Saturday, Apr. 28, 11:20-12:50 Session 2

SS2102, Amphitheatre

The Organization of the University: Social Struggles Within Neoliberalization (II)

Heath Schultz (University of Iowa)
Over-production of MFAs 

In this presentation I’ll try to connect the ways in which an imagined artistic autonomy and anti-capitalist political possibilities are undercut and recuperated by disciplining within professionalizing practices of the university. In conjunction with debt and academic hyper-competitiveness, this disciplining results in a stifled political practice that can only appear to maintain some integrity as being independent of capitalist / institutional persuasions. This is perhaps what distinguishes the MFA program from other graduate programs—that the artist is supposedly able to maintain some semblance of autonomy from the manipulative forces of a hierarchical university. But more importantly, it seems this imagined autonomy often results in MFA students willfully engaging in a valorizing process that forces cultural production into mere marketable styles, be it explicitly sold in a gallery or disciplined for a tidy discursive academic practice, have devastating affects on a radical cultural practice.

Heath Schultz is mostly a researcher who sometimes finds ways to make his thinking public. Interested in understanding the relationship between radical politics and cultural production, he reads, thinks, writes, makes zines, edits readers, and whatever else seems appropriate. He is currently a graduate student at University of Iowa where he struggles to balance a practice between activism, production, and theorizing. Some of his work can be viewed on his website:

Patrick Cunninghame (Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, Mexico/SITUAM trade union)
Cognitive capitalism, economic crisis and conflicts around knowledge production in the Mexican University

 Drawing upon my experience as a sociology lecturer, trade unionist, activist and researcher in a Mexico City public university, this paper will explore the current situation in the Mexican university system as the conflicts around knowledge production, sharing and use intensify and crystallize around the question of democratization and in opposition to a gathering neoliberal offensive to privatize the public university and promote the private university by stealth and through the marginalization of localized students movements as part of the Calderon government’s strategy for the criminalization of all social protest. As part of a research project comparing cognitive capitalism, immaterial labor and conflicts in the university over knowledge production in Mexico and Italy, the paper draws on a theoretical framework influenced and informed by the discussions in the Edu-factory and Uninomade lists, which have centered around the “dual crisis” of the public university and the indebtedness of both students and other university workers as central to global capital’s strategy of producing a cheap and controllable “cognitariat” in order to resolve the profound structural weaknesses exposed by the economic depression which started in 2008. In empirical terms, the paper seeks to explain some of the most salient events in Mexico and Latin America during 2011, particularly the students and trade union movements for university democratization in Mexico.

Sociology lecturer and member of the independent SITUAM trade union at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana – Xochimilco,Dep. de Relaciones Sociales

Jamie Magnusson (University of Toronto)
Financialization and the Organization of Learning and Labour

By now, many writers have provided analyses of the effects of neoliberal policy on higher education (e.g., Currie & Newson, 1998; Slaugher & Rhoades, 2004). However, relatively few writers have explored how the financialization of neoliberal capitalism has been reshaping higher education (e.g., Beverungen, Dunne, & Hoedmaeker, 2009). ‘Financialization’ refers to the increasing importance of financial markets and financial institutions in the sum total of national and international economic activity (Dore, 2002). Other writers describe financialization in terms of the increasing importance of the stock market and differential accumulation dynamics, citing the Nixon shock as a key historical moment (e.g., Bichler & Nitzan, 2004). In my paper I examine  how these dynamics are reshaping the organization of learning and labour within postsecondary education, with a special focus on classed intersections of gender and race. Key themes include precarity, debt, surveillance, and security.


Beyond the University: Autonomous Education Initiatives (I)

Anthony Meza-Wilson (University of British Columbia)
Educational Projects for Decolonization: Anarchist Allyship and Resistance Education in the Americas

This presentation considers movement schools for decolonization in the Americas including such projects as: autonomous schools, free skools/free universities, and indigenous community-based educational projects. In her book Red Pedagogy, Sandy Grande outlines how critical pedagogy, with its foundation in Marxist theory, has failed to adequately address the educational issues faced by indigenous people on Turtle Island. This paper is an examination of the ways in which Anarchist educational theories and projects both succeed and fail in addressing Grande’s criticisms. Examples from historical and current educational projects that contextualize Anarchism and decolonization in real-world struggles demonstrate the practical aspects of building a movement for a decolonizing Anarchist education. Such projects include: Indigenous Free School, Unsettling Minnesota at the Experimental College of the Twin Cities, the EZLN educación autónoma, among others. Special attention will be paid to the relationship between Anarchist educational projects and the cultivation of Anarchist allyship for decolonization through education.

The Free School Movement in Montreal

In Montreal, there is a growing movement to decommodify learning. Many groups are offering courses, workshops, skill-share gatherings, conferences and public discussions free of cost. These groups are challenging the dominant modus operandi of funding policies set forth by the Quebec government. The Quebec University Funding Plan in the 2011-2012 Quebec Budget outlines that students, donors and corporations are expected to provide increased financial support for universities. This will be achieved through a significant tuition increase (75% over 5 years for Quebec students), reliance on corporate donations and negotiating public private partnerships. Alternatively, community-learning initiatives are offering their programs without relying on funding from private corporations or charging user fees. This paper focuses on these community-learning initiatives by addressing how these projects can be sustainable over time and how to develop the free school model as a viable alternative to the current education system. To answer these questions, I took two approaches. First, I conducted interviews with six groups in Montreal who currently offer free education programs. These groups consist of the Ayllu, Université de la Terre, Cinema Politica, University of the Streets Café, Université Populaire, and Q-PIRG Concordia. In addition, by following a research in action model, I partook in the creation of the Alternative University Project2 (a free, non-hierarchical school that provides courses and workshops to the community of Montreal). The Alternative University Project began in December 2011 and is already offering several courses. In this paper, I provide an overall assessment of the various funding models used by each of the different projects. I conclude by suggesting ways by which community-learning programs can be successfully implemented, for free.

Richard Day (Queen’s University)
The University as Intentional Community

This presentation will focus on what might be called the ‘public non-state’ educational sector, that is, autonomous experiments in creating alternatives to the neoliberal university. I will advance the argument that, in order to create more sustainable institutions, it will be necessary to wean ourselves from dependence upon state and corporate funding and control – hence the term ‘autonomous’, and hence the necessity of seeing the university as an intentional community – a place where a life is lived – rather than as a place where one has a ‘career’ or merely passes through to gain a credential.  I will talk about some existing experiments that I’m aware of, and discuss some of the perils and possibilities of this kind of model. The specific outcomes in which I am interested are: (1) greater shared knowledge of those involved in experiments of this sort and (2) starting more experiments!


Chris Dixon and Alexis Shotwell
Imagining life beyond the tenure carrot and the adjunct stick: a Collective Conversation

Many of us labouring in the academy experience a profound contradiction between the realities of our daily lives and the aspirations we are trained to hold: we see the shift toward precarious university labour and its implications for our careers, and simultaneously we find ourselves called to believe that we can (and should) get tenure-track jobs if we only work hard enough. This workshop will create a collective space to explore the frequently individualized questions that come out of this contradiction, what kinds of strategies we are developing, and how we can create (and are creating) scholarly lives through and against academe. This session is for graduate students, sessionals, academic drop-outs, potential grad students, precarious academic workers, tenure-track faculty, and others interested in imagining how to collectively move beyond the tenure carrot and the adjunct stick.

Chris Dixon (chrisd @ is a longtime organizer, writer, and educator with a PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Dixon is currently completing a book based on interviews with anti-authoritarian organizers across the U.S. and Canada involved in broader-based movements. He serves on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, the advisory board for the radical journal Upping the Anti, and the copyediting crew for the activist magazine Left Turn. Dixon lives in Sudbury, Ontario, where he is involved with anti-poverty and indigenous solidarity organizing.

Alexis Shotwell (alexis @ is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. Her academic work addresses racial formation, unspeakable and unspoken knowledge, sexuality, gender, and political transformation. Her engagement in political struggle focuses on queer liberation, indigenous solidarity, ending war, and feminist community education. Her written work has appeared in Hypatia, Sociological Theory, Upping the Anti, and book collections. She has recently completed a book entitled Knowing Otherwise: Implicit Understanding and Political Change (Penn State Press, 2011).

One response to “Saturday, Apr. 28, 11:20-12:50 Session 2

  1. Pingback: Draft Program (as of March 21) | The University is Ours!

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