Mao on Professors in 1958 (22 March) talks at Chengtu (p116-7 Talks and letters):
… ‘Naturally, we cannot go out tomorrow and beat them up … we have to make friends with them’
Join us this Saturday 25th of September as we continue to disturb Ahava’s unlawful business, which profits from the sale of stolen goods manufactured in an illegal settlement in the West Bank.
The fascist English Defence League and the zionist federation have promised to show their support for the state of israel, hence this call for a mass mobilisation!
Bring flags (Palestinian and Irish), banners and friends,
In solidarity, Free Palestine Activists, London
Saturday 25th September, 12pm-2pm outside Ahava, 39 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9DD, close to Leicester Square tube station.
For some time now, with varied success and certainly with lively consequences still yet to be fully implemented, we have been discussing the future of research and teaching in CCS at Goldsmiths (see the Attack the headquarters link in the sidebar). All that has been great and the enthusiasm and engagement impressive. I’ve even heard that students in other colleges in London have ‘wished’ they also had the same chance to debate research futures. Well, be careful, it seems now that we are not the only ones with such bright ideas. UCL has a rather different style and tone, and they are further able to advertise for a Senior Post (Vice provost) to implement their plan, but they are on the way towards something pretty special:
A new initiative has been launched today to engage the entire UCL community in discussion of possible future research themes for the university.
UCL Research Challenges invites UCL academic staff, non-academic staff, students and alumni to suggest and comment on research themes at the Research Challenges website. The aim is to inspire fresh new ideas for projects. A board composed of leading figures from academia and industry will review the best ideas and will award grants totalling £50,000 in seedcorn funding to the most promising. This is enough to get an idea off the ground – perhaps to a stage where a formalised project proposal can be put forward to research councils for full funding.
Professor Jo Wolff, head of UCL Philosophy, is the chair of the Research Challenges Board. He said: “We are really looking forward to seeing people’s ideas. UCL has great potential for interdisciplinary activities, and by opening this initiative up to everyone involved with the university, we are hoping to see where members of the community feel we should be concentrating our strengths.”
The project is divided into two main stages. The first, which begins today, is to explore themes for research activity. These could be anything from the environment to political reform, nanotechnology to agriculture – whatever areas people believe UCL should be focusing on in the 21st century. The second stage, in a month’s time, is to draw up a shortlist of themes and invite project proposals based around those themes.
Professor Wolff said: “This is a great opportunity for everyone to have their say in the future of research at UCL. We have funds to support the best ideas that emerge, so it’s well worth getting involved. Who knows – a vague idea in the back of someone’s mind could turn out to be UCL’s next great discovery!”
Community, interdisciplinarity, political reform, nano tech… vague ideas in the back of your mind… This is fantastic! And there is seedcorn funding of not insubstantial amounts on offer. But what are the challenges? Curiously enough, just a few months after the above call it seems the GRAND CHALLENGES have been identified. In the Times Higher Education Supplement of last thursday there was an ad for a new post as ‘Director of Grand Challenges’. Now there is a job title to impress. Ahh, I can almost see the business card with that emblazoned – in embossed gold – across the front (see the scene in the movie “American Psycho”).
Director of Grand Challenges
UCL is rated in the top ten universities in the world and generated �200m in research income last year. Our newly launched research strategy defines four Grand Challenges – namely Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interactions and Wellbeing.
We are now seeking a Director of Grand Challenges to lead, develop, nurture research, education, teaching and learning initiatives within each of the Grand Challenges areas, which engage broad participation within UCL.
Likely to have a background within the higher education sector, the successful candidate must be able to articulate a clear vision which will excite a diverse and multidisciplinary community both within and outside UCL. Experience of policy making and programme development is essential and you will have demonstrated success in the development of strategic responses to diverse and multidisciplinary research opportunities. Outstanding communication, interpersonal and influencing skills are essential as is the ability to deliver change through effective project management.
Heady well-remunerated stuff – dare we ask what the Grand Challenges facing Goldsmiths might be?
One of them could turn out to be childcare. It seems that there are moves afoot to outsource Goldsmiths nursery. I’m concerned by this in general, but also subjectively by dint of being a likely user of the nursery service, for the beautiful Emile (here pictured by popular demand, he’s a week and a day old in this one). Why post on this though? Well, no-one will be surprised that we suspect the rampant monster of privatization seems set to twist its knife yet again. Sure, there is no doubt subsidized childcare is far too grand a privilege in these times, but I know its not just me that sees a continuity between these micro-moments of power and the creeping routinization of every aspect of all life in the teaching factory. From the corpororate-speak that invents Challenging Directorships, to the managerialist tinkering with local services that blink blink blink: from a Union missive sent yesterday:
You may also be aware that management have decided to put out to tender Goldsmiths nursery provision. It has been decided that it is not possible to sustain a viable nursery on-site and it appears that management have identified a local council nursery off-site that may provide an additional nine places. However, many questions remain unanswered about both process and provision: did management explore all options? Did they fully consult with all user groups? Will we have guarantees about fees and places from an external nursery? UNISON (whose members work in the nursery) has now launched a petition (that UCU is supporting) that calls on Goldsmiths’ management to reconsider the future of the nursery. Copies of the petition are available in the Nursery and at the reception desks of the Richard Hoggart Building, the Library and Loring Hall. Please take a minute to go along and add your signature, and encourage colleagues to do the same. (From Goldsmiths UCU)
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
Since the last Attack the Headquarters I have been thinking about the nature of work… especially with all the discussions about theory, practice, vocational and educational issues.
To start with a provocation: When Stanley Aronowitz spoke a few weeks ago, he mentioned that he saw part of his role as an academic as finding his students jobs. Perhaps if this happened here, students would be less likely to be bought out by Unilever…… how about it John?!
On a more realistic (?) note I was excited by the idea that the workers enquiries that have been written through the MA’s Marx module be published in some form, and I would be very happy to be involved with this.
Over the last year I have also been slowly producing some art works that are loosely connected to the theme of ‘work’, and at the back of my mind, have wondered about organising an exhibition in order to show them.
Thinking about collective activity, it occurred to me that these two projects might fit well together. Perhaps an exhibition somewhere in the local area could provide a platform for distributing a newspaper type publication of workers enquiries, films, discussions and debates (about the nature of work in a wide sense from meaningful activity to wage labour?) and workshops with local community groups. Local working history of the area could be explored, or people excluded from working such as asylum seekers be involved. Perhaps this would in some way be connected to the mapping of Goldsmiths and the local area that we have been talking about or just be a parallel event…..
I have to admit that I have far more doubts and questions than certainties or answers about how the whole socio-economic paradigm opened by the creative industries should be addressed by cultural studies. The public discourse around the creative industries officially appeared in the UK in about 1996 and was heavily endorsed by New Labour related think tanks (such as DEMOS), to be later introduced by government as a model for economic development; now, twelve years later, academia has introduced the creative industries as a subject matter and this has opened many questions that I believe we should address. How are we going to relate to this economic paradigm? What kind of approaches are best suited to deal with the different conceptual issues raised? What kind of workers are we going to prepare? These are some doubts among others that need to be raised. Along the following lines I will try to address some of these questions, trying to reflect on my situation (and double condition) as both a researcher and worker in the field.
We must not forget that the whole creativity discourse was strongly associated with the neoliberalization of the economy, and it emerged as a solution to a number of economic problems raised by the industrial decline and restructuration by part of a conservative government. This was accompanied by an ever growing privatization of culture and its transformation into a leisure focused industry. The creative industries were born as a promise of economic development, as a tool for urban regeneration, as a means for social cohesion and as a sustainable economic model designed to be the basis of the city’s economies. The discourse was also deployed as a way to formalize a big workforce constituted by people collaborating with self-orgs, artists, graphic designers, activists, video game players and people involved in a number of non-profitable cultural activities.
Now, almost 12 years later some voices have been raised alerting us that the estimate growth figures launched by the DCMS were slightly more optimistic that what the facts have shown us. In the report published by the GLA named ‘London’s creative sector:2007 Update’ a different picture has emerged. The creative industries that were conceived to offer work opportunities to a workforce that had been made redundant by the industrial restructuration that took place in the 80’s, only were accomplished this mission on a steady level during the first years that the model was implemented. The study shows us how from the years 2001 to 2005 there was an important downturn in jobs in the creative sector. The initial estimates and targets were never met. The growth projections for the sector were widely overestimated and by no means have the creative industries taken the economic lead in the cities, which depend strongly on the financial, banking and touristic sectors. The year 2005 saw a raise in jobs created in the sector but the DCMS included in this survey creative people who work in non-creative industries (such as a musician teaching maths in a high school).
In a recent talk given by one of DEMOS’ founders, Geoff Mulgan (MIK, 2007), he made it clear that the economic future of the developed nations lied in the health and education sectors, leaving the creative industries way behind in the list of economic sectors. Also we see that with the introduction of schemes of social innovation and mass participation (Wikipedia, Youtube, etc.), society as a whole is starting to be conceived as a creative industry. Citizens are producing FREE contents for televisions, radio stations, magazines, newspapers, etc. This opens a big question that the sector needs to face, because, if society is outsourcing contents for the entertainment and creative sectors, what are cultural workers expected to produce? There is no doubt that with the strong critique to expertise and a growth of a DIY culture, creativity will be displaced from the hands of a few to the bodies of all the members of society.
With its natural delay academia is not only addressing the creative industries from a critical point of view, but has developed a number of courses aimed at generating creative workers ready to jump into the sector. The first question I think we should address concerns the role that the CCS has and how can it relate to the creative industries. Are we here to analyze, critique or to prepare a critical workforce ready to enter the creative sector? Being slightly more pessimistic I think that we could also consider if the sector really does need highly specialized intellectual theorists or if instead it demands people happy to cut and paste and network for long hours been paid low salaries. I believe that once this is clearly addressed, it becomes easier to understand the role that such a subject matter has in contemporary academia and the role that cultural studies can adopt in relation to the field.
To analyze critically the creative industries discourse, cultural studies stands in a perfect position and has a big number of tools and resources ready to be deployed. Its history as a discipline (and as a site for the critical analysis of culture) and its interdisciplinary nature seems to set out an extraordinary framework that can help us to understand the creative industries and their social and economic implications. This can be made from many perspectives; we can use many sociological works that have enquired into the labor conditions, gender roles and social implications of the sector in society. Philosophy has also many interesting insights to offer, starting from the Frankfurt School to more recent authors such as Paolo Virno or Maurizio Lazaratto, who have tried to define the aesthetic and moral dimensions attached to cultural work. Marxist cultural analysts have also reflected on the emerging values attributed to culture, its transformation into a commodity or how it is now envisaged as a resource ready to be exploited by urban planners, city developers, diplomatic agents, etc. The ever growing economic role of culture cannot be taken for granted, culture has entered the economy, but the economy has also culturalized itself. Even though, we must evaluate to what extent can these disciplines help to create a critical workforce ready to enter the sector. We must also ask ourselves if the creative enterprises are interested in hiring critical subjects, I am not that sure that there is a clear answer to this question.
One of the conclusions that I have reached with my work on the creative sector is that it comes to a point in which work and life merge to such a degree that they booth end up being the same. No longer can one distinguish when he or she is working or having fun, when she is networking or just having a chat. In most cases the creative career and the life of the worker end up being the same. This is the reason why I believe that we need to work on an approach able to combine a theoretical but also a practical dimension. This must lead towards a theory of work and life, aimed at addressing a life of work. I think that one of the challenges that the cultural studies is currently facing has to do with stopping to think about work, to instead start thinking through work. I have recently grown an interest on forms of analysis that seem to have become redundant but from which I believe there is still much to be learned from. Some of these include the militant polls carried out by the Operaist activists in Italy during the sixties and early seventies. One of the first activists to use this type of tools was Karl Marx who on 1881 carried out a poll for the Reveu Socialiste in France. These surveys do not aim to interview workers, but to trigger conversations with workers. They do not seek to find answers, but to pose questions that are negotiated between the interviewer and the worker on a collective act of reflection. Recently Antonio Conti from Posse Magazine put it this way “if we accept that the poll, understood as a linguistic work, as the construction of a place in which to talk, to recount and to exchange experiences, constitutes a place for the immediate construction of conscience and a site for communist organization, we see how it becomes a perfect instrument to intervene in contemporary issues, now that linguistic, relational and communicational work has become completely hegemonic”.
I believe that we should consider cultural projects as critical enterprises, and as such, every decision made, every step taken will have important consequences. But how far can academia not think about creative enterprises but think through them? To what degree can a cultural enterprise constitute a space for the production of knowledge and as a critical evaluation of itself? I believe we should consider these questions collectively. Some of the constitutive elements of a cultural project can be addressed and be used as tools for reflection. I believe that intellectual property should not be thought as a set of given laws or as a framework in which to develop work, but as an essential part of any project, it must be carefully thought as a possible space for critical speculation which will infer a specific set of qualities to any given work. We should stop analyzing IP as a subject matter but rethink our works through the porous and undetermined aspects that this legal framework offers. The economic sustainability of a project, its ecological impact, its social benefits or its life span are all questions that can be addressed critically, but also tools that can be used as a space for analytical speculation.
I am fully aware that cultural studies can help us to gain a deep understanding of culture, but this is the moment in which we must question ourselves about the extent to which these can help to think industrial matters. Can someone run a company with the knowledge obtained from an MA in cultural studies? Can this knowledge be compared to that provided by an MBA? I myself keep asking this question thinking about my work, I am really not sure that I am better equipped to run a company than someone trained in management, economics, law… I believe that after going through a MA in cultural studies I am in a better equipped to think about contents, or to have a better awareness of some socio-economic issues involved in cultural production. But I must fit my ability to create contents into the reality of the sector which is suffering a displacement: creative industries are no longer product or objects producers, they are becoming service providers. Concluding, I believe that we should focus on a direction in which cultural studies stop thinking about work, but start thinking through business models, energy consumption, work structures or labor relations, evaluating the impact that each of these decisions will have in the sector and how it will affect the rest of the world.
In the attack the headquarter events there were voices asking for changes. Some were exited, some were frustrated, some were content, some were dissatisfied. What could we make out of that? What comes next after the head quarter was attacked? What if there remains another headquarter with a new dress?
Did we just create something that further justifies our existence and our way of being? We, teaching staff and students, are all fulfilling the request of institutions, since we have been codified by a series of formats, phd seminars, reading groups, exams, panels. The way the programs are planned and carried out already determine our ways of being and codify our identities – both as individuals and as an institution.
We appreciate all the discussions during the 12 hours meeting, we are also impressed by most of the insightful critiques. The wishes for changes, transformations, and twists were, however, not common wishes. They did not have a goal, a direction, or a unified identity. What comes next is still a question?
This is where we can start. Instead of thinking of how to improve teaching and learning, we want to think from the perspective of community. Institution itself brings us into being, but there lies another concern of “being with”, which has more to do with interaction, communication. This does not mean coming behind one cause, under one banner, but it means being together after we have come together. The task is not to define a common goal or to change the institution, because we are the goal and we are the institution.
We are writing to invite your participation to a project, which aims at a more radical way of rethinking the event. We have only one proposition to make: WE HAVE TO TAKE OVER THE CENTRE TOGETHER. The only way to attack the headquarter, is to abolish the headquarter. We, the students and those staff members who are willing to, should take over the planning and the building of the centre (not the money or the jobs) – for one year as an experiment. To “Take over” is not to replace the headquarter, or seize the power, but to conquest the headquarter with a new form of communication – through being together, and starting our thinking as well as our learning all over again each day. There is no power to be seized, there is only power to be or to do.
We look for a communication, which transforms the relations between educator and educatee from a subject-object relation into a process of active sharing of knowledge, experience and intuition. It means deconstructing the hierarchies and identities we have voluntarily taken as students and teachers, as experts and non-experts. We can start it as a project. We can call it minoritarian thinking. We can call it learning with each others, instead of from others.
What are the questions to be asked? Maybe we should not have any predetermined way to do things, we should not do anything if we do not want it. We can ask, who should plan the MA and PhD programs? Do we want a PhD seminar? If we do, who should plan it – the students or the staff, or both? Do we want to read in the seminars, or do we want to start our thinking from somewhere else? How can students take part in the research? How can we make students contribute, give, instead of taking or receiving? How could students run the centre together with the staff, or how can we abolish these identities altogether?
You can say that we have already asked these questions, that we already have more freedom than many others. But our task is to ask, whether this really is the case… Let’s ask ourselves: why do we have readers waiting for us when we enrol; why does the staff know what the students are doing but the students do not know what the staff is doing.
As we all know, the main obstacle for changes in the academia has traditionally been the common reluctance to give up the structures of power and authorities. If we have any trust at all in the CCS, we must believe this cannot be the case here. In other words, this is not supposed to be a student revolt, but creating a coming community for all of us at the CCS.
We, the initiators, call for everyone to take over our thinking, as an opening but not as a ready-made program. We do not have any answers to your questions: the communication should start here: we want to here your responses and meet you next week at Laurie Grove. Meanwhile, all those interested, please, contact us or use the newborn wiki: ccsgold.pbwiki.com