Final report “Romanistan” by Teodora Tabacki

Der Paria findet es dringend notwendig den Abschlusstext über “Romanistan” von Teodora Tabacki zu veröffentlichen. Im Mai 2013 wurde ein Reader “Romanistan ist überall. Markierungen im unwegsamen Gelände.” mit gesammelten Texten aus dem Projekt publiziert. Der vorliegende Text wurde in dieser Form von Gabriele Gerbasits und Patricia Köstring, IG Kultur Österreich nicht akzeptiert mit folgender Begründung:

“Wie Du Dir wahrscheinlich denken kannst, ist er in dieser Form leider nicht publizierbar: Abgesehen davon, dass wir den von Dir angeschlagenen Ton X und den anderen „Deutschen“ gegenüber für menschenverachtend halten und persönlich ablehnen, ist eine Publikation alleine vom rechtlichen Blickwinkel aus problematisch: Jemanden ohne Grundlage, so wie du es tust, als „Deutsche RassistIn“ zu bezeichnen, dürfte durchaus Tatbestände wie Beleidigung oder Üble Nachrede erfüllen.

Einige Passagen das Projekt betreffend sind so unrichtig:

1) Es war nicht die Absicht, die Satelliten mit „Autorität“ auszustatten. Vielmehr handelt es sich bei den Satelliten um ExpertInnen, die aus ihrer persönlichen Expertise heraus mit Projektteilen in Austausch treten, Impulse geben konnten und eine weitere Feedbackstruktur erzeugen sollten innerhalb des relativ starren Systems der Programmabläufe des EU-Projektes. Eine Kontrolle der Geschäftsgebarung war übrigens nicht Aufgabe der Satelliten.

2) Ziel des Projekts Romanistan war nicht, „Vorschläge für den Aufbau einer antirassitischen Platform für kulturelle Protagonismen der Rroma“ zu formulieren. Leider. Es war dies als Metaziel immer vorhanden, vieles wäre hier möglich gewesen, aber Ziel laut Antrag war: „The focus is the deexotification of Roma cultural work. It is essential that cultal work by Roma cease to be defined by others as simply folklore or traditional culture and instead be recognized, supported and sustained as an emancipatory for of cultural work. The key goal is to take Roma cultural work out of isolation and create opportunities for participation (…)“. (S. 22 Antrag EU). Die Rolle von Amaro Drom bei der Umsetzung: „Amaro Drom takes the responsability to implement the projects visions in Germany. We contribute with workshops and many activities mainly with young people (…)“ (S. 30 Antrag EU)

3) Von keiner teilnehmenden Organisation wurden 10.000 Euro an Vorleistungen verlangt. Vielmehr ist das Problem dieser EU-Kultur-Programme bezüglich der finanziellen Eigenleistungen so: Die Organisationen erhalten keine Refundierung für im Vorfeld geleistete Arbeiten; Die Organisationen sind verpflichtet, 50% der Mittel selbst aufzutreiben. Schaffen sie das nicht, muss auch die EU-Förderung aliquot zurückgezahlt werden; Die Organisationen erhalten 30% der EU-Fördersumme erst nach der Abrechung der Förderung, müssen also mit einem maßgeblichen Betrag für einige Monate in Vorleistung treten.

Wir finden es sehr schade, dass all dein Wissen, all deine Fähigkeit, gesellschaftliche und politische Ungerechtigkeit zu erkennen und zu benennen, dein Engagement, sich letztlich in einem so inakzeptablen Text äußern müssen. Er ist dies eben zum einen auf einer menschlichen Ebene. Zum anderen sind einige Fakten aus Romanistan offenbar verzerrt bei Dir angekommen und du hast daher falsche Schlüsse gezogen.

Solltest Du das Skript mit den aus unserer Sicht haltlosen Anschuldigungen so am Sonntag vortragen wollen, müssen wir dir bereits jetzt mitteilen, dass wir uns hiervon öffentlich distanzieren werden und auch keinerlei rechtliche Verantwortung übernehmen.”

FINAL REPORT “ROMANISTAN” BY TEODORA TABACKI
‘Ti ga krstiš, a on prdi’ or on the Vanity of Power

I have to start by thanking Veronika Gerhard for getting me involved and IG_Kultur for the trust invested in my unconventional methods of connecting theory and practice when engaging me as a Satellite.
I’m further thankful to my satellite colleagues Pedro Aguillera Cortes and Ljubomir Bratić for meaningful discussions that were essential for setting the Berlin case into the European perspective. Additional gratitude goes to all academics engaged in anti-racist research that I had a chance to meet through kanak attack, colleagues from b_books, who’ve been for years practicing a culture of discussion proving that political affinities only come into being through opened polemics and Cecke for always being a carefull first reader. Most importantly I have to thank numerous Rroma and Sinti friends for their unpaid investments of time and experience put into briefing me about the racist “normality” that I’ve never had to experience – I do hope that I wouldn’t forget anyone – Magdalena, Vesna, Isidora, Hajdi, Joschla, Roxi, Filiz, Dotschy, Marika, Vera, Ana, Jelena, Borka, Flora, Suzana, Igor, Milan, big and little Sloba, Muha, Dejan, Georgel, Slaviša, Nebojša, Hamze, André, Nenad, Kenan, Alphonso, Sakib … And last but not the least, I have the need to thank all linux developers, who still manage to provide us with free of charge access to text and image production.

As a scientific observer I have accompanied the project “Romanistan” from October 2011 until May 2013 using as research methods text analysis, study of archive material, participative observation, opened interviews and written tests. I have to admit that the evaluation of this project was one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever encountered. this is partly related to the fact that I was endowed with the authority that I’ve never thought I (or any other individual) deserved but much more to the ambivalent object of this case study. Over almost three years my personal and scientific experiences kept oscillating between two poles – whose academic elaboration should by no means soften or reduce the disparity – admiration on one hand and profound disgust on the other.

This stems from the fact that through this project I’ve come in contact with impressive Sinti and Rroma intellectuals but also with their far less impressive and for sure unwanted ‘Non-Roma’ (commonly used to denote Germans) “helpers”. I’ve witnessed extraordinary wisdom, patience and enthusiasm that were put into the realization of all cultural events and miserably materially rewarded and an excessive amount of manipulation, ignorance and vanity in an obvious usurpation of resources that were meant to improve the living conditions of Rroma and the European culture. In order to propose improvement measures I am going to present a short critical overview.

In summer 2011 the project was developed with the aim to propose an anti-racist European platform for Rroma cultural protagonism.
To this goal important financial means were acquired through the program EU Culture. The preconditions for this European funding have however from the very beginning introduced certain difficulties. By this I mean the obligation of participating NGOs to themselves provide important resources (10.000 €) for the first year of the project realization. I would claim that in the development of “Romanistan” this clause has proven absolutly counterproductive – both from the perspective of Rroma and Sinti emancipation and from the perspective of European culture – as it happens to privilege associations that on one hand already have preferential treatment within the national framework and on the other hand don’t deal with either art or culture.

The reasons for preferential treatment in the national context are rather complex. The first and most obvious element for understanding the hegemonic context is the harmonious simplicity of cooperation with organizations that have elected – or more often informal – decision-makers belonging to German majority. The second related aspect is the readiness to reduce politics to morally fulfilling development aid without putting into question the ethnocentric organization of the Nation State and its institutions. This proves especially convenient in the area of inter-cultural youth work that hardly touches upon reducing the structural discrimination and mostly serves as a means for postponing the problem of unemployment among the German youth.

As we have learned from the example of Roma Pralipe Theater and its tragic closing, it seems that the greatest danger for undisturbed functioning of such nationalist power politics comes from the institutionalization of self-managed European Rroma culture initiatives, as they happen to show that Rroma and Sinti are capable of creating both multi-ethnic creative teams and a cosmopolitan culture accessible for the general public. In order to prevent this from happening in the case of “Romanistan” it was by the end of 2012 necessary to impose a xenophobic team of administrators who would despite constructive suggestions of participating scholars and artists set exoticism as the interpretative framework.

Already in the introduction to her previous “Roma”-publication the appointed coordinator Lith Bahlmann made several strategies of implementation of this goal explicit. To start with the use of nonsense: after choosing Roma artists for her object of reconsideration, she expresses hope to contribute to the recognition and equal treatment of artists of this heritage, avoiding branding them with the “ethno-label” along the way [1]. To prevent ethno-labeling of artists presented exactly because they are Roma (preferably kind to Gadje and not making accusations) she continues referring to those curated with “Roma-artists” thus implying that there was something questionable about their ethnic belonging or artist status.

Next strategy could be called historical revisionism: by choosing to label Karl Stojka with artist of the first generation [2] Ms. Bahlmann establishes a wholly new calender not surprisingly starting with the birth of the Holocaust, thus creatively adding to contemporary aspects of Roma and Sinti life ranging from deportation to careeristic instrumentalization. Avoiding to deal with any of the crucial authors like Bhabha, Said, Spivak, Fanon or Glissant she goes on to claim: We want to engage in postcolonial discourses that represent ideas of pluralism, trans- and inter-culturalism and a cultural politics of difference … to finish her sentence with the constitution of the image of non-European peoples and cultures – colonised or not – as the “Others” [3]. The obscurantism is finally put to perfection in the next sentence claiming that the social challenges have brought about growth in migration [4].

Using the Deleuze quote: Méfiez-vous du rêve de l’autre, parce que si vous êtes pris dans le rêve de l’autre, vous êtes foutu [5] as a slogan for her article finally displays with unparalleled clarity that Ms. Bahlmann failed to grasp the very sense of this important warning for all those who attempt to engage in other people’s emancipation. Yet leaving aside this pathetic textual piece of self-legitimation, the arguably most vicious strategy only becomes visible in the book imprint. With thirteen different names none of whom reveal Sinti or Rroma origins (and mostly repeated in the following “Roma”-publication [6]) this editorial politics of friendship gives a vivid example of blunt racist segregation in practice.

Along with the appointed project coordinator all protagonists had the opportunity to meet other “professional” assistants (January to May 2013). Thanks to Denhart v. Harling the project was given a public statement apparently designed to remove any interested audience.
V. Harling begins his announcement with a catchy phrase: In present debates about Europe and the European crisis, the voices of minorities – and especially the biggest European minority of Roma – find little attention [7]. knowing that Europe primarily represents a monetary union whose crisis is of financial nature, leaves the reader with a puzzle: as they hardly belong to either the economic elite whose insatiable greed ravages the world or to the political elite facilitating the postfordist backlash, why should Roma of all people voice their opinions about the crisis?
They are not only non-eligible for credits but often devoid of elementary human rights (not to speak of political representation) still reserved for citizens in the sense of nationals. As opposed to centuries of institutional discrimination of Rroma and Sinti this much debated crisis [8] arguably couldn’t concern them less – as Benjamin wrote: the tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the state of emergency in which we live is not the exception but the rule [9].

To stress what the topic of the conference actually was – and despite the expressed desire to discuss artistic strategies of resistance – the publication editor Matthias Reichelt – previously known for his documentary photographs setting Porajmos in life cycles of flora and fauna [10] – provided the Sinti and Rroma cultural protagonists with ”interesting” questions for the discussion: – What is the role of ethnic identity in your artistic work? – How would you describe your artistic work in relation to the majority culture, i.e. culture of Non-Roma and Non-Sinti? – Do you want to be perceived through your ethnic identity or “only” through your artistic work? – What is the role of anti-gypsism in your artistic work? – Do you see your artistic work as a part of national culture or do you rather see yourself as a part of transnational art and culture? – What is the role of nationality in your artistic work?

After deciding that there was no need for moderation Ms. Bahlmann then spent half an hour annoying eight participants, one translator, one scientific observer and twelwe members of the audience (four out of five Rroma only present out of friendship or family ties) by reading the written CVs of the participants out loud, without having enough decency to use the two weeks of her unavailability before the conference to practice the pronunciation of their “complicated” names. The statements of participants themselves have in various ways and with a lot of irony expressed criticism of paternalistic approach and bourgeois Roma-marketing. Of course apart from Moritz Pankok, who first used the opportunity to share details on his working surrounding made out of people often surprised to learn that there exists visual art produced by Sinti and Roma to then wave his gallery keys into everybody’s nose and say This is an offer you have to accept.

In a brilliant parody of the closing sentence of v. Harling’s public announcement: Gesellschaftliche Mechanismen von Ethnisierung, Exotisierung und kultureller Homogenisierung werden mit künstlerischen und kulturtheoretischen Mitteln untersucht – einerseits, um zu einem Dialog und einer differenzierten Wahrnehmung beizutragen und zum anderen, um diese für die eigene Emanzipation einsetzen zu können, Slaviša marković gave a perfect summary of a dialogue of culture and power structure called “Romanistan”: Gesellschaftliche Mechanismen von Ethnisierung, Exotisierung und kulturelle Homogenisierung wurden mit künstlerischen und kulturtheoretischen Mitteln für die eigene Emanzipation eingesetzt. With ‘own emancipation’ we of course mean material profit and career profiling of four concrete German racists: Lith Bahlmann, Matthias Reichelt, Denhart v. Harling and Moritz Pankok.

To conclude I would say that the project nevertheless ended up successfully: simply ignoring the usurpation by this phalanx, the protagonists have once again shown professional responsibility, artistic virtuosity, political intelligence and human and intellectual integrity; the Herdelezi Street Festival took place like every year in Boddinstr, Neukölln with rich cultural program and hundreds of visitors of all imaginable origins’; growing community continues to support Rroma Aether Klub Theater, the only self-managed Rroma cultural institution of general interest; and – like in every fairytale – Amarodrom became aware of the fact that a sudden increase in membership could not only easily send the treasurer to an alternative post (for the sake of the fairytale: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung) but also practically realize the reparation through material redistribution. I just hope those who let themselves play ‘harkis’ [11] by choosing the ‘kindness to Gadje’ as their personal survival strategy would eventually learn, that the emancipation can only be a collective process and that no material gain can compensate for the stigma of collaborationism.

After almost three years I also believe that I have an answer to the question why culture doesn’t appear on the priority list of ‘The Roma-Strategy 2020’. The first reason is that it represents an area of public interest and that even the readers of Bildzeitung have enough capacity to distinguish – be it in art or soccer – between genuine quality and worthless parasitism. The second reason probably lies in culture’s resemblance to the European legal system (in its important part based on common law): regardless of the given power relations it namely offers the possibility of a precedent. And those individuals who’ve managed to overcome the programed destiny of their minority – complete marginalization or melancholic assimilation – have at all times and despite their statistical irrelevance a chance to prevail – simply by having common sense, truth and justice on their side.

Teodora Tabački 
12th of May, 2013 in Domžale/Bruxelles/Berlin

[1]   see Bahlmann/Reichelt (eds.) Reconsidering Roma: Aspects of Roma and Sinti life in contemporary art, Göttingen 2011, p.12
[2]   ibid. p.13
[3]   ibid. p.13
[4]   ibid. p.13
[5]   ibid. p.11
[6]   see Bahlmann/Pankok/Reichelt (eds.) Das schwarze Wasser: das Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus ermordeten Sinti und Roma Europas, Göttingen 2012
[7]   our translation, in German original: Bei der derzeitigen Rede über Europa und über die europäische Krise finden die stimmen der Minoritäten – insbesondere die der größten europäischen Minderheit der Roma – kaum Gehör.
[8]   for German speakers I would suggest: Lazzarato, M. Fabrik des verschuldeten Menschen, Berlin 2012
[9]   Benjamin Theses on the Philosophy of History, NY 1969, p. 257
[10]  see the quoted publications Reconsidering Roma and Das schwarze Wasser
[11]  more on ‘harkis’ in Fanon The Wretched of the Earth, NY 2004

SIEHE AUCH:
https://derparia.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/roma-industrie-hat-konjunktur/

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