Kristin Ross, "The Seventh Wonder of the Zad"
The longest-lasting struggle in post-war France today was the occupational
attempt to block the construction of an international airport in farmland in western France: the zad, or “zone à defendre” outside of Notre-Dame-des-Landes. In this talk I will consider a number of innovative practices reworked and lived by the inhabitants of the zad, in their continuing attempt to find new, distinct ways of merging life with combat. At the center of my presentation will be the notion of the territory and the logics of difference, possibility and autonomy it implies—the local, often rural construction of an autonomous zone, in semi-secession from the state, which does not result in a closing in upon itself. What is a territory worth defending? What does it mean to defend a zone, or to work at creating—over time, and perhaps over a lifetime—a territory worthy of defense? How can a struggle whose particularity lies in being anchored in one place be extended to other territories?
Kristin Ross is Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at New York University. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, she is the author of a number of books about modern and contemporary French political culture, all of which have appeared in French translation, including The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune (1988); Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture (1995); and May ’68 and its Afterlives (2002). Her most recent book, Communal Luxury (2015) was published first in France by La Fabrique.