We will not be interrupted
The poetics of listening and struggling together
Juliana Streva reads and listens to and thinks with Beatriz Nascimento, Marielle Franco and many others as she improvises, experiments and learns with women engaged in various grassroots movements.
There are cuts and deep cuts
In your skin and in your hair
And furrows on your face
That are the ways of the world
That are unreadable maps
In ancient cartography
You need a pirate
Good at piracy
Who’ll bust you out of savagery
And put you, once again,
In front of the world
Beatriz Nascimento, “Dream”, 1989
Lívia Ferreira da Silva – Rede Sapata, União Nacional LGBT e Coletivo Lesbibahia, Salvador
“A possibility in days of destruction”
The act of speaking has been a key concern across theoretical frameworks. Critical race studies, feminist and anti-colonial perspectives, studies on positionality, standpoint theory, locus of enunciation, lugar de fala, speaking with, speaking nearby – all these are just some examples. They emphasize the importance of recognizing one’s position within the existing structures of power when researching, writing, and speaking. Instead of abstract-disembodied-metaphysical-floating beings, we are (unsurprisingly) situated-embodied-enfleshed subjects. And yet, especially within the institutional sphere, processes of othering and silencing still attempt to reduce insurgent narratives to undetectable, indistinguishable, senseless, detuned, particular, and isolated noise. At the same time, state institutions have given white male speakers the necessary counterpart of a listening public. This structural setup (re)produces the myth that they alone have a voice and therefore can speak for everyone. Lélia Gonzalez has called this “abstract universal rationalism”, so typical of a white and masculinizing discourse.
Perpetua Pereira Cerqueira – Coletivo Yukaka/Kukama, Manaus
In the academic realm, the Western method of investigation (re)produces a colonial extractivist logic in which marginalized people are still considered as objects of study, as data, as a number, as a scientific-passive source, as an object, as nonhuman , instead of what they actually are: subjects of knowledge.
Day after day, Black, Indigenous, trans, travesti, lesbian, bisexual, favelada women have been breaching the logic of this ecocidal and genocidal world to make their voices-narratives-stories-agendas-theories-experiences-cosmologies-desires heard. Peripheral narratives should therefore not be equated with the absence of speaking, but rather with the absence of listening. The claim is not to give anyone a voice. The gesture is towards a politics and poetics of listening that enables dialogues and dismantles the historical monologue – or what Sylvia Wynter has called the Western, white, male “monohumanism.”
I first encountered Beatriz Nascimento’s work in 2016 through Alex Ratt’s Eu sou atlântica (2006). Nascimento was an influential intellectual, activist, historian, poet, co-founder of the Brazilian Unified Black Movement. How come I’d never heard of her before?
/epistemic violence; coloniality of knowledge; internal colonialism; political economy of knowledge production; epistemicide; feminicide/
Beatriz Nascimento provided a crucial contribution to an understanding of the quilombo in Brazil. She conceptualizes the quilombo as not just a fixed geographical space where Black enslaved people escaped and formed alternative communities against colonial slavery, but also as an ongoing political and poetic living practice. It entails historical as well as contemporary strategies of fugitivity in, from, and through a system where there is no way out. In her existential and geographical thinking, “each person is the power, each person is the quilombo.”
Noélia Pires da Silva – Associação Nacional das Baianas de Acarajé (ABAM), Salvador
Epistemologically speaking, lived experience is not opposed to scientific knowledge. For Nascimento, knowing is feeling is knowing; an ontoepistemology. By challenging binary and hierarchized ways of thinking, she highlights entanglements of theory and practice, writing and orality, language and dance, knowledge and experience, etymology and movement. In this way, the primacy accorded to written language above all other forms and ways of knowing and sharing is displaced and challenged. This entanglement of body, time, performance, memory, and knowledge, Leda Maria Martins later called “oralitura.” As Martins explains, in the Bantu and Nagô-Yoruba traditions and diasporic praxis, the body is not only the extension of a re-presented knowledge, nor the archive of a static crystallization. It is, rather, the site of a knowledge in continuous movement of formal re-creation, reference, and perennial transformations of the cultural corpus.
The archive, or Oralitura and collective memories
On 14 December 1890, the Minister of Finance, Rui Barbosa, ordered the burning of all records of slavery in the Brazilian National Archives. Barbosa later justified his order by stating that it had been necessary to eliminate all fiscal evidence of slave possessions so they could not be used by former masters to seek compensation for the loss of their ‘property’ at the time. Following the institutional politics of destruction, in 2018, the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, home to the largest Indigenous archive in the country, was almost completely destroyed in a fire. Resisting the ongoing epistemicide, Antônio Bispo dos Santos says: “Even if they (white people) burn the writing, they will not burn the orality. Even if they burn the symbols, they will not burn the meanings. Even if they burn our (quilombo) people, they will not burn our ancestral heritage.”
But how to rehabilitate an archive so blatantly overdetermined by political and institutional violence? How to (re)narrate history or, rather, histories, in a way that does not reiterate and reify the afterlife of slavery and plantation-colonial violence? Would it be sufficient to criticize the existing situation instead of reconstructing possibilities to make present the narratives that have been, historically and continually, erased and silenced?
Michelle Barbosa Andrews – Coletivo Difusão, Manaus
History has been conceived as the narrative and territory of the victors, but the fugitive movements of this essay do not merely aim to replace it with the history of the defeated. In Nascimento’s words, “we have not yet been defeated. Those who have been called beaten are individuals, full of stories. Their stories may be small, but they are rich and captivating.” Thus, the hierarchical binary of the victors and the defeated, those with a history and those without, is pushed aside here for a more complex meditation on memory, history, time, and the body; for a meditation on living archives in the plural, not only as a movement against something, but as a creative, multiple and collective assemblage.
“Memory is the contents of a continent, of its life, its history and its past. As if the body was the document.” The body as document resituates the archive and discloses it as an unfixed, relational, intertextual, decentered, ungeographical, embodied, multiple, and moving praxis. As Nascimento and Martins explain, the body in movement is not only an expression or a representation of the action, but the place of the very inscription of knowledge, knowledge that is written in the gesture, in the movement, in the choreography, in the sonority.
More than reading the body as a colonial map (often reduced to a mere representation), Nascimento is concerned with other ways of drawing its lines and reclaiming its physical and symbolic territories. Such an insurgent gaze implies the active and inventive process of re-existence, which interrogates the political violence while transforming it, moving the institutional structures from below and within towards a “new political aesthetics” as envisaged by Marielle Franco.
Roberta de Pádua – Coletivo Madame Satã, Rio de Janeiro
An email (or Notes on my own body in relation)
April 1st, 2019 [one year and 18 days after the femicide of Marielle Franco]
Betreff: 1 Woche 1 Kps 1x/woche dann WV zu E2 Therapie
Dear Ms Streva,
I received your information via the [clinic]. Meanwhile, I had left a message on your answering machine. Please take one capsule per day for one week. And from then on, 1 capsule every 2 weeks. Your estradiol level is very low and we have to initiate replacement therapy. Please make an appointment.
All the best
Dr. med. GH
Sandra Benites – Movimento de Mulheres Indígenas Guarani Nhandewa, Rio de Janeiro
Trying to make a way from no way
But why write another essay on antiracist, feminist, and anti-colonial struggles in, from and through brasil (lower-case and with an s), or anywhere else? In the current globalized context of exhaustive zoomification, digitalization of movements, and cybernetic contagion of distorted and fake information, the dispute as to how we produce knowledge and how knowledge produces us becomes even more acute, even more sensitive, even more pressing for our collective survival.
“We will not be interrupted” is a reference to the last speech given by Marielle Franco on 8 March 2018, when she said: “I will not be interrupted. I will not be interrupted by a citizen who comes here and doesn’t know how to listen to the position of an elected woman!” In agropoetic grounds, Black and Indigenous feminists revindicate Franco’s legacy by invoking the vocabulary of semente (seeds) to address the ancestral and ongoing struggle for re-existence and coexistence. Seeds encapsulate the organic and the spiral cycle of life, the fertility of the soil, also evoking the Ubuntu notion of interconnectedness and togetherness – “I am because we are.” Thus, a perfect storm cultivates seeds that, when growing and spreading, radically transform the entire body-territory. The perfect storm announces the end of the world as we know it.
This video-essay is part of and puts into momentary composition an ongoing process of listening, sharing and struggling together. The conversations with Lívia, Noélia, Perpetua, Sandra, Michelle and Roberta were recorded in 2018, after the femicide of Marielle Franco and before the national elections that would bring the current far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, to power. I travelled through the cities of Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Manaus with a small camera, a tripod, a microphone, and a very simple audio recorder, improvising, experimenting and learning with women engaged in grassroots movements. The short videos included here are part of a longer documentary-film entitled Mulheres em Movimento.