Things to do – research council wish list

piratesofthecaribbean2_trailer_41As part of my job, late Wednesday evening, I am filling out a ‘response form’ for an Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘consultation’. I include it here as I expect this draft not to get past the photocopier… The consultation form asks, in somewhat bureaucratic survey format, for me to opine on things that might be good to do if one had the ear of the research councils. Obviously this is a task in delicate expectation hampering, utopia limiting, reality conscious compromise. And surely I am not the best person to be quizzed for viable schemes – heaven forbid. Yet how about we do some things like:

a) a Global Politics Institute. Such an institute could be based on the sort of thing we write in the Goldsmiths MA Postcolonial brochure which addresses: ‘The emergence of China and India as global players; of the Persian Gulf, Africa, Brazil and Russia as hubs in the world resource economy; the crisis of the nation-state, and phenomenon of ‘failed states’, and the development global governance; the rise of global terrorism after 9/11 and geo-political instability in the Middle East; the snowballing of the metropolitan credit-crunch into global financial meltdown’ Such an institute would investigate issues of intellectual property rights, social capital, financialisation, global governance, democracy and secularism. An institute like this would deal with issues ranging from the representation of terrorism and fear to images of poverty and charity (double standards) in Asia and Africa; from questions popular democracy and people’s movements in India and Latin America to the volatile debates over human rights in China and over the environment in South East Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia). It would be an important forum for shaping intelligent debates with intellectual rigour and a rounded – can I say wholesome – approach to life and struggles.

b) An Art and Politics Institute. This would be an exciting move because, as the Goldsmiths MA Art and Politics website suggests, this would recognise ‘the appeal within arts colleges, and among art students, to ‘situate’ practice in terms of current contemporary discourse has increasingly led to the incorporation of political and social theory into art school courses’. It would, as also noted, ‘investigate shifts in the relationship between art and politics – theoretically, historically and operationally. Using a diverse range of discourses, the programme will consider, from a variety of perspectives, changes in the relationship between politics and art’. Good stuff.

c) a Centre for the Study of Alternative Futures would support research around climate issues, anti-capitalism, syndicalism, autonomous Marxism, new communism etc. The success of the recent Birkbeck ‘Idea of Communism’ conference – with 800 delegates on each of the three days – suggests a massive untapped potential for a politically relevant philosophy. AHRC could take the lead on this, to its great credit.

What else:

Foster a critical intelligence, a rampant creativity that is more than just cramming.

Reverse the tendency towards conformity.

Against vocationalization of the curriculum.

The push (obsession) to regulate training by research councils has been a disaster I think. Departments doing flips and twists to appear to provide a comprehensive training that is frankly not suited to purpose. It cannot be – there is no uniform code for research at PhD level. The production of a common bland formulaic (quality assured) set of inanities simply does not produce the kind of curiosity, creativity and inspiration that is required for the research we want our students to achieve. Rather, fund existing researchers to pass on experience by example, not how-to sessions called ‘how to type a bibliography’ or ‘mock celebrity 101: publicizing your research in the press’.

Promote dissemination of ideas by encouraging and funding open source journal access, universal distribution of print and electronic resources (beyond the universities as well) an end to the prohibitive costs for journal subscriptions, support for alternative publishing, weblogs, print on demand and the like. The development of adequate public libraries….

Conduct a serious public forum in each university (Bombard the HQ) – as a regular event on each calendar – exposing core aims and objectives of research and the research councils to critical public evaluation. Invite profs and people from all walks of life to an open-ended, ongoing, policy making (ie., empowered to enact funded policies) long-term, reflexive debate about what a research council or university researchers ought to be doing.

Topics for discussion:

– complications of Govt funding v. autonomy/academic freedom

– how might the centre v margin privilege of research, in all its forms, be undone

– race, class and gender bias in research/academia

– vernacular research and researchers

– concept of a community university, solidarity with universities destroyed or hampered by war, such as in Palestine.

– experimental/inspirational futures

– art and politics

– postcolonial…

Run a campaign for unrestricted transfer of academic personnel between countries. Reverse the damages caused by the new points based immigration system and other restrictions on international travel. A national campaign against the requirement that academics take on the work of the UK Border authorities, turning academic relationships into acts of surveillance and distrust.

Reward internationalism, don’t punish it.

Better meals, more coffee, a decent bookshop…

ahh, this is getting silly – its late, lets go do something useful…