What is the Undercommoning Project?

Undercommoning is an evolving network of radical organizers within, against, and beyond the neoliberal, (neo)colonial university in North America.

We participate in and affirm those activist projects that oppose and seek alternatives to gentrification, commercialization, rising student debt and tuition, low wages for university staff and contract labor, and the academy’s attempts to hold a monopoly on the production of knowledge.

We host occasional critical online discussions called “encounters,” broadcast and publish interviews with activists, and otherwise solicit and disseminate texts and projects that build solidarity around radical and marginalized forms of knowledge and to sustain and amplify the undercommons: those networks of struggle, study and creativity that exist within, outside and in spite of the university.

We aim to create platforms to connect those struggling in the shadows of the university: not only workers and students within the institution, but those for free education, autonomous learning, and collective study outside of the university’s walls. The Undercommoning project provides a framework to link diverse local struggles so that they can gain strength and insight from one another’s efforts and visions.

What does Undercommoning mean?

We discuss the project and its goals in more detail in this article: http://undercommoning.org/undercommoning-within-against-and-beyond/

 Who we are

The Undercommoning Project is an alliance of outcasts and fugitive knowledge workers struggling in the margins and on the edges of the universities that wrought us.

As a network, we aim to connect to one another both continentally and locally, appropriating where we can the new technologies of digital communication and meeting in person when possible.

The network is maintained by a rotating “Collective” of 10-15 people, most of whom are precarious academic or university workers, some of whom have exited the university. We work semi-anonymously to avoid the recuperative and repressive forces of academic capitalism.

We reject the artificial hierarchies of knowledge and prestige that are the weapons of the university. As such, we are open to anyone onto whom the university casts its shadow, from custodial workers to dropouts, from adjunct faculty to administrative support staff, from students to food servers, from trade unionists to activists building alternative institutions.

We seek to experiment with and broadcast new ways of working together, new forms of study, and new pathways to solidarity.

We work in the tradition of militant inquiry: bottom-up collective learning dedicated to building community capacities for radical social change. Our project seeks to amplify everyday forms of resistance. The online forum is a place to share radical critiques and strategies for overturning a system where education is a transaction. Further, we recognize the education many of us have received owes an unpayable debt to oppression in the forms of colonialism, slavery, and dispossession of indigenous communities.

What we do?

While we are just getting off the ground now, as a collective, we aim to……

  • Host regular online meet-ups for organizers and thinkers to learn about one another’s struggles and build solidarity and capacity.
  • Publish interviews, transcripts, essays, news and examples from struggles around the world
  • Organize local events where organizers can gather and make common cause.
  • Act as a network for organizers and activists within, against, and beyond the university.
  • Reveal and challenge the North American university as a site working at the junction of settler-colonialism, neoliberal capitalism, hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy and other systems of domination and exploitation. We also diagnose the university as a key institution of power that works in concert with police, prisons, the financial system, the ‘lower’ education system, punitive state bureaucracies, culture industries and other means of oppression.
  • Catalyze intersectional solidarity between and beyond laborers of the university, including: precarious academic workers; clerical, technical, food service, maintenance, and other support workers; subcontracted workers; exploited student laborers; international learners’ and those ejected from or refused by the university.
  • Valorize the labor of the “undercommons”, promoting the autonomy of these forms of bottom-up refusal, collaboration, solidarity and mass intellectuality that the university at once subjugates and requires for its survival.
    How can I find out more?

Our hallmarks

  • Anti-colonial: towards the reclamation and revalourization of Indigenous, non-white and proletarian forms of learning/study/community-building/praxis.
  • Anti-racist: Towards a politics of liberation, against the afterlives of slavery and  ongoing forms of racial capitalism which universities sustain and reproduce
  • Anticapitalist: against the university as an Edu-factory and against schools as reproducers of class relations
  • No nostalgia: for the public education or Keynesian university-that-never-was
  • Feminist: for dismantling patriarchy and hetero-and-cis-sexism
  • Trans-&-Queer-Liberationist: Towards a queer rebellion, against homonormative forms of capture and the valo(u)rization of new capitalist demographics
  • Autonomist: grassroots self-organization, extraparliamentary, non-sectarian
  • Accomplices: beyond allyship, strategizing with, not for, and ready to betray academic institutions
  • Undercommoning: radical networks, resource redirection, subversion, non-participation
  • Experimentation/exodus: radical creativity and courage
  • Solidarity: learning/study in league with communities, struggles, etc.
  • Strategic optimism: not just a pity party or a social club