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#BritSoc16 fringe event: ‘Radical Education Inside and Outside the Neoliberal University’

I wish I could make it to this, but I’m leaving at 7ish to go a gig. I’d love to help organise a more substantial fringe at future conferences though – could there be a whole alternative BSA that’s free to attend?

Apologies for the short notice, but we would like to invite your organisation and its members to take part in an event organised by the British Sociological Association Activism in Sociology Forum (http://www.britsoc.co.uk/groups/activism-in-sociology-forum.aspx) and is hosted by Birmingham Radical Education (https://bread4brum.wordpress.com/) and Birmingham Autonomous University. The event is a fringe meeting for the annual British Sociological Association conference taking place in Birmingham from 6-8 April.

The fringe event is free to attend. It will be held at B4 Bar, Aston Students’ Union, Aston University, Birmingham (http://www.aston.ac.uk/union/services/b4/) from 19:15-21:30 on Thursday 7 April. Our desire is to attract an equal share of academic activists, people involved in struggle and friends.

As hosts, our starting point is what we see to be the impossibility of intellectual – especially critical and political – work in British universities, but perhaps universities worldwide. Our hope is that the analyses of movements run ahead of those of concerned academics. Therefore, the aim of the evening will be to think and share our respective practices on what is to be done about education. 

Many of us will have experienced frustrations with the many moments of resistance in education. These range from the need to find credible and realistic strategies that allow us to resist the neoliberal university in the here and now, but also the need to create a space to think and practice more freely how we may move beyond it. Furthermore, from the fact that we do not just want to restate our respective dissatisfactions to each other all the time there emerges a need to work in alliances or in an orchestrated fashion. But at the same time, this appears to be frustrated by a need to build capacities in our own separate ways – as well as recognising that genuine disagreements are necessary for strengthening social movements. 

It is to common and diverging ground on these issues that we would like to dedicate this evening. Below you can find a provisional format of the event, as well as everyone we would like to share their experiences. We welcome comments and would be very happy if your group could offer critical feedback on the plan so far – including other groups and people you would like to bring along, hear from, or would like us to invite:

Thursday 7 April, start 19:15 – End 21:30, B4 Bar, Aston Students’ Union, Aston University, Birmingham (http://www.aston.ac.uk/union/services/b4/). Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1256046981091478/

Introduction

Our starting point: It is seemingly impossible to be an intellectual worker in the neoliberal capitalist university and most other working spaces today.

Our aim: think with and share the experiences of participants – initiated by short provocations that invite all to think about what you do that moves things forward.

Your contribution: What is critical about what you do that has moved things forward?

First 5-minute provocation:

Producing solidarity by acting in solidarity: learning with Brazilian education and other social movement activists

If it is impossible to be an intellectual worker in the university today, perhaps those of us who are education activists here should think and do education activism with strategies developed by education and other activists elsewhere. I discuss Brazilian activists engaged in a process of re-imagining/re-constructing the circumstances under which they live and from which they are moving beyond. I consider how their praxis includes reflection on the process of continuing to overcome oppression, exclusion and the fatalism that that those producing these factors seek to nurture and on the efficacy of their efforts to create collective solidarity.

15 minutes of small group discussion (with facilitator and mixed membership)

Facilitators will be responsible for being familiar with the themes of the evening. Materials will be made available in the lead up to the fringe event.

15 minutes of larger group feedback

Second 5-minute provocation:

The impoverishment of poverty

There is a need to develop within our movements an alternative conceptualization of poverty that is grounded in the limited opportunity for individuals and groups to develop their capacities within a society based on a developed capitalist division of labour. Due to this lack of an alternative perspective on poverty, our movements have tended to articulate themselves primarily in opposition to austerity and as such have internalised a bourgeois conception of poverty as a lack of access to commodities and commodified services. In practice, this conception necessitates making concessions to those on the soft left who do not share our view of a world beyond capitalism. It is our task to move beyond this impasse.

15 minutes of small group discussion (with facilitator and mixed membership)

Facilitators will be responsible for being familiar with the themes of the evening. Materials will be made available in the lead up to the fringe event.

15 minutes of larger group feedback 

Panel
Groups are invited to summarise what they will take away from the evening. This could take a variety of forms: shared orientations, perspectives, networks, demands and maybe even a campaign. We do not want to be prescriptive, but want to leave it open for insights to emerge from critical dialogue.

Categories: Interested Thinking

Mark