How to Live Together:
A Dialogue Between Roland Barthes and Isaïe Nzeyimana

Under supervision of Kodwo Eshun.
With Jean-Paul Martinon,
and the assistance of Nicole Wolf.
Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths,
University of London, 2020

PhD Examiners:
Denise Ferreira da Silva; Leela Gandhi

MPhil Examiners:
Avery Gordon; Stefan Nowotny

“How to Live Together” stages a speculative dialogue between French literary theorist Roland Barthes and contemporary Rwandan philosopher Isaïe Nzeyimana, drawing from Comment vivre ensemble, Barthes’s lectures at Collège de France translated by Kate Briggs in 2013 as How to Live Together: Novelistic Simulation of Some Living Spaces.

The thesis focuses on rhythm, or rather idios-rhythm, derived from Barthes’s and Nzeyimana’s respective understanding of rest and movement or generosity. It expands on Nzeyimana’s insight that only those who have something in common can enter the conflict, particularly as such conflict is rendered through the planetary conditions that marked the last twenty-five years in the Great Lakes of East Africa. Paradoxically, even if this common bond can break, the same bond can also allow for a future dialogue to take place.

In this background, the thesis formulates theories and fictions that may help to outdate the notion of race. This is done by looking at practical examples that move the understanding of community from an intersubjective condition to an intrasubjective relation, whereby conflict is constitutive of the very notion of community. This hypothesis is explored by focusing on the desedimentation of paleonyms in a process that raises new questions about memory, difference, heritage and belonging. Along the way, the thesis traces the evolution of the figures of the artist and the philosopher in Rwanda and beyond.

These formulations are nurtured by the sociography of the research, understood as a transcreative meandering through the fields of literature, history, theology and philosophy, supported by insights and encounters from Nyampeta’s own practice within contemporary art and design studies. Part of this practice is an artistic sequence in which artists, theorists, mythologists and translators in Rwanda and further afield—who would otherwise never meet—gather at the level of videographic montage and exhibitionary formats.