Demos, or, Life in Common Now
Program dates: June 1-19, 2015
Faculty: Alex Hartley , Nina Power , Astra Taylor
The word dēmos names ‘the people’, and thus democracy is, at its most basic constitutive level, the shared power of people thinking and acting. Democracy is grounded upon the capacity of the people to narrate and decide the shape of collective life. But the ‘democracy’ we experience and live with today has devolved into practices of state sovereignty and governmentality, a society characterized by social and economic inequality, and an under-represented and disenfranchised electorate. And it seems, too, that hopes in technology as a mechanism that might yet create a new common ground have failed to achieve their promised ends.
“Demos, or, Life in Common Now” invites participants to consider the ways in which we constitute and experience collective life in this century. We seek to bring together artists, writers, researchers, and cultural producers who in their work are exploring the ways in which we might reinvigorate democratic life today—not just ‘democratic’ in its narrow, political sense, but as life in common in which being and belonging engenders the full flourishing of individuals and communities. What new forms might politics take today—a time that bears little resemblance to those bygone centuries that gave birth to many of our political structures and imaginings? How is collective self-determination mobilized and what do recent events demonstrate about the will of the people and the will of the state? What is the role of new technologies in enhancing or impeding social equality? Might it yet help to create new forms of community and belonging? And how might contemporary cultural, artistic and intellectual activities enliven the belief of the dêmos in its own capacities and possibilities?
“Demos” also names cultural and social practices that suggest possible ways in which we might pursue our inquiries during BRiC 2015. A demo is also an ??essai??—an attempt, a test, an experiment in music that allows musicians to record their own creative efforts and to share their sounds and ideas with others. And demos are what groups engage in when they want to draw attention to problems and limits that existing structures of government, law or economy can’t address or even apprehend. Demonstrations are a site at which the dêmos tries to upend the ossified language of culture and politics by upsetting the patterns of the quotidian, taking to the streets and affirming their collective displeasure en masse. Over the three weeks of the residency, BRiC participants will engage in the production of experiments in thinking and acting—demos that challenge the self-certainties and pieties of existing structures and practices, and so help to envision and enable renewed forms and modes of democratic life.
Banff Research in Culture
Banff Research in Culture (BRiC) is a research residency program designed for scholars engaged in advanced theoretical research on themes and topics in culture. BRiC is designed to offer researchers with similar interests from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds an opportunity to exchange opinions and ideas. Participants are encouraged to develop new research, artistic, editorial, and authorial projects, both individually and in connection with others.
During the residency, participants will attend lectures, seminars, and workshops offered by visiting faculty from around the world. The residency will help to develop new approaches toward the study and analysis of culture, as well as creating lasting networks of scholars who might use this opportunity as the basis for future collaborative work.
The Banff Centre is a world-renowned facility supporting the creation and performance of new works of visual art, music, dance, theatre, and writing.
BRiC is funded by The Banff Centre, Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta and the Office of the Vice-President (Research), University of Alberta.