Intermission Studio: Rojin Sharafi


Rojin Sharafi is a sound artist and composer of acoustic, electro-acoustic, and electronic music. Her music crosses borders of different genres and keenly grabs from many musical buckets such as noise, folk, ambient, metal, and contemporary music. Her recent album Urns Waiting To Be Fed debuted in September via Zabte Sote / Opal Tapes labels and reviewed by The Quietus as “the unexpected” and “one of the most ecstatic and fiercely original hours of music”. She has performed in festivals such as SET x CTM 2018 in Tehran, Unsafe+Sounds 2018, and Hyperreality 2019 both in Vienna. In addition, her work has been presented internationally in cities like Basel, Berlin, Gent, New York City, and Washington DC. In 2019, she was invited as an artist in residence at Gouvernement in Belgium and in 2020 she will begin a new residency through Space21 and Borderline Festival in Athens and Kurdistan. She was awarded the 2018 Austrian female Composers prize at Wien Modern Festival. Rojin Sharafi is academically pursuing her masters in sound engineering and composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna where she is delving into a deeper research in digital music performance.

On ‘Taste It’ / Hidden Sounds

This mix is inspired by the book “Archeology of violence” by Pierre Clastres. He writes: Ethnocide is then the systematic destruction of ways of living and thinking of people different from those who lead this venture of destruction. In sum, genocide assassinates people in their bodies, ethnocide kills them in their minds. In either case, it is still a question of death, but of a different death. Ethnocide shares with genocide an identical vision of the Other; the Other is difference, certainly, but it is especially wrong difference. These two attitudes are divided on the kind of treatment that should be reserved for difference. The genocidal mind, if we can call it that, simply and purely wants to deny difference. Others are exterminated because they are absolutely evil. Ethnocide, on the other hand, admits the relativity of evil in difference: others are evil, but we can improve them by making them transform themselves until they are identical, preferably to the model propose and impose. The horizon upon which the ethnocidal mind and practice take shape is determined according to two axioms. The first proclaims the hierarchy of cultures: there are inferior cultures, and superior cultures. The second axiom affirms the absolute superiority of western culture. Thus, it can only maintain a relationship of negation with other cultures, and in particular with primitive ones. We call this vocation to measure differences according to the yardstick of one’s own culture ethnocentrism. The West would be ethnocidal because it is ethnocentric, because it believes itself to be the civilisation. All cultures thus create a division of humanity between themselves on the one hand, every presentation par excellence of the human, on the others, which only participate in humanity to a lesser degree. The discourse that primitive societies use for themselves, a discourse condensed in the names they confer upon themselves, is thus ethnocentric through and through: an affirmation of the superiority of its cultural self, a refusal to recognise others as equal. Ethnocentrism appears, then, to be the most shared thing in the world, and in this perspective, at least, western culture does not distinguish itself from the others. In other words, cultural alterity is never thought of a positive difference but always as inferiority on a hierarchical axis. The fact remains, nevertheless, that if every culture is ethnocentric only western culture is ethnocidal. Thus, it follows that ethnocidal practice is not necessarily linked to ethnocentric conviction. Otherwise, all cultures would have to be ethnocidal and this is not the case. We can not think of western society’s ethncoidal inclinations without linking it to this characteristic of our own world. A characteristic that is the classic criteria of distinction between the Savage and the Civilised, between the primitive world and the western world: the former includes our societies without State, the latter is composed of societies with State. And it is a upon this that we must attempt to reflect: Can we legitimately put into perspective these two properties of the west, as ethnocidal culture, as society with the State? If this is the case, we would understand why primitive societies can be ethnocentric without necessarily being ethnocidal, since they are precisely societies without a State. Ethnocide, it is said, is the suppression of cultural differences deemed inferior and bad; it is the putting into effect of principles of identifications, a project of reducing the Other to the same (the Amazonian Indian suppressed as other and reduced to the same as the Brazilian citizen). In other words, ethnocide results in the dissolution of the multiple into one. Now what about the State? Ethnocidal violence, like the negation of difference, is clearly a part of the essence of the State in barbarous empires as well as in the civilised societies of the West: old state organisations are ethnocidal, ethnocide is the normal mode of existence of the State. There is thus a certain universality of ethnocide, in that it is the characteristic not only of the vague, indeterminate ‘white world’, but of a whole societies which are societies with a State. Reflection on ethnocide involves an analysis of the State, but must it stop there? Must it limit itself to the observation that ethnocide is the Sate and that, from this point of view, all Sates are equal? This would be to fall back into the sin of abstraction with which we have just reproached the ‘school of ethnocide’; this would be once again to disregard the concrete history of our own cultural world. What does western civilisation contain that makes it infinitely more ethnocidal than all other forms of society? It is its system of economic production, precisely a space of the unlimited, a space without a locus in that it constantly pushes back boundaries, an infinite space of permanent forging ahead. What differences the West is capitalism, as the impossibility of remaining within a frontier, as the passing beyond of all frontiers; it is capitalism as a system of production for which nothing is impossible, unless it is not being an end in itself. Industrial society, the most formidable machine of production, is for that very reason the most terrifying machine of destruction. Races, societies, individual; space, nature, seas, forests, subsoils: everything is useful, everything must be used, everything must be productive, with productivity pushed to its maximum rate of intensity. This is why no respite could be given to societies that left the world to its original, tranquil unproductively. This is why in the eyes of the West, the waste represented by the non-exploitation of immense resources was intolerable. The choice left to these societies raised a dilemma: either give in to production or disappear; either ethnocide or genocide.

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