Seigmography of Struggle - Towards a Global History of critical and cultural journals Gallatin Galleries, New York University


Seismography of Struggle is an inventory of non-European critical and cultural journals, including those from the African, Indian, Caribbean, Asian, and South American diaspora, produced in the wake of the revolutionary movements of the end of the 18th century up to the watershed year of 1989. 

The sound and visual work included here reflects populations who have experienced colonialism, practices of slavery, Apartheid, and genocide. Also included are works from others who experienced violent dictatorships as well as brutal political and cultural convulsions.

The struggle against slavery is at the root of many critical and cultural journals. Colonialism impacted the social and cultural cohesion of a number of communities and was also fought against in both writing and gesture by constantly renewing the modalities of political action.

In the 18th century, the American Revolution failed to put an end to slavery and to the dispossession of Native Americans. The abolitionist drive was principally nourished by maroonage, a method of resistance and resettlement by African Americans, especially by former slaves. This began as early as the 16th century, first in Africa, spreading to the Mascarene Islands, then to the Americas and the West Indies, through its clandestine political and artistic practices—inaugurating a practice of singing, poetry, and dance that continues to this day—and, later, through its narratives and texts. Very few materials from that era have survived and the rare few that exist are hard to access. Yet, it is in them that a model of critical resistance was born and realized in various media, as well as in cloth, wood, papers, and a variety of signs and drawings. The equivalent practice in Europe was Samizdat, which involved the clandestine copying and distribution of literature banned by the state, especially formerly in the communist countries of eastern Europe. Samizdat was produced underground by Jews to fight against oppression. But all of these precarious practices have withered over time.

These journals constantly affirm their thwarted ambition for independence; as a whole, they are made up of singular voices from bold writers who are drawn to renewed political and cultural prospects. The oldest material evidence of this eminently modern exercise is L’Abeille Haytienne, a critical journal that was founded on the island of Haiti in 1817. The journal expresses the constant desire for emancipation. Christopher Columbus landed in Haiti in December 1492 and named it Hispaniola. The island later became a French territory and was renamed Dominica and, over time, more than 400,000 slaves live there and were subjected to France’s ferocious rule. C.L.R. James noted that, in 1789, this territory alone accounted for more than two thirds of French foreign trade. In 1804, the revolt of subjugated populations gave rise to the birth of a small independent state of Haiti. Even though this cause was won, the struggles continued.

For over two centuries, print media has been a space that has accommodated varied experiences. Born out of a sense of urgency in response to colonialism, journals have aligned with a critical, political, aesthetic, poetic, and literary ambitions and helped sustain graphical and scriptural creativity. They have appeared with regularity in the struggles that women and men have waged for their emancipation. Consisting of formal singularities and political objectives that support of human communities and their aspirations, the journal, this fragile object, often pulled together difficult material that was motivated by noble causes and the determination of committed authors. The journal reveals a rare aesthetic power. In this all-digital era, we must reestablish and qualify its formal, aesthetic, and political function on a global scale.

The Seismography of Struggle exhibition is presented in partnership with The Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), Paris. 



The Algerian-born academic and author Zahia Rahmani is one of France’s leading art historians and writers of fiction, memoirs, and cultural criticism. She is the author of a literary trilogy published by Sabine Wespieser Editions, dedicated to contemporary figures of so-called banished people: Moze(2003); “Musulman” roman (2005); France, récit d’une enfance (2006). In the US, France, Story of Childhood was published by Yale University Press in 2016, and “Muslim” A Novel will be published by Deep Vellum Publishing in 2019. The French Ministry of Culture named Rahmani Chevalier of Arts and Letters and as a member of the College of the Diversity. As an art historian, Rahmani is Director of the Research Program on Art and Globalization at the French National Institute of the History of Art (INHA, Paris), an interdisciplinary program that focuses on contemporary art practices in a globalized world and it links many networks in France and abroad. She curated Made in Algeria: Genealogy of a Territory, a large exhibition of colonial cartography, high and popular visual culture, and contemporary art at the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM), Marseille in 2016. She founded at INHA, Global Art Prospective, a collective of young researchers and actors within the artistic scene who are specialists in non-European territorial and cultural spaces. In the fall 2016, she an NYU Gallatin’s Global Faculty-in-Residence. Currently on view at the NYU Gallatin Gallery, Seismography of Struggle: Towards a Global History of Critical and Cultural Journals (INHA, Paris, 2017; RAW Material Company, Dakar; Kulte Gallery, Rabat; FID/la compagnie, Marseille, 2018), is an international traveling display resulting of GAP/INHA programs curated by Rahmani.


Direction Zahia Rahmani, Head of Art and Globalization at the French National Institute of Art History (INHA), Paris

Editing designer Thierry Crombet (

Original music Jean-Jacques Palix

With the voices of Sekou Touré, Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, Ho Chi Minh, Rabindranath Tagore, Salvador Allende, Kathleen Cleaver, Myriam Makeba, Aimé Césaire, Kateb Yacine, Marcus Garvey, Nina Simone

Project coordinator Diane Turquety (INHA), Paris

Research assistants Florence Duchemin, post-doctorate fellow (INHA), Paris. Aline Pighin, doctorate fellow (INHA), Paris

Collaboration on research and translation 

With the collaboration of

  • Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
  • La médiathèque du Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac, Paris
  • La Bibliothèque Kandinsky MNAM/Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
  • L’Institut d’Asie orientale, Lyon
  • Institut d’études transtextuelles et transculturelles, Lyon

Special Thanks

  • Pierre-Yves Belfis, Nicolas Bissi, Jean-Louis Boully, Alix Chagué, Sarah Frioux-Salgas, Héloïse Kiriakou, François Guillemot, and Zhang Yu



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