On June 14th, 2023, I presented an Ends of Knowledge reading group and seminar.
The blurb for the event is pasted below, and you can sign-up via Eventbrite. But I wouldn’t. That time has passed. But the slides are appended below the blurb. Thanks so much to Jamie Rákóczi and Harriet Cooper for their support and encouragement in this work.
Ill-being and the Hopeless University
Faced by the realities and lived experiences of intersecting crises, the University has become hopeless, in two respects. First, it has become a place that has no socially-useful role beyond the reproduction of capital, and has become an anti-human project devoid of hope. Second, it is unable to respond meaningfully with crises that erupt from the contradictions of capital. Thus, in its maintenance of business-as-usual, the University remains shaped as a tactical response to these contradictions.
In spite of the uncertainties of life inside the pandemic, these demands increasingly reproduce precarious and proletarianised working conditions. Alienation, anxiety, estrangement unfold inside University workers, through their work, their relationships and their very selves. Whilst institutions focus upon well-being through symptomatic responses related to resilience, mindfulness and well-being. Yet, this is entangled with the reality that University work, like all labour, tends to catalyse ill-being.
Through crises of finance or epidemiology, or at the intersection of both, it is possible to trace how the intersection of socio-economic and socio-environmental crises both enable the structural adjustment of sectoral and institutional structures, and damage bodies and psychologies. As institutional forms develop high plasticity, cultures become pathologies, and activities are defined methodologically, individuals and communities are scarred. In the pandemic, the scars are made visible, in terms of reports of overwork, self-sacrifice and feelings of precariousness, underpinned by a sense of hopelessness and Weltschmerz, with physical and psychological manifestations, including headaches, fatigue, anxiety and depression. In spite of the pandemic, the University demands the internalisation of specific behaviours that become culturally-acceptable, self-harming activities. These subsume the humanity of intellectual work under economic determinations.
This anti-humanist terrain and its resulting, widening circuit of ill-being, serve as an opening for discussion.
- Boggs, A., Meyerhoff, E., Mitchell, N., and Schwartz-Weinstein, Z. (2019). Abolitionist University Studies: An Invitation. https://abolition.university/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Abolitionist-University-Studies_-An-Invitation-Release-1-version.pdf
- Hall, R., and Bowles, K. (2016). Re-engineering higher education: the subsumption of academic labour and the exploitation of anxiety. Workplace: A Journal of Academic Labour, 28, 30-47. https://ices.library.ubc.ca/index.php/workplace/article/view/186211
- The Institute for Precarious Consciousness (2014). Anxiety, affective struggle, and precarity consciousness-raising. Interface: a journal for and about social movements. 6(2), 271 – 300. http://www.interfacejournal.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Issue-6_2-IPC.pdf
The Slides that I did not use, but that form the backbone to this work are available below.
You might also be interested in the stuff on mental health, ill-being, anxiety, depression, weltschmerz, elsewhere on this site. I share this as a form of eldership.