• 21​ 05​ 2016 •
Stop Speaking for Me!

Venue: ACADEMYSPACE, Herwarthstraße 3, 50672 Cologne
Free admission
In German and English

This event is part of the campaign week “Kultur öffnet Welten”—a joint initiative of federal, state and local authorities, artistic confederations and actors from civil society,

The media often depict the German public’s reactions to the latest migration movements into Europe in black-and-white terms: it’s a showdown between right-wing terror and the proponents of tolerance. But in fact, matters are more complex. Classical mechanisms of discrimination are at work even among anti-racists, with actual people of color and migrants being championed but excluded—spoken for but silenced. The most valuable interventions into public discourse have come from those who have had their own experiences of migration and integration—those who recognize the current polarization between non-European newcomers and the white majority as an expression of structural racism. Why are these positions excluded from the mainstream? What are the perspectives for anti-racist engagement beyond a homogeneous national self-understanding? ELIZABETH NGARI, REX OSA, BAHAREH SHARIFI and SINTHUJAN VARATHARAJAH join in an open discussion on how to counteract the monopoly of a homogenous national self-understanding under today’s increasingly embattled conditions.

Elizabeth Ngari came from Kenya to Germany in 1966. Because of her experiences with refugee reception centers, official institutions, and the difficult conditions in refugee accommodations, which were even worse for women and children, she decided to become a political activist. Fourteen years ago, she founded Women in Exile, an organization dedicated to the concerns and worries of refugee women. For, Nagri says, in the mixed refugees groups in Brandenburg issues brought forward by women frequently met with resistance. In 2011, the association was renamed Women in Exile & Friends and now cooperates with women activists without forced migration background. They are calling for the unconditional abolition of all camps for refugee women and their children and for the extension of the Protection against Violence Act, which currently only applies to German women, to include refugee women and their children.

Rex Osa came to Germany from Nigeria in 2005 and applied for political asylum. The period that followed was one of ongoing struggles with refugee authorities, which he perceived as “a machinery of control and discrimination.” This prompted him to join the refugee self-organization network The Voice, where he became one of the main initiators of the Break Isolation campaign, informing a broader public about the conditions in refugee accommodations. Rex Osa gives public talks, both in Germany and internationally, about forced displacement and its causes and the self-organization of refugees.

Bahareh Sharifi works as an independent curator and activist on the criticism of discrimination, intersectionality and alliances for the Maxim Gorki Theater, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden and at Festiwalla 2014 at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, among others. In the autumn of 2015, she organized a conference about strategies against discrimination in cultural practices at the Universität der Künste Berlin. She is currently working for Kulturprojekte Berlin as a curator of the Festival Interventionen – Refugees in Arts and Education. She is a member of the Bündnis kritischer Kulturpraktiker_innen (Alliance of critical cultural practitioners).

Sinthujan Varatharajah studied sociology and political sciences at the London School of Economics. He is currently a PhD candidate in political geography at University College London and conducts research on spaces of asylum. He works as a project coordinator for Refugees Welcome and is the founder of the refugee narrative project Roots of Diaspora, which accounts for and documents experiences of forced displacement among the Eelam Tamil. In his work and research, he focuses on asylum policy, racism research, critical whiteness, caste research and the geography of power.