University K
1st- The 1ac hopes to awaken critical consciousness via free speech, the question of
the negative is where does that awakening take place? In academia? In debate? The
silence of the affirmative on this question is problematic—the university structure is
not neutral- relying on the university space creates contanment
Harney and Moten 13. Stefano Harney, Professor of Strategic Management Education at the Lee
Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University and a co-founder of the School for
Study and Fred Moten, Helen L. Bevington Professor of Modern Poetry at Duke University, “Politics
Surrounded,” The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, pg. 41
one comes face to face with the roots of professional and criti- cal commitment to negligence, to the
depths of the impulse to deny the thought of the internal outside among critical intellectuals, and the
necessity for professionals to question without question. What- ever else they do, critical intellectuals who have found
space in the university are always already performing the denial of the new society when they deny the undercommons,
when they find that space on the surface of the university, and when they join the conquest denial by
improving that space. Before they criticise the aesthetic and the Aes- thetic, the state and the State,
history and History, they have already practiced the operation of denying what makes these categories
pos- sible in the underlabor of their social being as critical academics. The slogan on the Left, then,
“universities, not jails,” marks a choice that may not be possible. In other words, perhaps more universities
promote more jails. Perhaps it is necessary finally to see that the uni- versity produces incarceration as the
product of its negligence. Perhaps there is another relation between the University and the Prison – be- yond simple
opposition or family resemblance – that the undercom- mons reserves as the object and inhabitation of another
abolitionism. What might appear as the professionalization of the American uni- versity, our starting point, now might better be understood as a cer- tain intensification of method in the Universitas, a tightening of
the circle. Professionalization cannot take over the American university – it is the critical approach of the
university, its Universitas. And in- deed, it appears now that this state with its peculiar violent hegemony must deny
what Foucault called in his 1975-76 lectures the race war. War on the commitment to war breaks open the memory
of the con- quest. The new American studies should do this, too, if it is to be not just a people’s history
of the same country but a movement against the possibility of a country, or any other; not just property
justly distrib- uted on the border but property unknown. And there are other spaces situated between the Universitas and the undercommons, spaces that are
characterized precisely by not having space. Thus the fire aimed at black studies by everyone from William Bennett to Henry Louis
Gates Jr., and the proliferation of Centers without affiliation to the memory of the conquest, to its living
guardianship, to the protection of its honor, to the nights of labor, in the undercommons. The university,
then, is not the opposite of the prison, since they are both involved in their way with the reduction and
command of the social individual. And indeed, under the circumstances, more uni- versities and fewer prisons would, it has
to be concluded, mean the memory of the war was being further lost, and living unconquered,
conquered labor abandoned to its lowdown fate. Instead, the under- commons takes the prison as a secret
about the conquest, but a secret, as Sara Ahmed says, whose growing secrecy is its power, its ability to
keep a distance between it and its revelation, a secret that calls into being the prophetic, a secret held
in common, organized as secret, calling into being the prophetic organization.
2nd- the academy is a space that excludes the undercommons- many don’t have
functional access to free speech. This independently no solves the aff- critical
education becomes co-opted onto replicating wage labor
Harney and Moten 13. Stefano Harney, Professor of Strategic Management Education at the Lee
Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University and a co-founder of the School for
Study and Fred Moten, Helen L. Bevington Professor of Moden Poetry, “Politics Surrounded,” The
Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, pg. 29
Like the colonial police force recruited un- wittingly
from guerrilla neighborhoods, university labor may harbor refugees, fugitives, renegades, and
castaways. But there are good rea- sons for the university to be confident that such elements will be exposed or forced underground. Precautions have been taken, book lists have been drawn up, teaching
observations conducted, invitations to contribute made. Yet against these precautions stands the immanence of transcendence, the necessary
deregulation and the possibilities of criminality and fugitivity that labor upon labor requires. Maroon communities of composition teachers,
mentorless graduate students, adjunct Marxist historians, out or queer management professors, state
college ethnic studies departments, closed-down film programs, visa- expired Yemeni student
newspaper editors, historically black college sociologists, and feminist engineers. And what will the
university say of them? It will say they are unprofessional. This is not an arbitrary charge. It is the charge against the
more than professional. How do those who exceed the profession, who exceed and by exceeding escape, how do those maroons problematize themselves, problematize the university, force the university
to consider them a problem, a dan- ger? The undercommons is not, in short, the kind of fanciful com- munities of whimsy invoked by Bill Readings at the end of
his book. The undercommons, its maroons, are always at war, always in hiding. The maroons know something about
possibility. They are the condi- tion of possibility of the production of knowledge in the university – the singularities against
the writers of singularity, the writers who write, publish, travel, and speak. It is not merely a matter of the secret labor upon which such
space is lifted, though of course such space is lifted from collective labor and by it. It is rather that to be
a critical academic in the university is to be against the university, and to be against the university is
always to recognize it and be recognized by it, and to institute the negligence of that internal outside,
that unas- similated underground, a negligence of it that is precisely, we must insist, the basis of the
professions. And this act of being against al- ways already excludes the unrecognized modes of politics,
the beyond of politics already in motion, the discredited criminal para-organiza- tion, what Robin Kelley might refer to as
Introducing this labor upon labor, and providing the space for its de- velopment, creates risks.
the infrapolitical field (and its music). It is not just the labor of the maroons but their prophetic organization that is negated by the idea of intellectual space in an organization called the
This is why the negligence of the critical academic is always at the same time an assertion of
bourgeois individualism. Such negligence is the essence of professionalization where it turns out professionalization is not the
opposite of negligence but its mode of politics in the United States. It takes the form of a choice that excludes the prophetic
organization of the undercommons – to be against, to put into question the knowledge object, let us say in this case the university, not so much without touching its founda- tion, as without
a general negligence of condition is
the only coherent position. Not so much an antifoundationalism or foundationalism, as both are used against each other to avoid contact with the undercom- mons.
This always-negligent act is what leads us to say there is no distinction between the university in the
United States and profes- sionalization. There is no point in trying to hold out the university against its
professionalization. They are the same. Yet the maroons refuse to refuse professionalization, that is, to be
against the uni- versity. The university will not recognize this indecision, and thus professionalization is
shaped precisely by what it cannot acknowl- edge, its internal antagonism, its wayward labor, its
touching one’s own condition of possibility, with- out admitting the Undercommons and being admitted to it. From this,
surplus. Against this wayward labor it sends the critical, sends its claim that what is left beyond the
critical is waste. But in fact, critical education only attempts to perfect professional education. The professions constitute
themselves in an opposition to the unregulated and the ignorant without acknowledging the unreg- ulated, ignorant, unprofessional labor that goes on not opposite them but within them. But
if professional education ever slips in its labor, ever reveals its condition of possibility to the professions
it supports and reconstitutes, critical education is there to pick it up, and to tell it, never mind – it was
just a bad dream, the ravings, the drawings of the mad. Because critical education is precisely there to tell
professional education to rethink its relationship to its opposite – by which criti- cal education means both
itself and the unregulated, against which professional education is deployed. In other words, critical education
arrives to support any faltering negligence, to be vigilant in its negli- gence, to be critically engaged in its
negligence. It is more than an ally of professional education, it is its attempted completion. A
professional education has become a critical education. But one should not applaud this fact. It should
be taken for what it is, not pro- gress in the professional schools, not cohabitation with the Univer- sitas,
but counterinsurgency, the refounding terrorism of law, coming for the discredited, coming for those
who refuse to write off or write up the undercommons.
3rd- (if critical) Their stance commodifies the experiences of the oppressed they claim
to speak for -- this renders their political act meaningless and creates a destructive
model of dissent that depends upon authoritarian institutions and imprisons the
rhetorical value of the 1ac via commodification that denies the dignity of the
represented. They also link through their call to static institutions
James 3. Joy James, Professor of Africana Studies @ Brown “Academia, activism, and imprisoned
Activism is as multidimensional in its appearances as the academy; as academia's alter ego, or
problematic twin, it also reflects the best and worst tendencies of the marketplace. When structured by
the market, activism is not inherently infused with responsible behavior or compassion. In its push for
productivity--more rallies, demos, conferences, meetings--it can lose sight of effective strategies,
community, and the importance of young activists exercising decision-making power. To value one's
presence, i.e., just showing up for work, class, or demonstrations, over one's preparedness to fully
participate in transformational acts is a feature of the crass market (where volume or quantity of a
product register more than quality or utility). Likewise, expectations for unquestioning obedience to
managerial elites--whether radical instructor or organizer--are also features of the market found in
activism and academia. Thus, beyond confronting the social crises and military and ideological wars
enacted by the state, we are disturbed, destabilized, and therefore challenged by the
commodification of our own educational sites and political movements. The marketplace--as the
dominant metaphor and construct--influences our consciousness and regulates our lives to shape both
academia and activism. Conformity and compliance, rebellion and resistance, are often channeled
through and structured by markets that turn intellect and action into objects for trade and barter in
competition for status and acquisition, while making our ideals (freedom and justice) and their
representatives (prisoners of resistance) into commodities. Through books, videos, and CDs, political
representations are purchased and circulated with the intent of creating greater demand not only for
the "product," but also for social justice, release campaigns, opposition to expanding police and military
powers, and executions and state violence. For the imprisoned, the possibility of release, or at least
remembrance, mitigates their social death in prison (or physical death, as in the cases of MOVE's Merle
Africa and former Black Panther Albert Nuh Washington). Academics and activists use the market to
highlight the human rights abuses and conditions of the imprisoned, the 2.5 million people locked in U.S.
penal institutions, and the perpetuation of torture and slavery through the Thirteenth Amendment.
The irony is that commodification is another form of containment. Although
Harlow advocates the "activist counterapproach" to consumption, not all
activism provides an alternative. Some of it re-inscribes the competition,
opportunism, disciplinary mechanisms, and demands for institutional loyalty
that characterize the marketplace. Activism or activists, like academia and academics, have
their own forms of commerce. At their weakest and most problematic points, they share, in their
respective sites, careerism, appropriation, and the assertion of "authoritative" voices. For instance,
the "political prisoner-as-icon" can be deployed to minimize or silence external and internal critiques.
Editors, translators, and advocates can wield iconic power as surrogates (and in surreal fashion use
that proxy against the incarcerated themselves). The structural position that the non-incarcerated
possess, a quite valuable commodity, permits the appropriation of voice and new forms of
dependencies. Perhaps, the imprisoned use self-censorship not only as a shield against their guards (as
Marilyn Buck describes in On Self-Censorship), but also as armor against their allies. Political prisoners
have strategies to counter "free" progressives, given that in the social death of the prisoner rebel, the
state is not the only entity that has the ability to capitalize on or cannibalize captive bodies. If indeed the
political prisoner or imprisoned intellectual can be either "freed" or frozen in academic and/or activist
discourse and productivity, then it is essential that academics-activists, students-scholars, directly
communicate with political prisoners, as openly as possible given the structural disparities.
The alternative is to refuse the aff’s—this is theoretically generative, so it provides
offence under your framework.
Tuck and Yang – ’14 – Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations, SUNY New Paltz and Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies,
UC San Diego (Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “R-Words: Refusing Research,” Humanizing Research,, p. 237-242, MM)
In this final section, our task is to engage in a more tentative, more shifting and in-formation discussion of refusal—indeed, a theorizing of refusal as an operationalization of the three axioms we have already presented. Far from axiomatic, t his discussion is more speculative and less surefooted. Here we will consider this question: Without a wholesale dismissal of social science research, how do we understand the researcher's and researched's relationships to knowledge circulated and recirculated by the academy? Our discussion relies heavily upon a rich and dynamic
2007 article by Kahnawake scholar Audra Simpson, titled "On Ethnographic Refusal: Indigeneity, 'Voice,' and Colonial Citizenship." We engage a close discussion and description of Simpson's work in order to begin to piece together a methodology around
refusal as
, not
generative orientation we are trying to help readers
theorizing the political and sovereign advantages of ascribing limits to settler colonial social
science research.
social science research is
settler colonial knowledge
makes sense why limits must be placed on it. If social science research is not understood as such, then
talk of limits reads as a violation of the universal benefits of knowledge production and
refusal means stepping to the side of the march of the academic
industrial complex taking stock of its recruiting of conscript knowledges, and formulating ways to do
things differently Refusal
is about humanizing the researcher
simple or extremist or prohibitive stance, but as a
. In part,
think through what there is instead of pain for social science research to look at,
and also to provide some ways of
It is our conviction that once
understood as
, nothing less and nothing more,
There is no rulebook, no set of step-by-step directions to follow for
perhaps of
. It
, taken seriously,
. / Simpson's (2007) article is in many ways a director's-cut commentary on her ethnography on Mohawk
nationhood and citizenship, and is a layered example of refusal centered in the Kahnawake Nation, within which she herself is a member. Simpson opens her article with a critique of the need to know as deeply connected to a need to conquer, a need to govern. In light of this, how
Canada "knows" who is and isn't Indigenous is imbricated with law. The Indian Act, / a specific body of law that recognises Indians in a wardship status in Canada, created the categories of person and rights that served to sever Indian women from their communities upon marriage to
white men. It did the reverse to Indian men—white women gained Indian status upon their marriage into an Indian community, (p. 75) / In 1984, Bill C-31 amended the act to add Indian women and their descendants back into the federal registry of Indians in Canada, leaving it up to
individual nations to determine whether to reinstate them in their local registries. The politics of membership generated a series of massive predicaments for people who had assimilated versions of the law for the past 150 years and found ways to resist it all the same. Kahnawake's own
blood quantum membership code, developed in defiance of Canadian regulations for political recognition, was "contested and defended by, it seemed, everyone within the community and sometimes all at once" (p. 73). The question of who is and isn't Mohawk is not only politically
contentious but one that is implicated within the very logic of settler colonial knowledge. Instead of surfacing the personal predicaments of "cousins and friends and enemies that comprise my version of Kahnawake" (p. 74), Simpson turns her ethnography toward the ways in which
Kahnawake participants incorporated, dismissed, thwarted, and traversed notions of membership, especially via constructions of citizenship that intentionally drew upon logics found outside settler colonialism. / There are three concurrent dimensions of refusal in Simpson's analysis—in
the interviewee, who refuses to disclose further details
who refuses to write on the personal pain and internal politics of
Simpson's words, her ethnography "pivoted upon refusal(s)" (p. 73). The first dimension is engaged by
what others know ... no-one seems to know." The second dimension is enacted by Simpson herself,
: "I don't know what you know, or
. / "No one seems to know" was laced through much of my informant's discussion of C-31, and of his own predicament—which I knew he spoke of indirectly, because I knew his predicament. And I also knew everyone knew, because everyone knows
that he would tell that "he did not know" no
one seems to know
meant, "I know you know, and you know that I know I know ... so let's just
not get into this. Or, "let's just not say."
everyone's "predicament." This was the collective "limit"—that of knowledge and thus who we could or would not claim. So it was very interesting to me
and "
"—to me these utterances
So I did not say, and so I did not "get into it" with him, and I won't get into it with my readers. What I am quiet about is his predicament and my predicament and the actual stuff
(the math, the clans, the mess, the misrecognitions, the confusion and the clarity)—the calculus of our predicaments, (p. 77) / The interviewee performs refusal by speaking in pointedly chosen phrases to indicate a shared/common knowledge, but also an unwillingness to say more, to
the researcher's
the intelligibility of what was at work
demarcate the limits of what might be made public, or explicit. The second dimension of refusal is in
accounting of the exchange in
which she installs
limits on
, what was said and not said, for her readers. Simpson tells us, "In listening and shutting off the tape recorder, in situating each subject within their own shifting historical context of the
present, these refusals speak volumes, because they tell us when to stop," (p. 78). In short, researcher and researched refuse to fulfill the ethnographic want for a speaking subaltern. / Both of these refusals reflect and constitute a third dimension—a more general anticoloniality and
insistence of sovereignty by the Kahnawake Nation—and for many, a refusal to engage the logic of settler colonialism at all. / For the purposes of our discussion, the most important insight to draw from Simpson's article is her emphasis that refusals are not subtractive, but are
Refusal is not just a "no," but a redirection to ideas otherwise unacknowledged or
a methodology of refusal regards limits on
knowledge as productive,
a good thing
theoretically generative (p. 78), expansive.
. Unlike a settler colonial configuration of knowledge that is petulantly exasperated and resentful of limits,
as indeed
. / To explore how refusal and the installation of limits on settler colonial knowledge might be productive, we make a brief detour to the Erased Lynching series (2002-
2011) by Los Angeles-based artist Ken Gonzales-Day (see Figure 12.1). Gonzales-Day researched lynching in California and the Southwest and found that the majority of lynch victims were Latinos, American Indians, and Asians. Like lynchings in the South, lynchings in California were
events of public spectacle
, often attended by hundreds, sometimes thousands of festive onlookers. At the
, professional photographers took hours to set up portable studios similar to those used at carnivals; they sold
their images frequently as postcards, mementos of public torture and execution to be circulated by U.S. post throughout the nation and the world. Lynching, we must be reminded, was extralegal, yet nearly always required the complicity of law enforcement—either by marshals or
sheriffs in the act itself, or by judges and courts in not bothering to prosecute the lynch mob afterward. The photographs immortalize the murder beyond the time and place of the lynching, and in their proliferation,
the general murderability of the non-White body
expand a single murder to
. In this respect, the image of the hanged, mutilated body itself serves a critical function in the maintenance of White supremacy and the spread of racial
terror beyond the lynching. The spectacle of the lynching is the medium of terror. / Gonzales-Day's Erased Lynching series reintroduces the photographs of lynching to a contemporary audience, with one critical intervention: The ropes and the lynch victim have been removed from the
images. Per Gonzales-Day's website (n.d.), the series enacted / a conceptual gesture intended to direct the viewer's attention, not upon the lifeless body of lynch victim, but upon the mechanisms of lynching themselves: the crowd, the spectacle, the photographer, and even consider the
impact of flash photography upon this dismal past. The perpetrators, if present, remain fully visible, jeering, laughing, or pulling at the air in a deadly pantomime. As such, this series strives to make the invisible visible. / The Erased Lynching series yields another context in which we might
consider what a social scientist's refusal stance might comprise. Though indeed centering on the erasure of the former object,
refusal need not be thought of as a subtractive
. Refusal prompts analysis of the festive spectators regularly backgrounded in favor of wounded bodies, strange fruit, interesting scars. Refusal shifts the gaze from the violated body to the violating instruments—in this case, the lynch mob, which does
not disappear when the lynching is over, but continues to live, accumulating land and wealth through the extermination and subordination of the Other. Thus, refusal helps move us from thinking of violence as an event and toward an analysis of it as a structure. / Gonzales-Day might
have decided to reproduce and redistribute the images as postcards, which, by way of showing up in mundane spaces, might have effectively inspired reflection on the spectacle of violence and media of terror. However, in removing the body and the ropes, he installed limits on what the
audience can access, and redirected our gaze to the bodies of those who were there to see a murder take place, and to the empty space beneath the branches. Gonzales-Day introduced a new representational territory, one that refuses to play by the rules of the settler colonial gaze, and
Refusals are needed for narratives and images arising in social
science research that rehumiliate when circulated
the representation would bite all of us
and compromise the representational territory that we have gained for ourselves in the past 100 years
one that refuses to satisfy the morbid curiosity derived from settler colonialism's preoccupation with pain. /
, but also when, in Simpson's words, "
" (p.
78). As researcher-narrator, Simpson tells us, "I reached my own limit when the data would not contribute to our sovereignty or complicate the deeply simplified, atrophied representations of Iroquois and other Indigenous peoples that they have been mired within anthropologically" (p.
78). Here Simpson makes clear the ways in which research is not the intervention that is needed—that is, the interventions of furthering sovereignty or countering misrepresentations of Native people as anthropological obj ects. / Considering Erased Lynchings dialogically with On
refusal turns the gaze back upon power specifically the colonial
modalities of knowing persons as bodies to be differentially counted, violated, saved, and put to work It
makes transparent the metanarrative of knowledge production its spectatorship for pain and its
preoccupation for documenting and ruling over racial difference. refusal to be made meaningful
is grounded in a critique of settler colonialism
refusal generates, expands,
champions representational territories that colonial knowledge endeavors to settle, enclose,
refusal is a critical
intervention into research and its circular self-defining ethics
its apparent selfcriticism serves to expand its own rights to know
Refusal challenges the
individualizing discourse of IRB consent and "good science" by highlighting the problems of collective
harm, of representational harm, and of knowledge colonization
Ethnographic Refusal, we can see how refusal is not a prohibition but a generative form. First,
first and
, its construction of Whiteness, and its regimes of representation. Second,
. Simpson complicates the portrayals of Iroquois, without resorting to reportrayals of anthropological Indians. Gonzales-Day portrays the violations without reportraying the victimizations. Third,
. The ethical justification for research is defensive and self-encircling—
, and to defend its violations in the name of "good science."
. Fourth, refusal itself could be developed into both method and theory. Simpson presents refusal on the part of
the researcher as a type of calculus ethnography. Gonzales-Day deploys refusal as a mode of representation. Simpson theorizes refusal by the Kahnawake Nation as anticolonial, and rooted in the desire for possibilities outside of colonial logics, not as a reactive stance. This final point
about refusal connects our conversation back to desire as a counterlogic to settler colonial knowledge.
Academic debate and civic life are social death – plugging meaning into the university
factory just increases the management of our social death and neutralizes all
resistance – instead, we should try to rupture academic debate
Occupied UC Berkeley ‘9 (“The Necrosocial – Civic Life, Social Death, and the University of
California,” November 2009, Craccum Magazine – University of Auckland Student Magazine. Iss. 4, 2012. [m leap]
Yes, very much a cemetery. Only here
there are no dirges, no prayers, only the repeated testing of our threshold
for anxiety, humiliation, and debt. The classroom just like the workplace just like the university just like
the state just like the economy manages our social death, translating what we once knew from high
school, from work, from our family life into academic parlance, into acceptable forms of social conflict.
Who knew that behind so much civic life (electoral campaigns, student body representatives,
bureaucratic administrators, public relations officials, Peace and Conflict Studies, ad nauseam) was so
much social death? What postures we maintain to claim representation, what limits we assume, what desires we dismiss? And in this
moment of crisis they ask us to twist ourselves in a way that they can hear. Petitions to Sacramento, phone calls to Congressmen—even the
chancellor patronizingly congratulates our September 24th student strike, shaping the meaning and the
force of the movement as a movement against the policies of Sacramento. He expands his institutional
authority to encompass the movement. When students begin to hold libraries over night, beginning to take our first baby step
as an autonomous movement he reins us in by serendipitously announcing library money. He manages movement, he kills
movement by funneling it into the electoral process. He manages our social death. He looks forward to
these battles on his terrain, to eulogize a proposition, to win this or that—he and his look forward to
exhausting us. He and his look forward to a reproduction of the logic of representative governance, the
release valve of the university plunges us into an abyss where ideas are wisps of ether—that is, meaning
is ripped from action. Let’s talk about the fight endlessly, but always only in their managed form: to
perpetually deliberate, the endless fleshing-out-of—when we push the boundaries of this form they are
quick to reconfigure themselves to contain us: the chancellor’s congratulations, the reopening of the libraries, the managed
general assembly—there is no fight against the administration here, only its own extension. Each day passes in this way, the
administration on the look out to shape student discourse—it happens without pause, we don’t notice nor
do we care to. It becomes banal, thoughtless. So much so that we see we are accumulating days: one semester, two, how close
to being this or that, how far? This accumulation is our shared history. This accumulation—every once in a while interrupted, violated by a riot, a
wild protest, unforgettable fucking, the overwhelming joy of love, life shattering heartbreak—is a muted, but desirous life. A dead but restless
The university steals and homogenizes our time yes, our bank accounts also, but it also
steals and homogenizes meaning. As much as capital is invested in building a killing apparatus abroad,
an incarceration apparatus in California, it is equally invested here in an apparatus for managing social
death. Social death is, of course, simply the power source, the generator, of civic life with its talk of
reform, responsibility, unity. A ‘life,’ then, which serves merely as the public relations mechanism for
death: its garrulous slogans of freedom and democracy designed to obscure the shit and decay in which our feet are planted. Yes, the
university is a graveyard, but it is also a factory: a factory of meaning which produces civic life and at
the same time produces social death. A factory which produces the illusion that meaning and reality
can be separated; which everywhere reproduces the empty reactionary behavior of students based on
the values of life (identity), liberty (electoral politics), and happiness (private property). Everywhere the same
whimsical ideas of the future. Everywhere democracy. Everywhere discourse to shape our desires and distress
in a way acceptable to the electoral state, discourse designed to make our very moments here together
into a set of legible and fruitless demands. Totally managed death. A machine for administering death,
for the proliferation of technologies of death. As elsewhere, things rule. Dead objects rule. In this sense, it matters
little what face one puts on the university—whether Yudof or some other lackey. These are merely the personifications of the
rule of the dead, the pools of investments, the buildings, the flows of materials into and out of the physical space of the university—each one
the product of some exploitation—which seek to absorb more of our work, more tuition, more energy.
and desirous life.
The university is a machine which wants to grow, to accumulate, to expand, to absorb more and more of the living into its peculiar and perverse
machinery: high-tech research centers, new stadiums and office complexes. And at this critical juncture the only way it can continue to grow is
by more intense exploitation, higher tuition, austerity measures for the departments that fail to pass the test of ‘relevancy.’ But the ‘irrelevant’
With their ‘pure’ motives of knowledge for its own sake, they perpetuate the
blind inertia of meaning ostensibly detached from its social context. As the university cultivates its cozy
relationship with capital, war and power, these discourses and research programs play their own role,
co-opting and containing radical potential. And so we attend lecture after lecture about how ‘discourse’ produces ‘subjects,’
departments also have their place.
ignoring the most obvious fact that we ourselves are produced by this discourse about discourse which leaves us believing that it is only words
The university gladly permits the precautionary lectures on
biopower; on the production of race and gender; on the reification and the fetishization of
commodities. A taste of the poison serves well to inoculate us against any confrontational radicalism.
which matter, words about words which matter.
And all the while power weaves the invisible nets which contain and neutralize all thought and action, that bind revolution inside books, lecture
halls. There is no need to speak truth to power when power already speaks the truth. The university is a graveyard– así es. The graveyard of liberal
good intentions, of meritocracy, opportunity, equality, democracy. Here the tradition of all
dead generations weighs like a
nightmare on the brain of the living. We graft our flesh, our labor, our debt to the skeletons of this or
that social cliché. In seminars and lectures and essays, we pay tribute to the university’s ghosts, the
ghosts of all those it has excluded—the immiserated, the incarcerated, the just-plain-fucked. They are
summoned forth and banished by a few well-meaning phrases and research programs, given their book
titles, their citations. This is our gothic—we are so morbidly aware, we are so practiced at stomaching
horror that the horror is thoughtless. In this graveyard our actions will never touch, will never become
the conduits of a movement, if we remain permanently barricaded within prescribed identity
categories—our force will be dependent on the limited spaces of recognition built between us. Here we
are at odds with one another socially, each of us: students, faculty, staff, homebums, activists, police, chancellors, administrators, bureaucrats,
investors, politicians, faculty/ staff/ homebums/ activists/ police/ chancellors/ administrators/ bureaucrats/ investors/ politicians-to-be. That is,
we are students, or students of color, or queer students of color, or faculty, or Philosophy Faculty, or Gender and Women Studies faculty, or we
We form teams, clubs, fraternities,
schools, unions, ideologies, identities, and subcultures—and thankfully each group gets its own
designated burial plot. Who doesn’t participate in this graveyard? In the university we prostrate
ourselves before a value of separation, which in reality translates to a value of domination. We spend money
are custodians, or we are shift leaders—each with our own office, place, time, and given meaning.
majors, departments,
and energy trying to convince ourselves we’re brighter than everyone else. Somehow, we think, we possess some trait that means we deserve
It should never feel terrible ordering
others around, right? It should never feel terrible to diagnose people as an expert, manage them as a
bureaucrat, test them as a professor, extract value from their capital as a businessman. It should feel
good, gratifying, completing. It is our private wet dream for the future; everywhere, in everyone this
same dream of domination. After all, we are intelligent, studious, young. We worked hard to be here,
we deserve this. We are convinced, owned, broken. We know their values better than they do: life, liberty, the pursuit of
more than everyone else. We have measured ourselves and we have measured others.
happiness. This triumvirate of sacred values are ours of course, and in this moment of practiced theater—the fight between the university and
its own students—we have used their words on their stages: Save public education! When those values are violated by the very institutions which
are created to protect them, the veneer fades, the tired set collapses: and we call it injustice, we get indignant. We demand justice from them,
for them to adhere to their values. What many have learned again and again is that these institutions don’t care for those values, not at all, not
for all. And we are only beginning to understand that those values are not even our own. The
values create popular images and
ideals (healthcare, democracy, equality, happiness, individuality, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,
public education) while they mean in practice the selling of commodified identities, the state’s
monopoly on violence, the expansion of markets and capital accumulation, the rule of property, the
rule of exclusions based on race, gender, class, and domination and humiliation in general. They sell the
practice through the image. We’re taught we’ll live the images once we accept the practice. In this crisis the
Chancellors and Presidents, the Regents and the British Petroleums, the politicians and the managers, they all intend to be true to their values
and capitalize on the university economically and socially—which is to say, nothing has changed, it is only an escalation, a provocation. Their
most recent attempt to reorganize wealth and capital is called a crisis so that we are more willing to
accept their new terms as well as what was always dead in the university, to see just how dead we are
willing to play, how non-existent, how compliant, how desirous. Every institution has of course our best interest in
mind, so much so that we’re willing to pay, to enter debt contracts, to strike a submissive pose in the classroom, in the lab, in the seminar, in the
Each bulging institutional value longing to
become more than its sentiment through us, each of our empty gestures of feigned-anxiety to appear
under pressure, or of cool-ambivalence to appear accustomed to horror, every moment of student life,
is the management of our consent to social death. Social death is our banal acceptance of an
institution’s meaning for our own lack of meaning. It’s the positions we thoughtlessly enact. It’s the
particular nature of being owned. Social rupture is the initial divorce between the owners and the
owned. A social movement is a function of war. War contains the ability to create a new frame, to build
a new tension for the agents at play, new dynamics in the battles both for the meaning and the material.
When we move without a return to their tired meaning, to their tired configurations of the material,
we are engaging in war. It is November 2009. For an end to the values of social death we need ruptures and selfpropelled, unmanaged movements of wild bodies. We need, we desire occupations. We are an antagonistic dead.
dorm, and eventually or simultaneously in the workplace to pay back those debts.
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