For victims of state repression, the invitation into politics can be a death sentence. How can marginalized or oppressed groups bring change to systems that are predicated on their destruction? At every scale—from the neighbourhood to the city to the nation—the targets of systemic attack must choose how and with whom to make politics in the midst of systems that threaten them. Sometimes they succeed. But how? Anne Focke, an American artist and writer, looks at two powerful examples: the “parallel polis” described by Czech dissident Vaclav Benda, in 1977, as a tool for resisting—and ultimately overthrowing—the repressive post-War Communist government in Czechoslovakia; and an innovative set of strategies called “the dynamics of difference,” that was driven by Native American tribes in the Humboldt Bay area of California, in their successful attempt to regain stolen land and create a tribal health centre. As Focke observes, both of these struggles “[continue] to unfold. There will be no final chapters (or happy-ever-after endings) here.” She offers them as possible models for the future emergence of a polity of literature.
1 March, 2022