Report – Partisan Resistance(s): a tool box for analyzing transnational concepts and images

International Workshop – Partisan Resistance(s): a tool box for analyzing transnational concepts and images

Université Grenoble – Alpes
16 – 18 March 2020

by Anita Orzes

The International Workshop Partisan Resistance(s): a tool box for analyzing transnational concepts and images sought to deepen the complex role of oral, written and visual productions as elements of a culture of resistance that links the Western world, socialist countries and the Third World. In fact, visual productions (visual arts, poster, film and photography) have been a founding element in coordinating causes, objectives, collective imaginaries, dissident genealogies.
During the workshop we discussed various texts and worked on key concepts. We wondered how were these images informing political and civil movements, causes and struggles, how do we redefine authorship in some of these productions and what kind of agency do these images have.
Some of the concepts that we have been discussing are partisan, resistance, defense, solidarity, freedom, liberation, collectivity, authorship, education or propaganda.
We pointed out the heterogeneity of partisan status, in fact, there are different “families” of partisanship, sometimes very contradictory ideologically and not always “on the left”. The concept of partisan is related to the one of resistance. Also in this case, resistance is not a homogeneous concept because it changes depending on the historical moment (e.g. resistance and new resistance) and the country (e.g. Italy, France or Spain). The resistance and its methods led us to consider the word defense as a productive one since it implies a more proactive action. Speaking of defense led us to wonder what is being defended and what methods/tactics are being used. All these concepts (partisan, resistance and defense) also involve talking about the enemy and about solidarity as well as empathy.
Thinking about the relations and interconnections between freedom and liberation (libertà e liberazione) allowed us to point out the ambivalence of the concept of freedom (in the framework of the Cold War liberalism narrative) connected to the idea of liberation, as fighting activity that paves the way for the emancipation.
This brought about a discussion on collectivity and authorship as concepts that intersect and are superimposed, considering that visual productions linked to partisan practices were generated collectively and within a new collectivity that displaces individuals and integrates them into a regime of shared creation. Thinking the partisan culture, proposing a reflection on its images, is a useful tool to examine the longue durée of political concepts and social figures. Since images are an international language, that circulate freely having an international influence, it is possible to affirm that images are part of the way in which people understand reality as well as construct their ideologies. Images have a very strong connection to culture, education and propaganda and cannot be dissociated  from the written and sound culture, which the partisan world produced, through poems and songs. We found that songs are particularly important as cultural productions, where education and propaganda intersect, but also emotions and temporality (e.g. where partisan songs were revived in post 68, when Leonard Cohen made a version of La complainte du partisan of Anna Marly, with the titleThe Partisan, 1969) and the Italian reality of the nineties (e.g. C.S.I, Linea Gotica, 1996).
This workshop allowed to reflect on theses concepts, their specificity or intersection depending on the contexts (South and Center America, Caribbean, Western and Eastern Europa) but also they agency today, giving the basis for the work that Ré.Part project will develop during this year.  Likewise, it allowed to think over how the culture of resistance linked the Western world, socialist countries and the Third World as well as on its revolutionary memories.

Bibliography shared and discussed during the international workshop

Azoulay, Ariolla, “Potential History: Thinking through Violence”, Critical Inquiry, 39:3, 2013, 548-574.

Cooke Philip, “The “spaces” of anti-Fascism in Italy today” in Mammone, Andrea; Parini, Ercole Giap; Veltri, Giuseppe(eds.), Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Italy: History, Politics and Society. Oxford: Routledge Companions, 2015, 316-326.

Delueze, Gilles, Guattari, Felix, Capitalisme et Sxhizophrénie 2. Mille Plateaux. Paris: 1980, 214-219.

Dimitrakaki, Angela; Weeks, Harry, “Anti-fascism/Art/Theory. An Introduction to What Hurts Us”, Third Text, 33:3, 2020, 271-292.

Fortini, Franco, ‘The Mandate of Writers and the End of Antifascism’, in Franco Fortini, A Test of Powers: Writings on Criticism and Literary Institutions. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2016, 33-72.

Gordon Nesbitt, Rebeca, “The emancipatory Potential of Culture under Socialism” in Gordon Nesbitt, Rebeca, To Defend the Revolution Is to defend Culture: The Cultural Policy of the Cuban Revolution. Oakland: PM Press, 2015.

Katsiaficas, Georges, “The Eros effect”, 1989.

Malm, Andreas, “In Wildness Is the Libertation of the World: On Maroon Ecology and Partisan Nature”, Historical Materialism, 26: 3, 2018, 3-37.

Mercer Kobena, “Introduction” in Mercer Kobena (ed.), Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2007, pp. 6-35.

Schmitt, Carl, The Theory of the Partisan: A Commentary/Remark on the Concept of the Political. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1963.

Steven, Lee, The Ethnic Avant-Garde. Minority Cultures and World Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015.