From the 28th of July until the 3rd of August 2022 we had the privilege to get together to read, write, think, converse, and share at Rønningen Folkehøgskole, as part of the Nordic Summer University Summer Session.
We started our days with writing exercises. After the first fika of the day we read out loud together, a mix of workshops and paper presentations filled our afternoons.
What does it mean to write together?
Writing together can mean writing in the same space, each person working on their own thing. It might mean writing one text together. It might mean writing about the same subject or the same word. It can mean writing with our arms tied to one another. It might mean doing an effort to think together through writing. And so many other things.
In our first writing workshop, the invitation was to write for seven minutes about what the words hospitality and solidarity bring to us. Do they remind us of anything that happened to us, something we dreamed of? Do we have very fixed concepts of what these words mean or are supposed to mean? Do they exist together for us?
Next, the invitation was to think again and write again, this time, after inviting the word feminism in. Does adding feminism to our thinking processes change how we remember or understand or see hospitality and solidarity?
In our first reading session, the sun was shining. We set outside and read out loud Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We should all be feminists. From our different sites of speech, we received its words slightly differently, but we were all able to host one another’s thoughts and feelings. For some, Adichie’s words sound strategic and relevant. “It is able to help many understand why feminism still matters”. One of Adichie’s main points is that inequalities imposed by a patriarchal way of life harm both girls and boys. A claim that makes a lot of sense. It is true that in many cultures boys are expected to “prove” their masculinity in harmful ways. However, for some of us, it was important to be attentive to the fact that Adichie’s manifest only considers two possibilities of existence. Some of us were wondering whether queerness has a place in Adichie’s feminism. Others could not ignore the similarities between Adichie’s sharing and their own stories. “I’ve been a feminist for a long while. But I always avoided the word feminism because it is so loaded”_ one of us shared. Adichie playfully insists that she is an African feminist that likes to look pretty and that does not hate men. Her over-explanation of which feminism she embraces can be seen as a way to invent space in the imagination of many for a feminism that is less stereotypical and that perhaps will not separate people, but build bridges for them to exist as who they are, together. However, it is also understandable that for some, this need to overexplain their feminism can be perceived as a burden.
Our afternoon was occupied by a playful workshop that invited us to rethink categories and how we come up with categories. Together, once more, we stared at images that were not easy to label. A color wheel or a rainbow ball. A satellite picture of a world map upside down. A visual poem or a list of words avoids making sense in this frame. We had time to stare, to talk, to try to think together. Time to ask ourselves how categories are normally defined and how we would like to reinvent our categories.
We ended our circle time together on day one by trying to create space for Jacques Derrida’s concept of poetic hospitality. Our efforts were directed to thinking together about empathy, solidarity, and astonishment. The walls in the room were covered with handwritten quotes, all somehow playing with the idea of what it means to host and to embrace solidarity. What are the limits of these gestures? Derrida insisted that hospitality can only be poetic. For him, unconditional hospitality is not possible in this world, with its laws and norms. Unconditional hospitality is only possible as an impossible gesture, as something that only happens and lasts for a moment. “An impossible, illicit geography of proximity”.
What does it mean to call something impossible? This was one of the many questions that we ended up formulating together.
Circle 3 “Hospitality and Solidarity”