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

An Interview with Claudia Bernardi

 

Summary:

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.

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

An Interview with Marianne Garneau

(co-author of “Snapshots of the Student Movement in Montreal”)

Summary:

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.

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Carving Compassion, Camouflaging Antagonism & Building Cooperative Alternatives – an Interview with Anna Feigenbaum

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Summary:

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.

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Standing at the interface of academic corporatization and exploitation: why not struggle against the ‘grain’?

 by Sutapa Chattopadhyay[1]

[i]t’s increasingly difficult to define what, substantively, it means to be a thinker of the Left

(Castree and Wright 2005: 6)

Not too long back I read two articles on anti-austerity protest and Quebec student strikes that were published by ClassWarU, and a few others, mostly by activist student scholars. Almost all the articles and interviews that have been published so far in this website pertinently point out the urgent need to employ alternative pathways to connect people, participation and place. There is little to no doubt that the question of happiness and wellbeing is overwhelmingly difficult to answer, as it is ensnared by the laws of neoliberal capitalist accumulation, under continuous and progressive expropriation to the creation of hierarchies and hegemonies (through continuous division of labor along sex, race, class, religion, education, and nationality) to constant production of all forms of social exclusion. The poor and middle classes have shouldered the heaviest burdens of the global political obsession with austerity policies over the past five to six years. In the United States, budget cuts have forced states to reduce education, public transportation, affordable housing, health and other social services. In Europe, welfare cuts have driven some severely disabled individuals to fear for their lives. Austerity is still the order of the day and the struggle against austerity is an all-class war orchestrated in plazas, universities, parks, streets, squares, or any public places that we can think of. This article holds my deep reactions on academic exploitation at the crossing point of other kinds of exploitation that have burgeoned as a response to neoliberal capitalism. Continue reading

Bloated Corpses and Institutional Limits – An Interview with Mark Paschal

Summary:
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.

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Movements and Institutions against Cognitive Capitalism – An Interview with James Anderson

Campus Labor Coalition Rally at U. of Illinois – Feb. 14, 2012

 Summary — 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?

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If Not Eco-Socialism Now, Then When? Infiltrating universities with eco-feminist & anarchist practices

by Sutapa Chattopadhyay (Maastricht University)

Today, frankly our universities are transformed into knowledge-for-profit-enclosures, as primarily ‘branded’ universities are sold-out to the policy elites (techno-scientific foundations, business consortia and multinationals) for the progress of scientific research, on which intellectual property rights are placed that exclude most people from its benefits. This is the reason we must connect with ecosocialist, ecofeminist and anarchist strategies, as these alternative theories and praxis can undo the rigid, hierarchical, authoritarian, hegemonic and provincial university education system toward a non-hierarchical, egalitarian, emancipatory knowledge locus.

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Teaching and Organizing in the Ruins of Universities: An Interview with Alison Hearn

Summary:  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.

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Mapping Shared Imaginaries for Anti-capitalist Movements: an Interview with Tim Stallmann of the Counter-Cartographies Collective

Summary:  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.

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YoSoy132: Student-led Uprising in Mexico – An interview with Patrick Cuninghame (Professor, Mexico City)

CW: What is the deal with YoSoy132?

Patrick: It’s kind of a weird movement, because it started in the private universities, in a very upper class Catholic private university called Iberoamericana.  It’s probably one of the more progressive private universities, because it has a quite independent and active faculty trade union.  It arose in response to Enrique Peña Nieto who is the PRI candidate for president.  The PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) was in power continuously from 1929 to 2000, one of the world’s longest running dictatorships, guilty of incredible abuses of human rights.  The most infamous one was the massacre of Tlatelolco on October 2nd, 1968, just before the Olympics, when the Mexican army and paramilitaries killed around 500 people in a square near the center of Mexico City.  It’s never been properly investigated.  The ex-Mexican president, Luis Echevarria who was the minister of Internal Affairs when that happened, was briefly arrested and charged with genocide in 2006, but was almost immediately released.  In spite of all their crimes, they’re on the point of being re-elected after just 12 years out of power.  It’s like fascism coming back.  The problem is that the party that’s been in power, the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional), has been as bad if not worse than the PRI.  So, it’s just gone from the frying pan to the fire and back to the frying pan again.  60,000 have died in these last 6 years of President Calderon from the ‘war against drugs,’ which in reality has been a war against the whole population, at the same time a new form of governance and a new theatre in the “global war against terrorism”.  It’s been government through military dictatorship that we’ve had in Mexico since 2006, and the electoral fraud in 2006, too, that started it.  Of course there’s a real danger of another electoral fraud.  Until May 11th it seemed like Enrique Peña Nieto was going to win the elections easily.  There had already been one or two setbacks for him.  First, at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in December last year, he was asked what were the three most important books in his life, and he couldn’t name one.  He is just such a complete airhead, an ignoramus.  This is the guy who’s going to be the next president of Mexico!

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