Right of Refusal
MOBILITY IN POST DEMOCRACY
Mon 24 Oct 2016
The New School University Center
Starr Foundation Hall, UL
New York City
Mobility in Post Democracy
Post Democracy has recently arisen as a complex and contradictory term: for some it promises a new participatory platform for the mobilizing forces of social media, considered catalysts for political imagination. Others equate Post Democracy with democracy's demise due to the penetration of global capitalism into every regime type coupled with the increasing intervention of international actors in domestic politics. Decried as "democratic melancholy," such skepticism is considered ill placed by yet others for whom "democracy" was never a political system to aspire to.
Under the heading Mobility in Post Democracy, the Vera List Center is presenting a series of interdisciplinary panels, seminars, and lectures that examine Post Democracy as a condition informed by mobility – across institutions, states, and ideologies. The series brings together an international group of scholars, activists, students, and artists to probe the concept of Democracy more generally at the time of the contested U.S. presidential elections, and the concurrent emergence and demise of democratic regimes throughout the world.
Artist-driven, the events aim to ask questions such as: How can new social movements counter networks of power? What creative organizing tactics are being developed to reinvigorate a democratic ethos? What forms of political institutions and alliances are flexible and resilient?
Right of Refusal
With many states on the brink of a democratic collapse, the Mobility in Post Democracy series connects to the simultaneous disdain and opportunity revealed in this moment. On the heels of a keynote address by Wendy Brown, which will reveal the neoliberal mechanisms that have undermined democracy while pointing toward modes of resistance in new organizational models, this panel discussion will consider refusal as another possible strategy to thwart the further erosion of liberal democracy. By framing resistance as a human right, the right of refusal invokes coordinated action, solidarity, and the law to magnify the political implications of individual decisions. These discussions are particularly relevant as voters in the United States consider their options in the forthcoming presidential elections.
Discourses on human rights are primarily concerned with protecting and supporting individuals as active members of society. Active participation requires two general categories of rights: rights that protect individuals from discrimination, oppression, and other forms of harm; and rights to social, political, cultural, and economic resources necessary to participate, often in the form of material support from states.
This seminar focuses on another form of rights that are often overlooked in rights-based discourses: the right to refuse and embrace non-participation. The right of refusal can take many different forms. In the face of increased globalization and hyper-mobility, how can the right to remain stave off urban developers and alter the flow of migrants? Is it possible to opt out of a digital presence through the right to be forgotten? How does the right of refusal challenge the role of the state as protector and provider? For the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, many voters are considering opting out instead of choosing between the Republican and Democratic candidates. What does non-participation mean for our ability to question and critique the government? What are the affordances of collective refusal, as in a boycott? Is refusal a form of protest, a sign of privilege, the mark of apathy, or something else entirely?
The event begins with a film screening/interactive gaming session from 5-6pm in the University Center Event Cafe, followed by a panel discussion from 6:30-8pm exploring the various manifestations the right of refusal may take. The participants in this event argue for the right to refuse action and participation, to remain silent, to reject market principles of efficiency, to refuse to be part of the system. The upcoming U.S. elections provide the context to consider the ramifications of non-participation.
Colleen Macklin, Associate Professor of Design and Technology, Parsons
Lucas Pinheiro, Lecturer in New Media Art History, Parsons
Joshua Simon, Curator and 2011-2013 VLC Fellow
Pilvi Takala, Artist
Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor of Anthropology, New School for Social research