Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Turbulence: Turbulent Geohistories of Sugar

by Ilona Németh, with interventions by Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe) and Leon Wainwright (Open University). Moderated by Maja and Reuben Fowkes (PACT UCL)

Ilona Nemeth

13 March 2019

In her Eastern Sugar project, Bratislava-based artist Ilona Németh investigates the pathologies of economic transition, uncovering its roots in the flawed mechanism of privatisation mired by asset-stripping and systemic nepotism during the headlong rush from late socialism to feral capitalism. She chronicles the brutal dismantling of the material infrastructure of a once thriving sugar industry, investigates the invisible causes of its decline in the distant machinations of multinational corporations, and revivifies the forms, practices and sociability of sugarloaf-making in an exhibition setting. The choice of sugar as the prism through which to examine the multiple upheavals of the era of globalisation brings deeper historical connections with a cane sugar trade based on slavery linked to an earlier phase of capitalist expansion. This panel aims to bring comparative perspectives and parallel experiences from other geographies to the discussion of the turbulent geohistories of sugar illuminated by Ilona Németh’s work. Considered also is the extent to which the traumatic social transformations highlighted by Eastern Sugar are symptomatic of global changes to the world of labour brought by automization and how far the global scourge of populism can be traced back to economic dislocations following the collapse of the communist system.

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