[-empyre-] Engineering the University pas de deux

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Wed Mar 11 01:38:24 AEDT 2015

dear all

I'm agreeing with Kevin very much that last week
was an inspiring conversation, between elizaBeth and Mimi,
and as you comment, in what you post a couple of days ago,
the conversation could, but need not, address academic 
researchers, teachers and students alone but also partly or not
affiliated partners, artists and communities that in some
way of other are linked to discourses and practices (labors)
of knowledge making, educating, and sustaining cultures and cultural memory.

Actually, community centers and arts organizations, or museums and galleries for that matter, and the
activists and cultural and social workers not studying for degrees or disciplinary 
academic careers surely would have something to say about Mimi's reference on power
and organization (the Galloway caution), and also on the precarity
"outside" (artists as flexible, neoentrepreneurial self employed self exploiting laborers)
and then again, what outside? as we'd have to discuss global capitalism
and also different locations, amongst the spectrum of this examination
(where does the subject title come from, who engineers the university?
was this meant to imply capital or current postgraduate students? - "deepest critiques
of the modern research university have originated from graduate students,
given their role as laborers in labs or classrooms. // In particular, those
engaged in the study of technology, media, or science are often confronted
with the potential of their growing knowledge bases for application
outside the academy, in commercial, governmental, or activist spaces" //
how does this second sentence follow from the first?)

I am actually interested in how you came up with this interesting partnering model
- and are all the pas de deux happen in the University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign? -  can you proceed slowly enough so that the discussion can
open out to others, and are you not also, to an extent, mimicking a student-mentor
 (as they say in The Guardian, 'my hero') model that can be scrutinized as well, though
I have of course fond memories of those who inspired me.  (I am asking as I just read
Edward Prutzer introducing/hosting Chad Wellmon almost with a book review of Chad Wellmon's
forthcoming book?)

Johannes Birringer

[Kevin schreibt]

This week saw us off to a fantastic start, thanks to the gifting of time
from elizaBeth and Mimi, and contributions from Johannes and William as
well. I particularly enjoyed the way in which elizaBeth led the
conversation from a position that was both informed (she brought a ton of
knowledge and specificity to her questions) and situated (clearly asking
such questions from a different or earlier place in an academic path than
Mimi). I hope we can continue to see such situatedness through the month -
especially in light of the fact that not all of this list is in academia.
I just want to acknowledge here how the stakes are far from the same for
everyone on this list when it comes to thinking through the university as
a site of subjectivity, labor, knowledge.

 My hope is that, though this month's discussion might
extend such a discourse, our address is tempered by close acknowledgement
of our current precarious and not-as-precarious positions within these
systems, rather than a reach "outside" to produce traditionally-distant
institutional critique. This week got us started well to this end.

I thought the Galloway piece Mimi left us with was a great way to reach
back through the rest of the conversation. I took the piece as a caution
against seeing any an inherent politics in any one organizational,
ontological, epistemological or social structure. By bringing that to our
attention, Mimi underlined the week's other mentions of disciplinarity,
town/gown relations, or even peer review and tenure as sites that justly
invite structural critique, yet whose structures alone can't explain the

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