04/11/2018 29' 48''

Sounds taken from Anna Irina Russell's blind foley library

Kristin Ross believes that we should not have a pedagogical relationship with the past. History does not hold lessons for us. It is instead a vast archive of ideas and experiences, which, on coming in contact with the figurability of the present, can help us to face it.

Kristin Ross is a professor emeritus of comparative literature at New York University, and a translator and writer specializing in nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century French political and cultural history. In recent times she has turned her attention to contemporary territorial struggles such as the ZAD (zone à défendre), against a proposed mega-airport in Notre-Dame-Des-Landes in France, and NoTAV (Treno Alta Velocitá), against the construction of a high-speed train corridor connecting Turin to Lyon. In each case, what started out as a movement in defense of the land led to the creation of alternative communities in which solidarity and cooperation networks generate new forms of life, ready to take a stand against the logic of neoliberalism. Ross traces the narrative thread of these forms of struggle and action back to the Paris Commune of 1871, to May 1968, and to the Occupy movements in 2011. Moments when people became aware of themselves as active historical agents.

In this podcast, Kristin Ross reflects on the power of subjectivity in addressing history, and on oral memory and first-person accounts. She examines the subversive potential of today’s environmental struggles as forms of activism capable of generating a new ecological, social, and political intelligence, and she recaptures the associative and cooperative spirit of the Paris Commune, explores the needs to move beyond official national fictions, and defends solidarity as a political strategy.

00:00 History: a usable archive of ideas
01:30 I was trained in literature. I started from subjectivity
03:04 Intro
05:27 ZAD (Zone à défendre) and NoTAV (Treno Alta Velocitá): contemporary territorial struggles
09:31 Against giant infrastructural investments
13:26 ZAD: Independent from the State. A joyous poverty. Feminist relearning of skills
16:04 The ability to create and maintain solidarity in diversity
19:14 From local to global. The Paris Commune
20:41 How do you create a federation of smaller movements?
22:22 Historical connections: profoundly international moments
23:33 Beyond the narratives of the State
26:35 People think that the past teaches us lessons

SON[I]AKristin Ross