call for papers (local)


// Antioch 05.08 // Rome 10.08 // Athens 12.08 // New York City 12.08 // Helsinki 03.09 // Zagreb 05.09 // Heidelberg 06.09 // London 06.09 // California: a dozen universities 09.09-12.09  // across Europe: hundreds of universities 11.09-12.09 // … //

Seemingly discrete struggles over the conditions of university life have erupted around the world within the past year. These struggles share certain commonalities: outrage over insecure and exploitative conditions, the occupation of university spaces, and goals of reclaiming education from state and corporate interests.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that recent struggles over the university are not merely isolated events. They express a wider desire for direct control over the means of production; a desire to create relationships of learning, collaboration, and creativity beyond the university’s attempts to quantify and discipline them.

Although the modern university has never lived up to its public ideals, the past thirty years have witnessed increasingly tightened ties with corporate interests.  The exchange goes both ways: as universities have done more research and trained students for corporations, so the culture of business has spread into the university with increased profit-drivenness, competition, and secrecy.

This corporatization has been exemplified at our own University of Minnesota.  Under the Yudof and Bruininks administrations, the prioritization of economic efficiency and profit has eclipsed the U’s public mission. This trend has taken many forms:

Defunding teaching – reducing tenured professors and increasing low-paid, contingent, part-time teachers;

Outsourcing maintenance and clerical work – reducing unionized staff and increasing low-paid, part-time workers;

Turning students into consumers and charging them more for less – tuition increased over 500% since 1990, while class sizes rise;

Catering to more elite, higher-paying students – while Twin Cities schools become even more segregated;

Building a powerful corporate bureaucracy – more than 1500 administrators make over $100,000 per year – while decreasing faculty and student governance;

Branding the university – over $5 million spent on the “Driven to Discover” ad campaign;

Funding ‘profitable’ ventures (e.g., TCF Bank Stadium, the business school) and defunding the U’s public mission (e.g., General College, the humanities);

The U of M is not alone in our becoming corporatized. Fortunately, we are also not alone in our resistance:  struggles around the world over the past year have shown that opposition is mounting, as are creative strategies for subversive alternatives.  Struggles against the corporate university are linking up across borders; the slogan of the International Student Movement, “One World – One Struggle : Education is Not for Sale,” and the slogan of the Anomalous Wave, “We Won’t Pay for Your Crisis,” appear in actions across Europe, the Americas, and South Asia.

Our conference, “Beneath the University, the Commons,” builds on the work accomplished by activists, organizers, artists, and academics at the “Re-thinking” and “Re-working” the University Conferences of 2008 and 2009 (, while expanding the scope of our discussions and bringing together more international scholars in order to address an increasingly volatile local and global situation.  Our goal is to expand our knowledge of university conditions and our collective acts of resistance to them, including alternative forms of engaging with each other and with the world.  The 2010 conference will draw together people committed to exploring how we can understand, create, and experiment with the commons beneath the university -- the spaces, resources, relationships, and projects that we share in common, without their being privatized and corporatized.  Our questions include but are not limited to:

//How can we create and sustain occupations of the university, not

only in the spectacular times of mass demonstrations, but everyday and

across all of its spaces?

//How can we maintain subversive positions as actors *within* the

university without becoming parts *of* the university’s corporate


//How can unionization projects and student movements learn from and

collaborate with one another?

//How do we deal with the tensions between the stability of our

projects and their transformative effectiveness?

//How do we open up sustainable and livable spaces for radical

research, education, and scholarship without feeling overwhelmed by

the pressures to speed-up in our precarious working conditions?

//How can we collaboratively map and share research, information,

tactics, and cultures?

//In recognition that our conditions are a part of a larger set of

global occupations and injustices, how do we link with social

movements outside of and across the university?

//Specifically for the Twin Cities, how can we link struggles against

the corporatization and institutional racism of the University of

Minnesota, with struggles against segregation, racism, and xenophobia

in the surrounding metropolitan area?

This four-day event will consist of two days of conference sessions

and two days of workshops, writing collaborations, skill shares, and

plenty of time for sustained conversations among participants.  We are

accepting proposals both for formal papers and for non-conventional

forms of participation.

-- If you would like to present a paper, please submit an abstract and

a CV or brief biographical statement.

-- If you would like to participate in another way (by leading a

workshop, facilitating a roundtable, presenting media, etc), please

submit a brief (up to 1 page) description of the proposed activity and

include what kind of resources we would need to provide, along with a

brief biographical statement.