We live in an age of crises, caught in the headlong rush of change, between old rivalries and power relations and the new. Free-market globalisation has created enormous riches as well as deep instability. Humanity has never been more connected and yet more divided. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 was the first great crisis of globalisation and the world is still grappling with its consequences: sovereign indebtedness, falling living standards, the decline of US hegemony and the rise of other powers. As the world’s population continues to grow and resources become ever scarcer, the need for collaboration between nations for the benefit of all nations has never been more urgent. And yet a new era of geopolitical competition and conflict threatens.
This is a time of great fluidity and disruption, for people as for capital, and this flux challenges existing notions and understandings of citizenship. There are supranational institutions – the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the African Union – but the old dream of world government is as far away as ever. The internet and social media connect us, but our relationships are too often merely abstract and virtual.
Zamyn was founded with a vision of the transformative power of dialogue and collaboration across borders, cultures, sectors and disciplines, and between artists, psychoanalysts, writers, academics, visionary business leaders and politicians. Influenced by postcolonial thinkers such as Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, Chinua Achebe and Moustapha Safouan, Zamyn interrogates the language of centre and periphery, developed and developing, corporations and culture. It aims to break down the assumptions and distinctions that reinforce the hierarchical relations in which many nations and regions remain receptacles for influence and investment from outside and often distant powers.
Zamyn’s Cultural Forum 2013 brings together leading figures from around the world to debate the political, economic and social conditions that shape the concept and reality of global citizenship, now and for the future – mass migration, international trade, knowledge networks, demand for resources, environmental challenges and global governance. The experience of South Africa and the wider continent provides a timely focus for such discussions ahead of the summit of G8 governments in the UK – talks in which no African country has a formal voice.
It is significant that Zamyn’s inaugural Cultural Forum should take place in London. Historically the centre of the British empire, today it is perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in the world, where millions belong who also belong elsewhere. Many of London’s institutions, commercial as well as cultural, were built on the wealth generated in the old colonies and through the rapidly expanding trade and communications networks of the past. Zamyn exists to analyse and question the complex and ambiguous connections of the present.
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