The performative event Body-Hegemonies 2017: An Experimental Transfer aligns itself with Enrique Dussel’s concept of ‘transmodernity’ (1993), Walter Mignolo’s political project of Modernidad/Colonialidad/Dekolonialidad (Modernity, Coloniality, and De-coloniality) (2000a) and Boaventura de Sousa Santos’ ‘Epistemologies of the South’ (2016). We were concerned with uncovering and questioning Eurocentric and modernist perspectives and discourses that have emerged out of colonial contexts as legitimising arguments for sovereign colonial rule (Herrschaft), which in turn have produced hegemonic patterns of thinking that have remained productive in the present. In this respect, it is the epistemologically informed colonial discourses in relation to the body that were of particular interest to us. The body and the epistemic-aesthetic production of ‘bodies of the Other’ by scientific, curatorial, illustrative, and other practices, through which ‘the bodies of the Not-others’ were explicitly addressed and positively constructed in opposition to, is a subjugating mechanism known as ‘Othering’. It is a significant colonial practice that should be understood not only as a form of domination, but as a truth-producing mechanism that becomes inscribed in the bodies of Others. For this reason, Body-Hegemonies 2017: An Experimental Transfer was devoted to the question of how historic and contemporary hegemonic, colonial logic inspired and transmitted body discourses in diverse geopolitical (international) contexts, manifest and reproduce themselves. In the transdisciplinary conversations made possible within the frame of the performance event, we were concerned with investigating which knowledge about bodies and corporeality counts as ‘reasonable/rational’ (vernünftig) and naturally ‘valid’ (gültig) and which knowledge is veiled and made invisible. Body-Hegemonies 2017 made possible an international, transdisciplinary, and performative exchange about the power of body knowledge, the diversity of epistemologies, and an investigation into the voices that speak about bodies devalued within modernity. We were interested in entering a dialogue that works towards replacing a modern hegemonic order of representation that operates on the epistemic principles of ‘enframing, controllability and knowability’ (Pickering as quoted in Turnbull 2012: 18) with an ‘oppositional, performative, non-modern ontology of revealing and unknowability, of becoming and possibility’ (ibid.).
We began our investigation by asking ourselves the following preliminary questions, knowing that other questions would emerge and that only so much could be achieved in our one-week research phase. The enormity of the field and diversity of individual topics meant that we would not be able to address all the questions we posed, but in line with our transdisciplinary approach, we were prepared for the practice to lead the research and see which new knowledges would emerge in our common engagement. We wondered:
What are the bodily traces of the history of modernity?
How is history and memory inscribed in particular bodies or body structures?
What were/are some of the possible strategies of negotiation for these historically inscribed bodies (or body parts — human remains) in the past and the present?
What do epistemic structures such as the university, the museum, medical institutions, and the archive, which have been called into existence and shaped by a history of colonialism and modernity, do to the various bodies they come into contact with?
How do globalisation and the digital age impact these historically inspired discourses and the actuality of the bodies they produce?
Which bodies are legitimised (empowered to live) and which become demonised (and deemed worthy of sacrifice)?