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At the Counter Knowledge Lab this happened:
Students and teachers and activists came together, pointing to the problem that they find universities decreasingly dealing with critical societal issues. The hegemonic approach to quality assurance in Higher Education does not seem to support problematizing engagement with the world.
Therefore, this is the idea, we want to bring together people who are willing to share their knowledges, esp. those knowledges which otherwise would have difficulties entering "main/malestream" university practices.
We imagine, at this early stage, to parasite on Institute for Advanced Studies - perhaps we could have a room every Sunday evening, where it is most likely not used anyway - and attempt to grow, in the long term, an autonomous popular education project from that.
The first meeting took place on sunday of the Counter Knowledge Lab conference.
The university is dead - the neoliberal policies are dispersing everything and that is the moment we have to seize and turn into an advantage........
This whole thing does not seem too farfetched, but could happen .... also talks about a housing coop in Ellel House, which is a Victorian-like house with 19 bedrooms, 2 acres of garden, huge common rooms and an industrial kitchen, just 10 minutes walk from the uni.... a perfect home for an autonomous university, presumably.... and if we can't buy it, it is empty and ready for "temporary use"....
bring ideas and thought for this playful idea :)
similar projects have existed and still do, for example earlier this year some of us were involved with a series of radical seminars at the institute for autonomy social centre in central london, see:
the idea was for people to continue discussion online and engage with constructive criticism of the ideas that came up throughout the series. it seemed a pretty good start, getting lecturers from the surrounding colleges to come to an autonomous space and for discussion to be less formal and more open than the usual format of having an 'expert' lecture followed by questions simply directed at the all-knowing-academic. these processes are difficult to deconstruct, understand and turn around. we're moving in what i think is the right direction, with our creativity and energy, to get beyond these patterns of 'learning'.
a few things i find important for an autonomous university project:
1) that we make sure we don't just deliver seminars on subjects not being taught in the academy in an affiliated autonomous space/space at uni, but that the whole process of learning is evolving so as to not intimidate - to always be sensitive to ways of being playful and improving the ambience of a discussion to be as inclusive as possible: breaking down the idea of expertise.
2) one way of doing this i think is to balance theoretical and practical discussions/workshops (as of course these are two distinct categories....;~).....) so as not to perpetuate some sort of elite/abstract/'knowledge' class as useful to corporations (the old ivory tower is turning into a factory......) as a level of theoretical knowledge opposed to things like how to bring children up and grow vegetables (i don't understand this either....)
3) to not work in an either/or mindset whereby we see the university as dead and gone with something radical emerging that we're creating now.......finding ways of subverting the academy, working with everyone who's sympathetic to our anger and exploring all possibilities.
4) maybe we could think about linking up similar departments at different universities in an informal way, like meeting up with people from the institute for social ecology in the US, and the school of social ecology in edinburgh (my eco bias is coming out....;~)....)- being friends with the people who are under a competitors' banner......and maybe creating some sort of website similar to the away MAVE site but broader......
5) and connect similar projects in different places, there was a similar idea floating around south london a few months back and there's something in liverpool and berlin......
6) HOW DO WE DIFFERENTIATE THIS INITIATVE FROM THE ACADEMY? keep asking this!
7) read boockchin's 'the ecology of freedom'.....anyone who hasn't isn't welcome to participate ;~)
8) plant a tree today!
Some further notes/suggestions/hopes regarding the second preliminary
- -) meeting on Sunday (these, of course, are my own perception, and very
much like Ingmar's are supposed to keep the thought process and dialogue about AUL going, not predetermine them!):
- AUL for now is not much more than a banner - but one with expanding
potential. We hope to explore this potential increasingly as we go along.
- AUL is clearly (as already noted) a political project - a
self-organised educational space that would help foster radical, progressive social change locally>globally.
- AUL would be different from both university and existing popular
education settings in (at least!?) two main ways: in terms of content (WHAT we learn), and in terms of format (HOW we learn it).
- As long as AUL does not have a permanent roof over its head (and maybe
it will never have one!), we would aim at rotating the venue of events to maximise inclusivity (from campus, to Friends Meeting House, to Marsh community centre, to Basement, to Gregson,...?)
- People interested in AUL should maybe also get together sometime(s) to
discuss/learn more about the multitude of radical education approaches that have been developed and experimented with over the centuries!
- AUL shall have an owl as emblem :-) please circulate suggestions!