Dance, Politics, and Co-Immunity

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The international symposium “Dance, Politics & Co-Immunity“ is
dedicated to the question of how dance, both in its historical and in
its contemporary manifestations, is intricately linked to
conceptualisations of the political. Whereas in this context the term
“policy” means the reproduction of hegemonic power
relations within already existing institutional structures, politics
refers to those practices which question the space of policy as such by
inscribing that into its surface which has had no place before.
Thinking politics as the absent political within policy is therefore by
definition linked to the idea of choreography in the truest sense of
the word: The art of choreography consists in distributing bodies and
their relations in space. It is a distribution of parts that within the
field of the visible and the sayable allocates positions to specific
bodies. Yet in the confrontation between bodies and their relations, a
deframing and dislocating of positions may take place. This ongoing
distribution and reconfiguration of the sensible (Jacques
Rancière) which structures the body and its parts and links
it to the existing symbolic order of any given society can be
considered a site of resistance allowing for interventions into
hegemonic discourses, traditional distributions and fixed framings. In
the public space of theatre, whose characteristic feature is the
separation of stage and auditorium, dance may not only distribute its
bodies, but also split and to share that which is separated and yet
united: The community of bodies as well as their words and the objects
they produce.

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Over the past years the term “policy” has undergone
a renaissance in political philosophy. On the one hand there are those
who bemoan the disappearance of politics (Alain Badiou), on the other
hand others welcome its return and relational integration into
sociability (Nicolas Bourriaud). Inbetween these extremes there are
those who accuse political philosophy itself of playing into the hands
of the powers and of thereby sacrificing the idea of politics for a
universal process of administration (Colin Crouch, Chantal Mouffe,
Jacques Rancière). In the course of this discussion the
question of what constitutes a democracy becomes more and more virulent.
Recent developments in the world economy suggest that Michel
Foucault’s concept of “governmentality”
of self, other and society, which he developed in his lecture series
between 1977 and 1979, is more pertinent than ever.
Whereas the citizens of the one world have involuntarily become bearers
and sharers of incalculable risks, the frontiers to the other world are
protected more and more rigorously. Examples of this are the
overflowing refugee camps e.g. on the southern Italian shores as well
as international airports that resemble high security tracts searching
and registering masses of bodies in their microstructures with new
technological devices. While one part of the world population
deterritorialises itself voluntarily, the other part is forcibly
prevented from entering this space defined by its increasing mobility,
acceleration, and high speed communication highways. Neoliberal
dispositives of power are linked with technologies to secure and
enclose territories, discourses and bodies whose general health is
cared for while they are deprived of a possible shared way of life.

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The renaissance of the political goes together with the rebirth of a
long discredited term: That of community. In the German political
tradition of Ferdinand Tönnies, community - in a Romantic
understanding - opposed to society. In the works of Jean-Luc Nancy and
Esposito, however, community no longer appears as a simple opposition
to political developments, but rather as a contested space of
discussion that risks community in a dialogue between equals. Although
contemporary developments in world politics and world economy establish
increasingly asymmetrical relationships between people, it is the idea
of a community of equals that may subvert these developments.




Viewed against this background, how did dance and how does dance, then,
do politics with the body in the public (theatrical) space? How can it
become political? The symposion looks for theoretical models,
historical constellations, contemporary experiments and practical
consequences that elucidate the relation between dance, politics and
policy – which, in Jacques Rancière's terms, might
be called ”police” as well. What does the
structuring and distribution of bodies and their parts look like in
historical formations of dance such as the court ballet of the 17th
century, the Romantic ballet of the 19th century or the German Dance
tradition of the Weimar Republic? What historical departures of dance
where linked with political contexts and how? Which political contexts
provoked dance as a critical intervention? Which contexts suppressed
dance or, contrary to that, teamed up with dance in order to change and
rearrange the distribution of bodies in the social and theatrical
arena? What does a critical bodily practice look like in the age of
genetic engineering and reproduction by the mass media? Does the
relation between body and text have to be redefined? Are there
choreographic practices that may subvert the dominant powers? How do
the artists themselves think about their aesthetic practice and how
does that influence the choices they make? What are the consequences of
these choices for their institutional working conditions and practices?

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Participants of the symposion are invited to think about the multiple
connections between politics, community, dance, and globalisation from
the perspective of Dance and Theatre Studies, History, Philosophy, and
Sociology. One focus of "Communications” will be the
discussion of recent developments in contemporary dance and the
production of new spaces for collaboration and exchange. In how far do
they help to reformulate what economists call the “becoming
immanent” of the world”? On an artistic level the
conference wants to look for possible answers by presenting pieces by
dance makers dealing explicitly with the issues raised here. Apart from
more established artists like Xavier Le Roy or Mette Ingvartsen a
younger generation of artists shall use the conference as their
platform. This is why the organisers are planning to draw on artists
and their work from institutions that have been supported by Tanzplan
Deutschland over the past years. They are invited to explore the
relation their work undergoes with social or political developments.
The title of the conference paraphrases on purpose a text by Roberto
Esposito. In his trilogy Communitas-Immunitas-Bios Esposito describes
the reciprocity of opening and closure of social systems and of bodies
alike. He tries to make this movement productive for a rethinking of
the political in terms of an interweaving of communitas and immunitas -
in a space where life is given a form in order to grant all bodies

Organized by Gerald Siegmund and Stefan Hölscher

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Thinking - Resisting - Reading the Political
What perspectives and methods does advanced cultural theory offer for our attempts to grasp political discourse and analyze aesthetic
treatments and performances of resistance? The international conference
together scholars from the fields of theatre, literature, art and media
studies, from cultural theory, sociology, and philosophy, to discuss
possibilities and limits of current models and attempt new approaches.
The deliberately ambiguous German title exemplifies the bidirectional
design: ‘widerständiges denken’ refers both to manners
of thinking resistance, and to the search for a quality of resistance
in manners of thought. Similarly, ‘politisches lesen’
intends both the search for a political element in dispositions towards
reading, and that for an adequate disposition to read for an element of
the political as understood in recent conceptions by Jacques
Rancière, Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau. The conference
assembles a set of thinkers from the fiels of theatre, literary, media
and art studies, from cultural theory, sociology and philosophy, to
discuss consequences that follow from these models: In what
theoretically describable forms of thought can resistance appear, and
how can resistance be thought of as an object of theory? How can the
political mark certain texts, and what procedures are available for a
reading that is marked by an appropriate sensibility for the contents
and orders of the political?

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In recent years, theory, art and feuilleton have all seen a recurrence
of notions hailing from ethics and politics, including the
controversial concept of an ‘ethical’ or ‘political
turn’, but also an increased interest in ethical evaluation and
political engagement, and new studies into social preconditions, as
well as into reflections of the juridical and legislative influence on
the shape of art’s production and reception. These movements join
a by now well-established discourse on topically related objects within
post-colonial and gender studies, and not least a renewed attention for
politically engaged positions of previous theoretical discourses, which
are now often read in new ways that are quite removed from their
original and immediate political intentions.

At the same time, we find – often in different places, contexts
and traditions – an increasing attention for far-reaching
conceptions that entertain new claims to universality or an autonomous
weltanschauung or agenda. What these contributions in the context of
radical democracy theories and recent philosophical interventions
concerning politics share despite their differences is an emphatic
valorization of concepts of the political, the event or of truth, taken
in the sense of a radical interruption and re-constitution of
historical aprioris; a tendency that recurs in as different a manner as
those of Badiou and Rancière, of Critchley and Esposito.

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With an aim to better understand, clearly describe and critically
discuss such concepts of a political dimension in aesthetics, the talks
at this conference will look at those facets of the
‘political’ that are problematized in their discourses: At
phenomena, that is, that depend upon their fundamental
incommensurability with representations and institutions, with stable
notions of political order and uninterrupted political discourse. Such
interpretations distance themselves from a simple equation of political
reading with an interest in politically engaged, appellative texts and
literatures that support or accuse specific party politics or
revolutionary programs; nor does their focus rest on purely literary
treatments of categorical de- and re-differentiation in established
political discourse, as they are discussed in postcolonial, gender and
minority studies among others. Rather, following La Mouffe and Laclau,
the political is here intended as a complementary and opposing concept
to that of politics, confronting that incoherence that balances the
politics of coherent commonality and communicability in favor of
conflicting political autonomy and enouncement.

So far, the demands and possibilities of these concepts have rarely
been fulfilled or even systematically considered in cultural studies.
Faced with a large number of almost positivistically empirical studies
focusing on particular phenomena on the one hand, and ambitioned
speculative designs on the other, we find a vast array of possible
links, each of which has proven itself productive, and yet each of
which threatens to oversimplify the ‘application’ of single
terms and ideas taken from overarching theories by turning them into
tools for highly specialized disciplines. At the same time, it is the
political ambitions and presuppositions of many superficially adopted
theories that seem to be insufficiently reflected, sometimes even
hardly made aware, in such ‘applications’.

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We want to attack both deficits. Both, we suggest, are owed not least
to the difficulties engendered by the very idea of an
‘application’, a ‘use’ that is in itself often
foreign to the main tenets of the original discourses. A naïve
concept of method in the sense of established philosophy of science, or
even following traditionally hermeneutical, descriptive, e.g.
structuralist, and most poststructuralist approaches sometimes
misrepresents theory as a toolbox, its instruments readily separated
from their originating beliefs and turned to the screws and nails of
otherwise unconnected objects of culture and art. But this stand in
stark contrast to the central observation that political, social,
conceptual conditions and artistic practices are incontrovertibly
interlinked. Similarly unconvincing are those adoptions of radical
theory that avoid discussing any consequences from the positions they
adopt, omitting the necessary reflection of their own view of
scientific and scholarly practice in contemporary cultural studies.

Returning to an interest in the political, we thus propose to accompany
such interests with an intention towards theoretical conceptions, and
to openly examine if and how that intention might translate into
specific analytic or descriptive measures: The conference will discuss
the problematic ‘consequences in methodology’ attributed to
these theories from a number of different vantage points. The
interdisciplinary setup will hopefully provide opportunities to
productively discuss theories of various provenience and to grapple
with works of art and individual analyses, examining, defending or
rejecting the possibility of a methodology informed by advanced theory.
The conference will aim not only to continue a critical reflection upon
the proposals offered by current theories, but to constantly accompany
that reflection with a conscious question as to the specific
consequences that flow from these theories to the practice of cultural
study and the analysis of individual and concrete pieces of art; a
question that might well have to be answered in the negative, but
deserves an explicit answer nevertheless. Can there be methods for a
scholarly sound reading of the political? Is the activity of dealing
with always already elusive and thus doubly resistant categories at all
graspable in terms of methods or techniques? And whatever the answer
may be, can it in turn help us to better understand common suppositions
of methodology and contribute to a productive argument on what a method

Organized by Anneka Esch-van Kan, Philipp Schulte, and Stephan Packard

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  • This is very, in depth and intriguing.  I didn't know how you could connect politics and dancing.  The choreography and political landscape intertwinded with us?  I am so glad there are scholars of the art of dance.  I always felt like it was not respectable but to be embraced by higher ups and itellectuals is fantastic.  This is a new world.  I am a DJ and have several DJs on staff.  We are constantly researching for epi-centers of knowledge and information for new music and music related themes for parties and film and tv shows.  Check out our DJ Music website at
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