Recent highlights

Recent highlights


Engin Cezzar, Gülruz Sururi, and James Baldwin in Istanbul.

December 15, 2020
Recent highlights

Dear friends,

As 2020 draws mercifully to a close, we want to share some recent highlights from e-flux conversations, our platform for short-form writing and topical debate. We hope that the political stuggles and urgent causes featured in the links below lay the foundation for a more just and progressive 2021. Whatever happens, we will he here to provide a forum for the most important discussions in culture and art from an international perspective.


Open Letter: “Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced”
We urge the German parliament to heed the findings of the European Court of Human Rights, which recently rejected the criminalization of boycotts directed against Israel, ruling clearly against the prosecution of non-violent activists and affirming boycott as a legitimate exercise of freedom of expression (June 2020). No state should be exempt from criticism. Regardless of whether we support BDS or not, as signatories of this letter we share an insistent belief in the right to exercise non-violent pressure on governments that violate human rights.

Prominent Google Ethics Researcher Fired After Criticizing the Tech Giant
The controversy highlights tension between the human and ethical consequences of AI development and the fact much leading AI research is underwritten by companies motivated by the technology’s profit-making potential. [Timnit] Gebru is a superstar of a recent movement in AI research to consider the ethical and societal impacts of the technology. She helped assemble and lead a small team of computer and social scientists dedicated to ethics research inside Google’s AI research group.

#MeToo Revelations Rock the Dutch Art World
Over the past month The Netherlands has been rocked by a #MeToo scandal that has received little international press, even though it’s been headline news at home. The relatively successful Dutch artist Julian Andeweg has been accused by at least 20 women and men of rape and sexual harassment, stretching back over 14 years. The Dutch newspaper NRC conducted an extensive investigation into the allegations, implicating major Dutch art institutions in covering up or excusing Andeweg’s conduct.

Learning from Plague Novels by Camus and Atwood
Camus is not wrong, on the other hand, when he suggests at the end of The Plague that plagues always come back. His plague is not just pre-modern, in the sense of being inexplicable; it is also metaphorical. It is inside all of us. That’s why it repeats and repeats, rendering history absurd. Wrong conclusion, but I am a little more inclined to forgive Camus for striking that “myth of Sisyphus” note even here, even about something as unfunny as a plague, because like many others I have also been re-reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), and Atwood makes more sense of the return of the plague.

Why Automation Theorists Are Wrong
The resurgence of automation discourse today responds to a real, global trend: there are too few jobs for too many people. Chronic labor underdemand manifests itself in economic developments such as jobless recoveries, stagnant wages, and rampant job insecurity. It is also visible in the political phenomena that rising inequality catalyzes: populism, plutocracy, and the emergence of a sea-steading digital elite—more focused on escaping in rockets to Mars than on improving the lives of the digital peasantry who will be left behind on a burning planet.

Rebecca Solnit on Political Hope
The tricky thing about hope is to not confuse it with optimism. Optimism is confidence that you know the future and it requires nothing of you. It’s a mirror image of pessimism, which likewise assumes it knows the future, only pessimism’s future is dismal and not up to us either. Hope is a sense of possibility within the uncertainty of a future that does not yet exist, but that we are making by our actions (and yeah, those we loathe and oppose are making by theirs: case study, the ramming through of Amy Coney Barrett’s supreme court nomination and all that voter suppression).

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December 15, 2020

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