The Silent University, initiated by Ahmet Öğüt in 2012, is an autonomous platform for academics who cannot share their knowledge due to their status of residence, because their degrees are not recognized or regaining access to academia is blocked for other reasons. It is a solidary school by refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who contribute to the program as lecturers, consultants, and researchers. The Silent University proposes a new institution outside of the restrictions of existing universities, migration laws and the other bureaucratic or juridical obstacles many migrants face. At the same time it mimics the idea of exiting universities, using their representational logics by developing alternative structures of pedagogy beyond border politics, race/ethnicity and normative education. Current branches of the Silent University include Hamburg, Stockholm and Mülheim/Ruhr. Former branches were located in Amman, Athens, London and Copenhagen.
Discussions about representation in assemblies, democracies and legal cases are usually reserved to human beings. But recent discussions around the Anthropocene and new materialism have fiercely challenged such anthropocentric limitations. Professor for Law Radha D’Souza argues that the concept of rights is fundamentally flawed as it is always associated with private property, contracts, and contractual social relations. Drawing on insights from indigenous cultures and everyday practices, she points out the centrality of assembly for collective life among animals and humans. Performance maker and theorist Sibylle Peters deals in her practice as theorist and theatre maker since many years with concepts of assembling – recently also trying to create zones of companionship in which humans and other co-species can come together without food chains or zoo cages getting in-between.
In 2019 Sibylle Peters devised a project called Animals of Manchester (including humanz) for which she tried to install a zone of interspecies equality in a park. Live artists, animal rights activists, researchers, kids and a number of species present in Manchester worked together to imagine and rehearse an alternative version of the city: How would it look like, if all species – including humanz – had the same rights?
Drawing on insights from indigenous cultures and everyday practices, D’Souza’s talk focuses on the centrality of assembly for collective life among animals and humans. Capitalist modernity introduces a rupture between natures, peoples and places by transforming nature into property, people into ‘labour force’ and place into territory. The concept of rights in liberal theory and practice plays a critical role in transforming a natural relationship into a legal one founded on property and contract. The challenge is to go beyond “othering”