Archive for the ‘Czech Politics’ Category

I am a foreigner. A migrant. I live and work in Prague, the city that has become my adopted home. No one forced me to come here, nor even invited me – I decided to come here myself. I have been warmly welcomed by Czech people and love being a part of Czech society. As a foreigner and a migrant with such a positive experience here I now watch in disbelief at the stance the country is taking to the ongoing refugee crisis.

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“Sit Down! Watch this, its important. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life.”

My Mum probably didn’t know it then, but she had sparked a chain of events that would have great importance for how – and where – I live my life and for how and why I am writing this article. Although I was born and grew up in the UK, I live and work in Prague and have lived most of my adult life in Central and Eastern Europe. Time and again when people have asked me – often somewhat incredulously – why I am so interested in this part of the world, I come back to these words and to the impact of the reportage that I was about to watch. Now I come back to them again as a migrant living in the Czech Republic and contemplating the country’s response to the migration crisis.

Originally published in Czech in Reporter Magazine on 12/10/2015
Read the full text in English at: http://reportermagazin.cz/a-migrants-story/

and in Czech at http://reportermagazin.cz/migrantuv-pribeh/ 

by Benjamin Tallis

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‘Who could possibly want such things?”
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When Jiří Mrázek and Adam Karásek started Nanovo in 2009, they were prepared for the fact that their salvaged and restored modernist furniture would not be to everyone’s taste. However, Karásek’s mother’s reaction (quoted above) shows the scale of the challenge they faced. Given the general revival of modernist architecture and design over the last decade, this may seem surprising, but it reveals much about a regionally particular politics of memory that colours attitudes towards domestic design as much as architecture. However, Nanovo’s success also shows how dominant narratives about the past and the present are being challenged and highlights the role of material objects in doing so.

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Many Czechs share the – now widespread – appreciation of the International Style. This strand of modernism carries the echoes of the First Republic, the Czech golden age, when a flourishing of art and design and the big-thinking industrial dynamism of companies such as Baťa, combined to thrust the newly-stated nation onto the world stage. This celebrated history has long allowed Czechs to embrace the International Style as a part of their own heritage, exemplified in the Tugendhat and Muller villas, but mid-century meant something very different here than the purposeful elegance of Mad Men or the soaring hope of Eero Saarinen. After ‘89, the urge to disavow the communist past led to a disavowal of its aesthetics. At home this often meant junking the old in favour of the flat-packed or multinationally homogenous new and many design classics of this other modernism became flotsam and jetsam in the currents of post-communist transition.

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Mrázek and Karásek travelled and studied abroad, where they saw that, far from being shunned, the designs of this other time, of this other modernity were celebrated. These experiences drove them to question the conformism of domestic consumption after communism and to speculate that the objects, the material remains of that past could also have a place in the present. Inspired by flea-market-furnished Berlin, Mrázek and Karásek, set about rescuing the “gems” of communist-era domestic design from thrift stores and junk shops around the Czech Republic. Rescuing domestic objects from the garbage heap of history, resonates with bigger trends in Czech society that seek to reclaim private memories from the blanket condemnation that obscures the lived experiences of this period. This resistance to locally-dominant politics of memory is interwoven with a dissatisfaction with – what might be termed – the ‘multinational style’, the homogenizing blandness that became characteristic of much of the 90s and 00s in ‘transition’ and which manifested itself in the limited choice of Western-approved or Western-owned furniture, beer or politics.

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Nanovo’s focus is on domestic objects and their ever-changing collection of household and industrial modernism. However, the Jitona sideboards, Tesla desklamps, Pragotron clocks, workshop lighting are complemented by other minor markers of time and place: chicken-shaped plastic eggcups, vintage paddles for boats long stuck-up other creeks, maps of the world made for socialist classroom walls. These objects recall the private lives of Czechs and Slovaks in the period of ‘Normalisation’. This closing down of the public sphere, a social permafrost that followed Prague’s most famous spring, heightened the importance of creating ‘cosy dens’[1]: domestic realms of retreat, resilience and resistance which functioned as interior ‘outsides’, where children could grow up and happy times could be had, in spite of “post-totalitarian” one party rule. As Charity Scribner notes in Requiem for Communism[2] consideration of the domestic objects of these times allows for collective “memory work on a human scale”.

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Despite muddled media reports,[3] Mrázek is adamant that Nanovo does not seek to satiate  Ostalgic desires for retro kitsch that rest on the allure of a dangerous regime now thrillingly exotic at a safe historical distance. The focus is on design quality rather than the period or conditions of their production. The Finnish PeeM chair – a leather upholstered armchair, which turns on an aluminium four-spoke base – has proved as popular now as it was in 70s Czechoslovakia. Mrázek argues that: “These pieces looked good 20 years ago; and they will look good in 20 years.” Nonetheless, Nanovo’s style certainly appeals to those, like its founders, who grew up in the 70s and 80s and who were “heavily shaped” by the architecture and urbanism of the time as these “styles unconsciously sunk under our skin” as Mrázek puts it.

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Mrázek and Karásek grew up respectively in the lower and upper parts of Prague’s Smichov district, where they still live, although they have now swapped places on the hill. From flea markets to the annual design supermarket, via the opening of a large warehouse space (and mid-century Aladdin’s cave) in the outlying industrial area of Vysočany and, recently, the opening of a flagship store in Prague’s Old Town, Nanovo has come in from the margins and spawned a series of imitators. This growing acceptance and success speaks to the changing conditions of the politics of memory – and its material manifestations in the Czech Republic.

Nanovo’s founders are part of the generation known locally as ‘Husák’s Children’ – after the Czechoslovak leader Gustav Husák who oversaw the period of normalisation. Coming of age only after ’89, this generation has sought continuity between their past and present; to reconcile the material environments of  chidhood and adolescence with those encountered later. It is no surprise therefore that the ‘Nanovo look’ is commonplace in the new generation of bars and cafes they own, run and frequent: Café Kaaba’s opaxit glass-topped coffee tables, the industrial lamps in Café Sladkovsky, the Ton and Tatra chairs in Cafe v Lese and the plectrum-shaped formica ‘Brusel’ tables in the Malkovich bar are but a few of many possible examples. These hipster hangouts combine internationally recognisable traits with a distinctive Czechness that speaks of a resurgent self-confidence – a willingness to rescue their childhood from the totalising judgements of history and to reject the ‘post-historical’ ablandisements of transition.

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The Ambiente restaurant group has also got in on this act with its haute reinterpretations of classic Czech cuisine but, even more so, with its ‘Lokál’ pubs. These locales pride themselves on serving only Czech products – and some of the finest Pilsner in Prague – but it is in the décor and in the small touches, such as the flea-market-familiar plastic bread baskets, that Lokál really stands out. The wooden benches and wall coverings feature etched, backlit graffiti of the kind familiar from school desks Europe-wide, harking back to the schooldays of designer Maxim Velčovský (born 1976) and many others. The bathroom decoration takes things a step further with the walls (in the gents) covered from floor to ceiling in a scrapbook collage of images from the 70s and 80s: Niki Lauda’s Ferrari and Škoda sports editions; Franz Beckenbauer Michel Platini and Antonin Panenka; glamorous foreign air hostesses and local soft porn. These images are taken from period magazines – not only from Czechoslovakia and other Warsaw Pact countries, but from Western publications as well. Lokál’s fixtures, fittings and collage questions the sweeping judgements that emphasise clear-cut difference between West and East and the isolation and inferiority of the latter, by recalling the ways in which people lived and the connections between the blocs.

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Mrázek – a big fan of Lokál – was also quick to note the international influence in Czech design during communism: “You can see that a magazine came from, lets say Italy, and that then there are some designs for lamps that, don’t copy but somehow work with, what the designers had seen there.” A generation of what Mrázek describes as “open-minded” Czechs are looking afresh at the aspects of their past, which, far from being something to be ashamed of are now celebrated: for the skill of designers and architects in remaining conversant with and making major contributions to modernist design under testing circumstances. Emphasising the connections of this modernism to Western outsides, rather than seeing it as product of isolated communist inferiority, has helped spur public re-appraisals of brutalist architecture as well as of Nanovo-style domestic design.

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However, the Czechoslovak modernism of the 60s, 70s and 80s also testifies to particular lived experiences – of communism and of what followed. Contemplating the worth of the design of this period invites reflection on the ways that Czechs can find their place in their increasingly interconnected post-communist world without totally disavowing their past or surrendering to the false diversity of much of the multinational present. Charity Scribner, quoting Maurice Halbwachs, argues that: “‘Space is a reality that endures.’ Indeed, we can only recapture the past by understanding how ‘it is preserved in our physical surroundings’. Place and group mutually constitute one another.” Nanovo’s founders Mrázek and Karásek provide material ways in which this can happen and spur modernist questioning of the pseudo-diversity of the postmodern present. We should seize the chance, as many Czechs are doing to consider their place in the international order and in their own cosy dens.

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A version of this piece originally appeared in The Modernist, ‘Domestic’ issue in 2014.

[1] Cosy Dens is a literal translation of the Czech term ‘Pelíšky’ which is also the title of a well-known, 1999 Czech film, directed by Jan Hřebejk.

[2] Charity Scribner (2003), Requiem for Communism, Cambridge: MIT Press.

[3] For example in Czech Daily MF Dnes – http://nanovo.cz/ostatni/PR/press/mf_dnes-3.10.11.jpg; or online news site Czech Position – http://nanovo.cz/ostatni/PR/press/ceska-pozice25.10.11.jpg

The EU’s inadequate response to the migration crisis in the Mediterranean threaten the Schengen zone and the Union’s identity. Prevailing opinion among Czech elites is based on substantive errors, questionable political analysis and morally indefensible positions. Czech Republic and the rest of the V4 need an alternative approach if we are to prevent migrant deaths and prevent the idea of Europe from getting lost at sea.

by Benjamin Tallis, Michal Šimečka and Jan Daniel,
Centre for European Security, Institute of International Relations, Prague  

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European governments are struggling to find an adequate response to tragedies in the Mediterranean and the rise in irregular immigration from and through the conflict-torn Southern Neighbourhood. As members of the Schengen zone, the Czech Republic and other post-communist EU members can no longer pretend it is someone else’s problem. A serious debate on migration is long overdue at the European level and in the EU’s member states.

In this context, last week’s commentary by Radko Hokovský and Jakub Janda is significant, not least because it reflects the prevailing consensus among Czech political elites. While welcome in that it could kick-start the necessary debate, the position they outline contradicts the European values they purport to defend.

The authors loosely align themselves with the meagre package of measures adopted by the Council (inter alia additional money for Triton operation, police/military action against smuggling networks, addressing root-causes etc.). However, they warn against any moves toward a more cohesive and Communitarian migration/asylum policy, lest this would trigger an even greater influx of refugees/migrants and invite an anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic populist backlash that could threaten the EU’s very existence.

Acknowledging that it may sound “cynical and too pragmatic”, they argue against EU-wide burden-sharing of asylum claimants, resettlement of migrants, externalized offshore asylum processing of asylum application etc., insisting that decision-making on granting of residency and asylum must remain in the hands of national governments. Hokovský and Janda write that, in the absence of popularly endorsed political Union, transferring more competences to European Commission would be grist to the mill of anti-immigration populist forces. “Creation of a common asylum and migration policy would be the last decision of the EU before it disintegrated.”

This is a position espoused by the current government and PM Sobotka, which is unfortunate because it is wrong on substance, unconvincing in its political analysis, and morally more disturbing than its authors care to admit. 


Substantial Errors: Simplification, Conflation & Obfuscation

First, in substantive terms, the position advanced by Hokovský and Janda makes a series of untenable simplifications and straw man arguments: it reduces the present challenge to a choice between a Brussels power-grab and maintaining national sovereignty; it ignores the distinction between regular and irregular migration, as well as between refugees and economic migrants; and, crucially, it buys into the fiction that migration is exclusively negative – a threat to be guarded against rather than an opportunity to be embraced.

The migration situation that the EU and its member states face is much complex than that and, in fact, borders, asylum and migration are already semi-Europeanized policies – a patchy framework that, as the latest spate of tragedies show, simply doesn’t work: for migrants, border guards or Europeans. This means that while Schengen states share the benefits of common borders they do not share the burdens equally, leaving states such as Italy and Greece unable to cope. This puts migrants in unnecessary danger and threatens the continued existence of the Schengen zone, which relies on the integrity of its frontiers to facilitate regular, rather than irregular mobility.

However, an effective response would not require full Europeanisation of migration policy. Coalitions of willing states could establish offshore migration processing facilities and launch a naval operation to conduct SAR and prevent migrant boats reaching the high seas. These steps would reduce migrant deaths while meeting legal commitments to asylum seekers, while the Frontex Triton mission would provide border protection and guard against irregular migration. While Hokovský and Janda concede that member states could do this, they argue, in effect, that they should not as it would provoke a Eurosceptic backlash that would threaten the EU itself.

However, this worst-case scenario again ignores the complexity of border and migration policy. Member states would remain in control of decisions over asylum-seekers who arrive directly on their territory (as opposed to being re-settled) and they would also remain in charge of the entry and stay of economic migrants to whom, unlike to refugees, they have no obligation. It is unfortunately indicative of the prevailing climate that the focus is on the threats and burdens, rather than the opportunities and contributions, of migration – a distortion that the conflation of refugees with economic migrants compounds.

Shutting the door on such migrants is not only morally questionable, but also risks missing out on an economic windfall. Research has repeatedly shown that migrants bring benefit rather than cost, many are ‘exceptional people’ willing to risk everything for a better life and the majority are young, driven and willing to work. Managing such migration through regular channels, allied to political engagement with – rather than pandering to – discontented groups, also holds out the possibility of exactly the people-to-people contacts that mitigate the xenophobia that Hokovský and Janda lament – as it has within the EU.


Political Consequences: Falling Out or Falling Together?

Second, Hokovský and Janda’s article presents a flawed analysis of the potential political fallout of a more progressive response. The threat of populist backlash is wildly inflated and there are far more states that would be willing to partake in the type of common action to solve this common problem (as outlined above) than the authors allow for.

Those states that face the greatest burden in dealing with the high and ongoing migratory pressure driven by the need of those facing war and other catastrophes and the desires of those who seek a better life have expressed their desire for such common action. From Italy on the front line to Germany and Sweden who take the highest number of asylum seekers, have seen no surge in populist anti-European forces. Indeed, the attitude of those at the sharp end of migrant capsizes has been a welcome silver lining in this humanitarian crisis. In Germany, Pegida is in disarray and effective burden sharing would help blunt the attacks of parties such as Alternative fuer Deutschland. Both Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer (neither known for being soft-touch, liberal idealists) support common action. Hakovsky and Janda claim that Europeanising asylum policy would be a ‘rash’ move that would threaten the EU. Merkel in particular is noted for avoiding such hasty or politically inconsidered moves.

In countries with the highest migrant intake (Italy, Greece, Malta, but also France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden), increased EU solidarity and burden sharing would actually lend ammunition to pro-EU centrist governments against anti-immigrant anti-EU parties (insofar as “Europe” would be seen as a helping alleviate voters’ concerns over immigration). This leaves the Visegrad countries – who rightly revel in the benefits of Schengen for practical purposes as well as for reasons of belonging[1] – along with Denmark and Finland as potential objectors. In the case of the Visegrad group, such hostility is particularly problematic. 


European Values: Moral and Legal Responsibilities

In Czech Republic, the argument against common action on the migration crisis seems to be because it could actually work, leading to increased immigration and creating a new ‘pull factor’. It should be noted that similarly faulty logic was behind the decision to cancel and fail to replace the Mare Nostrum SAR operation. Disguised as a defence of Europe, this position effectively argues that letting people drown is warranted because it provides a powerful deterrent, although given the push factors driving the migration surge this is questionable.

Underlying this premise, which has thus far been illusory, is a worrying assumption about the innate xenophobia of the public. Tellingly, in many cases it is those communities least exposed to migrant populations who tend to be more hostile to them. If such xenophobia exists then, in accordance with European values and the history of the EU, should be challenged rather than simply accepted or, worse, instrumentalised to ignoble purpose. The Visegrad countries, which have themselves been on the receiving end of such prejudice and have been able to challenge it through the mobility that EU membership allows, know this all too well.

Hokovský and Janda’s analysis fails to account for EU member states’ legal commitments to allow potential refugees to claim asylum. More depressingly, it betrays willingness to free-ride in Schengen and to pander to the nastier sides of domestic populism. This is a morally indefensible and hypocritical position that contradicts the Union’s fundamental values and legal commitments. Should more EU Member States pursue this cynical strategy, it would indeed be the end of the EU as we know it.

[1] Like much of the analysis in this piece, this claim is based on the findings of the ESRC-funded research project conducted by Benjamin Tallis from 2011-2015 – publication of findings is forthcoming.

by Benjamin Tallis

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A tourist strolling down the right bank of the Vltava, contentedly absorbing the gothic and baroque splendour of Malá Strana and the Hradčany, might, a little further down the river, be forgiven for thinking ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ Downstream of the decorative Hanavský Pavilon, something that looks like it could be a modernist hermitage nestles in the trees at the Northern end of the Letna park, its minimal chic obtrusive among the expressive edifices of downtown Prague.

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The arcing glass and shining steel of the kidney-shaped, elevated gallery grab the viewer’s attention from the riverside, with the subtle grace of the glazed pedestal only becoming apparent upon closer inspection. In answer to the tourist’s question, this light triumph came from Brussels, although, despite the flags fluttering in front of it, this building has nothing to do with the EU. It dates from a time before the Belgian capital became synonymous with the administrative HQ of the European political project, when Brussels hosted the World’s Fair: Expo ’58.

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This cold-war Expo was a highly politically charged event, a symbolic showcase for the superpowers, keen to trumpet their technical prowess and trump the progress of those on the ‘other side’ of what had yet to become a wall. The ’58 Expo was also the first major international exhibition to be held since the end of World War 2 and, despite being planned in the dark days of the 1950s, it was a modernist materialisation of hope, giving snatched glimpses of better futures.

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Although held less than two years after the both the Suez crisis and the crushing of the Budapest uprising, the World’s Fair came in during a brief thaw in open hostilities, the lull before the storm of the proxy war in Congo and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Briefly it seemed that the cold war could be won by science and culture, by those who could not only divide heaven, but who could also harness technological progress to deliver better living.

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This was the time of both Sputnik and Saarinen, of Laika and the Lever Building; a time when Mad Men set about bringing the gains of Mutually Assured Destruction and the space race into mid-century living rooms. In the soviet bloc, Khrushchev’s 20th Congress denunciation had opened a narrow window of opportunity for architects and designers, as they were called upon to provide visual and material distance from the stodgy confections with which Boris Iofan and others had tried to sugar-coat tyranny.

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In Czechoslovakia, many of the golden generation of interwar architecture found under the new regime that they flew too close to the sun and so this rare possibility to reconnect to the international style was an alluring one. With the accent firmly on the modern, visitors to the Expo were invited to spend ‘One Day in Czechoslovakia,’ in an exposition that cracked the western-manufactured façade of communist-era culture being uniformly dull and grey.

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The light and voluminous spaces of František Cubr, Josef Hrubý and Zdeněk Pokorný’s pavilion set the scene for the most striking avant-garde theatre of the Expo. Josef Svoboda’s Polyekran (multiscreen) and Laterna Magika (magic lantern) combined projection and performance to stunning effect and stood proudly alongside the Corbusier –inspired Poeme Electronique as highlights of the festival. Function was not forgotten amidst these effervescent forms, with the pavilion’s elegant lines providing the backdrop to the best of contemporary Czechoslovak public and interior design, such as the classic T3 tram seat (heater included for those cold Prague winters) and the Hedgehog tea set.
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While the political focus was on the potential standoff between the neighbouring American and Soviet showgrounds, it was the Czechs and Slovaks who took home the prize for the best pavilion. But that wasn’t all they took home, as the beautiful, curving structure that now sits in the Letna orchards, was the pavilion restaurant, where millions of visitors made sure that their one day in Czechoslovakia included a pint of the original and best Pilsner.

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The Saaz-laden suds of Bohemia’s best-known export undoubtedly helped things go with a swing, but it was in successfully marrying such traditional craft with cutting edge technological achitecture, that the comfort with which interwar Czechoslovakia had ascended to the world’s cultural top-table.
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Unlike the American pavilion which rejected the “anonymity, uniformity and all the things that go to make up modernism[1]” or the confused Soviet pavilion which encased a thoroughly retrograde exhibition in a steel and glass shell, Czechoslovakia showed how modern architecture could both spur new socio-cultural possibilities and accommodate more traditional pursuits.

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At the end of the Expo, the restaurant was transported back to Prague and fulfilled this function throughout the communist era, including the repressive period of normalisation, where it must have been a mirage-like reminder, a sleek, shimmering and somewhat unreal reminder of what Czechs came to know as the Bruselský Sen (Brussels dream). In 1991 a fire destroyed the interior and like so many buildings realised under the socialist regime, it was not properly valued in the heady tumult of what followed.

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Today, although it is well signposted in the park, visitors cannot enter the restaurant building, as it is now the offices of an advertising company. The company found itself embroiled in controversy in 2008 when it ran the Prague Mayor’s unrealistic vanity campaign to bring the Olympics to Prague under the slogan ‘We are all on the National Team.’ This was parodied on the ‘Art Wall’ under the Expo restaurant by artivists Guma Guar who used the same artwork and slogan, but instead of lauding faux-noble equestrians perched ludicrously atop mountains, they applied it to well known Czech criminals.

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Is it too much to hope that the advertising agency would seek to show that they too are part of the national team and return this beautiful building to public use? In doing so, they would gain their greatest PR success and provide a welcome reminder of a time where modernist substance triumphed over superpower spin.

The text for this piece originally appeared in The Modernist – Issue 6: ‘Cuppa’ in December 2012


[1] ‘Citizens and Architects’, Architectural Forum, 110: January 1959

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In nice news, uber-Designer Swiss Miss featured my CM Prague talk on space and borders on her website (more than 1m unique visitors per month!).

Check out the talk and the rest of Swiss Miss’ on the link below

http://www.swiss-miss.com/2013/08/link-pack-3.html

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And it was the headline piece in the CM Global monthly newsletter!

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Thanks again to everyone who made it happen – I was really pleased to be part of such a great event!

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– take a look at the wonderful photos of the event from Everybay here

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.490279277720830.1073741833.331379706944122&type=1

Also, have a look at the other great talks that CM Prague – who just celebrated their 1st birthday – have organised this year!

https://www.facebook.com/CreativeMorningsPrague

BEYOND BORDERS?

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Creative Mornings invited to me to talk at the July instalment of their monthly breakfast lecture series. The month global CM theme for july was space and I spoke about borders, drawing on my research to discuss the ongoing relevance of borders, despite claims that we are moving towards a borderless world. Asking questions inspired by research into geopolitical borders allows us to consider borders more generally, as metaphor, heuristic or lens on the world and the ways we can live in it – apart and together.

The beautiful setting of the Piazetta courtyard at the National Theatre, the coffee and snacks laid on by the CM team and the glorious morning sunshine all helped things go with a swing. There were some really good comments and questions afterwards and met a lots of nice and interesting people. It was inspiring for me to see how many other people are interested in borders and how and why we make and break them.

Many thanks to Lenka, Lada & Jiri from Creative Mornings and to the excellent photographers who captured such interesting images of the event – Jakub Sodomka and Everbay Photography

Here is the link to the full video – beautifully produced by Jiri, Lenka, Lada & the crew … http://vimeo.com/71563085

You can watch the second half of the talk (on the more general/ conceptual aspects of bordering) here. The outline of the talks is included below

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Creative Mornings: Prague – Talk Outline

  • Space & Borders
    • Many thanks for the introduction and many thanks to Lenka, Lada and Jiri for inviting me to address this interesting – and, to me I have to say largely new – audience about a topic that is very close to my heart and which has changed the way that I look at the world, how we might go about being in it and indeed how we can change it …

 

  • As you know, the CM theme for this week is Space – so why borders?

 

  • They are one of the ways in which we divide space and make spaces into places  – which, as a brief definition are spaces that have acquired a particular or dominant meaning, although this is not uncontestable – On the other hand, spaces are yet to become places; other than in the sense that their very openness and lack of specific meaning makes them a particular kind of place – a space. Spaces, therefore, are (as yet unrealised) potential places, whereas places are the potential of a space exhausted – for now – in a particular set of meanings
  • In effect, they are one of the ways we make space meaningful
  • While space is open and full of possibility and potential, borders and the place or meaning making that they imply often seem to shut things down, to close things off, but I hope to be able to persuade you that that is not always the case & that understanding borders  – and why we need them – is an interesting and important way to understand how we live. Moreover, I will argue that these processes are actually necessary and desirable .
  • So, today, I will start by talking about borders as they are commonly understood – state borders – and particularly how they have changed over the last 25 years … and then go on to discuss how the research that I have been doing on this topic prompted me to think about borders more widely. I hope that in doing so, I will challenge some of your borders and prompt you to do likewise …

 

  • Post Cold War – Towards a Borderless World?
    • Much talk of a borderless world, a global village,
    • End of Superpower Conflict – Fall of Berlin Wall
    • Economic Globalisation
    • The internet and the comms revolution
    • Political Integration – such as the EU
    • The rise of global NGOs – the zeitgeistb seemed very much one of a world trying to become sans frontiers?
  • Specific Example – European Integration as Breaking Down Old Borders
    • Deepening – breaking down internal borders
      • Towards political union rather than old conflict or frozen fear
      • Completion of Single Market
      • Creation of Schengen Zone  (Area of Freedom, Justice & Security)
      • 4 Freedoms of Movement (Goods; Services; Capital; Labour)
  • Widening – extending the zone of this interior, this inside …
    • EU Eastern Enlargement (2004 & 2007)
    • European Neighbourhood Policy (2003)
    • Eastern Partnership (2009)
  • But … De-bordering or Re-bordering
    • Schengen: Trans European Networks of Control (Walters)
      • Roving Border Guard Teams – Irregular Migration
      • Mobile Customs Patrols – Smuggling & Trade Violations
      • Police Actions in Cities – Persistent Internal Control
      • Strengthen the Perimeter – Increased External Control
  • Enlargement: Exclusive Inclusion
    • Ostensible Widening – A Europe Whole & Free?
    • ‘Return to Europe’ or Creation of ‘Non-Core’ Europe-  derrida, habermas
    • Accession and Learning to be European – teachers and pupils – new rules, new borders …
    • Defining European-ness Through Membership & Conduct
      • Behaving like someone eles’s idea of what a European is
      • But with the potential to shape this in future
    • The End of Enlargement & The Limits of Europe?
  • ENP & EaP: Inclusive Exclusions
    • Ameliorating the Effects of the New Curtain – not iron, but paper and glass – the visa curtain – seems inclusive but to what extent?
    • Neighbours, Partners but not (Future) Members – borders again …
    • Is it about a Ring of Friends or a new Buffer Zone in which the EU Exports and outsources its Borders?
    • Desire for Closer Ties – Need for Labour & Access to Markets +
    • Fear of the East – Inward Migration & Cross Border Crime
    • But where is the east and how do we know – how has this changed over time – where is Eastern Europe – why do we here in Prague call ourselves central Europeans?
  • Borders as Geopolitical Phenomenon
    • Borders still exist just not (only) at the borders we used to know
    • Borders as Intersection of Security and Mobility
      • Security of what from what?
      • Mobility of what type for who?
        • is this chosen or forced? Is it the same for everyone – mob egs
    • What do they mandate, encourage, discourage or prevent?
    • What does this tell us about who and how we can be?
  • Leads to Wider Questions about Borders as Heuristic or Metaphor
    • Where are our borders?
      • As citizens, as men, women, heterosexuals, homosexuals, law abiders, criminals, entrepreneurs, conformists and creatives?
      • What are borders and what do they do?
        • Are all our borders about security and mobility
        • Perhaps they are also to do with probability and possibility, action and dream ..
        • How are borders created, confirmed or challenged?
          • Formal borders –legal, state, etc; informal borders – norms, conventions, habits, limits of imagination & creativity
          • All borders are artificial in the sense that they are social constructs
          • Doesn’t make them any less real but does mean that they can be contested and challenged,
          • How are borders policed or transgressed?
            • How are they enforced? How do we police ourselves in this regard?
            • How do they change over time?
            • Why do borders exist?
              • Why might we want them to?
  • Borders, Imposition and Desire
    • How and why are borders imposed?
      • Which borders can we think of as being imposed on us?
      • When do we want to be secure?
      • How and why is this accepted or resisted?
        • Do we accept all the borders that are imposed on us?
        • When do we want to be open or mobile?
        • How and why do we actually desire borders?
          • What borders do you desire or want to maintain?
          • Would you open the borders to your home? Your bedroom? Your body? Under what circumstances and how much ctrl do you have or want over this?
          • Who gets to make your borders?
            • You? Other people? Some combination of the two?
            • If we were to transgress the borders of language, we would struggle to make ourselves understood, but, over time words change their meaning in different context, become acceptable or unacceptable, but all of this relies on common understandings of them …
  • How do your borders relate to your identity and your horizons of possibility?
    • Your borders to a certain extent give you an idea of who you are
    • Repeated interaction with your borders gives you a sense of yuour current possibilities and limits
  • Borders, Identities, Orders
    • Identity – Your Borderscape
      • Access to different places and spaces
        • Nightclub example –
    • Belonging within a particular place (bounded by borders
    • Who gets to be there who doesn’t?
    • Who is in place and who is ‘out of place’
    • So, who gets to do what and who does not …
    • If borders relate to Identity then do we carry the border with us?
      • We trigger some of the borders that seem to spring up …
      • Zafer senocak – the border runs, right through my tongue
  • Orders – How we live with Others
    • What is a particular place for?
    • What are the activities that are supposed to take place there?
    • Where does that place stop and a new place start?
    • Who gets to decide that and how is it enforced?
    • Who gets to participate? Who is that place for
    • Spatial, Temporal and Social
      • How we can be in and make places
      • How we can change them or how we want to keep them as they are
      • What does it mean when borders are not just at the edge?
      • What is the history of a place, how has it changed over time?
      • How do power relations work in these contexts
      • How do borders and this access/ denial/ freedom/ oppression matrix work to make us who we are?
  • Bordering as Self & World Knowledge
    • How the world sees you
      • You know retty quickly if you are welcome or not
      • 1st/ 2nd class at the border – waiting or passing… at home or out of place?
      • How you see the world and yourself in it
        • Where can you go, what can you do, who can you be?
        • Is it where you would like to be …
        • Volker Braun – I’m still here but my country’s gone west …
        • How we can live and who we want to live with
          • Whose in and whose out?
          • How we can dream and imagine as well as how we stay grounded and practical
            • Possibility and durability – are we ready for total flux?
            • Borders as social and political
              • We do this together and so we have to rtecognise how power relations work, how we can ifluence or compel others and how they can do the same to us ..
              • How does going to palladium influence the situation of the homeless person
              • Borders connect us as well as divide us – relations of exclusion are still relations …
  • Beyond Borders?
    • Making Borders
      • Which borders do you help make
      • For creative types? Who is in, who is out?
      • Breaking Down Borders
        • How do you challenge your borders
        • How do you help other people challenge theirs’?
        • Knowing Borders
          • How do we know our borders?
          • How do we go about finding out?
          • This is the key to challenging those we want to challenges and to maintaining the bodrers that we want to keep.

Panel 1: Political Violence (0930 – 1050)

  • –  Simon Steffal: Mad, Bad or Misunderstood: Anders Breivik & The Depoliticisation of Political Violence
  • –  Courtney Lawrence: Sympathy for the Devil: The RAF and German Public Opinion
  • –  Kristina Ristovska: Balkan Jihad: Failed Securitisation & Psychopathology in Bosnia
  • –  Vendula Zenata: The PKK’s Victim Complex: Identity, Ideology & Political Violence in Turkey

Panel 2: Security Beyond Sovereignty? (1100 – 1215)

  • –  Pavel Petrakov: Inconsistent Humanitarians: Understanding Non-Intervention in Syria
  • –  Rachel Buckly: Crisis, what Crisis? Male (In)securities and the US Defence Establishment
  • –  Veronika Bumbalova: Welcome to the Desert of the Real(ists): Securitisation & Iran as Rogue State

Keynote Panel: The Politics of Researching Politics (1300-1420)

  • –  Xymena Kurowska & Benjamin Tallis ‘Chiasmatic Crossings: Reflexive Research Encounters in

    Central & Eastern Europe’

  • –  Japhy Wilson – ‘Sabotage of Development: The Researcher as Lacan’s ‘objet petit a’

     

  • Panel 4: Prague and the Material Politics of (Post)communisms
  • –  Petra Zezulkova: Urban Geographies of Transition & Transitions in Czech Urban Geographies
  • –  Alina Travinicheva: Who and What is Prague For and How is it Done?
  • –  Kate Kochkina: Panelaks as the New Versailles: Power & Play in Communist Housing Estates

Panel 5: Power Structures: Socio-Spatial & Material Politics

  • –  Tony Tucker: Powers of Architecture & Architectures of Power in 20th Century Prague
  • –  Iolanta Chopova: Unholy Lands: Architecture & Power in Israel & Palestine
  • –  Conor Plese: Riding the City: A Politics of Urban Cycling
  • –  Tomas Bendl: To Live & Die in LA: LA School vs. Hollywood Representations of Los Angeles

Contact: Benjamin.tallis@aauni.edu