Interviews

What can an open, insurgent publishing body do?

    [with Stevphen Shukaitis (part 1)]

Stevphen Shukaitis, editor of Minor Compositions, talks about the possibilities for open publishing as an experiment and a provocation. Drawing on his book, Imaginal Machines, he reflects on the challenge of resisting the recuperation of radical energies in work. As a professor in a business school, he shares his approach to radical teaching: using traditional materials for subversive ends. Continue reading →

(part 2) Excavating Minor Histories: Autonomous publishing for movements 

Stevphen speaks on militant research through collaborative, open process publishing, and on negotiating an ambivalent relationship to the university—appropriating resources while refusing to become the administrator of someone else’s precarity. Continue reading →

Art and Politics against the Colonization of Time

     [with Dan S. Wang]

Printer and writer, Dan S. Wang, talks about his projects that intersect art, politics, and labor—from teaching and public art with college students to anti-war and anti-prison activism, the Mess Hall, and the Compass Group—as collective experiments against individualizing economies of attention. Continue reading →

Organizing, Teaching, Transforming: Higher Ed Struggles within/against/beyond Unions and ‘The University’

    [with Nick Hengen Fox]

Nick Hengen Fox, a full-time faculty member at a community college, talks about the connections between successful union organizing and the classroom, radical teaching practice, and what “critical university studies” might look like outside of a university. Continue reading →

Occupying the City with the Social Science Centre

    [with Mike Neary]

Professor Mike Neary speaks on the origins, purposes, and tensions of The Social Science Centre, Lincoln in the UK, an alternative form of higher education provision run as a formally constituted co-operative. The Social Science Centre sets itself against the usual colonial relations between universities and communities, seeking to occupy and re-invent the ‘idea of the university’ by producing critical, practical knowledge grounded in the real lives of its members. Neary raises questions about how such projects can create new, sustainable forms of social wealth against and beyond capitalism. Continue reading →

Against Academic Alibis: The Best Education is the Struggle

   [with George Ciccariello-Maher]

The author of We Created Chávez, George Ciccariello-Maher, draws on his experiences in the “cauldron of resistance” of Oakland, CA to speak on the relations between education, organizing in universities, and struggles against police and prisons. Against academics’ use of alibis, such as ‘changing the world by teaching,’ to legitimize anything they do as a contribution to radical movements, he calls for academics to more clearly distinguish between their jobs and their political work.  Continue reading →

Reanimating Histories of Struggle as Weapons against Neoliberal Individualization

    [with Don Kingsbury]

Reflecting on the building occupations at UC Santa Cruz in 2009-2010 and cross-pollination between student and worker struggles, Don Kingsbury highlights the need to excavate and reanimate histories of radical movements. Under the conditions of academic precarity, and against the neoliberal privatization of the general intellect, Don calls for turning communities of necessity into communities of resistance.  Continue reading →

Desiring Alliance and Complex Translations in Activist Research

   [with Richa Nagar]

Reflecting on her activist research with a people’s movement in India, Richa Nagar (Professor of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, co-author of Playing With Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism Through Seven Lives in India) shares stories about the importance of developing ethical relationships of trust and affect. Within and against the politics of NGOization and caste divisions, she highlights the roles of imagination, desiring, and translation in intersectional alliance work. From experiencing tensions between her positions as an activist and an academic, she notes common problems of institutionalization in both social movements and the university, and offers guidance for engaging with contradictions while maintaining some sense of security in the margins.  Continue reading →

Occupying Our Education

   [with Steve M.]

Drawing on experiences with Occupy CUNY, the Adjunct Project, and teaching an ‘Occupy Class’ at Brooklyn College, Steve M. shares insights into the conditions for organizing around universities today.  In the face of the challenges of divisions of race and class between students and workers, and across the segregated city, Steve highlights the potentials for bringing militant co-research into coalitions and into classrooms themselves.  Continue reading →

Revolutionary Study against & beyond the University

   [with Jennifer]

An interview with, Jennifer, a militant student-worker in Seattle on: revolutionary study groups with the Black Orchid Collective, organizing against union bureaucracy and non-profit recuperation, & creating a solidarity network across the university for worker, student, and community control. Continue reading →

Horizontalism within and against Academia, Unions, and Non-Profits

    [with Ariel]

Drawing on organizing experiences in Seattle and the University of Washington, Ariel speaks of tensions in horizontalist movements.  Within the university, she reflects on an anti-capitalist approach to service learning, organizing within and against a graduate student union, and creating a student-worker coalition.  Across the university-city boundaries, she analyzes Occupy Seattle and resistance to both the non-profit- and academic-industrial complexes.  Continue reading →

A Brief History of (CUNY) Time: Recent Radical University Organizing in NYC

     [with Matthew Evsky (Part 1)]

Drawing on first-hand experience, Matthew Evsky* shares a recent history of student and labor organizing at and around the City University of New York (CUNY), including the Adjunct Project, Campus Equity Week, the CUNY Time Zine, Occupy CUNY, and the Free University of NYC.  He delves into the complex relationships between students, contingent faculty, the broader faculty union, and the confusing processes of university exploitation.  The emergence of Occupy CUNY burst into a week of action with a student sit-in that was violently repressed by campus security.  Although seeing undergraduate organizing as the driving force behind a revival of campus activism, Occupy CUNY connected radicals with each other and built supportive direct relationships across divisions of workers and students.  Emerging from a working group on radical pedagogy, the Free University of NYC has enabled people to transform classrooms into spaces of radicalization.  Continue reading →

Unsettling the University: For Abolitionist, Decolonial Education Struggles

    [with Matthew Evsky (Part 2)]

In this interview, Matthew Evsky (pseudonym) speaks on ways that the education system is bound up with policing, mass incarceration, and settler colonialism.  How can we integrate education struggles with abolitionist, decolonial approaches?  For resistant alternatives, we can look to Liberation Schools and free, cooperative universities embedded in communities.  Facing major barriers to these from racism, we must call on white people to renege on their racist bargain with the state and capital.  How can we popularize such an abolitionist politics with narratives that convince people to be for annihilating the very system that gives them privileges?  Continue reading →

On ‘Service Learning,’ Precarity, and Building the Urban Commons with, against, and beyond Universities

    [with Maude Ontario]

An adjunct discusses her experiences with using ‘service learning’ in classes to engage students in militant co-research and community organizing.  Such projects can build radical relationships across universities, public schools, and marginalized communities, but require a lot of work – the challenge of building ‘the urban commons.’  Such work must also grapple with the dangers of recuperation in academia.   Beyond the university, she discusses her engagement with urban commons in neighborhoods, such as through co-operatives.  What kind of advantages and disadvantages does the flexibility of adjunct labor offer?  From the position of precarious work and life, how can we organize for mutual aid across our workplaces and communities? Continue reading →

Studying Through the Undercommons

     [Stefano Harney & Fred Moten – interviewed by Stevphen Shukaitis]

Stefano Harney and Fred Moten have collaborated on various projects over the past fifteen years, including a number of essays on the conditions of academic labor. Drawing from the black radical tradition, autonomist and postcolonial theory, they have elaborated an approach to politics that is more concerned with the less socially visible aspects of organization and interaction. Currently they are working on a book entitled the undercommons: fugitive planning & black study that will be released by Minor Compositions /Autonomedia in Spring 2013 [Update: it was released and you can read it here]. As part of that project Stevphen Shukaitis conducted several interviews with them to give an overview of their work and approach. This interview is an excerpt for ClassWarU from their conversation.

If You Organize, You Always Win 

    [with Joe Grim Feinberg]

In this interview, Joe Grim Feinberg shares his experiences with a radically democratic union, Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago.  Rather than waiting for recognition from the state, they have thrived by getting together as workers, declaring themselves to be a union, and organizing to improve their working conditions.  Joe praises the IWW’s strategy of organizing a union for all workers that, if followed consistently, de facto leads to an anti-capitalist approach.  Such a strategy faces many limits, as grad students are habituated into academic professionalism, which goes against the idea of industrial unionism.  Instead of professionalizing for individual insertion into the capitalist rat race, academics can take pride in what they do through organizing and taking control of the production process. Continue reading →

Contaminating the University, Creating Autonomous Knowledge: Occupied Social and Cultural Centers in Italy 

    [with Claudia Bernardi]

From her experiences creating an occupied social center in Rome, Claudia Bernardi speaks of self-organization and self-education between migrants, students, artists, and other precarious workers.  Within the global crisis, these spaces of resistance make common institutions that cross the boundaries of the university and city. As a kind of autonomous study center, the project has intertwined labor union organizing with political movements and knowledge production.  Building occupations have spread to include artists and other cultural workers who have squatted cinemas and theaters, making culture as a common good.  In a time of proliferating borders and frontiers, we all become migrants, struggling across divisions for shared spaces, culture, and knowledge.  Continue reading →

Could students in the US pull off a strike like in Montreal? 

    [with Marianne Garneau]

Against a kind of activist-y, spectacular politics, Marianne Garneau argues that US students and workers can learn from the Quebec model how to organize our power as a class.  Quebec students have kept their tuition low because they’ve historically had a vibrant, militant student movement, one that is willing to strike and directly disrupt, and not wait for the leadership of the business unions. The organizing model is to create directly democratic bodies—department-by-department assemblies—that know how to leverage our power to fuck up the business of the people who are screwing us over, whether they’re our educators or our employers. Continue reading →

Carving Compassion, Camouflaging Antagonism & Building Cooperative Alternatives

     [with Anna Feigenbaum]

Dr. Anna Feigenbaum gives her thoughts on radical teaching and organizing within and beyond the university.  Against education that tries to transmit radical politics to students, she recommends an approach that starts with students’ experiences and works with them through the difficulties and challenges they face—and witness—in their everyday lives.  Revolutionary pedagogy can be embedded in art and creativity, engaging students through playful, reflexive and collaborative projects.  Rather than getting caught up in puritanical self-flagellation over what cannot be achieved, struggles can be seen from a more ecological perspective, one that works both inside and outside institutions simultaneously: chiseling the university’s walls while building cooperative alternatives.  Continue reading →

Bloated Corpses and Institutional Limits

     [with Mark Paschal]

Drawing on his extensive research on the history of universities, Mark Paschal debunks mystified views of higher education.  Instead of relying on overly sophisticated theories that are tough to popularize, Mark recommends focusing on what attracts people to universities: opportunities to make better lives for themselves.  We can create autonomous universities with a kind of vocational training more in line with historical materialism than the humanities—to learn skills for taking over empty buildings and holding down city blocks for radical causes.  To connect such organizing with the informal networks that already exist in marginalized communities, rather than presuming that the knowledge and skills gained in universities can be useful in struggles, learn others’ modes of communicating and ask questions about how we can be useful.  Since the fucked-up-ness of the capitalist university-prison-industrial complex can seem overwhelming, rather than merely trying to illuminate the problems, we need physical interventions that demonstrate viable alternatives.  To inspire a mass exodus from universities, we must continue to struggle within existing institutions—such as through strikes and occupations—while we create autonomous universities that force the dominant ones to confront their own limits.  Continue reading →

Movements and Institutions against Cognitive Capitalism

     [with James Anderson]

This interview explores such questions as: How can leftist movements be built across social divisions on campuses?  What can we do to break radical theory out of its capture in academia?  Can we create institutions that are embedded in movements and that provide alternatives for radicals who get stuck in precarious academic life?  Continue reading →

Teaching and Organizing in the Ruins of Universities

     [with Alison Hearn]

From the wilderness of adjuncting to university occupations and the Quebec student uprisings, professor Alison Hearn (U. of Western Ontario) discusses how we can create organizing grounds in the ruins of universities. The classroom presents possibilities for connecting pedagogy with organizing, while grappling with the tensions of context, faculty authority, and student resistance.  Rather than falling into either authoritarian or hippy-dippy, de-professionalized modes of teaching, Hearn talks about how an ethically responsible approach can escape the academic capitalist rat race and build relationships across divisions of workers and students.  Continue reading →

Mapping Shared Imaginaries for Anti-capitalist Movements

     [with Tim Stallmann of the Counter-Cartographies Collective]

Tim shares his experiences of militant research with university workers and students, making disOrientation Guides, and the importance of starting from your own position for building solidarity.  Reflecting on the Queen Mary Counter/mapping project and community-based cartography, he discusses the challenges of map-making collectively, as well as the benefits of the process for building a plane of commonality for struggles.  Against the individualizing and recuperative functions of academia, he shares some thoughts on how we can better traverse the tensions our movements face across the boundaries of universities and communities.  Continue Reading →

YoSoy132: Student-led Uprising in Mexico

     [with Patrick Cuninghame (Professor, Mexico City)]

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