1 The first hypothesis we propose is that there is an impediment to conviviality that creates a new political field through which we have to organize our research. One of these fields is 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 21st century can be described as a pandemic century. Here conviviality is marked not only by its relation to amnesia and oblivion but to the narrative of the pandemic, the social order of distance, contagiousness and isolation. This impediment has become imminent in light of the global emergence of COVID-19. Social or physical distancing that was imposed entails spatial and temporal dimensions. It requires the practice of keeping space between oneself and others, reducing the number of people coming into proximity with each other. How can we think of solidarity if its basis is the physical proximity of bodies (Berardi 2012)? Or as artist, producer and choreographer, Dragana Alfirević, writes in her diary in 2020.
2 Therefore, our second hypothesis concerns the development of such new modes of encounter. It resides on two pillars: a) to attain convivial practices of living together it is necessary to find a new common epistemological ground and b) to develop a “convivial epistemology” (Boisvert 2004). 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 [as] subjects studying objects external to themselves” (quoted in Heldke 2006, 216). This involves questions of ethics, particularly in times when “fabrication of racial subjects has been reinvigorated almost everywhere” (Mbembe 2017, 21). What is at stake in developing a convivial epistemology is therefore to find tools, modes and mechanisms of knowledge in order to create communities in togetherness. A similar effort can be found in the Convivialist Manifesto: A declaration of interdependence (2014). The manifesto, with the proceedings of a related international colloquium on the subject (Caillé et al. 2011), and with a book Pour un manifeste du convivialisme (2011) by Alain Caillé provide a valuable impetus for a new debate about conviviality, focusing strongly on the works of Ivan Illich (see Convivialist Manifesto 2014, 7).
3 Our third hypothesis is that this reconfiguration will not only have implications in terms of how we (re)construct memory and history but most importantly for the future of conviviality as such: its vocabularies, practices and sites. 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). These new modes of negotiation enable the formation of new methods of working and researching together; also of new modes of “community as practice” (Greg Noble quoted in Wise and Noble 2016, 425).
What do we learn from 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?
To what extent do amnesia and the pandemic obstruct our capacity for sociability?
Producing a broader theoretical understanding of pandemics as an impediment to conviviality from decolonial and subaltern perspectives. Our objective is to deepen the decolonial frame on conviviality.
Going beyond and returning to Europe. We take a step beyond the geographic boundaries of Europe. We re-think conviviality as a potentiality in Europe while recognizing the violent European (Occidental and colonial) past and present within the global world.
Developing new formats of arts- and theory-based research for convivial epistemologies. The pandemic produces material impacts on the artistic research of our project (prevention of travelling, proximities and direct exchange). We aim to establish a set of grass-root art formats that manoeuvre within but also navigate over these pandemic restrictions.
Learning together as a practice of living together. Finally, we talk about convivial life. To live together means also to learn how to live together. The objective is to engage in co-formation processes with artists and activists who take part in forms of resistance and develop modes of convivial methodology. We want to share and exchange strategies between the four research territories.