like an escape anymore?

“You’re lost in your thoughts again. Come back to me.” Hélène was cupping Celine’s hands, stroking her fingers. Celine shifted away — the woman clamped her wrists.

“Please let me go.”

“I’m so sorry for all of this.”

In the light, Celine realized the soot stains weren’t as visible as she thought, but the tiny cuts where the gravel had shredded her palms were. She felt a damp shame: for how hard she’d tried to get clean.

“Where are you going?”

In a daze, Celine lifted the candle and drifted to the main square.

Thunderclouds of gunpowder and sulfur blocked the sun.

Her mother had rarely told her stories of the Revolution. When she did, she talked of the French invaders so pale they glowed. But now, the soldiers charging their horses forward looked just like the people they trampled. The marchand struggled to repel bayonet blows with a shovel. The cabaretier lay unconscious. A soldier kicked down the door to the storage room. Stalls lay in smithereens. Horses whinnied and reared onto their rear legs. The screams of the wounded rose like a national anthem. Blood rolled down her tongue, and it wasn’t hers.

Celine saw herself raise the candle and launch it into the carriage. She saw the light catch the crimson curtains and spread, spread, until the carriage itself became a ball of apologetic flame; she saw the fire race from the carriage to the soldiers to the sugarcane fields. She felt her mother’s breath warm her neck and her mother’s voice warm her ears, Pitit mwen chèri, my dear daughter, watch the cane burn itself into an ocean of scarlet.

When Celine opened her eyes, the candle was still in her hands, and Hélène was gripping her tight.


Pitit mwen chèri, I’m sorry that I couldn’t give you the life that I dreamed of. But I can give you this: When the time comes, burn and don’t stop burning.

Libète se yon chan batay.

Freedom is a battlefield.

Pou toujou,
Manman ou.

your mother.

Editor’s Note to Issue No. 6

Under capitalism, abstract, intangible and often unintelligible constructs have devastating effects on people and the ecosystems with which they live in relation. Debt is one such construct that permeates our lives at every level, from the geopolitical to the personal, moral and psychological. Across all layers of society and throughout our day-to-day lives, debt and the concept of indebtedness is present, pressing heavily, unevenly, and severely limiting the lives of those suffering its violence. However, first and foremost, debt is a relation, connecting us all in a complex web of hierarchies. Though despite its pervasiveness, debt eludes us. Or, as David Graeber wrote in his well-known book on the subject, ‘[t]he very fact that we don’t know what debt is, the very flexibility of the concept, is the basis of its power.’ At the same time, Graeber continues, ‘[i]f history shows anything, it is that there’s no better way to justify relations founded on violence, to make such relations seem moral, than by reframing them in the language of debt.’[1]

This issue of Errant therefore is about the way debt and its language hold power over us. By challenging the idea that debt is something rational, natural or inevitable, this issue hopes to contribute to lifting debt out of abstraction and obscurity. Naturally, in being errant, the approaches represented are personal, fragmented, and situated. Still,many of the contributions aim to expose the deception of debt, but also how the personal is always connected to the structural, whether this is the nation state or religion. As Graeber warned, morality is often used to enforce this relation. Exemplified for instance in the text by Falke Pisano on the establishment of the Dutch Savings Bank. The founding of this bank coincided with a broader set of initiatives and attitudes in the nineteenth century that aimed to ‘civilize’ the working class. Specifically, this meant that one’s finances became an individual responsibility connected to being virtuous. In other words: a ‘good’ person doesn’t accumulate debt.

What the examples show, is that debt tempts to organize obedience, and the language of debt, of guilt, responsibility, but also of shame and morality, is deeply embedded in the ways we think and behave. This is a crucial insight, because when we start to understand debt as a way obedience is organized, then we can also see the importance of being disobedient, perhaps even against moral judgement. It is for this reason that we included contributions that are about such civil disobedience, most notably in the case of bank robbers in Lebanon who, confronted with the total failure of a system, arm themselves with toy guns in order to take back their own money. This move to illegality exposes the absurdism and impossibility of our systems, especially as they fall apart. If what is considered moral and just creates inequalities and violence, can being immoral or disobedient perhaps be a way to restore imbalances?

At the same time, it is important to remember that the Western/modern/neoliberal way of thinking and being, particular regarding property and financial debt, is just one of many, most of which are erased by Western hegemony. Although not adhered to in Egypt (let alone internationally), the Quran, so Dalia Whadan writes, offers a way out of the stranglehold the Global South finds itself in as ‘sharīʿah urges creditors to grant concessions or postpone payments to debtors in need. They must not harass or compel debtors beyond their means.’ This way, Wahdan argues, ‘debt need not be a crisis’. Going back to debt as relation, we ultimately decide its terms and value.

In the editorial approach to her topics, it is Errant’s ambition to keep exploring how knowledge can be produced within a ‘journal’, and how the limits of how knowledge is ‘officially’ and ‘properly’ produced can be stretched. With this in mind, I am very pleased with the commissioned sound piece that is part of this issue, though finds itself elsewhere in the ether. The audio monograph by Levi Masuli remoulds sounds and ideas into a dialogue on the Filipino concept of ‘utang na loob’, or ‘debt of the inside’. In this speculative approach based on the Filipino epistemological universe, reflecting on the ‘Inside’ and the ‘Outside’ of debt and the fragile relations that come with this, Masuli imagines a world animated by ‘bubbles of intimacy’, that are always leaking, and possess a vulnerability that cannot be patched through mere payment or compensation.

We start this issue however with a text that was commissioned rather late and diverts from our initial editorial plan. The long and ongoing battle for the liberation of Palestine is one of the most important anti-colonial issues of our time. At the time of this writing, it has been almost three months since the relentless bombing of the civilians of Gaza has started in retaliation to the attack and taking of hostages by Hamas on 7 October 2023. Since that day, that also saw the death of innocent people, over 21,000 people have died, many of whom children. Like many others, I have been experiencing an insurmountable sense of powerlessness. At once removed and at a distance (I have never visited Palestine), while also connected through basic human empathy, it is heartbreaking to see the daily stream of images of an ongoing genocide, making every other activity seem futile. As a journal dedicated to anti-colonial (but also the connected anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal) struggle everywhere, I felt an obligation to respond to what is happening and offer some words of sense-making and support. There can be no business as usual.

On top of the incommensurable sense of grief that is collectively felt by many, we also live with the surreal reality that one has to defend the right to this grief, and the need to keep reaffirming that what is so plain to see, is really happening. In Germany (where Errant is partly based) specifically, people who refer to what is happening in Gaza as a genocide, or generally speak up for Palestinian human rights, are faced with harsh backlash; people of all sorts – including Jewish people – are accused of antisemitism. Awards, exhibitions, and lectures are cancelled, and entire institutions are facing defunding and closure for even attempting to facilitate conversations about and between Israelis and Palestinians.[2]Although the actions of the Israeli state are condoned and excused by states the world over, it is Germany that seems to be particularly blinded by the ‘special responsibility’ they feel they have in defending the state of Israel, no matter the horrors or human rights violations this state commits.

Because of her extensive research into memory culture, citizenship, and religious difference as race in Germany, Sultan Doughan was asked to reflect on the relation between guilt and debt; terms that are expressed by the same word in the German language.[3] In fact, in all Indo-European languages the words for debt are synonym for sin and/or guilt, indicating the links between religion, morality and different mediations, financial and otherwise. In her text, Doughan explains how this sense of guilt in Germany translates to a denial of citizenship and basic human rights for Palestinians that stems from a way they in particular – and especially in Germany – challenge European perceptions about itself.

In a second text commissioned late and that responds to the ongoing war, Bahar Noorizadeh  shows the entanglements of the continued occupation of Palestine with finance. It is unnerving how Gaza too can be viewed through the cold lens of finance and debt. ‘Should we read it with our everyday causal cognition,’ Noorizadeh writes at the start of her essay, ‘the market would be the ultimate medium of information.’ She ends her texts on the call for boycotts on Israel; another form of disobedience and tactic of non-violent resistance, which incidentally is also forbidden in Germany: ‘[i]t is in this sense that boycotts become a changing of the moral compass – a recalibration of our mutual indebtedness and a reconfiguration of the very liberal humanitarian paradigm as the telos of capital’s existent world.’

If anything, the process of making this issue of Errant showed that almost any relation can be framed in the language of debt, and that the associations with religion, morality, and culpability are endless. I am not sure what that really says about the kind of world we live in, or what we ultimately value most. Realistically, we’ll not see the end of the oppressive and harmful ways of capitalism anytime soon, but it is hopeful to see some glimpses of another kind of world that is possible.

[1] Graeber, David. Debt. The First 5,000 Years. New York and London: Melville Publishing House, 2014: p. 5.

[2] The latter example specifically refers to the cultural organisation Oyoun in Berlin whose funding has been cut after organising an evening of ‘mourning and hope’ in response to the 7 October attack and in collaboration with Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East. Based on Oyoun’s refusal to cancel the event, the Berlin Senate accused the cultural centre of ‘acting in an antisemitic manner.’ For more on this go to, for other examples of silencing in Germany see

[3] Graeber 2014: p. 59 (see note 1).

Editor’s Note to Issue No. 5

The spring/summer of 2020, as a response to the murder of George Floyd, saw many hopeful changes within the larger discourse about the colonial past and the reverberations of it in the present. I remember feeling exhilarated when I watched the statue of Edward Colston disappear into the Bristol harbour. It particularly hit home because I had been fighting for the removal of a very similar statue, also close to a harbour. This statue is that of Jan Pieterszoon Coen – known as the butcher of the Banda Islands even in his own day – in the city of Hoorn, the Netherlands. Coen murdered approximately 15,000 people on the Banda Islands in order to attain the monopoly on the trade of nutmeg for the Dutch VOC. For reasons too numerous to mention, it is appalling that this man is honoured by a statue: ‘a mass murderer doesn’t deserve a statue’, reads one of the slogans in many protests that have taken place to have the statue removed. Emboldened by what had happened in Bristol, I joined some activists in Hoorn who’ve been fighting this particular issue for far longer than I have, to organise new protests and actions.[1] Perhaps the current global wave of anti-colonial protests was the momentum for which we had been waiting. We were hopeful, we protested, the statue is still there today… and so the struggle continues. But I learned something profound in the process. During a very small guerilla action, my fellow protesters of Moluccan descent kept speaking of their ancestors. When someone who was screaming at us tripped, or the person who asked us to leave dropped something: it was all the ancestors, helping us with our task at hand. Having a ‘typical white Dutch’ background myself, I couldn’t fathom what they meant exactly, but that didn’t matter. What I realised was that, viewed from this other epistemology, we weren’t just a handful of people doing this one – seemingly hopeless – action. It was all part of something much bigger, part of a struggle that has been ongoing for four hundred years, and involving literally countless people on whose shoulders we could now stand. It puts everything in a different perspective. One that sees matters in a relational way, and with a profound continuity of the past in the present. And there is much to learn from that. 

You have in your hands what could be said to be Errant’s ‘restitution issue’, but that would only be partly right. This issue is not about restitution per se, or whether restitution of colonially looted, pillaged, and stolen heritage should occur: it is clear that it should, in full, and without hesitation. Let that be the starting point. From there, Errant wishes to go beyond the question of ‘giving back’, and ask what is given back by whom and to whom, where, and how? In this now seemingly omnipresent discussion, who is speaking, and which voices are being listened to? To do this, as is reflected in the title of this issue, Errant proposes a shift in perspective away from dominant (Western) epistemic authorities to consider other ways of sensing and experiencing the world and let this guide us in the questions we have. What if the topic is approached from the point of view of the objects themselves? From the spirits that once inhabited them? From the ancestors who created them and among whom they once lived and breathed? However, the title of this issue should also be seen as a provocation given the fundamental impossibility of really placing oneself in the shoes of the ‘ancestors’, especially of those that are not one’s own. Rather, we aim to create a space where we allow these opacities to recover their agency out of years and years of silence and learn to listen differently. This necessarily means that this issue is not just about objects and their return, not just about physical ‘things’ that can change hands and location. It is also an issue about repair, without which restitution could be meaningless.

A few years before the protest movements of 2020, the long and ongoing struggle concerning the restitution of cultural heritage housed in various museums had already seen a significant turning point with the speech by French president Emmanuel Macron in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in 2017. The last couple of years, accelerated by these two events, certainly have seen encouraging shifts in attitude, and museums all over Europe are conducting provenance research and developing programmes of return. But therein also lies a problem. Museums aren’t ‘just’ repositories of knowledge that house the bounty of colonial loot, they were created in tandem and as an essential part of the colonial project. They were formed to function as monuments to the idea of the superiority of the white European man, and through their activities of collecting, preserving, and exhibiting, firmly set those ideas in all strata of this world, while contributing to the minimising and destruction of other worlds. To conduct these researches and discussions solely from the vantage point of the museum therefore doesn’t take restitution and repair out of the coloniality of power, quite the opposite: it extends and continues the colonial project. 

The report that was commissioned by Macron and written by the Senegalese academic and writer Felwine Sarr and French art historian Bénédicte Savoy, doesn’t leave any doubt: all stolen, looted, or otherwise wrongfully acquired cultural heritage, must be returned, and sooner rather than later. It also points to the many intricacies involved, and considerations that must be made, for instance: 

‘[W]hen we reflect on the question of cultural heritage objects, we must understand that it’s not simply objects that were taken, but reserves of energy, creative resources, reservoirs of potentials, forces engendering alternative figures and forms of the real, forces of germination; and this loss is incommensurable. Simply giving back these cultural objects won’t be the proper compensation. This force arises from a relation and mode of participation in the world that has been irremediably trampled upon.’[2]

What is needed then, and what is still often lacking, is a much broader scope in the question of restitution, which also (definitely) means going beyond inviting source communities to the table (whose table?), a strategy that many museums seem to employ but which ultimately only functions to protect their own legitimacy. The subtitle to our issue Epistemic Restitution and Rematriation offers two ways of doing this that all the contributions, although not explicitly, can be said to relate to. The way this issue has taken shape was led by our contributors who write about what this means to them, and the number of answers are equal to the number of contributors we were able to include in these pages. Only some contributions are about physical objects – in museums, or those already returned in ways that are questionable to say the least – while others are about the recovery and process of reconnecting with relations that have been severed by colonialism. Another important line is the categorisations put upon that which has been taken and how these wrongly inform discussions of return. A lot of work goes into the refusal to accept these categorisations, but it is this refusal that can be a first step in creating space for another perspective, one that does justice to the past in the present.

I hope that this issue of Errant can contribute to the discourse on what a different perspective on restitution could be. The editorial approach had to – of course – be ‘errant’. This meant, for instance, to take this discussion out of the museum. Although museums are the holders of cultural heritage, for this approach, they should not be the ones leading the discussion and so no museum professional was invited to contribute. Finally, an editorial decision was made that is essential in conveying the point this issue aims to make: not a single image of cultural heritage whose restitution has not yet been completed is reproduced in these pages. This is out of respect for the objects as well as for the people and lifeworlds they were taken from. Some of the cultural heritage discussed was never meant to be seen by people outside a specific community, let alone to have images of them sold online by the very institutions who took them. Modernity has an obsession with visibility and urges to make everything ‘transparent’ in order to make sense of it and ultimately control it. I believe by not participating in this visibility, by this active refusal, we enact a small gesture of care, and hopefully, even some restorative justice. 

[1] Shout out to Marisella de Cuba, Romy Rondeltap, Sarieke de Jong, and many others.

[2] Sarr, Felwine, Bénédicte Savoy. The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Toward a New Relational Ethics. Transl. Drew S. Burk. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2018: p. 40.

Editor’s Note to Issue No. 4

Welcome to the fourth issue of Errant Journal. With this issue we tackle the imaginary nature of the nation state, and look into alternative forms of solidarity, community and belonging that are disconnected from or even antagonistic to this form of governance and in which a migrant or otherwise marginalised position can be seen as one of power and resistance. As several contributions in this issue remark, humans are fluid beings that do not adhere to externally imposed delineations, whether those are borders, nationalities, or genders, and instead – much like water – we carve out our own ways.

Although the critique of nation states is a very common topic of discussion in books, journals and symposia, one could still forget sometimes that states and nations are not natural phenomena. But not only have nations as we understand them now been created, they have done so extremely recently – more or less from two hundred years ago onwards. In his influential book Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson asserts – as the title suggests – that nations are imagined ‘because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.’[1] Curiously, in our collective consciousness the order of the world today made up of sovereign nations and states, feels so natural and historic, their existence largely goes unquestioned. For ‘[i]f nation-states are widely conceded to be “new” and “historical,” the nations to which they give political expression always loom out of an immemorial past, and, still more important, glide into a limitless future.’[2] The fiction tells us that this is the way it has always been, and this is the way it shall always be.

Much more than just being a legal construct, there is hardly anything more decisive on how your life might unfold, the chances you will have, and mobility you can enjoy, than the passport with which you are born. To quote Anderson once more: ‘[n]ation-ness is the most universally legitimate value in the political life of our time.’ Identification with a nation is ‘conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship’ for which people are willing to die. A reality even Anderson struggles to explain as he writes that while ‘the facts [about nation-ness] are clear, their explanation remains a matter of longstanding dispute.’[3]

So what of those (twelve million according to an estimate from 2018) who find themselves without a nation or state; the stateless?[4] Here too, there is a contradiction between its supposedly clear-cut, neutral, everlasting character and the imaginary, ambiguous reality. The official definition of statelessness as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954 says that a stateless person is one ‘who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.’[5] A refugee is commonly considered a stateless person, but the narrow legal definition in fact does not automatically include them; refugees are often still considered to be part of a nation, albeit one they cannot currently reside in or that can offer them protection.[6] Yet, a person with a passport fleeing their home country by fear of persecution or death, may not be stateless in the eyes of international law, but they are politically homeless and generally without a place in this world in every other way that matters.

Similarly to the concept of the nation state, statelessness is a surprisingly novel construct: in this case only one hundred years old. Before the concept’s solidification in international law in 1921, it did however enjoy a much longer history in fiction. By the late eighteenth century the concept of statelessness was much debated. Theorists however, insisted ‘that such a figure […] could only exist in the realm of the imagination rather than real-world politics.’[7] Throughout the nineteenth century as well as in the twentieth century, such ‘creatures of the imagination’ featured in novels, usually adrift at open sea unable to port or find rest.[8] It is therefore a curious history, to say the least, that brought a long considered imaginative form into legal reality, with devastating effects.

In other words, although statelessness is defined by law and has very real and grave consequences for people – something that we do not want to diminish or deny, and is an urgency that also finds its place in this issue – the law and history of the concept offer many pathways to open up and question the delineations of notions such as ‘nation’, ‘stateless’ etc. For this reason, we emphasise the states of statelessness: the different layers, and hierarchies of barriers and ways in which people respond to them.

A first step in this, is opening up our definition of statelessness, towards one that is arguably much more consistent with the lives and experiences of people. Reflecting on the period after the first World War, during which the concept of statelessness received its accepted legal status, Hannah Arendt explains how the peace treaties wrongly created new nation states in central and eastern Europe, arbitrarily lumping very diverse groups together which effectively also created a different category of humans considered ‘minorities’ for which special regulations were now necessary. As a result, Arendt writes, ‘only nationals could be citizens, only people of the same national origin could enjoy the full protection of legal institutions.’[9] In her eyes, these newly created minorities and the stateless are interchangeable in practice, as from then on nationality became the only way to enjoy the full protection of the law, and the only way for others to enjoy these same benefits was to assimilate or leave.

This demand to ‘assimilate or leave’ resonates disturbingly with present-day racist sentiments toward how refugees, migrants but also second or third generation people with a so-called culturally diverse background should look and behave. It makes clear that in fact, citizenship is not an absolute, but rather a sliding scale that serves some people more than others. In reality, statelessness rather functions as a social spectrum that should be considered intersectionally. This is because nation states and their laws of protection and rights are made with an ‘ideal citizen’ in mind, and anyone not fitting this standard may therefore find themselves somewhere on the gamut of statelessness.

The contributions in this issue of Errant reflect this wider interpretation and the different gradations of relations to nationality or state and – more importantly – the diverse ways in which people form their own communities; whether they be as big as a country, or very small, informal and more or less spontaneously gathered around a shared struggle. We wanted to ask in what way we can learn from such communities, how they question the fiction of the nation state by their very existence, and by doing so become  voices of resistance against harmful policies and ways of being forced upon us from an invisible ‘above’.

We start this issue with a critique, or rather sidestep, to our own open call. Having both left their home country Ukraine due to the full scale invasion and attempted annexation of the country by Russia, Asia Bazdyrieva and Alevtina Kakhidze express doubt regarding the critique of the nation state because it emerges from a position of former empires and is not universally applicable. Ukraine is only now becoming a nation state, and one that is not the product of imperial power or the ethnonationalist ideas of the 18th-19th centuries, but rather one that is formed in opposition to these concepts. According to them, in the case of Ukraine, ‘the concept of a nation state – a product of European imperial imagination of romantic times – […] has morphed into something else.’ This something else, or ‘hybrid and inclusive Ukrainianness’ is ‘far more than a territory or a uniform identity. It is a social contract that includes detachment from fixed identities, circulation of resources, multitude, absence of the center, self-regulation, trust.’

From there, we consider the past and the timeless grassroot struggle for self-sufficiency and basic human rights. Republished in this issue of Errant is an 1872 piece of feuilleton writing by Max Ring that tells of a visit to ‘Barackia’. The Free State of Barackia was an informal republic in what is now the centre of Berlin, built by people facing impossible rises of rent and intolerable landlords: an eerily common story for anyone living in any big city today. But much more than a shantytown for people without homes, Barackia was said to have been very organised, filled with ‘hard-working men and women and healthy and clean children.’ It was widely looked upon with fascination as it ‘gained a reputation in all of Europe’ and served as an example of ‘working-class resistance against housing inequality’ and ‘a small utopia of freedom and solidarity.’ Writing from the present, Saskia Köbschall provides Ring’s text with more context, and shows how Barackia’s spirit still reverberates today. Her article is accompanied by photos of Nyabinghi Lab’s project Freistaat Barackia: Landscapes of Liberation, which took the history of Barackia as a starting point to explore decolonial urbanism, resistance, and solidarities in Berlin and around the world.

Arguably one of the best examples of a contemporary functioning ‘free state’, or autonomous region, is that of Rojava in north-eastern Syria. In her text, Nilüfer Koç places the lessons of Rojava within current geo-political unrest in Ukraine and the Middle East, and states that there is much to learn from Rojava’s philosophy, history and current struggle. In particular, she focuses on the role of women and the fight against patriarchy which is the source of power and exploitation. Fighting patriarchy therefore ‘means to eradicate the one-sided domination, the inequality, and intolerance towards women. Moreover, it is to kill the nation state, fascism, dictatorship, despotism, and capitalism.’ The result is a society that is horizontal, decentralised and truly pluralistic.

With right-wing sentiments on the rise, some political leaders would have us believe Europe is a homogeneous (Christian and white) community, thereby ignoring, or even attempting to erase, the presence of people that don’t fit the ‘pure European narrative´. One such group of people, and one of the largest groups of people becoming stateless after the first World War, are the Roma. Although their presence in Europe can be traced back to the twelfth century, their struggle for their way of life can be said to be equally long. Writing from the position of Polish Roma, Elżbieta Mirga-Wójtowicz and Michał P. Garapich, state that there is community in this shared suffering. To counter the injustices and the racist judgement their people face, they call for a kind of banal anti-nationalism, or counter-nationalism through which Roma, in their view, ‘have a unique, rich and still unrecognised contribution here. Their understanding and conceptualisation of the “history from below” and grand narratives seen from their unique standpoint opens a rich research potential to the exploration of diverse hidden transcripts and tactics of resistance.’

That there is also immense value to be found in very modest and informal communities, is explored by Fabian Holle as they recount their personal experience and work with LIMBO; ‘a weekly workshop series for and by queer/refugee/migrant community organizers and artists with the aim of creating a safer space for queer people with a refugee background to share stories and create content.’ Through their research into community engaged scholarship, Holle also reflects on what knowledge is produced by using creative tools to address the challenges and resilience of queer refugees and the role of community engaged scholarship. Both queerness and refugeeness can be said to represent a position of liminality, of in-betweenness, of spaces as well as societal norms. Coming together in small groups, sharing stories and creativity, and challenging dominant assumptions about refugees as ‘victims’ thus has a transformative potential.

An in-betweenness of a different kind is explored in Abdul Adan’s short story about Rupert Ray; a figure whose identity is confused by his heritage of both a settled father and a nomadic mother. For inexplicable reasons, Rupert finds himself ‘wandering randomly into other people’s homes’, unable to distinguish between the spaces that are ‘his’ and those that are not. To greater confusion, Rupert even seems to have difficulty understanding where his own body ends and other’s begin. Rupert’s predicament, and inability to make these basic distinctions, can perhaps be viewed in a positive light when we consider the topic of hospitality as explored in the conversation with Merve Bedir. Bedir’s ongoing project the Vocabulary of Hospitality explores the different layers of violence in the concept of hospitality, as it indicates a relation of power (of the host) over the other (the guest). Her project Mutfak مطبخ (Kitchen) Workshop in Gaziantep aims to reverse these roles by turning the guest into the host. Her kitchen project works with food to explore how the roles of host and guest are created by borders that cut through landscapes and communities, and how we can recover from such rifts by returning to community and re-establishing ways of living together.

The very real repercussions of being stateless are touched upon by Isshaq Albarbary. While his nationality upon arrival in the Netherlands was first recognised as being Palestinian, his current ID card states his nationality as ‘unknown’ and his place of birth the code ‘XXX’. His case, ‘shows how the Dutch authority’s bureaucratic theory that identity documents describe objective facts about people negates the performative nature of such documents. Documentation not only describes facts about people and their relationship to the nation state but also “creates” these facts.’ In fact, by giving him this status, the Dutch government has effectively positioned him out of place, out of time, and thus incapable of political agency. But considering this reality of the stateless, Albarbary asks, ‘can their social and political experiences open up a space to imagine – and perhaps realise – forms that might exist outside of what is possible or even conceivable today?’

As paper can be such a powerful bureaucratic and political tool, we wanted to think about our own format and how paper can also be used in commenting and acting on our geo-political realities. COVID, labour shortages and rising energy prices due to international conflicts have resulted in a worldwide scarcity of paper. We respond to this reality by printing this issue (and perhaps the ones to follow) on leftover paper from our very accommodating printer. Additionally, we reflect on how paper can be used to form networks and communities. Initiated in 2013 by Dominique Himmelsbach de Vries, A Paper Monument for the Paperless is a homage to undocumented people and spread guerrilla style by the (illegal) pasting of posters in the streets of cities everywhere. A Paper Monument for the Paperless is a project that is already quite well known in the Netherlands, and which I personally have enjoyed following over the years. I am therefore very happy for each copy of this issue to include a portrait from this monument, and for you – the reader – to help this monument grow.

We hope that by expanding the idea of what statelessness is that the pathways of solidarity between marginalised groups become more visible. Groups that are often played out against each other or whose voices are simply made invisible because they are inconvenient to homogenous and timeless narratives of nationness. States of Statelessness delves into the diverse manners in which people respond to this in practical, poetic and community-based ways. But more than that, this issue is a celebration of the ways in which people are able to stand their ground, to exist in fluidity, and a commemoration of those before us that have shown that other ‘states’ are possible.

[1] Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London and New York: Verso Books, 2016: p. 6.

[2] Anderson 2016: pp. 11-12 (see note 1).

[3] Anderson 2016: pp. 3 and 7 (see note 1).

[4] ‘Statelessness.’ Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 September 2022 <>.

[5] UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons: Implementation within the European Union Member States and Recommendations for Harmonisation, October 2003, accessed via <>. 

[6] Siegelberg, Mira L. Statelessness. A Modern History. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2020: p. 2.

[7] Siegelberg 2020: p. 25 (see note 6).

[8] Siegelberg 2020: pp. 27-28 (referring to the novel The Man without A Country) and pp. 46-48 (referring to Das Totenschiff) (see note 6).

[9] Arendt, Hannah. ‘The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man’. Accessed via <>: pp. 270 and 275.

Editor’s Note to Issue No. 3

Welcome to the third issue of Errant Journal. With it, we feel that we have passed a long and precarious start-up phase and can say with careful confidence that Errant Journal is here to stay… at least for now.

The topic of this issue is one that has been part of our very first discussions about starting a magazine. In fact, the topic of discomfort is always present in the process of understanding structural inequalities in our societies, as well as our own role – and responsibilities – in these. Finally being able to explore the subject in full and seeing how it resonates in different ways with our contributors, has not disappointed, nor could its timing have been more fitting.

Personally, I feel that mentioning discomfort often just serves as a kind of disclaimer in discussions on ‘decolonisation’, without ever getting the attention it truly deserves – a necessary by-product that, after a brief acknowledgement (to protect who?), can be put aside again.[1] But I also think of how the term ‘quality’ – still used as the main marker in deciding whether a project is considered worthy of funding – is in fact applied to those cultural expressions that fit ever so comfortably within what we already know (while at the same time having an equally comfortable notion of being ‘controversial’, ‘experimental’ or any other term that makes us feel something is new or worthy). It therefore feels as if the work of decoloniality is being done without really addressing an important factor that runs throughout: a sense of discomfort. 

The feeling definitely sneaks up on you. When experienced, discomfort is not always something that can be easily placed or defined, even to oneself. And although discomfort should not in any way be confused with structural inequalities, racism or any form of violence, it often acts as a thin layer that hides these matters behind its façade, thereby making its ‘unspeakable’ nature a mechanism for holding inequality and systems of domination in place.

What’s more, the feeling of discomfort can be part of a productive not-knowing, in the way Édouard Glissant advocates for by claiming the ‘right to opacity’. Letting go of what we (think we) know is simultaneously a letting-go of our desire to comprehend and thereby reduce, or even assimilate, the singularities of cultural difference – something that is touched upon in several contributions to this issue.

It is with these thoughts in mind that we published our first open call, through which we received most of the contributions to this issue. The different ways people responded to the topic has been exciting to see, as they greatly expanded the initial queries we posed. It is telling how many of them deal with an imbalance or shift of power relations; whether from the view of a marginalised member of society or those who feel their comfort shaken – perhaps for the first time – and use certain mechanisms to avoid such negative emotion(s).

This is what Rebecca Glyn-Blanco dives into with her text about the role and limits of empathy, particularly in relation to the dynamics of migration politics. Glyn-Blanco asks ‘[w]hat if empathy shields us from the presence of the Other by returning us to the familiar Self, and as such, remains a deeply un-transformative act for the subject?’ By feeling sorry for others, we become reassured that we are being good citizens, and consequently ‘avoid confronting the discomfort of [our] own complicity in oppression.’

No such transposition is available when living a queer life on an island like Barbados for example. In her poetic and purposely fragmented contribution to this issue, Ada M. Patterson recounts her life on the island, what it means to leave it, and what dysphoria and other unbearable and uncomfortable conditions might mean for different species in a climate crisis-queered world. In this sometimes hostile and breathless space, what does it mean for queer and trans people to gather and ‘come up for air’?

The unspeakable nature of discomfort perhaps explains why this issue of Errant has more creative contributions than our previous ones. Aaron Schuster makes a case for this in exemplifying how Franz Kafka can be thought of as a poet of discomfort, irritation, annoyance, suffering, and complaint, and showing the relationship between writing and suffering. It is in a poetic way, M.C. Julie Yu is able to ruminate on her experience of working as a masseur, bringing together the many layers of stigmatisation of the profession, further complicated by her own identity, place, and the need to just make a living. This ambiguity and inexpressibility of discomfort is also explored in Maaike Hommes’ essay about her inability to put into words her own undiagnosed physical pain. Counter to what we are made to believe, our bodies are relational and defined by vulnerability. Drawing on Johanna Hedva and Judith Butler, Hommes states that ´capitalism’s focus on able-bodied productivity conceives of wellness as the standard mode of existence and thinks of illness or vulnerability as a temporary state.´ Being ill then becomes an individual failure, entangled with feelings of shame and guilt.

With a very different approach, Marwan Moujaes considers humiliation in his speculative essay on the consequences of a lowering of the gaze to the experience of a landscape. Since the invention of perspective in the Renaissance, our experience of a landscape can be said to be based on a man, standing and looking straight ahead. What then, does a landscape look like for those whose heads are permanently tilted in subjugation? What if, to humiliate is to obscure a landscape?

While discomfort is often something that sneaks up on us, or something we simply endure, could we instead use it consciously as a strategy, and consequently as an act of resistance? This is the starting point of my conversation with curators Amal Alhaag and Rita Ouédraogo on the project A Funeral for Street Culture that took place at Framer Framed over the summer of 2021. Partly in response to the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd, their project considers how to mourn as well as celebrate together. Ouédraogo and Alhaag talk about working with and in big institutions as Black women, about the use of anger, about safety and the value of not knowing. But most of all about creating space for those who are often overseen, and the importance of coming together.

Through the words of another conversation – this time one taking place in the nineteenth century between Sara Mazhar Makatemele, the first Black woman to live in Kalmar, Sweden, and her employer – Mmabatho Thobejane’s text offers a valuable historic reflection on the long history of mourning and manoeuvres made to ‘fit’ a worldview that is not one’s own. Although purportedly staying in Sweden and converting to Christianity by her own choice, Sara’s words resonate with a sad remembrance and a double consciousness of two cosmologies. ‘There are leaps and bounds performed by Sara to arrive here. To move, in the nineteenth century from one (dead) cosmology to the (alive and salvation-filled) other. What is the shape of those leaps? What mental and emotional manoeuvres does this movement require?’

We felt this issue could not have been complete without also addressing our built environments. In ‘The Idea of Comfort’, a text originally written in 1987, Tomás Maldonado retraces the origin of the concept of comfort as something categorically modern. Emerging alongside the capitalist societies of the Industrial Revolution, the fundamental role of comfort – according to Maldonado – is that of social control. In extension of this thesis, but to counter it with a more pluralistic approach, we read Dalle Abraham’s text about his upbringing in governmental housing in northern Kenya. Perhaps once thought of as signifiers of status or progress, they quickly have become a cliché of the postcolonial condition, functioning as a backdrop to a genre of African novels. Abraham’s very personal text recounts the dreams he had as a child, those of his parents, and what the ideas and mindsets stemming from such quarters have mutated into today.

Equally unavoidable was the presence of COVID-19 in this issue as it has been in our lives the last two years and has drastically transformed the ways we think and feel about being in close proximity to others. The case, discussed here by architectural collective m7red, of the Argentinian government’s Sanitary Park in Buenos Aires, set up to temporarily house individuals infected with the virus who were not able to remain isolated from their families at home, can be seen as an experiment with important implications. How to stay connected while being isolated? What other forms of closeness can we imagine when our zones of comfort are suddenly shattered? As we adapt to a new reality in which the urgency of the COVID crisis recedes in our memory, we can perhaps rethink some of these relations the pandemic has exposed. Let us not just slip back into our comfortable lives unthinkingly but consider how so much of what has been exposed these last years is structural, but not unchanging.

Editor’s Note to Issue No. 2

On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.[1]

Welcome to the second issue of Errant Journal. For this issue we decided to set off from an existing term that we feel cuts to the heart of environmental politics, while at the same time opening up a space for further learning together. We use the term slow violence because we believe that the relation with violence should be front and centre in the discussions of the ‘climate crisis’ as it makes clear the uneven distribution of effects and causes. Coined by Rob Nixon, the term is generally defined by the often used quote from his book that reads: ‘By slow violence I mean a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.’[2] It therefore is a term that aims to expand our idea of what violence is and perhaps brings the rather abstract and universal concept of ´climate change´ back in relation to the underlying necropolitics that can be understood ‘not just as an unfortunate coincidence or accident, but rather as a deliberate extension of colonial logic.’[3] This perspective also makes evident slow violence’s relation to other forms of violence, such as those that are structural, epistemic, etc., and that similarly go largely unnoticed to those it doesn’t affect. Moving away from a universal narrative and addressing the different roles people, companies, and nation states play also opens up the possibility to pose a response to the mounting call for climate justice. This is a topic addressed in the special section of this issue edited by Radha D’Souza and Jonas Staal that simultaneously functions as an expanded platform for the Court for Intergenerational Climate Crimes to take place at Framer Framed in Amsterdam from September 2021 onwards.

As a continuation of Errant’s first issue on the politics of time and time’s claim to universality, this issue also asks the question to whom this violence is slow. Because while (Western) scientists are busy making projections of how much time we have left before the ‘tipping point’, for many people in this world, the violence inflicted upon them through the destruction of ecosystems has been ongoing for hundreds of years. Therefore, being able to accept the current moment on the doomsday clock as a crisis waiting to happen rather than one already here, is an example of what could be called ‘climate privilege’. Dating, naming, and categorizing are deeply political acts, and the discussion on the start and speed of climate change is no different. That we live in the geological epoch called the Anthropocene is generally accepted now, but when this epoch begins is still under debate. Placing the start in the 1950s, as is being proposed by some scientists, is essentially a Eurocentric way of interpreting geological data. Conversely, there are those who place the start of this new epoch in 1610 – coinciding with the Orbis Spike: the geologically measurable global drop in carbon dioxide levels caused by the murder of between 48 and 55 million peoples in the Americas.[4]

It is a daunting task to take on this subject in such a modest and young publication. There is certainly a healthy fear of contributing to the masses of publications, exhibitions, and symposia on the subject. But defying the neoliberal tendency to only value the new and different, we want to point out again that there’s nothing new (or slow) about these issues, on the contrary they have been continuously addressed by non-western thinkers for many decades.[5] Still, Errant values amplifying voices that are not listened to enough and offer an alternative tone and attitude with the ability – as an infinitely small part of a much larger decolonial project – to seep through general and universalizing ways of thinking. Important in this endeavor is to centre ‘other’ forms of knowledge that are generally left out of (academic) discussions, such as those knowledges that are informal, lived and embodied, or those gained by poetic gestures.

We start this issue with an article on Tuvalu; one of several small island nations in the Pacific where climate change is an imminent and visible threat as portions of land and whole islands are lost due the rising sea levels.[6] People from Tuvalu have been trying to call attention to their situation for decades, but being only the fourth smallest nation in the world, with a total land area of less than 26 sq km and just 11,000 people, who is listening to them? But what is being lost is more than just land. As Maina Talia shows in his article, the loss of land also means the loss of culture and community, and threatens to turn entire nations of people not just into climate refugees but make them truly homeless. Not just losing life, but identity too.

In a very different way, curator Inga Lāce discusses in her article the relationship between nature and nation in the countries surrounding the highly polluted Baltic Sea. While environmental activism played an important role in the early nation-building processes both at the end of the 19th century, as well as during the struggle for independence from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the same narrative has turned less progressive in attitude and politics today. Her article shows the entanglement of environmentalism with the concept of the nation state, and the military’s role in the pollution of the Baltics. But what if we could change the view and representation of nature and our climate policies towards it, she asks, would we be also able to change our nationhoods?

Besides oil spills and rising sea levels, most forms of slow violence are only visible through their effects long after the damage is done; because they literally cannot be seen, such as the case of radioactive waste poetically addressed in this issue by Inas Halabi, or because they belong to another form of knowing that is hard to truly understand from the perspective of Western epistemology. For the people of the Amazon for instance, the plant yagé, also known ayahuasca, is not just a mind-altering plant, but a technology that is essential for the connection with ecological networks that ensure balance within their environment. From this point of view, severing the relations of the plant by commodifying it as a tourist attraction erases its deep, relational meaning and importance. For this reason, we are very grateful for the permission we received from Hernando Chindoy Chindoy, AWAI Legal Representative of the Inga People of Colombia, to republish and translate the manifesto written to address this topic. Additionally, we publish an interview with Inga leader and activist Rosa Elena Jacanamijoy Jacanamijoy in which she explains how the ‘bad management of plants (by thinking they are an object) can also make us sick, can kill.’ In a similar vein, Aldo Ramos reminds us in his creative text that in order to plant a tree, you cannot sever it from its location. It needs ‘other plants, animals and people, Interwoven with a whole community, rooted in a living world’.

The logic of extraction that is at the root of much of the slow violence people face, is woven throughout this issue. Extractivist thinking not only plays a part in the cause, but also – perhaps even more disturbingly – in the envisioned ‘solution’ of climate change in projects of renewable energy. As Ivet Reyes Maturano describes, bolstered by the voices of the local people she spoke with, people of Yucatán are continuously ignored and threatened by large companies that are destroying land for the production of ‘renewable energy’. It is clear that the objective is not finding a solution to climate change at all, but to make more profit by any means necessary. It is unnerving that decades after the hegemonic powers of this world have (also) come to be aware of the inability of the Earth to sustain our destructive ways, we have learned absolutely nothing and our ‘solutions’ are still based on the same modern/colonial ways of thinking that got us here in the first place.

In order not to repeat certain set ways of addressing climate change, we have been very careful in our use of images for this issue, so as not to inadvertently frame slow violence as something beautiful or sublime. Something that happens all too often in the visualization of this topic through aerial photography or images that show the immense scale of destruction, deforestation, and industrialization of areas which previously held rich biodiversity. Connie Zheng addresses this topic specifically in her essay on the work Becoming Alluvium by Thao-Nguyen Phan that examines possible alternatives to ‘the emotional gut-punch and slick yet generic pop-apocalyptic visuality that we are all too familiar with.’

As already mentioned at the beginning of this text, the gesture this issue makes of indicating that climate change is not a global phenomenon, but one caused by certain peoples, companies, and nation states, allows for climate justice to take place. We are very happy to be able to include in this issue a section edited by activist lawyer and writer Radha D’Souza and artist Jonas Staal in which they give space to the judges of their Court for Intergenerational Climate Crimes to be hosted by Framer Framed later this year. This ‘more-than-human’ tribunal for the prosecution of intergenerational climate crimes is based on the idea of a mutually dependent and intergenerational climate justice that requires not only equality between human and non-human actors, but also close interdependence between different time scales, between the past, the present and the future.

In our opinion, slow violence is not (just) a problem of making the effects of pollution and climate change visible and comprehensible, because it is not something that has not been addressed before. It has. Many times, and by many different people all over the world. Addressing slow violence is therefore a process of listening and accepting that there is also knowledge outside of what is considered as knowledge by the ruling hegemony, or outside that which we can even comprehend. Listen. Listen to the people who inhabit the geographies at stake, but also listen to the land itself, and to the birds that are growing more silent with every passing spring. It is this listening that can be at the basis of an ‘anthropological shift’, which as Rolando Vázquez phrases it: ‘has to do with moving away from the mode of consuming, of disposing of Earth and worlds, to becoming or being in disposition for Earth and others and their worlds. […] It is about becoming open to the radical diversity of Earth-worlds, as an enriching experience that remains always in excess of the self, and that should not be subsumed and reduced through forms of appropriation and representation.’[7]

Perhaps this spring/summer issue of Errant is ideally read outside, in a park or a forest, where the words and images can be supported by the sounds of your surroundings. In any case, and wherever you are, we hope you enjoy reading it.

[1] Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994: p. 2.

[2] Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 2013: p. 2.

[3] Davis, Heather, Zoe Todd. ‘On the Importance of a Date, or Decolonizing the Anthropocene.’ ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, Vol. 16, No. 4 (2017): p. 771.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Todd, Zoe. ‘An Indigenous Feminist’s Take On The Ontological Turn: ‘Ontology’ Is Just Another

Word For Colonialism.’ Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 1 (March 2016): p. 14.

[6] Some of the other island nations facing the same threat and featured by the drawings on the cover and throughout this issue are: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Kiribati, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Nauru.

[7] Vázquez, Rolando. Vistas of Modernity. Decolonial aesthesis and the end of the Contemporary. Amsterdam: Mondriaan Fund, 2020: p. 157.

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