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We can now offer for free download the catalogue we created after Sofia Queer Forum 2015 took place.

“Sweet Union" is the motto of the third edition of Sofia Queer Forum. As it strives to use the word "queer" rather as a verb, as an action in a particular situation, and much less as a noun and a definition, this year’s Forum offers a wide platform for sharing different problems and perspectives focused on the family.

Some of them deliberately seek to pass beyond the circle of issues which in the public mind are most often associated with LGBT themes. In this sense, the formulation of the topic is far less associated with the field of activism or with specific political goals, issues of equality, rights, legislative initiatives, and is much more attempting to make its way beyond the cultural momentum by seeking some subtle links, crossing points, and shared problems. That is precisely why queer and LGBT issues are placed in the context of feminist and various marginal perspectives, not least in relation to the changing roles within the heterosexual matrix. The crossing of these borders represents a crossing of different languages, which define the generation of knowledge and the means of presentation in the public space. This in turn opens ground for building up and imagining different possible structures of togetherness, of "we"; in the very sharedness of these “we”-s specific private forms of self-determination and relations between "I" and "you" can be found.

Sofia Queer Forum 2015 was an event that investigated, with the means of contemporary arts, gender and sexuality as parallel systems through which we value ourselves and the others around us. These systems have a strong influence on all aspects of culture and society. The influence is, of course, two-sided. This is why in focus here is also the changing of the concepts “gender” and “sexuality” depending on social, political, cultural and medical factors that are inherent in a given time and space.

Sofia Queer Forum 2015 took place in the period 3-19 December 2015 on various locations in Sofia and was curated by Vladiya Mihaylova, who is also the editor of the catalogue. More info here.

 

Download the file:

 

- pdf version, online edition, 142 pages (download here)

 

We are planning the production of the catalogue’s print edition in the following months.  

The edition is bilingual (Bulgarian and English) and besides the documentation of the forum includes texts by Svetla Encheva, Stefan Krastev, Boyan Manchev, Vladiya Mihaylova, Syrago Tsiara, Boryana Rossa, Oleg Mavromatti, as well as interviews with Carlos Motta and Karol Radziszewski.

New Left Perspectives and Collective for Social Interventions with you a nice read!

09.10.2015, 19.00 at the fridge & xaspel
Sofia, 8 Madrid blvd.


In Europe today, political xenophobia is not limited to countries run by openly xenophobic parties; it is EU policy. This xenophobia, directed against non-Europeans, feeds racism against Europeans – in particular Blacks, Muslims, Roma people… This is why anti-racism must fight, not only explicit racism, not just systemic racial discriminations, but also State xenophobia and policies that racialize European nations.

But the rise of racism and xenophobia in the EU has to be understood in a broader context: “Fortress Europe” is also neoliberal Europe. We have to understand how one logic is connected to the other, without assuming an economic determination that leaves out the role of politics. Comparing and contrasting different countries is needed. In particular, how are we to understand the two sides of today’s Germany – ruthless against the Greek people, compassionate towards refugees?
__________________________

After teaching in the United States from 1987 to 1994 (at Brandeis University and New York University), and at the École normale supérieure in Paris from 1994 to 2012, Éric Fassin is now a professor of sociology in the Political Science Department and co-chair of the Gender Studies Department at Paris 8 University. His work focuses on contemporary sexual and racial politics, including immigration issues, in France, in Europe, and in the United States – often in a comparative perspective. He is frequently involved in the French public debates on issues his work addresses – from same-sex marriage and gender parity to the politics and policies of immigration and race, but also on the evolution of the left.

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Europe: 3000 kilometers hurdles

As one of the most frequently used routes for people who travel towards Germany and Austria is the Turkey-Bulgaria-Serbia-Hungary one, the building of a wall between Hungary and Serbia, in addition to the one between Turkey and Bulgaria, ultimately creates a Europe that resembles more of a hurdling playground than a champion of liberty and freedom.

The distance between Turkey and Germany is approximately 3000 km. It is a secret to nobody that for the most part, refugees who are caught at the Turkish-Bulgarian border are headed towards countries such as Germany and Austria. The same applies to the Hungarian-Serbian border. The recent decision of the Hungarian PM, Victor Orban to build a wall at the latter is gibberish. He only needs to turn a blind eye and to let the people who cross his border to go on their way to the core capitalist countries in order to lower the numbers of those who seek asylum. Orban, however, fears that once this is done, European sanctions will follow. The political loss that comes with the allowing of further movement into the core, for the countries on the periphery of Europe, is much greater than the inhumane sealing of borders. In Bulgaria, for example, we are often reminded by Germany that the rate of investments is proportional to the quality of border security. Capital in this case, is in fact, the real border guard. In a similar light, once Europe uttered “sanctions,” Orban withdrew his threat to stop receiving Dublin returnees.[1] There is no controversy between Orban’s wall building and EU’s apartheid-like practices and we need once and for all to remember this. 

In this light, the European Commission (EC) needs to stop pretending that the measures undertaken by Bulgaria and Hungary are not part and parcel of the larger European strategy towards those who seek refuge in Europe. Orban’s latest drastic decision is in fact in accordance with the European Union’s consensus that migrants have to be pushed away by a range of tactics: push backs, increased and unsanctioned violence, extreme poverty, and programs such as the assistant voluntary returns that represent a quick socially exhaust-and-return schemes of the EU.  What is taking place before our eyes is not a heroic gesture on part of Orban to protect the citizens and the workers of Hungary. It is not an angry EC, which scolds him either. It is the obsession with the Migrant that is increasingly marking the basic ontology of what surrounds us.

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First published in Bilten


Reforms or looting?

Against popular opinion that the concept of reform means conversion into a better form, when I hear its utterance an image of a siege comes to my mind. What delineates this image, more precisely, is that very moment right before the offensive attack is being staged; the final stage of the investment. This moment captures an extreme fatigue; where the soldiers outside the city gates are fanaticized by the anticipation to attack and the population under siege is driven to death by hunger, disease and thirst. This is precisely the formula followed by capital in Bulgaria.

On June 12, 2015, amendments to the Labor Code were passed during first reading in the Bulgarian Parliament. It is expected that the new Code will take force in August of this year.  The so-called labor reform was introduced by a commission headed by Petar Kanev, a member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The amendments follow the previous political line of the party. They are “business friendly” and as such, consensus marked the vote.

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07.06.2015, 15.00 at the fridge & xaspel
Sofia, 8 Madrid. blvd

In this workshop we will discuss two different approaches to the issue of work by feminist scholars, Silvia Federici and Kathi Weeks. Specifically the workshop will explore
Federici’s Wages Against Housework (1975) and the third chapter of Kathi Weeks’ book The Problem With Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries (2011). These texts will serve us as a starting point to discuss political strategies for self-organization and struggle against unpaid cultural and artistic labor.

The workshop requires that the participants read both texts in advance.

Katja Praznik is an Assistant Professor at State University of New York at Buffalo, where she teaches in the Arts Management Program. She holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Ljubljana. Her research focuses on the politics of unpaid artistic labor, and political economy in the arts during the demise of the welfare state. As a dramaturge she worked with several dance artists, such as Maja Delak, Matija Ferlin and Iztok Kovač. She was the editor-in-chief of the performing arts journal Maska (2007–2009) and co-authored the book Chronotopographies of dance: Two Inquiries (EMANAT, 2010). From 2009 to 2011 she was engaged in improvement of working conditions of independent cultural producers at Asociacija, Association of Cultural NGOs and Freelancers in Ljubljana. Currently she is working on a book project Remuneration of artistic labor: a transcontinental comparative analysis, a study of cultural policy regulation and grassroots artists’ initiatives concerning unpaid artistic labor in three different environments all ridden by the process of neoliberalization: post-socialist Slovenia, post-unified Germany and post-crisis US.

 

07.06.2015, 19.00 at the fridge & xaspel
Sofia, 8 Madrid. blvd

Unpaid/low paid artistic labor appears to be a universal trend in the neoliberal political economy, along with an overabundance of art school graduates constituting a ‘reserve army’ for the labor market of the non-profit/non-governmental arts sector.

Conventional scholarly research on artistic work as well as cultural policy measures developed by governments or transnational bodies (UNESCO) tend to separate artistic labor from other types of labor and consider it to be exceptional. In this lecture I will propose a counter view by arguing that the paradigm of exceptionality not only obscures the reality of desolate working and living conditions of artists and cultural producers, but also traps cultural producers in circuits of unpaid labor. The absence of payment in this respect makes artistic labor invisible under capital where the wage nexus is what would recognize the artist as a worker. Drawing analogies with theories developed in the context of the Wages for Housework Campaign during the 1970s led by feminist Marxists, I will examine how artists/art associations and governments negotiate the status of artistic work. My arguments will draw on debates in two contexts – post-socialist Slovenia and post-crisis US – which exemplify divergent responses to the recurring crisis of unpaid or low-paid artistic labor.

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09.05.2015, 19.00 at the fridge & xaspel
Sofia, 8 Madrid. blvd

The stakes of the conflict in Ukraine extend way beyond its national boundaries, revealing the potential for devastating ways of "resolving" the current crisis of capital by resorting to the escalation of war and aggressive nationalism, stirring dark memories of the first half of the 20th century. The rise of inter-imperialist rivalries has arguably entrenched the position of elites, both within the sphere of the Euro-American liberal hegemony, and in Russia. The conflict, presented as a clash of two irreconcilable "civilizations", and the rise of the "New Cold War" rhetorics has led to an ideological deadlock. The rise of ultra-conservative narratives, be that Timothy Snyder's liberal militarism, or Aleksandr Dugin reviving classical imperialist geopolitical rhetoric, has stalled the very possibility of a position alternative to the unrepentant apologies of war.

This public debate aims to intervene to counter the aforementioned stalemate. Ilya Budraytskis (Moscow) and Volodymyr Ishchenko (Kiev) are amongst the most prominent critics of warring nationalism which solely furthers the social and economic disaster. Join the discussion on the potentiality of the left to escape the trap of the current political and ideological dead end.

Volodymyr Ishchenko is a sociologist studying social protests in Ukraine. He is the Deputy Director of the the Center for Social and Labor Research (Kiev), an editor of Commons: Journal for Social Criticism, and a lecturer at the Department of Sociology in the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.


Ilya Budraitskis (1981) is a historian, journalist and activist. He is a member of the editorial boards of Moscow Art Magazine, OpenLeft and LeftEast.

We can now offer for free download our new edition

Georgi Medarov and Jana Tsoneva. Capital Reforms. Sofia: KOI Books, 2014. 

Capital Reforms is a follow-up publication under the project New Left Perspectives with the financial support of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – Southeast Europe.

This study investigates the evolution of liberal justifications for austerity in Bulgaria as evidenced by articles appearing in the weekly newspaper Capital during the 18 years between 1997 and 2014. Its aim is to demonstrate the historically concrete articulations of liberalism and austerity in Bulgaria through the looking-glass this newspaper embodies.

Capital, as its title suggests, is the flagman of the Bulgarian pro-business press. Capital does not just report events, it hopes to direct their development. Capital is an activist-reporter, it does not shy away from publicly expressing support (or not) for any given reform, or backing (or not) anti-governmental mobilizations. Capital closely cooperates with (neo)liberal policy think-tanks and right-wing private research institutes. These features make Capital an ideal starting point for a research on the production of public consensus behind austerity measures and neoliberalization in general.

Capital’s impressive activist experience has led to the title of our study: Capital Reforms. By this we hope to capture the multifaceted reality of the post-socialist “reforms” and the paper’s interventions in these processes. So, Capital reforms (adj.) may be read as a synonym for major transformations. But also as Capital reforms (verb) it refers not only to the changes to the fields it intervenes in but also to itself, in that the spheres in need of reforms are not pre-given but emerge as the result of complex and often contradictory negotiations. 'Capital reforms' can also be read as reforms guided by Capital in the name of capital. Whatever reading of the title prevails, it is undeniable that we cannot think of liberal reforms outside the major public opinion institutions, a chief media outlet being Capital.

The course of reforms does not develop according to some pre-given logic, contained in its concept, and neither does it unravel teleologically to a predetermined goal. The content of “reforms” is contingent to very specific historical ruptures and their “logic” can be reconstructed solely retrospectively. Take the example of the anti-corruption rhetoric. It came into prominence in Bulgaria with the earlier post-socialist primitive accumulation. Its efficiency, however, declined severely after its peak in the 2009-2013 government, displaced with the discourse of the "judicial reform". Moreover, anti-corruption rhetoric was often appropriated as an acceptable popular critique of capitalism and not so much as a legitimation strategy for more deregulation, austerity and privatization. To sum it up: the more Capital tries to repress class struggle, the more class struggle returns within Capital’s (presumably) very own ideological terrain.


Download the file: 

- pdf version, online edition, 56 pages (download here)

New Left Perspectives and Collective for Social Interventions wish you a nice read!

We can now offer for free download our new edition

Raia Apostolova, Neda Deneva and Tsvetelina Hristova. Situating Migration in Transition: Temporal, Structural, and Conceptual Transformations of Migrations. Sketches from Bulgaria. Sofia: KOI Books, 2014. 

Situating Migration in Transition is a follow-up publication under the project New Left Perspectives with the financial support of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – Southeast Europe, and is part of a one-year project which included the international workshop “Migrating in, migrating out: how to (re)think ‘migrants' struggles’" which took place in May 2014. The authors Raia Apostolova, Neda Deneva and Tsvetelina Hristova are moving against the established definition of the Transition in post-socialist Bulgaria. The Transition is treated as a transformation without telos (Mezzadra). In these three texts migration is seen as one of the fundamental features which are at the center of, and are catalyzed by, the socio-economic processes, and the transition is deconstructed as a series of transitions – temporal ones and in-between categories which frame migrations.

Download the file: 

- pdf version, online edition, 102 pages (download here)

The print edition can be obtained by contacting New Left Perspectives or can be found in Social Center Haspel. 

New Left Perspectives and Collective for Social Interventions wish you a nice read!

15.12.2014, 19.00 at the fridge & xaspel
Sofia, 8 Madrid blvd.


“An economic suicide” – what is that? This peculiar social phenomenon has been haunting Europe since around the year 2008. It has become an ongoing landmark of the Eurozone financial crisis or the European sovereign debt crisis characterized by two related though not identical phenomena: the economic recession and the economic austerity regime, the latter being “imposed by the troika of the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank” (Stuckler and McKee, 2012). Moreover, numerous studies about the 2008 recession and its public health consequences have been accompanied in 2012 by the European Parliaments’ alarming statements promoting “the detrimental effects of the economic crisis on the mental health of European citizens”. It is true that such views could be (partially) explained in relation to the rise of citizens’ unemployment, impoverishment and general dispossession. However, the current trend of “increased suicidality amid economic crisis” (Economou et al., 2011) puts forward one pressing claim: that “every 1% increase in unemployment correlates to a 0.8% rise in suicides” (European Parliament 2012): this has led public health experts to conclude that “Europe is facing a mental health crisis” (European Parliament 2012). Thus, my question: Is Europe mentally ill? Given this framework, I argue that so-called economic suicides do not exist: what exists instead is the politico-juridical system of ongoing death-production through which it becomes possible to examine the current neoliberal matrix of necropower - and the political pseudo-suicides committed on behalf of it.

Marko Stamenkovic (1977, Vranje) is art historian and curator born and raised in the south of Serbia. He graduated in Art History from the University of Belgrade (2003) and received his M.A. degree in Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies from the University of Arts in Belgrade (2005). In 2014 he earned his doctoral degree in Philosophy from the University of Ghent (Belgium) with the thesis “Suicide Cultures. Theories and Practices of Radical Withdrawal”. His PhD research was realized at the Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences under Prof. Dr. Tom Claes (CEVI-Center for Ethics and Value Inquiry), supported by Basileus Scholarship, an Erasmus Mundus Action 2 project for academic exchange between EU and Western Balkans funded by the European Commission.

http://www.curators-network.eu/database/db_item/id/810

https://ugent.academia.edu/MarkoStamenkovic

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