Organize an autonomous local event October 14-21!
We, the Undercommoning Collective, invite all those over whom the neoliberal, neocolonial university casts its shadow, all those who struggle within, against and beyond the university-as-such, to join us the week of October 14-21, 2016 for a global coordinated decentralized day of radical study and action.
We encourage local organizers to plan an event during this week that fits their strategic objectives. It could be a public meeting. It could be a secret society. It could be a demonstration. It could be an act of (literal or metaphoric) sabotage or theft. It could be a strike, a sit-in or a building occupation. It could be one hour long, or many. It could be the foundation of a new group or an intervention in an old one.
The overall objective is to recognize that struggles within, against and beyond the university are diverse and specific to our contexts, but that the undercommons (those networks of solidarity and revolt that operate underneath the institution) are connected and can study with one another.
It can be as easy as simply naming a time and place and seeing who shows up. It could be a small part of a much larger struggle or campaign. Actions could be ambitious or modest. Anyone can organize one. Multiple actions could happen in the same municipality or on the same campus. We encourage organizing across groups, sectors, and communities. But we don’t believe in false unities. We affirm and celebrate the need for women, people of colour, queers and other people experiencing oppression to sometimes organize closed spaces as a means to generate and affirm collective power.
The Undercommoning Collective wants to share ideas and build networks of support via our website.
If you would like to have an event listed (we will update the list in September), please use this Google form: http://goo.gl/forms/h5ItVpas4cBrS46G2. Or send us an email <firstname.lastname@example.org> with the following information.
- A short title
- Name of the organizing group (if applicable)
- Contact information of an organizer (feel free to be anonymous)
- Website or Facebook event, etc. (if applicable)
- Time and duration
- 2-3 sentences on whom is invited, what they should bring and what they can expect
We encourage you to use the hashtag #undercommoning on social media and to make reference to the term “undercommons” or “undercommoning” in the event title or description.
We are interested in connecting struggles, not controlling them. However, if you want to be associated with this meta-event, we do insist on the following:
- All events should be committed to a critique of the university-as-such and find resonance (if not full agreement) with the Undercommoning Collective’s general orientation (which we spelled out in this recent piece in ROAR Magazine).
- All events should be explicitly anti-oppressive and foreground decolonization. If you are not sure you can meet this objective, we recommend you reach out to people in your community who can help. It may make sense to have an experienced facilitator on hand who can help maintain an anti-oppressive space. There are also lots of guides online (for example, see here or here).
- We strongly encourage event organizers to organize cross-sectorally. That means that you shouldn’t end up with only a group of graduate students from the humanities (unless, of course, your objective is to exclusively organize graduate students in the humanities). We encourage broad thinking about who falls under the shadow of the university, including university service workers, rank-and-file clerical workers (as distinct from senior administrators), ‘drop-outs’/’push-outs’ and refusers of the university, undergraduate students, post-study debtors, and people from communities systematically denied access to or representation within universities (eg. refugees, migrant workers, people experiencing homelessness).
- If you have speakers, no more than 50% should be straight, white cis-men. We strongly encourage making the voices and concerns of racialized and oppressed people central, not out of a politics of tokenism, but because these experiences can offer the most intersectional and radical perspectives on how power works in the shadow of the university.
- Orient your discussion away from a rehashing of the many problems that exist and towards how your assembly can manifest collective power and solidarity.
- Anticipate that some people, especially those in particularly vulnerable positions (e.g. precariously-employed university workers, abolition activists, etc.), may wish to participate or contribute anonymously, in order to minimize risks posed to their wellbeing or livelihood. You may want to pre-emptively plan some ways in which to make this possible.
Obviously we can’t enforce these guidelines, but please respect them.
If you are having a hard time thinking of something to do, we can make some suggestions:
- Bring people together to read and think about a provocative text. We recommend Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s The Undercommons (book or essay), or Robin D. G. Kelley’s “Black Study, Black Struggle.”
- Bring together university workers to learn about other struggles in your city or town. For instance, invite prison abolition activists or fast-food worker-organizers. We especially encourage learning about anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles.
- Organize a teach-in at the university or beyond it. Take its resources and repurpose them. Organize a walking tour of the campus identifying sites of exploitation.
- Organize a study day, where teams form to research the university’s connection to high finance, to the prison-industrial or military-industrial complexes, to real estate, to corporations or to other oppressive forces. Another team could map the formal and informal power structures of the university. End the day with a report-back.
- Organize a poetry reading or dance rehearsal which challenges artists to respond and reimagine the university.
- Organize a caucus of women, or queers, or people of color struggling within a larger organization or movement such as a trade union or a student union.
- Use this as an opportunity to start a new group for study and action. Brainstorm structure, strategies and tactics. Get people’s contact information.
- Use this as an opportunity to strategize about how to collaborate with, intervene in, or take over an existing group or organization like a student union or a faculty union as a means to work within, against and beyond the university.
- Take collective care seriously. Use this as an opportunity to explore the wounds of existing within, against and beyond the university. Recognize that those wounds are unequally distributed. Brainstorm forms of collective care to build solidarity and resilience.
- Organize a free skool or free university where people share skills and knowledge outside the university-as-such (but maybe by stealing the university’s resources, such as its spaces, money, and teaching faculty).
To help publicize your event, you can download an image of the above poster here:
The Undercommoning Collective is a shifting group of 10-15 revolutionaries working within, against and beyond the university-as-such, presently scattered across North America. We chose to remain anonymous to avoid both the repression and the cooptation of our project by the university-as-such. You can learn more at our website: undercommoning.org. Our website links to numerous radical projects happening across the planet. Check out our Gallery of Alternatives to the neoliberal, neocolonial university, or our Toykit of tactics for more inspiring ideas.
We’re always keen to hear your about your organizations, strategies and tactics, or those that inspire you. Please contact us.