Call for Papers/Ideas
“Beneath the University, the Commons”
A conference at the University of Minnesota
April 8-11, 2010
// Antioch 05.08 // Rome 10.08 // Athens 12.08 // New York City 12.08
// Helsinki 03.09 // Zagreb 05.09 // Heidelberg 06.09 // London 06.09
//Santa Cruz 09.09// … //
Seemingly discrete struggles over the conditions of university life
have erupted around the world within the past year. These struggles
share certain commonalities: outrage over precarious and exploitative
conditions, the occupation of university spaces, and goals of
reclaiming education from state and corporate interests. It is
becoming increasingly apparent that recent struggles over the
university are not merely discrete events. They express a wider
collective desire for direct control over the means of production and
forms of life; a desire to create relationships of learning,
collaboration, and innovation beyond the university’s attempts to
quantify and discipline them.
Although the modern university has served the interests of the state
and capital since its inception, the past thirty years have witnessed
tightened ties with corporate, financial, and geopolitical interests.
The subsumption of higher education under capital-driven business
models has intensified the expropriation of the products of
cooperative labor. With the proliferation of student-consumer and
scholar-manager subjectivities, we increasingly find ourselves
uncomfortably and often unwittingly occupying the role of active
participants in these trends. As the global struggles over the past
year have illustrated, however, opposition to these mechanisms of
capture is mounting, as are creative strategies for alternatives and
exodus. Struggles against the corporate university are linking up
across borders; the slogan of the International Student Movement, “One
World – One Struggle : Education is Not for Sale,” and the slogan of
the Anomalous Wave, “We Won’t Pay for Your Crisis,” appear in actions
across Europe, the Americas, and South Asia.
“Beneath the University, the Commons” builds on the work accomplished
by activists, organizers, artists, and academics at the “Re-thinking”
and “Re-working” the University Conferences of 2008 and 2009
(www.reworkingtheu.org), while expanding the scope of our discussions
and bringing together more international scholars in order to address
an increasingly volatile global situation. Our goal is to aggregate
and accelerate our knowledge of university conditions and our
collective acts of resistance to them, including alternative forms of
engaging with each other and with the world. To this end, the 2010
conference will draw together a diverse set of people committed to
exploring how we can understand, create, and experiment with the
commons beneath the university. Our questions include but are not
//How do we enact and sustain occupations of the university in the
exceptional times and spaces of the everyday?
//How do we generate an international “undercommons,” maintaining
subversive positions as actors within, rather than of, the spaces of
//How can unionization projects and occupation struggles learn from
and collaborate with one another?
//How do we negotiate the line between stability and revolutionary
//How do we open up sustainable and livable spaces for radical
research, education, and scholarship without being subsumed by the
publish-or-perish disciplinary apparatus?
//How can we collaboratively map and share research, information,
tactics, and cultures?
//In recognition that our conditions are a part of a larger set of
global occupations and injustices, how do we link with social
movements outside of and across the university?
This four-day event will consist of two days of conference sessions
bracketed by two days of workshops, writing collaborations, skill
shares, and plenty of time for sustained conversations among
participants. We are accepting proposals both for formal papers and
for non-conventional forms of participation.
— If you would like to present a paper, please submit an abstract and
a CV or brief biographical statement.
— If you would like to participate in another way (by leading a
workshop, facilitating a roundtable, presenting media, etc), please
submit a brief (1-2 pages) description of the proposed activity and
include what kind of resources we would need to provide, along with a
CV or brief biographical statement.
All proposals should be addressed to conference [at-n0spam] beneaththeu.org, and
must be received by January 1, 2010.
Dear Fellow Reworkers,
As you all likely know, our upcoming conference coincides with the “Reclaim Your Education – Global Week of Action 2009.” In connection with associated protests taking place around the world, we would like to collaborate on declaring our visions, strategies, and demands in a public document that we can take back to our respective local struggles. And so, in the spirit of the Situationist’s manifesto, “On the Poverty of Student Life,” our goal is to articulate:
• A vision of what education could and should be, making explicit the desire and need for political action within and beyond the university
• What it would mean to reclaim our education, strategically, tactically, and as part of our everyday practices
• An alternative framing of the university in crisis, against the supposed inevitability of the neoliberal university
• The university as a terrain of political struggles, with the aim of dismantling the corporate monopoly on higher education by reworking the university into a common for alternative political projects
While not directly political activity in the traditional sense, we believe that the Reworking and Rethinking the University conferences are capable of contributing to struggles over education taking place around the world. It is in this spirit that we hope to write a statement that captures some of the intellectual and political work that goes on at this conference in a way that can be collectively transmitted to those who did not attend the conference.
That being said, we recognize that there are considerable time restrictions which limit what can be collectively written during the course of an already busy weekend. That is why, in the run up to the conference, we’d like to invite you all to begin brainstorming ideas for this document here on our blog (click on ‘comment’ below and post your ideas via the comments section).
Beginning on the first day of the conference, we’ll post sheets of butcher paper on the wall to further collect and collaborate on our visions, strategies, and demands for reworking the university. On Sunday morning we’ll convene with these ideas to produce a manifesto and to develop plans for its dissemination. We’ll print and post online copies of it for you to distribute on your home campuses.
We look forward to collaborating with you all!
Committee on Revolutionizing the AcaDemy (ComRAD)
We made a new website for the upcoming conference, Reworking the University: Visions, Strategies, and Demands, to be held at the University of Minnesota – in Minneapolis, April 24-26th, 2009. It is a free conference and open to the public, so please feel free to attend if you are interested (see the program of presentations and events here – and logistics here). For more info, contact comradmn [at] gmail.com (and if you would like to be on the listserv for the conference, email rethinku-subscribe [at] lists.riseup.net). Please feel free to comment here with your thoughts, suggestions, critiques, etc. about the conference.
Here is another presentation from the Conference – Kathleen McConnell’s “Classes in Advanced Fantasy: A Brief History of The Free University.”
Tim Stallman (of the Counter Cartographies Collective) – “Carolina North.. mapping research, precarity, and labor in the 21st century (global) university” – (a draft of a radical comic book they are working on).
Jeff Williams (of the Minnesota Review) – “Debt Education” – “Student Debt and the Spirit of Indenture” – “Teach the University” – (three papers that were the basis of his talk – the third has a helpful bibliography of university fiction, ideas, and histories).
Some of the conference participants have graciously shared their papers with us – a few as the original paper and a few in the presentation form. Click on the links below to download them. Feel free to post comments here in response.
David Cerniglia and Heather Steffen, “Composing the University”
Lisa J. Disch and Jean M. O’Brien, “Innovation is Overtime: An Ethical Analysis of ‘Politically Committed’ Academic Labor”
Isaac Kamola and Eli Meyerhoff, “Creating Commons: Divided Governance, Participatory Management, and Struggles over the Enclosure of the University”
John Mowitt, “The Neo-liberalization of Knowledge”
Richard Ohmann, “Talk on Radical Teaching”
Zach Schwartz-Weinstein, “Without Our Brain and Muscle: NYU and the Future of the Neoliberal University”
Barbara Scott Winkler, “Laboring in the Knowledge Factory: A View from Women’s Studies”
Jess Sundin, “Labor in the Neo-liberal University”
(from Andy Cornell of NYU/GSOC):
We have some exciting news to share! Two of our allies on Capitol Hill, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Representative George Miller, have just introduced federal legislation to amend the National Labor Relations Act to grant collective bargaining rights to teaching and research assistants at private universities and colleges. Continue reading