I’ve seen some proposals for resistance to the corporatization of the university being circulated among anthro colleagues recently. These range from ideas about boycotting the peer review process of for-profit academic journals, to the Cost of Knowledge campaign, to the widespread action by academics to free their work from paywalls in the PDF Tribute in response to the tragic death of Aaron Schwartz, to the call not to pay (as many) conference fees by minimizing/strategizing conference attendance. The other day some colleagues of mine also suggested subversive, pro forma mass-co-authorship of articles in response to the pressure of quantitative publication norms as a criterion for good scholarship.
While I’m supportive and agree with the statements these proposals make, they also make me wonder. If it’s important to pay attention to the processes of production within which we are (and our academic work is) implicated, then aren’t our relations to our universities especially worthy of attention? Moreover, aren’t our universities the places where, as students and employees, our voices are already supposed to count? So what about the role that our institutions play in perpetuating the conditions of the underpaid academic precariat? (that is, the conditions that make those conference fees a stretch for us in the first place).
It brings me back to the questions I posed here earlier this month: what knowledge have we each gained from our own struggles for the future of our universities, at our universities? How are our (anthropological) insights about the intersection between academia and contemporary capitalism informed by our own practices of struggle? And is it worth building an exchange of these stories and strategies between locales in some way or another? I tend to think so. And I’d like to experiment with that here. That’s why I look forward to telling you about the conflict that’s been playing out these past two weeks at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam over the failed reorganization of the university library. But in the meantime, this is just a little reminder that this experiment needs your input, too. So feel free to voice any thoughts.
Donya Alinejad is a PhD candidate at the department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She does research on the role of internet media in the formation of selves among the children of immigrants from Iran in Los Angeles, California.