An interview with Alexej Ulbricht (AU) in March 2015, conducted by Jonathan Nassim and Mikala Rasmussen (JN/MR), with introduction and additional questions by David Cecil (DC).
DC: For many, Britain is an admirably diverse society. In the nineteenth century, London became a destination for immigrants fleeing wars in Europe. In the mid-twentieth century, the subjects of the British Empire (and later Commonwealth) were welcomed in Britain, partly as a much-needed labour force after the demographic ravages of the two world wars. The country became known for its tolerance of differing religious views and ways of life, with a rich tapestry of international cuisine, music, language and fashion in areas like Soho, Brixton and Whitechapel. The social and political means of accommodating this diversity was labelled ‘multiculturalism’, indicating a harmonious co-existence of different cultures. This accommodation was held to be distinct from the more integrationist approach adopted by France (e.g.), which sought to assimilate foreigners into the dominant French culture.
The self-conscious projection of Britain as a multicultural society reached its apogee in the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, which elaborately staged symbolic enactments of British culture and history. This gaudy nationalist spectacle, viewed by millions worldwide, included explicit tributes to multiculturalism, notably a dramatic depiction of Jamaicans arriving in Britain by boat in the 1950s.
However, hostility towards migrants and minorities is, if anything, on the rise. The Olympic ceremony was immediately and publicly condemned by a leading Conservative Member of Parliament as “leftie multicultural crap”; the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has successfully entered mainstream politics on an anti-immigration platform; while Germany’s islamophobic PEGIDA recently teamed up with the English Defence League to stage public protests in London.
How are we to understand a situation in which Britain both claims to embrace a diversity of people and their practices, while simultaneously rejecting them? On the one hand, British commentators seem to welcome the enrichment to its culture, but the same voices warn of dangers to indigenous employment, threats of terrorism and even the destruction of our green and pleasant land.
Is this contradiction simply to be dismissed as political opportunism? Or a confusion caused by ‘too much multiculturalism’? Or is there an underlying political strategy in this ‘love-hate’ relationship?
Alexej Ulbricht is a teaching fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies (London), who has recently published a book entitled Multicultural Immunisation: Liberalism and Esposito. This is a timely contribution to our understanding of social and political attitudes to immigration, including the alleged threats to European culture from Islam and globalisation. Ulbricht takes a step back and asks what gives rise to the contradictions at the heart of liberal multiculturalism. He argues that liberalism is a straitjacket which makes multiculturalism possible only in a superficial sense. Liberal multiculturalism ‘immunises’ society by introducing a few safe elements of foreign cultures into the national body. Therefore, the current hostility is not so much a backlash against multiculturalism, but a strengthening of tendencies built into the liberal multicultural project. Ulbricht argues that we must re-think what multiculturalism is, and go beyond liberalism. Some of the answers, or models of an alternative multiculturalism, he finds in the Berlin musical underground and he speculates on how rhythm may offer another way of thinking about coexistence.
JN/MR: What was your initial inspiration for studying multiculturalism?
AU: The idea for this book was motivated by the kinds of things you read about immigration all the time and the way mainstream discourse about immigration seems to have changed rapidly. Hostile discourse was there all along, but the kind of traction it used to have is different from today. In 2005, the Tories ran an election campaign on the slogan ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking?’, which I remember because it was the year after I moved to this country. The campaign fell flat, but if they’d run it now they’d probably win on that same slogan. Thinking about that got me interested in multiculturalism. What I ended up arguing was that there is a lot more continuity than discontinuity regarding this kind of hostility towards immigrants. [Read more →]
As always in the first days of the new year we publish a list of the most read articles on datacide (online) during the previous year:
1. You’re Too Young to Remember the Eighties – Dancing in a Different Time by DJ Controlled Weirdness. This nice piece on the 80′s dance underground in London is from Datacide Ten, published in 2008 and already the most read article for the last two years! And since last year it also has become the most read piece on this site, overtaking the Coil Interview from 1986, which was still the second most read piece in 2015:
2. COIL – Interview from 1986 plus Introduction. Classic interview with John Balance – originally published in the Zine “turn to crime” (Vision 2). Vision was of course the predecessor of Praxis/Datacide. Reprinted in Datacide Nine (2006/2014)
3. Anti-Semitism from Beyond the Grave – Muslimgauze’s Jihad by Christoph Fringeli. Getting read more and more – and predictably STILL getting the usual flak from fanboys and apologists… Originally from Datacide Nine (2006)
4. Dope Smuggling, LSD Manufacture, Organised Crime & the Law in 1960s London by Stewart Home from Datacide Eleven, based on his talk at the 2008 datacide conference in Berlin, and in each top 10 since then… Originally published in Datacide Eleven (2011).
5. From Subculture to Hegemony: Transversal Strategies of the New Right in Neofolk and Martial Industrial by Christoph Fringeli from Datacide Eleven (2011). This was the most read article in 2011, number 5 in 2012, number 3 in 2013 and 5 in 2014 as well as this year.
6. What the Fuck? – Operation Spanner by Jo Burzynska – always in this chart since 2011, this is the oldest Datacide article here – from Datacide Two, 1997.
7. The Brain of Ulrike Meinhof by CF is another text with a a steady readership, both previous years at number 8, in 2014 it dropped out of the “top 10” only to re-appear again this year. Originally from Datacide Nine.
8. For the first time in this list is a short article about the text “Der Waldgang” by the writer Ernst Jünger, originally published as an appendix to “From Subculture to Hegemony” (see number 5 in this list).
9. When I landed at Gatwick Airport a couple of months ago the HSBC advertising campaign which served as the launching pad for this article by Split Horizon was still running (as it probably was elsewhere). The question remains: What is this future?. From Datacide Twelve, 2012.
10. The most read article from Datacide Fourteen in 2015 is John Eden’s account of the Hackney police’s “community relations”: “They Hate Us, We Hate Them” – Resisting Police Corruption and Violence in Hackney in the 1980s and 1990s.
11. Walter Marchetti was the subject of an essay by Howard Slater written in 2000 titled All Was Music (published in Datacide Eight in 2002). Many people read it following Marchetti’s death in May 2015.
12. Spiral Tribe interview with Mark Harrison from issue Thirteen by Neil Transpontine. Essential for those interested in the history of the 23 tribe and free party culture!
13. “Long Live Death!” – On Pasolini’s Salò, one of Howard Slater’s excellent writing on film (from Datacide Eight, 2002)
14. DJ Controlled Weirdness on the old New York and its nightlife before gentrification took hold (Datacide Fourteen, 2014): Journeys in the Naked City – Adventures in New York Before the Rain, a great sequel to his You’re Too Young to Remember the Eighties.
15. Shaking The Foundations: Reggae soundsystem meets ‘Big Ben British values’ downtown – one of the articles that appeared in Datacide (this one in issue Eleven, 2011) dealing with the reggae soundsystem culture and its history, by John Eden.
16. Also by John Eden is this interview: The Dog’s Bollocks – Vagina Dentata Organ and The Valls Brothers which gives great insight into some of the more interesting industrial culture.
17. Dancing with Death: The Excremental, the Sacred & Ecstatic Community in Free Party Culture by Hannah Lammin
18. Revolt of the Ravers – The Movement against the Criminal Justice Act in Britain 1993-95 by Neil Transponine.
19. This online-only article Repression and the Riot Situation in Kamagasaki (Osaka) related to G8 Meeting by JR from 2008 had a steep surge of readership in spring 2014 and was still read often enough in the following year to make it into this “top 20”.
20. François Genoud – The life of a Swiss banker and fascist anti-Imperialist by CF, originally published in Datacide Ten.
Rather than making it a “top ten” as in previous years, we decided to enlarge it to include the 20 most read pieces. After all we don’t necessarily want people to keep reading the same articles, as interesting as they are, but hopefully discover new ones as well. For this reason we add three more (more or less randomly chosen) articles which for some reason haven’t nearly received the attention they deserve.
-3: Book review of Die Revolution war für mich ein grosses Abenteuer – Paul Mattick im Gespräch mit Michael Buckmiller by CF from Datacide Fourteen. Revolution & Left Communism!
-2: Submission Soundtracking by Robert Old – Electronica, X-Files, Information War… Auto-Toxicity! …from Datacide Eight.
-1: Howard Slater on The Western, more writing on film from Datacide Four (1998)!
When Will We Leave the 20th Century? An Interview with Kafka’s Ape.
Written into life by Franz Kafka, nowadays the legendary primate has had enough with impersonating humans. Oscar Mole caught up with the hairy recluse.
OM: So what about that famous report you gave to an Academy? Captured on the Gold Coast and imprisoned in a cage, you had been taken to Europe where your only route of escape was to become a walking, talking, spitting, hard-drinking member of the human race.
APE: Recall that when my report was given in 1917, the first world war was raging. Millions of human beings had been coerced into an orgy of killing and proving Homo sapiens to be vastly superior to gorillas and chimps when it comes to mass murder. Even then I felt ambivalent about becoming human.
At the time, I had no other way out, yet I had to come up with one, because I could not go on living without it. That was the point of the report. I was worried that the Academy would not fully understand what I meant by a ‘way out’. I used the phrase in its most ordinary and fullest sense. I deliberately did not say freedom. As I said in the report: ‘freedom is something that men all too often dupe themselves with’.
What I had discovered was that my jailors needed to see me as non-human in order to justify locking me up. They had to believe I was inferior, so my way out was to become their equal. I mimicked my guards, studied their mannerisms and behaviour. How could they keep something locked up that looked and acted just like they did?
I mastered their language. After I was out I was able to move between different roles I encountered in human society with ease. I knew I could go anywhere, do anything, just by impersonating the right person. Even the Academy wanted to let me in.
[Read more →]
Mark Harrison tells Neil Transpontine about the origins of Spiral Tribe, their crucial role in formenting early 1990s free parties and teknivals, and what they did next… and are still doing
1. Spiral Tribe, and similar sound systems brought a different energy into the post-acid house scene, it felt like their roots were less in warehouse soul and funk (like many in that scene) and more in alternative sub/counter-cultures. Echoes of 1980s free festivals, anarcho-punk squatting, maybe even Psychic TV (importance of symbols etc). In that context, can you tell us a little about how Spiral Tribe came about? What kinds of things had people been involved in before it came together?
There were as many threads that wove together to form Spiral Tribe as there were different individuals involved. There are just too many people to list here in this short article.* Many people drifted in and out, others stayed, but without them all, working together as a collective, none of it would have been possible. Having said that, in the very beginning there were just four of us who were dedicated full time to making it happen.
Debbie Griffith, aged twenty-nine at the time, was a painter and decorator and occasional nanny, who lived just off Kilburn High Road. Simone Trevelyan, who was nineteen, worked in a disco equipment hire shop in Kentish Town. My brother, Zander Harrison, twenty-seven, a tree surgeon, worked all over West London. And then myself, Mark Harrison. I too was twenty-nine and had just moved down to London from Manchester where I’d lived for five years. Much of that time (if not all of it) I’d spent in the Hacienda and so I was at ground zero that Wednesday night when Acid House and ecstasy were unleashed. The world was never the same again. [Read more →]
Interview by John Eden
Nomex should need no introduction to Datacide readers, but here goes anyway. One of the organisers of the seminal “Dead by Dawn” parties held in the mid nineties at Brixton’s 121 Centre, Nomex contributed visuals, abstract/harsh performances and much more besides. His releases on his own Adverse label have included everything from vinyl abuse to the sounds of bones in the Paris catacombs. The Nomex discography also includes output on Praxis, Cavage, and Reverse amongst others. Despite performing across the globe (from Teknivals to art galleries) he is still a purposely-obscure figure to most. What follows is the only print interview I am aware of.
Were you involved with any music/sound projects before Nomex?
“That’s not music”
Yes – many! [Read more →]