Call for Participants/Collaborators (Jan 2015)
“Critical University Studies & Academic Abolitionism,” a proposed Multi-Campus Graduate Working Group with the UC Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), invites UC graduate students from Southern California campuses to contact us with your interests of participation and collaboration. The UCHRI Graduate Working Group awards provide funding support for yearlong collaborative projects initiated and convened by graduate students across UC campuses around a Humanities theme. The proposal for the working group “Critical University Studies & Academic Abolitionism” will be submitted to the funding cycle of 2015-16, and we welcome participation from UC graduate students who are interested in shifting the critiques of the university from the framework of white settler liberalism to the analyses of the institution’s historical-material conditions of possibility in slavery, genocide, and war.
If the name “Academic Abolitionism” posits abolitionism as an ethical-political relationship to the university in tension with “Academic Freedom” and its liberal politics, the working group asks precisely how to critically engage and materially inhabit this relationship by suspending the meanings of pursuing freedom within or for the institution, in order to hold space to reckon with forms of freedom beyond or without the institution. In other words, academic abolitionism calls for critical practices that risk the university itself. And such a structural and collective risking raises questions central to the working group: How does academic abolitionism recontextualize and undo the defense of the university as a liberal institution of public good, and the appeal for the restoration of its putative historical promise of social transformation and democratic citizenship? How do such liberal investments in the “public” and “common good” in discourses that seek to reclaim the university depend on the racial capitalist logics of property, personhood, and civil society forcibly brought into being through chattel slavery, land dispossession, and colonial conquest? How does academic abolitionism’s attention to the university’s colonial conditions of emergence and operation reappraise its liberal technologies of racial management—not simply institutionalized diversity and multicultural inclusion, but also “critical pedagogy,” “academic activism,” “socially engaged research,” and “community partnership”? And what forms of mediation and collaboration are available when the university and its reproduction as an institution are no longer deemed our ultimate intellectual and political destiny? What do critical practices look like after the university?
“Critical University Studies & Academic Abolitionism” working group seeks to continue to cultivate and sustain the critical momentum and conversation that grew out of the symposium, “Academic Abolitionism: Native/Women of Color Feminist/Queer of Color Learning and Living Beyond the (Re)Production of Death,” held in UC San Diego in 2014. To do so, the working group proposes to organize one gathering in each academic quarter in 2015-16 to facilitate in-person dialogues and collaborations among participants (with travel reimbursement and accommodation provided), while maintaining ongoing virtual communication throughout the year in the forms of web-based projects, online forum, and resource sharing.