15 December 2020
Hope springs from Intergalactic Memorial Carnival
for anthropologist David Graeber (1961 – 2020)
Thousands of people gathered in 250 locations around the world in October to mourn and to celebrate the life of David Rolfe Graeber, the anthropologist, teacher, writer and activist who died suddenly on 2 September.
They wore theatrical masks in homage to the Carnival of Venice that Graeber so loved at an Intergalactic Memorial Carnival (#Carnival4David), organised by his wife Nika Dubrovsky and their friends. Old or young, rich or poor – from scientists to the retired, regardless of political persuasion, everyone anonymous, were united through death, laughing in its face.
An uninterrupted 12-hour livestream of the carnival – from New York City’s Zuccotti Park (the iconic site of Occupy Wall Street), the ZAD in France and Graeber’s home in London’s Portobello Road; to Rio, Penza prison in Russia and Rojava; Japan, Nairobi and Singapore – that became an international celebration of care and freedom, and a testament to the profound effect Graeber had on people the world over.
People ate pancakes and drank vodka in Saint Petersburg, trekked in the Czech Republic and listened to Bullshit Jobs playlists in Rennes. They formed an ‘anarchology collective’ in Nagasaki, held a costume party in Zurich and a eulogy in Seoul. They reenacted a roundtable in Galicia, rewired a farmworkers’ radio station in New Jersey, and in Ohio ‘kept him company with laughter and tales of piracy as he travelled between worlds’.
Of the tributes to Graeber on the day, many were by people who knew and loved him, and a great many more were from those who didn’t. One, Jessica Smith, said:
‘I would like to tell him thank you. I would like to let him know that he helped me see a life away from… extraordinary darkness. I am so much freer now and so much of that is thanks to him.’
As Graeber’s former teacher, anthropologist Marshall Sahlins of the University of Chicago, wrote:
‘One of David's books is titled Possibilities. It is an apt description of all his work. It is an even better description of his life. Offering unimagined possibilities of freedom was his gift to us.’