The invitation’s argument that critical university studies “is haunted by its allegiance to a ‘crisis consensus’ fueled by nostalgia for the apogee of the postwar public mass university” does not accurately describe CUS’s most exemplary works. In Jeffrey J. Williams’s 2012 Chronicle of Higher Education article that tried to label two decades of scholarship critical […]
The university is already being abolished. On whose terms will abolition occur? Necessarily, the university-as-such (the ideal institution to which all actually-existing institutions genuflect) will be abolished by the very system that it helped to reproduce: neoliberal, financialized, (neo)colonial, cis-heteropatriatchal racial capitalism. As the Invitation makes clear, this has occurred at a number of points throughout the history of the university. What is being built today in the ruins is a vehicle for racialized social sorting, a laboratory for new forms of labour exploitation, and a machine for encumbering a whole (re-)proletarianized generation with unpayable debts. Yet is another end of the academic world possible? What would it take to seize this moment of crisis and transition and leverage it towards collective liberation? What are the pivot-points of such a leveraging? Or is the strategy one of exodus?
I am no soldier, but i will wage war. I know the intricate wiring of this network, the rear entry to his house, the motherfucker’s parking spot.
A response by Sara Motta to “Abolitionist University Studies: An Invitation” Click here to watch a video of Sara Motta’s lecture, “The (im)possibility of Decolonising the University.” The main lecture is from about 7:00 to 46:10 minutes, followed by Q&A. This lecture was given at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam (The […]
Abolitionist University Studies: An Invitation is the text I wish I had when I finished my MA program in higher education and began my doctoral program in educational foundations six years ago. Even more intensely than Critical University Studies, higher education as a field of study is invested in the intrinsic benevolence of the university. While universities are hardly presumed to be perfect, the assumption of the field is they can and should be reformed, and the field-imaginary is shaped by an imperative of continual progress and inclusion. The idea that universities might be so entangled with racial capitalist violence and extractive ecocidal practices that they are beyond reform is, essentially, unthinkable.
I began my work in this area with a particular interest in problematizing narratives that framed neoliberal capitalism as the root of all contemporary problems with higher education and lacked a longer historical memory about the problem of capitalism itself in higher education. I found the field of higher education generative in many ways, but overall inhospitable to the kinds of conversations that I was seeking, and the kinds of questions I had but could not yet clearly articulate. Thus, I turned to Indigenous, Black, and anti-colonial scholarship in an effort to ask what a decolonizing and abolitionist perspective could bring to the study of higher education. This work offered important analytical tools for deconstructing both scholarly and popular imaginaries of higher education. In particular, it prompted me to think about what continued to go unthought in the study of universities – especially, as the authors of this text note, its “shifting regimes of accumulation that constitute the university as such.”
Ultimately, what started as a concern about the limitations of my own field became a more generalized “radar” for the unthought, including within radical scholarship. This is an imperative to both continue to make visible what we would rather not see, and to continue with a Spivakian commitment to undertake a “persistent critique of what we cannot not want.” It is in this spirit, and from a place of deep gratitude and respect for the conveners of this gathering and authors of this abolitionist text, that I put forward two possible (and, in my mind, related) topics of conversation for further collective consideration: the psycho-affective dimensions of abolitionist work, and its pedagogical challenges.
With this response I foreground histories of white nationalism on campus. In my forthcoming book, University Babylon: Film and Race Politics on Campus, I also start with Wilder’s work as a prologue to the story of US universities in the early 20th century.
I further build on Forgeries of Memory and Meaning, Cedric Robinson’s film history, to analyze the symbolic and institutional collaborations between Hollywood filmmak¬ers and university administrators. Together, cinematic and educational institutions have promoted a synthesis of misogyny, racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, and deference to authority under the umbrella of white nationalist respectability.
Read our Invitation to Abolitionist University Studies Help us plan for the event in Durham, NC on Oct. 11-12, 2019 by registering at this Eventbrite link. More info about the program is coming soon! Poster by Amanda Priebe