Issue 1/2022

Free Speech

What’s the state of play for artistic freedom of expression? And how do matters look when it comes to purportedly increasingly unyielding regulation of discourse in the cultural field? Is the fundamental right of freedom of expression still in force at present? Or have we long since surrendered to oft-invoked censorship, or, worse still, to self-censorship? Since people have begun referring – usually in somewhat diffuse terms – to cancel culture, woke attitudes or identity politics, there has also been a tendency for “free speech” to once again become more vigorously disputed. That at least is what the guardians of unfettered freedom of expression, who often come from thoroughly non-liberal contexts, would have us believe. But which dividing and demarcating lines really run through the broad terrain of public (as well as private or social-media) discourse? Hasn’t free speech or free artistic expression always been an extremely hostile, indeed wildly fissured territory? Does it make sense to set our sights on consensual agreement about what may and may not be said about whom? Or should the multiple, often radically diverse backgrounds underpinning speech be identified and recognised first and foremost? After all, the standpoint from which a right is asserted or in some cases is potentially to be constrained, and indeed who is doing so, makes all the difference. Before asserting this kind of right, shouldn’t the first step be to disclose and analyse the often tacitly assumed or implicit coordinates of “free speech”? The “Free Speech” issue seeks to address these topics through the prism of current incidents and historical shifts in recent decades, as well as discussing the prerequisites for engaging in combative yet respectful discourse rooted in solidarity. This will also entail discussing or showcasing approaches that address artistic freedom of expression indirectly or robed in formal camouflage.

Publication date: 15th March 2022