What is postactivism?
Philosopher Bayo Akomolafe formulated the idea of postactivism between 2015 and 2016.
He originally referenced feminist author and historian of science Donna Haraways and her descriptions of a compost heap. Akomolafe took the idea of a “compost activism” as his starting point, but subsequently shortened this conceptualization to the term “postactivism”.
Akomolafe first circumscribes the concept of (com)postactivism as an entirely open and ephemeral principle, and thus fundamentally rejects a simple definition of this term. He speaks much more of mycelial entanglements, of transatlantic slave expeditions, intertwined crossroads and encounters. The concept of the postactivist is inspired in its concept by indigenous worldviews and by Yoruba Black Studies. He also positions the concept in a world of incomprehensible dimensions of space and time in terms of modern scientific findings of holobiont research, astro- and quantum physics. Akomolafe exemplarily places climate change in relation to this idea of postactivism. He thus places the crisis in a very broad context, and takes his consideration a step beyond this framework by paraphrasing the crisis as an advent in the sense of Quentin Meillassoux; as a kind of epiphanic event, the entrance of something messianic into our lives. This does not at all mean that a higher power has planned the downfall of civilization and that we humans, as unfree beings, should submit to the fate of an angry God that has been predetermined for us; exactly the opposite is meant. These mysthical dimensions form the philosophical backbone of a postactivism that thus also accounts for the spiritual aspects of a hyper complex reality.
Akomolafe’s idea of postactivism invites us to an unusual discourse in terms of cultural philosophy that can enable us to see the present crisis as something completely different from what we are used to from a rational, scientific perspective.
It allows us to connect to ancient stories and energies, and thus helps us to remain emotional capable of action in confronting such a crisis, instead of losing ourselves in confusing number games and statistics of a biologistic narrative, in lethargy, sadness, or anger.
This approach is salutary, for our task now more than ever is to find our way emotionally, for the time being, in this situation of global crisis that is new to us. Following Akomolafe’s views is in this sense a stabilizing experience, an exercise in much-invoked holistic vision and resilience.
Postactivism and its practicality
Postactivism need not remain a theoretical construct; postactivism is quite practical and can be adapted to other fields, such as that of human rights or nuclear disarmament issues. Postactivism, as I understand it in relation to ecological problem areas, is not afraid to be less connectable and, if necessary, to position itself on the sidelines. For the time being, it is not about winning social majorities.
Postactivism considers the extent of the crisis in its full scope and begins to do or refrain from doing something on a small scale. Postactivism knows the power but also the entanglement of the individual in the ecological crisis.
Postactivism is not in a hurry, but trusts and has patience without having an immediate solution for every issue. Postactivism is not loud and angry, but friendly and confident.
Postactivism abandons the erroneous dualistic view of having to fight a hostile adversary such as global warming or a virus. Postactivism readily dispenses with terminology historically borrowed from warfare and the military.
Postactivism understands that the ecological crisis is ultimately not a matter of blame, even though we humans caused the crisis through our actions. Postactivism understands that everything is interconnected and that the life of our planet is sacred.
Postactivism understands that you can’t solve an ecological crisis with resource-intensive, green technologies and still turn it into an economic success.
Postactivism does not get lost in the intellectual discourse of the various scientific disciplines for its own sake, but prioritizes comprehensive ecological change in all areas of life. Postactivism, for all the complexity of life, returns to the simple, the practical, and the overview.
Postactivism does not believe in the power of the powerful. Rather, postactivism believes in the power of self-empowerment. We are all shapers of cultural change.
Postactivism rejects a narrowing to an issue around CO2 and knows about a world beyond numbers. On the contrary, postactivism is aware of the dangers of one-sided scientific interpretations and discourses based on avoidably calculable quantities and statistically provable facts.
Postactivism incorporates artistic perspectives, indigenous worldviews, intuitive and spiritual techniques to complement scientific views, and recognizes the power of poetry.
Postactivism is ultimately agreeing with the suffering of the world, with our fears, needs and the dark colors of life, because all these things are part of the world and part of ourselves. This thought does not mean that it is not important to do everything in our power to alleviate and avoid any suffering.