The Aksenov Family Foundation supported the lecture program of the Vienna Arts Festival (Wiener Festwoсhen).

The Wiener Festwochen was established in 1951 as a symbol of the post-war regeneration of Vienna as a European cultural capital. Today the festival is a huge platform for the creative cooperation of the best representatives of the global art community. Its diverse programme incorporates over 200 cultural events, including theatre, music and dance performances, concerts and exhibitions, attracting over 180 000 visitors annually. Also the lectures are an integral part of the festival, playing an important educational function.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. What Time is it on the Clock of the World?

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak © Wilfred Gachau

Born on 24 February 1942 in India, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is a prominent scientist, literature theorist, critic, and feminist. She is University Professor at Columbia University, New York.

Gayatri Spivak is regarded as “one of the most influential thinkers of postcolonial theory”. She is best known for her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” and for her translation of and introduction to Jacques Derrida's “Of Grammatology”. In 2012 Spivak was awarded the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy for being “a critical theorist and educator speaking for the humanities against intellectual colonialism in relation to the globalized world”. In 2013 she received the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award given by the Republic of India. The title of the lecture 'What Time is it on the Clock of the World?' goes back to a formulation by the American activist, philosopher and feminist Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015), who was committed to social change, the workers' movement, and the rights of African-Americans. In her speech Gayatri Spivak reflected on the simultaneity of social and political transformations in a global context beyond the explanatory patterns of the European Union.

Carolin Emcke. Against Hate

Born on 18 August 1967, Carolin Emcke is a German journalist and philosopher. She worked for Der Spiegel and Die Zeit from 1998 to 2006, often reporting from crisis regions such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Colombia and Iraq. 

In 2008 she published “Mute Force” (Stumme Gewalt) in memory of Alfred Herrhausen, who was killed in a terrorist attack 1989 presumably organized by the Red Army Faction. In 2013 she wrote her autobiography, “How We Desire” (Wie wir begehren), where she does not conceal her homosexuality. She was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2016 for her essay “Against Hate”. Since 1949 the 25 000 euro prize has been awarded annually by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association during the Frankfurt Book Fair. The list of past years winners includes Amos Oz, Albert Schweitzer, Astrid Lindgren, Václav Havel, Jürgen Habermas, Susan Sontag, David Grossman, Liao Yiwu, Svetlana Alexievich and Navid Kermani (in 2015).


In her lecture Carolin comments on the great themes of our time: racism, fanaticism, anti-democracy. She reflects on the mechanism of hatred as a feeling. In all its aggressive and despicable vehemence, hatred is imprecise and blind. Other people are not perceived as individuals, but as members of groups that can be rejected: the foreigners, the refugees, the Muslims, the Jews, the disbelievers, the homosexuals, the politicians. 


In opposition to this dogmatic thinking of hate, which does not take into account any shades of grey, Carolin Emcke praises the multiplicity of voices, praises the 'unclean', because in that way the freedom of the individual and the right for dissent can be protected. Because the freedom of others guarantees one’s own freedom. It is a lecture for those who are looking for convincing arguments and ideas to defend an open society.

Shumona Sinha. Let's Beat up the Poor!

Shumona Sinha © Patrice Normand

Born in Calcutta in 1973, Shumona Sinha has lived in Paris since 2001. She holds a Master‘s degree in literary studies from Sorbonne University. From 2001 to 2008 Sinha worked as a teacher of English at secondary schools; beginning in 2009, she worked as an interpreter for asylum seekers in France. After the publication of “Let's Beat up the Poor!” in 2011 she lost her job at the French immigration authority. In her interviews for the French media, Shumona claims that her homeland is no longer India, nor even France, but the French language.

Shumona Sinha has received many awards for her books, including the 2016 International Literature Prize, awarded by Berlin's House of World Cultures and by the Stiftung Elementarteilchen (Elemental Particles Foundation), for “Let's Beat up the Poor!”.

“Let's Beat up the Poor!” is the title of a poem by Charles Baudelaire and of Shumona Sinha's angry novel, which raises questions of global coexistence, identity and access to the Western standard of living. Der Spiegel described Sinha's book as the 'most disturbing novel of the year' when the German translation was published in 2015. In the struggle for existence, honesty turns out to be a luxury. Caught between truth and lies, the nameless protagonist, who works as an interpreter at the Asylum Authority, stands between two fronts – the privileged people and the refugees from her home country. Disgusted with the system, she remains as foreign to the officials as to her former countrymen.

Sinha speaks with an exaggerated radicalism and expresses an idea that remains an open question behind the policy of the asylum system: that there is no place for 'the poor' in the European Union. And those who seek a better life – where should they go? In addition to reading from “Let's Beat up the Poor!” Shumona Sinha presented, for the first time in the German-speaking world, excerpts from her new novel “Apatride” (stateless), which was yet to be published in German by Edition Nautilus in September 2017. In her inimitable poetic language she speaks of female identity, class conflicts, and the painful experiences of exile.

About the Festival

The Wiener Festwochen started in 1950, after Vienna and Austria had been isolated by Nazism. It was necessary to integrate the city and the country into the international discourse of art and culture. The festival was meant to help create a new image of Vienna, both nationally and internationally.  Throughout its history, the Wiener Festwochen has always taken on cultural and sociopolitical challenges.

Today the Weiner Festwochen is positioned as a venue for multidisciplinary art, combining music theatre, theatre, fine arts, performance, installation, discourse and workshops. Among Vienna's varied and tightly-packed cultural offerings, the point is to present and allow brand new, fresh, hot and happening things, and to link genres, thoughts and ideas. Thus, the festival helps create new alliances, rather than build new borders in art. It seeks to understand art as a process, becoming a field for experimentation for a future society.

Weiner Festwochen official site link:

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