This article is part of the feature „… a world in which coloniality no longer has a place.

Introduction – The Instrumentalisation of Critique

3 min read

David Blankenstein, Irene Hilden, Andrea Scholz und Brenda Spiesbach

For us as an editorial group, calling for contributions on the topic of “Instrumentalisation of Critique” has been and continues to be, in several respects, an experiment with uncertain outcome. In itself, an editorial team dealing with coloniality from within the Humboldt Forum has something problematic about it. When spelling out the call, too, we struggled with every word, fully aware that we were walking on thin ice.

What is the value of postcolonial criticism within the Humboldt Forum and what should its value be?

What frictions are caused by the contradictions within in the institution itself?

Is postcolonial discourse as part of the Humboldt Forum’s cultural programming becoming a commodity and a part of its brand?

In our opinion, the questions we have posed to ourselves, to our colleagues at the four partners involved in the Humboldt Forum, and to the critical public touch on a topic that is not easy to grasp and is as explosive as it is significant. Talking about decolonisation, colonial guilt, and restitution has become mainstream in cultural politics; established cultural institutions court activist groups and outrival each other in publicly affirming their willingness to change. But what actual transformations are being triggered as a result? Can the museums and cultural institutions of the (former) metropolises change into places in which colonial and patriarchal ways of thinking and discrimination no longer have a place? Do they perhaps change in front of our eyes into places that give out impulses for change themselves?

It is easy to mistrust these hopes and assume that, instead, the change that is being discussed all around merely follows a familiar strategy: downplaying criticism by appropriating it, turning it into a commodity, and engaging in a competition that, moreover, alarmingly resembles a liberal market.

We addressed our call to people inside and outside the Humboldt Forum. We hoped for critical, creative, and constructive contributions, but did not at all know whether we could expect these kinds of contributions.

Our hopes have been fulfilled. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have taken the time to engage with the topic and send us their contributions. We hope that the six very different and complementary positions that we have selected for publication will create friction and trigger discussions, both inside and outside the Humboldt Forum. We are utopians and believe in change. But we also believe that change does not happen without friction and that we must not stop touching sensitive issues – and allow them to be touched.

Call for Contributions ‘The Instrumentalisation of Critique’