An Interview 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.
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.