Bänkelsang to a binaural beat. The issue, the method of delivery, agnotology and the contradiction of selling ‘rodenticide’

Laura Ziegler & Dean E. Stephanus

We (Laura Ziegler & Dean E. Stephanus) invite you to think with us as we invoke the legacy of the bench singers “Bänkelsang”  that were active in the region that would become Germany from at least the 17th century until the practice was banned by the Nazi’s. Acting as proto journalists, researchers and performers, the bench singers gathered news stories and histories that alerted people to what was going on, information that would have been otherwise concealed, censored and often inaccessible by the subordinate masses (class, race, gender) due to illiteracy.

We use the motif of the bench singers to revisit an old question in the humanities and political organising, how to methodologically find ways to make accessible, communicate, and share information with the mass public(s). And importantly we wrestle with the contradiction of that aim. We refer to this as our rat poison, a reference to times when bench singers of old sold rodenticide to make money for their itinerant performances. We would like to engage the ways in which real-life maintenance of the body contradicts the aims set out to liberate the body.

The talk will include links to current questions we debate as cultural workers and humans. Through the use of zine making we tease out certain topics, one example of a zine that will be presented in the talk is through the medium of biography we discuss the life of Mabel Grammer, a black journalist who played an important and little-known role in the “Brown Baby Plan” of post-war Germany. This was a private adoption agency that arranged the adoption of over 500 Afro-German children to African-American couples, particularly in the 1950s. And then link it to a so-called ‘brown baby’ who lived a life in Germany deeply affected by race, Robert Pilatus. Pilatus was a member of the once popular Afro/Pop duo known as Milli Vanilli.

Our approach is usually dialogical. We speak in a down-to-earth manner and encourage all participants to feel free, to question or challenge us, to add or think with us throughout the talk.

Back to overview
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