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.

‘Care and Freedom!

‘Take care of yourself! Look after each other!
With distance and masks we will soon rediscover
That spring in our step and that old joie de vivre!
But for now we must all be good friends ‘til we leave.

‘So no hugging or kissing – canoodling – no!
This Carnival’s love must find new ways to show
Solidarity, Empathy, Freedom and Care:
We are here, but we’re also most certainly there!

‘In New York and Rojava, Japan and The Zad
And in all points there is joy to be had.
So let’s read and let’s laugh and let’s sing and let’s cry
And we’ll all get to say both hello and goodbye.

‘On this wonderful day as we gather in Care
We say David, your presence is felt everywhere.’

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.’

A collective is now planning an international Museum of Care to embody Graeber’s ideas, and carry his work forward. Rethinking what constitutes art, creativity and social relationships, Museum of Care is a global network of emotional safehouses dedicated to revolutionary kindness and freedom launching in October 2021, and all will be welcome.

On the one year anniversary of the Carnival (11 October 2021), a Museum of Care Visual Assembly will build on the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 that removed monuments from public squares worldwide. The Assembly will investigate how to rewrite and reassemble the very principles of how we run our communities and rethink what it is to be a museum or an artist. Museum of Care wants to produce spaces for freedom and care rather than monuments because it believes that a person is free when they have the right and possibility to change the rules of public life.

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.