Conversation with Ariella Aïsha Azoulay
On November 3, 2022, Virginie Bobin and Salma Mochtari moderated an online conversation with scholar of political theory and photography Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, as part of Qalqalah قلقلة’s Research Affiliation with Tanzquartier, Vienna.
In her book Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism (Verso 2019), Ariella Aïsha Azoulay offers various tactics in order to refuse the narrative order imposed by the dominant, western onto-epistemological framework; and craft “nonimperial grammars”. As she writes: “Unlearning imperialism involves different types of “de-,” such as decompressing and decoding; “re-,” such as reversing and rewinding; and “un-” such as unlearning and undoing. (…) Such rehearsals in nonimperial political thinking and archival practice are not undertaken in preparation for an imminent day of reckoning, but rather as a mode of being with others differently.”
Through this conversation, we wished to consider how Potential History : Unlearning Imperialism could offer tactics, gestures and methods to navigate the spaces in which most of us work with, learn from or consume art and theory — namely artistic and academic institutions. Ariella Aïsha Azoulay often reminds her readers that no gesture of unlearning, disengagement or critique can happen without the company of others, without forging conversations with allies and interlocutors located across various times and spaces. As our Research Affiliation was concerned with the elaboration of narratives and their relationship to truth-production, we also wonder how potential history shakes the dominant categories that order our relationships to them.
The conversation developed around five key topics: Introducing potential history; Gestures of Unlearning and Rehearsal; Rewinding; What does art do to theory? and Strike now! Following a Q&A with the audience, an extract from Ariella Aïsha Azoulay’s 2022 film The World Like a Jewel in the Hand was included at the end of the conversation with permission by the author.
The video recording of the conversation was kindly edited by Vir Andres Hera.