Mobilizing B0708-0014-004 Paul Robeson Archive 613.1 Zentralbild/Brüggmann/Stöhr/Gal/Pr 8.7.1963

02 The Missed Seminar:

Worldmaking after Internationalism

The Missed Seminar circulates around two persons who both have met in real life many times. They met for the first time in Harlem during an afternoon in late summer 1949 to discuss the communist students’ movement at the University of Minnesota fighting the extreme violence of the Peekskill Riots. They also met at the Humboldt University in East Berlin in December 1963. Yet, the study speculates that they missed to realize a seminar together that students would have liked to attend if they knew that it could have existed. This study wishes to mobilize to rewind, in a chronopolitical method, two major revolutionary strands of the last century––black feminist internationalism and cybernetic communism––through the following two figures:

The first person of our Missed Seminar is Eslanda “Essie” Goode Robeson who was a black-feminist-communist anthropologist from Harlem as well as living in London, passionate photographer and filmer during her travels in Congo and Mexico. Essie was also a Pan-Africanist, a friend of Zora Neale Hurston, Claudia Jones, Jawaharlal Nehru and Kwame Nkrumah, partner and manager of Paul Robeson. With her husband, Essie has been visiting the German Democratic Republic (G.D.R.) many times during the 1960s when she also received the Clara Zetkin Medal, visited the film festival in Leipzig and was invited visitor of the show trial against the Nazi-lawyer Hans Globke. Essie has given important speeches on the role of women, capitalist oppression and the need for internationalism; she worked on a film script with Sergey Eisenstein in the 1930s (was not realised).

The second person of our Missed Seminar is Franz Loeser who was a Jewish-German philosopher and who was a member of the Communist student movement at Minnesota University in the 1950s when Communists were expelled from university (McCarthy); he went to London and continued his support of the singer and activist Paul Robeson. Franz was granted citizenship in 1957 to live in East Berlin where he then founded the Paul Robeson Committee and soon also became professor of philosophy with a focus on deontic logic or the logics of norm for computational automation of labour, collective processes and creative thinking through Marxist ethics. His writings on automation, the logics/law of norm, the ideology of norm and Marxist ethics in cybernetics became the philosophical base for the film-collective defa-futurum to develop the socialist future film from the GDR in the 1970s; Franz Loeser did not come back to the GDR from a lecture tour in New York in 1984.

On 25 March 2022, the research panel “Unofficial America goes to the conference”: a missed seminar on Eslanda Robeson’s black radical practice with Avery F. Gordon, Lama El-Khatib, Doreen Mende and Katharina Warda will invoke Eslanda “Essie” Robeson’s anticolonial women’s internationalism through her writings and photography, in the context of The Whole Life Congress at House of the World Cultures, Berlin, from 24 to 26 March 2022.


Research Terms