June 2, 6 pm
Andreas Exenberger

Naming, Occupation, Empowerment


The naming of places is much more important than you might at first think. It has immense political significance, and historically as well, naming has always had a way of constructing realities. Where does an incident take place, for example: in Israel, in Palestine, the «occupied» territories, the «Middle» East or West Asia? The simple localization alone can already set the stage for justice (or injustice) and thus prepare the ground for violence. Naming is therefore about wielding power, and not only the power of definition. Naming is always associated with occupation, conceptually as well as politically, and hence with dominance. We will not only reflect on this subject in theoretical terms, but also demonstrate its importance based on two examples of entirely disparate aspects of «colonization.»
The first example illustrates the extent of the problem. Although it is a historic case, its symbolism is still pertinent today. In the 1920s Henry Ford, a key figure in modernday capitalism, established a rubber plantation in Amazonia where-following profoundly technocratic logic—both nature and man were to be simultaneously domesticated. With this twin functionalization, Ford created his own parallel reality. Ultimately, this project then came up against the facts on the ground and failed. It can thus serve today as a cautionary tale against context-resistant development projects—albeit one that is rarely heeded. The second example hints at a possible solution. It is of immediate interest and relates to our own current publication. We attempt therein a thought experiment in which the earth is represented as a «village» of 100 people, which we dub «Globo.» Trying to understand the world in this way shifts perspectives and makes us more aware of things we previously found difficult to grasp. People who are otherwise far apart move closer together, and with them their major problems, which thus become ours as well. This model deliberately contravenes our usual attempts to distance ourselves—from «the poor», «the victims» or in general «the others».

Dr. Andreas Exenberger, Associate professor of economic and social history, economist and political scientist in the Department of Economics and Statistics at the University of Innsbruck; his research focuses on subjects including globalization, poverty and violence.