If you read the booklet of the Centre for Cultural Studies after being at the college for more than one year, you can understand why the institution has invested in developing an image that wallpapers the reality of the college. When one finally sees the gap created by our confused expectations, the university –the institution- looks like a factory and the students become clients.
When this confused experience happens I understand two things. First, why new students-and sometimes old ones- complain about everything and try to articulate their experience of lack and frustration. Second, why the priorities –I mean, what comes first, what comes second- between teachers and students are unbalanced. The members of the staff, most of them teachers and intellectuals, need to write books, apply for funding, write and gives lectures, attend conferences, send emails and among all these duties they have to give feedback and supervise the work of their students. The teacher’s working process affects the students, who have the feeling of being isolated and with no support or guidance. Even worse, the student can sometimes feel that members of the staff do not give proper feedback. In theory, supervision and our own writing/work are intertwined. So the writing operates as a platform that defines the intensity –the quality- of the feedback.
It is still not clear to me if the lack of time or unsettled of priorities is an innovation in methodology or is just a symptom of the excess of work, lack of funding or the inevitable competition among the different department of the college to get more overseas students who pay three times more than local and Europeans ones.
However, I could understand that the Centre for Cultural Studies is in a process of development. Things are improving and will become better.
However, I suggest that if we are client-students, and the staff, teachers-managers, this double role can allow us to think and ask all the questions regarding what the Centre for Cultural Studies might be. The excess of work, confused priorities, lack of time, money and space, consumes our practices and work. Therefore, any question about the Centre for Cultural Studies and our commitment and responsibility towards our research and practices, can not be answered if the excess that we face within Goldsmiths is not considered.
I heard that in this workshop there is a concern regarding the dichotomy between theory-practice. On the one hand, how is it possible to re-think and return to new ways of action (e.g. activism); and on the other hand, consider the shift that practice is thought as production of theory. I mean, that action is related to the creation of new concepts.
Considering this discussion I propose the creation of a laboratory of minor poetics that will be able to face the tension of this struggle, in order to deal with the following paradox: vita contemplativa (action as thought) and vida activa (action as production of strikes).
Basically, this laboratory could be a way to deal with the questions about agency when thought in relation to the tension between contemplation and action. I suggest that to think this tension will move us to the sources of what commitment means. Not only related to our own practices and work, but rather to the contexts that we are facing every day e.g. being busy manager-teacher-intellectuals and clients-and full-part-part time survivors students in London.
I do not have a clear answer as to how to give room for this laboratory. However, I like to think this possible space in the articulation of a value -rather than proposing a new seminar, another activity, a new event- that can give room to some aspects of life that give agency to our thought and practice. These aspects of life should not be assumed and reduced to a social category that would distance itself from the notion of everyday life and informal spaces.
May be this should be think thought as an articulation of new principles for the Centre for Cultural Studies. I mean to add the latter in the booklet and the postgraduate programmes of the Centre.
To conclude, I do think that we need to build new platforms. But, every new platform should be defined considering the real conditions of our system, the Centre, the staff and students. Basically, taking into consideration the excess that we have to deal with.
I think that the writing workshop was a good idea and allowed to raise questions about how to write an essay and a dissertation. How to structure the sections and chapters of a thesis. Models of writing. I know that if we define too much, you close possibilities. However, we do not have to be afraid to define creative guides and encounters to facilitate and open up our work.
I was thinking of the edition and production of an experimental platform that could be a journal, magazine or a website. For me, this means a platform that allows us to articulate better how to listen and read our own work. I mean a space that creates a dialog first among us, then a dialog with others. A platform is not an open collage to paste our work randomly. Rather, it is a space that has to be able to dramatize and unfold who we are. I see this platform in minor terms, like a gym to exercise our thoughts. I was thinking of a place that includes different languages, that gathers what is collected over a period of time, I mean not with a schedule, like numbers per years, and also edited in different formats, depending on the material that we have: it could be a DVD, a CD room, a newspaper, a proper journal.
For me it is very important that every step in relation to the production of new spaces should be negotiated with the headquarters, because this sort of projects requires funding, management and different types of support.
Cristobal Bianchi – London, 3rd June 2008