In the space of her writing the legendary Kathy Acker found an arsenal of voices that gave her agency and opened readers and writer to a volatile politics. Her biographer, Jason McBride, recalls Acker’s boldest, early efforts.
A polity of literature can assemble in myriad ways and places. American artist and writer, Anne Focke, considers two examples: the “parallel polis” of 20th-century Czech resistance to Soviet domination; and a practice called “the dynamics of difference,” rooted in the work of Native American tribes in the Humboldt Bay area of California.
In Berlin, writer and philosopher Fred Dewey created a functioning polity of literature by inviting small groups of strangers to meet, discuss, and read out loud from Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition.
Artists can stage the encounter of the state with the refugees it presumes to judge. In this searching personal essay, Niels Bekkema, a Dutch artist working with the Polity of Literature series, recalls some of the ways that art and justice intersect and shed light on one another.
In 2013, when Australia began to detain refugees in off-shore prisons on Manus and Nauru islands, concerned Australians tried to help those held captive get their stories out. One, a recent immigrant from Iran called Moones Mansoubi, recalls that time and the talented writers she was able to help.
Refugees are often treated like prisoners, yet their stories differ. The editor of the Polity of Literature series surveys recent and past books from both refugees and prisoners to discover the unique insights opened up when refugees begin to write and publish.