As we find ourselves working through the current mass media frenzy, we turn to the not so recent past. Season 2 of this podcast begins with a conversation between edna bonhomme and Sara Salem, where they discuss the emergence of British imperialism in Egypt and how it led to the Egyptian revolution in 1952. They ask: What do Arab and Black Marxists have to say about colonialism and what influence did the African independence struggles of the 1950s and 1960s have on the Black Radical tradition? edna and Sara try to answer these questions by meditating on the afterlives of anti-colonialism. They start with the nineteenth century and slowly move to the Arab uprisings of 2010-2011. What they find is that these histories are not neat. There are periods of betrayal, exploitation, and loss. In light of former Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in 2011 and his death in 2020, they try to think about the ways that we create our own histories everyday.
DR. SARA SALEM
Sara Salem is an Assistant Professor in Sociology at the London School of Economics. Sara’s research interests include political sociology, postcolonial studies, Marxist theory, and global histories of empire. She has recently published articles on Angela Davis in Egypt in the journal Signs; on Frantz Fanon and Egypt’s postcolonial state in Interventions: A Journal of Postcolonial Studies and on Nasserism in Egypt through the lens of haunting in Middle East Critique. Her forthcoming book with Cambridge University Press is entitled Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt: The Politics of Hegemony.
This episode presents a chronological sweep of field recordings and interviews taken in Madrid during COP25, December 2019, by our guest host Dr. Sumugan Sivanesan. It begins with the December 6 Manifestacíon in which around 500,000 people marched in the streets of Madrid, before tracing discussions at the Social Summit for the Climate (Cumbre Social por el Clima) at Complutense University and at other actions around the city. In front of the US embassy, this episode focuses on a demonstration led by Indigenous women who sang the Women’s Warrior Song, a song written by Martina Pierre from the Lil’wat First Nation that honors missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Indigenous women face the highest rates of murder and sexual assault in North America, and in Madrid the song connected these crimes to extractivist fossil fuel industries operating on unceded Indigenous lands. The montage culminates five days later with a casserolado noise demonstration outside the COP, in support of Indigenous delegates, Fridays For Future, and other civil society groups staging a demonstration inside the COP against the removal of references to Human Rights in the negotiations and widespread reports of bullying and inaction.
Muchas gracias to Grey Filastine and all who participated in Sound Swarm #5; Amalen, Danny, Delia, and Kevin from the Artivist Network; Fiona Capdevila, and Stijn Verhoeff.
And a special thanks to Ruth Miller from Native Movement, who shared the history and meaning behind the Women’s Warrior Song.
WHOSE SOLUTIONS?: CORPORATE CAPTURE OF COP25 BY SUMUGAN SIVANESAN
In October 2019, the UN COP bureau accepted an offer from Spain to move COP25 to Madrid in December, after Chile, announced Santiago was no longer a suitable host due to political upheavals. Nevertheless, Chile remained the president of the Conference of Parties in Madrid.
Since COP15 in Paris 2015, only one of these Summits has been held outside of Europe; in Marrakesh 2016. When I arrived in Madrid, a friend from Barcelona told me that despite the late change of location, there was some excitement around this COP as it was more accessible to activists from Spain and Portugal who were reluctant to fly to Germany, France, and Poland. However, many activists were also cynical about Madrid’s offer to host the COP. In contrast to the streets of Santiago, Madrid’s city government swung from Left to Center-Right following elections in May 2019. Locals discussed mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida’s bid to dismantle Madrid Central, a low emission zone banning petrol-fueled cars from the city center. Some described Martínez-Almeida as an opportunist, seizing the chance to host the COP to bring his administration global attention and prestige.
Activists often describe the COP as a vehicle to facilitate “corporate greenwashing,” in which representatives of extractive industries responsible for emissions and toxicity are able to brand the event and promote their interests. During a ‘Toxic Tour’ of Madrid’s financial district, activists explained that when Spanish President Pedro Sánchez announced that Madrid would host COP25, he contacted the Ibex35—the 35 biggest listed companies in the Spanish stock exchange—offering them tax breaks for a range of sponsorship packages worth millions of euros. Spanish coal, oil, and gas companies Iberdrola and Endesa soon signed on to become ‘”Diamond sponsors” of COP25, contributing €2 million each. Other patrons included Santander Bank (€1 million) which is heavily involved in coal financing and Suez, one of the largest water privatization firms in the world. Such deals drew criticisms about the ‘”corporate capture” of the COP, which included representatives from Shell participating on panels, despite criticism that the company had influenced the wording of the Paris Agreement, specifically Article 6 concerning carbon markets. As one of many independent tours operating in downtown Madrid on a sunny Saturday morning, the Toxic Tour was singled out by police who threatened them with fines of over €3,000 if the group did not disperse.
Article 6 was one of the key issues discussed at COP25,with delegates attempting to develop a “rule book” to regulate the implementation carbon markets. As part of the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) corporations such as BP, Chevron, Shell, and Total have lobbied against placing limits or protections on trading schemes, such as those to ensure the rights of indigenous people, women and the poor who often bear the brunt of ecological violence. Even after the negotiations extended for two extra days, COP25 concluded with an impasse. Australia was accused of cheating for insisting that it use “carryover” carbon credits to achieve its emissions targets for 2030, a method described as an accounting loophole. Alongside the US and Brazil, the country in the midst of a nation-wide wildfire emergency, was called out for blocking progress in Madrid and the Paris Agreement’s ambitions to limit global warming to 1.5° C. Notably, the Australian Government hosted an invitation only reception in Madrid with the Carbon Market Institute, whose members include, again, Shell and BP alongside gas and oil company ConocoPhillips. For many civil society groups, the influence of “big business” on governments and in the COP are indicative that “solutions” based on neoliberal ideology are assumed to be the only means to “save the planet” rather than strategies devised by civil society groups, indigenous peoples and trade unions. Grasping on this sentiment during a general assembly at Cumbre Social, representatives from the People’s Summit in Chile reflecting on the constitutional reforms occurring there claimed that “the place where neoliberalism was born is now where it will die.”
Sumugan Sivanesan is an anti-disciplinary artist, researcher, and writer. Often working collaboratively, his interests span migrant histories and minority politics, activist media, artist infrastructures, and more-than-human rights. He is active with the Black Earth Environmental and Climate Justice Collective in Berlin and blogs at: www.shadowofthefuture.org.
Photo credit: Adam Berry
CREDITS Interviews, recordings, and post-production by Sumugan Sivanesan Photograph by Sumugan Sivanesan Assistance by edna bonhomme and Kristyna Comer
Special thanks to the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.
IN THIS EPISODE, DR. DUANE JETHRO DISCUSSES THE WAYS THAT HERITAGE SITES ARE CONSTRUCTED AND RE-IMAGINED THROUGH THE SENSES WITH SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON POST-APARTHEID SOUTH AFRICA AND GERMANY.
DR. DUANE JETHRO
Dr. Duane Jethro is a post-doctoral research fellow working with the project Making Differences at the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH) Department of European Ethnology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. CARMAH was established in the Department for European Ethnology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, in partnership with the Museum of Natural History Berlin and the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, as part of the research award for Sharon Macdonald’s Alexander von Humboldt Professorship. His research looks at the mobilization of post-colonial and decolonial language in the context of contested street renaming, heritage commodification, as well as heritage aesthetics and social difference in Berlin.
Interview by edna bonhomme and post-production by Kristyna Comer Music by pryght one (27130, Sampling+ License), scotcampbell (263709, Creative Commons 0 License), X3nus (450539, Attribution License, Creative Commons)
While COP25 is taking place in Madrid, edna bonhomme discusses the climate crisis with Rebecca Abena Kennedy-Asante from BLACK EARTH, a BIPoC Environmental and Climate Justice Collective in Berlin, and Antoinette Yetunde Oni, an architectural designer and artist based in Lagos, Nigeria.
This episode focuses on Black and African people who dedicate their creative practices and activist work to climate justice and sustainable futures. While the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) is taking place in Madrid, edna bonhomme discusses the climate crisis with Rebecca Abena Kennedy-Asante from BLACK EARTH – BIPoC Environmental & Climate Justice Kollektiv Berlin, and Antoinette Yetunde Oni, an architectural designer and artist based in Lagos, Nigeria.
The episode begins with Antoinette Yetunde Oni, a Lagos-based artist who was a 2019 fellow at ZK/U, Center for Art and Urbanistics in Berlin in cooperation with the Department for Art and Culture Berlin-Mitte, Galerie Wedding, SAVVY Contemporary Berlin, and the Arthouse Foundation Lagos. Antoinette talks about her recent exhibition, New Commons Lagos to Berlin, in Berlin at Galerie Wedding and her commitment to activating design and African sustainable practices as ways to combat the climate crisis. She also connects how extractive capitalism and colonialism are not only the underlying causes of increased flooding in Lagos but are also directly related to racism and the exclusion of BIPoC activists within climate movements in London and Berlin. To prevent the climate crisis from continuing, she discusses how people need to come before profit.
In the second part of this episode, Rebecca Abena Kennedy-Asante from BLACK EARTH – BIPoC Environmental & Climate Justice Kollektiv Berlin contextualizes the recent Fridays for Future Climate Strike in Berlin within the country the emits the most carbon pollution in Europe: Germany. In order to confront the climate crisis, she talks about the importance of understanding how this crisis itself arose, which is the story of colonialism, industrialization, and violence that has lasted over 500 years. She also links current climate justice movements with centuries of anti-colonial struggles, discussing how protecting land rights has always been about also protecting the environment, while also talking about how the BLACK EARTH collective brings Black and Indigenous as well as non-cis, trans, intra, and non-binary perspectives to the climate justice movement in Berlin.
REBECCA ABENA KENNEDY-ASANTE
Rebecca Abena Kennedy-Asante studied naturopathy, nature conservation, and ecology in Berlin and Potsdam. In addition to botany, Abeni is interested in movements that are anti-racist, queer*feminist, and ecological. Abeni is part of a Black and People of Colour group, which is reclaiming environmental and climate justice. BLACK EARTH – BIPoC Environmental & Climate Justice Kollektiv Berlin deals with sustainability, veganism, environmental, and climate justice from Black and PoC perspectives. How do the oppression of marginalized groups and the exploitation of ecosystems relate to each other? Which ecosystems and people are particularly affected by climate change? The aim is not only to question the white and cis heterodominated left-wing activist*environmental scene, but also to create a space for intersectional activism in which BIPoC feel comfortable.
BLACK EARTH – BIPoC Environmental & Climate Justice Kollektiv Berlin RECENT ARTICLES & ACTIONS
Antoinette Yetunde Oni is a Nigerian architectural designer and artist whose work narrates fictitious futuristic landscapes and architectural interventions that explore solutions to environmental concerns such as resource degradation and desertification in differing contexts.
Her exploration of the Sahel Region and the wider West African topography began during her time as an NGO representative at the United Nations where she advocated for rural women’s land rights in Ghana and Nigeria.
In addition to her work as an artist and advocate, she worked as a designer for a Lagos-based architecture firm where she collaborated with local artisans on projects of varying scales.
Her most recent work includes a joint exhibition New Commons Lagos to Berlin where she explored the importance of culturally dynamic spaces in Berlin such as the Dong Xuan market in Lichtenberg and the positioning of diasporic communities in the current climate debate. Her medium is collaging, painting and digital print.
Antoinette holds a BA (honours) in Architecture from the Manchester School of Architecture and is currently undergoing an MSc in Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences at the Technische Universiteit Delft in the Netherlands.
In this episode, edna bonhomme is in conversation with Dr. Alden Young, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at UCLA.
In this episode, edna bonhomme is in conversation with Dr. Alden Young, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at UCLA. Dr. Young traces the impact of multiple colonialisms in Sudan under the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and the British Empire. Critiquing reductive historiographies of the civil wars in Sudan and discussing recent protests in Khartoum and throughout Sudan, Dr. Young connects how petroleum, mining, and austerity measures under former President Omar al-Bashir and the IMF relate to the ongoing economic crisis as well as have led to extensive resistance against imperialist structures in Sudan, highlighting especially the activism and theoretical works by Sudanese womanists. Dr Young also addresses postcolonial Sudan, economic science, and planning by Sudanese experts.
DR. ALDEN YOUNG
Alden Young is a political and economic historian of Africa. He is particularly interested in the ways in which Africans participated in the creation of the current international order. He is an assistant professor of African American Studies and a member of the International Institute, affiliated with the International Development Studies Program. In 2019–2020, Young will be a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Previously, he was an assistant professor in African History and the Director of the Africana Studies Program at Drexel University. His first book Transforming Sudan: Decolonization, Economic Development, and State Formation was published by Cambridge University Press in December 2017.