q[lit]*clgn will be Germany’s first feminist literary festival, starting on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2018) and lasting for about two weeks. It will contain readings, lectures, concerts and exhibitions by both well-known and lesser-known authors and artists. Our contributors are Black, Jewish and Muslim women, Women of Color, lesbian, trans and intersex women as well as disabled and/or neurodiverse women. They all address the interlocking systems of oppression and discrimination from intersectional, postcolonial and feminist standpoints. While focusing mainly on literary fields, we invited scholars, activists, journalists and artists who center their work on literature, storytelling and feminism. No prior knowledge on these topics is needed to attend the events. Low ticket prices and mostly barrier-free venues will make sure that a broad spectrum of visitors will be able to enjoy the festival.
We are a collective of young female literary scholars, academics, activists and women working in media concerning ourselves politically and academically with the topic of multiple discrimination. As migrants and a white lesbian we are being affected on a personal level, too, by anti-gay prejudice and violence as well as sexism, classism and racism against South Asians, Black and Muslim women. Talking about it and working against it is part of our own strategy of survival.
Which is why we founded q[lit]*clgn e.V. (eingetragener Verein, registered association) in order to organize events that encourage debate and dialogue between authors, activists and those involved in different fields of culture, eventually helping establish intersectional commitment and postcolonial approaches in cultural politics.
q[lit]*clgn wants to create spaces that allow to reflect on power structures – like racism, (cis) sexism, classism and ableism – and the way they intertwine. By deconstructing the dominance of a white, binary mainstream society we want to challenge the prerogative of interpretation and highlight alternatives, in order to make marginalized voices heard and empower people who have experienced different forms of discrimination.
We care a great deal about presenting various realities of life and multidimensional stories within our festival program.
Our brand of feminism
We understand the structural oppression of women as a fundamental component of the patriarchy which in turn is built on the exploitation and oppression of certain nations and demographic groups. Ours is a postcolonial feminism that comments on socio-historical factors within the relationship between colonies and colonizers. Eurocentrism and colonial continuity are often accompanying many Western feminisms which is why we think it is crucial to let Black women and Women of Color speak for themselves, instead of merely being spoken about.
So feminist activism to us is inextricably linked to anti-colonialism, anti-capitalism and anti-racism as well as deconstructing the heteronormative gender system. Western colonial powers implemented anti-gay and anti-trans laws in their respective colonies, laying the ground for present day power relations. People who read and live sexuality and gender differently are constantly being alienated – in Europe as well. Excluding mechanisms must therefore be challenged and deconstructed along intersectional lines.
Why a literary festival?
q[lit]*clgn aims to increase the visibility of perspectives by genderqueer and Black women and Women of Color. To this day the line up for the biggest European literary festival includes twice as many male authors as female authors, the majority of them being part of the white mainstream society – which leads to eurocentric discourses being overly present in the literary canon and marginalized voices almost not being heard at all.
Our events challenge this practice by giving a stage to feminist texts and contemporary literature which might not even be counted as literature by the mainstream, like different forms of storytelling. To us literature is and must be an open category; it is an expression of language, and language heavily influences societal conditions. Language describes and classifies people to eventually establish an order that creates realities. Following that logic, stories reflect back on socio-historical developments. We would like to examine the relationship between language and society from a feminist and postcolonial point of view and find out how it manifests itself within one of the most common forms of media – literature.
The meaning behind the name
Misogynist ways of using language leads to a permanent sexualization of women, often accompanied by placing a taboo on female reproductive organs and resulting in various derogatory terms for the vulva. We would like to counter that by making a reference to the clitoris in the festival title. However, not every woman has a clit nor does every person with a clit identify as a woman – which is why we chose to replace the “c” in “clit” with a “q” in order to point out our affinity to Queer Theory. The letters “l”, “i” and “t” stand for lesbian, intersex and trans realities that we hereby want to make visible. Additionally, we want to criticize the binary gender system by adding the asterisk.
In general we appreciate the variety of cultural and literary events that Cologne has to offer. However, a lot of these events are organized by and meant for a small privileged circle of people, a majority of them being middle-class intellectuals. Elitist structures are persisting and continue to place an emphasis on authors that are male and white.
Cologne is a city that is internationally renowned as culturally and literarily important, hosting the biggest literary festival in Europe. We think that Cologne should see Germany’s first feminist literary festival as a chance for a better example.