1 The first hypothesis we propose is that there is a topical impediment to conviviality that creates a new political field through which we have to organize: the pandemic. If the 20th century can be called an amnesic century in terms of the suppression of traumatic pasts in the European context, then the 21 st century can be described as a pandemic century, where conviviality is marked not only by its relation to amnesia and oblivion, but to the narrative of the pandemic and the social order of distance, contagiousness and isolation. This impediment has become imminent in the light of the global emergence of COVID-19. Social or physical distancing orders that were imposed entail spatial and temporal dimensions, as it requires the practice of keeping space between oneself and others and reducing the number of times people come into proximity with each other. How can we think of solidarity if its basis is the physical proximity of bodies (Berardi 2012), which is now prohibited, as artist, producer and choreographer Dragana Alfirević (2020) writes in her diary.
2 Our second hypothesis is that this reconfiguration will not only have implications in terms of how we (re)construct memory and history but also, most importantly, for future conviviality as such. As Sari Hanafi (2020; emphasis in original) states, “what we are witnessing is a moment of truth regarding the crisis of late modernity and its capitalist system on a broad, overarching scale. We will not be able to simply revert to ‘business as usual’ after we get through this crisis, and the social sciences should work to both analyze and actively engage in addressing these new realities.” In times of spatial and temporal closure, we have to find possible new modes of encounter that emphasize belonging as “practice, effort, negotiation and achievement” (Gilroy quoted in Wise and Noble 2016, 425); new modes of negotiation that enable the formation of new formats and methods of working and researching together, new modes of “community as practice” (Greg Noble quoted in Wise and Noble 2016, 425).
3 Our third hypothesis concerns precisely the development of such new modes of encounter: to attain convivial practices of living together it is necessary to find a new common epistemological ground, to develop a “convivial epistemology” (Boisvert 2004). This centrally involves questions of ethics, particularly in times when “fabrication of racial subjects has been reinvigorated almost everywhere” (Mbembe 2017, 21). Although Boisvert’s (2004) concept of a convivial epistemology was originally proposed at the intersection of food and philosophy, he “begins [his call for convivial epistemology] with the notion of humans as beings living with their surroundings – not subjects studying objects external to themselves” (quoted in Heldke 2006, 216). What we consider at stake in developing a convivial epistemology is therefore to find tools, modes and mechanisms of knowledge and of organizing that help lived communities create the feeling of togetherness, and to connect people “who speak different languages, look different and profess different faiths and values” (Wise and Noble 2016, 424). An example of a similar effort can be found in the Convivialist Manifesto: A declaration of interdependence (2014). The manifesto, together with the proceedings of a related international colloquium on the subject (Caillé et al. 2011), and with Alain Caillé’s book Pour un manifeste du convivialisme (2011) provided the initial impetus for a new debate about conviviality, focusing strongly on the works of Ivan Illich (see Convivialist Manifesto 2014, 7).
To what extent do amnesia and the pandemic obstruct our capacity for sociability?
What do we learn of a “convivial epistemology” in the global world?
What kind of practices, vocabularies and artistic and knowledge methodologies create potentiality for conviviality?
How do we develop a place of negotiation and not of negation? How can we learn together in order to live together?
Producing a wider theoretical understanding of pandemic as impediment to conviviality from decolonial and subaltern perspectives. As a general theoretical contribution, our objective is to deepen the decolonial frame on conviviality.
Going beyond and returning to Europe. As we take a step beyond the geographic boundaries of Europe when thinking about conviviality as a potentiality in Europe, we recognize the inseparability of the violent European past and present with the global world.
Developing new formats of arts- and theory-based research for convivialist epistemologies. The literal pandemic of COVID-19 will produce material impacts on the artistic research of our project. We aim to establish a set of grass-root art formats that manoeuvre within, but also negotiate with, these material restrictions.
Learning together as a practice of living together. Finally we talk about convivial life, but to live together means to learn how to live together. The objective is to engage in co-formation processes with artists and also activists who take part in forms of resistance and expression in the modes of convivial methodology, and to share and exchange strategies between the four research territories.