log #560: kunstsymposion

Suzana Milevska
First Person Plural: The Clusivity of „We"

The question what are the implications behind the use of "We" when it is used by the non-immigrants and non-refugees bothers me for a long time. More precisely, I want to discuss the difference between "saying" and "doing" in the use of the first person plural, or who is included and who is excluded from this statement.

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Unlike some other and mostly non-European languages, the English language does not allow an exclusive form of the first person plural pronoun (a precise differentiation in grammatical terms between all inclusive "we" and "we" that excludes some of the addressees) so I want to argue that the use of this statement should be questioned depending on the context and position from which it is uttered. It is clear from the outset that the phrase is meant to be a rhetorical self-identification with the "other" and it is supposed to express solidarity and compassion with the people who are put in a position of "secondary" citizens from diasporic and other communities (e.g. homeless, travellers, Roma, legal or illegal immigrants, or refugees) and do not have access to all rights as the other citizens although they are entitled.

Ever since Hannah Arendt entitled her essay "We Refugees" (1943) it became very common to use such a "self-inclusive" and "all-inclusive" phrase in texts that address issues as identity, collective identity and critical views towards the political differentiation between different peoples. However I want to argue that there is a certain concealed privilege, exclusivity, appropriation and a patronising position in this "we" so who is entitled or not to utter the "we" is one of the major issues and this has nothing to do with the ethnic, national or class background (the risk of essentialisation lurks behind any exclusivity).

-- [20.10.2016: Lecture & Debate] --

Dr. Suzana Milevska is a theorist and curator of visual art and culture from Macedonia. She was the first Endowed Professor for Central and South Eastern European Art Histories at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and currently is the Principle Researcher in the Horizon 2020 project TRACES, Politecnico di Milano. Her research and curatorial projects are based on the urgent need for a postcolonial critique of hegemonic power regimes of institutional representations of marginalized communities in the region of South Eastern Europe and include various feminist, participatory and collaborative artistic practices and art projects by artists with Roma background.

Milevska holds a PhD in visual culture from Goldsmiths College London. She initiated the Centre for Visual and Cultural Research in Skopje (2006-2008), and the Call the Witness–Roma Pavilion (Venice Biennale, 2011). She taught history and theory of art at Faculty of Fine Arts, Skopje (2010-2012) and lectured at The Chicago School of Art Institute, Columbia University, Goldsmiths College, Oxford University, KIASMA-Helsinki, TATE Modern and other institutions. She published the book Gender Difference in the Balkans (Saarbrucken: VDM Verlag, 2010) and edited the readers The Renaming Machine: The Book (Ljubljana: P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Institute, 2010) and On Productive Shame, Reconciliation, and Agency (Berlin: SternbergPress, 2016). She was awarded the Fulbright Senior Research Scholarship, ALICE Award for Political Curating and Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory.

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