Smuts Memorial Lecture Series 2017
Series Title: The Uninhabitable: Afterlives of the Urban South
Lecture One: 'Ensembles of the Uninhabitable'
Speaker: Professor AbdouMaliq Simone (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity)
The lecture models itself as an improvisatory ensemble. For it seeks to demonstrate the uninhabitable as rhythms of endurance; that rhythm is what ensues from those aspects of urban life that cannot be precisely measured or scaled, where the vectors of here and there, now and then become largely indistinguishable.
In a world of so much toxicity, inequality, stupidity, violence, and precarity, there is something else that offers no evidence for its existence, which cannot be mobilized as proof or resistance. Yet, it resounds as an aspect of even the most banal and quotidian of maneuvers. It points to a generic darkness in which every detail is compressed, but a darkness that hides nothing, that embodies no secrets. Just a parallel track; what Ornette Coleman would call “harmolodics”, a democracy of the ensemble, the capacity to deliver the same melody in a different way.
The lecture draws upon Quranic and Black eschatological notions of darkness to think about ways of living-with this something else beside(s) the proliferating manifestations of both the erasures of life and non-life and the rampaging political technologies that police boundaries demarcating the viable and unviable. The lecture is full of stories of strange alliances, improvisations, endless journeys of African entrepreneurs, crimes that spiral far beyond their origin, the circulation of messages in Freetown, and ways in which even the most desperate make sure to have something forceful to say to audiences far beyond their reach, how they refuse the inhabitation of the present, but also exceed this refusal.