The concept of conviviality was introduced into the vocabulary of the humanities by the Viennese theologian and philosopher Ivan Illich (1973). His book Tools for Conviviality was inspired by the movements of the 1960s Third-Worldist that incorporated elements from African decolonial movements as well as the diverse voices in support of the oppressed that were spreading at the time throughout Latin America (Costa 2019). The “tools for conviviality” were developed to negotiate industrialization by taking control of the tools and production processes that shaped people’s lives.
Since its introduction, the concept of conviviality has been used in various fields that either applied it within themselves or expanded and revised it. In this regard, Paul Gilroy (2004, 2006) made an important contribution by linking convivial culture to colonial pasts, amnesia, and denial, arguing that these create unique political and social fields in which we must navigate and organize (2006, 2).
This is the reality that Europe must also face in order to have the opportunity to understand its present circumstances and plan a life and community for a convivial future.
Gilroy extended the notion of conviviality not only to a context of “living together in real time” (Gilroy 2006, 6), but to a culturally complex, mobile global world; as argued by Amanda Wise and Greg Noble (2016, 424): “It is with Gilroy that cultural differences arising from the long-term consequences of post-colonialism, mass migration, multicultural policies and transnationalism are foregrounded.”
As such, the concept of conviviality stands in opposition to normative narratives of multiculturalism, integration, and assimilation, and it is this understanding of conviviality that we build upon to update and expand. Following Gilroy, it is central to understand the obstacle of amnesia to the potentiality of conviviality and convivial futures. Amnesia represents a closure of experience, memory, and history. The combination of ignorance, denial, and guilt creates a unique context that must be constantly challenged. We actualize the discourses and practices on conviviality by moving from amnesia to the notion of pandemic.
Recent examples of theoretical work that critically illuminate the connection between conviviality and inequality in terms of race, gender and class relations, borders and migrations, include the works of Lugones (2007), Gržinić (2018) and Pugliese (2015).
Another example of re-working the concept of conviviality was put forth in Achille Mbembe’s Critique of Black Reason. Mbembe (2017, 180) concludes his book with an epilogue titled “There is Only One World,” implying both what he calls the Becoming Black of the world as the paradoxical universalization of the Black condition in neoliberal global capitalism. He also refers to the idea of Édouard Glissant named “Tout-Monde, All world.” Mbembe writes: “There is only one world […] composed of a totality of a thousand parts. Of everyone. Of all worlds” (2017, 180). We share the emphasis Mbembe puts on sharing the world with others as a system of exchange, reciprocity, and mutuality (181).
The theoretical context of pandemics involves narratives of contagiousness that re-structure space, belonging and existing societal relationships. In our research, we will also look at the COVID-19 outbreak and present the post-COVID-19 period as models of power. Every power has its own history of contagiousness. This wider context of the pandemic opens up our research on conviviality in relationship with the neo-colonial world order that is being critically addressed by decolonial and subaltern theories and art practices. The theoretical frame we will engage in includes investigations of narratives of contagiousness, oppressive border regimes, biopower and necropower (Deleuze 1992; Gržinić 2018, 2016; Stanescu 2013; Esposito 2006; Foucault 2003; Mbembe 2003, 2019). More broadly the critical research work on the cyclical occurrence of crisis as states of emergency in capitalism will be tackled (Agamben 2005; Mbembe 2003; Baneryee 2006).