3Cs in Chicago (part 2)

Liz and Tim presented at the College Art Association Conference on the panel “Occupations: Labor, Activism, Art, and the Academy in Crisis”, sponsored by the Radical Art Caucus. The other presenters including Therese Quinn, professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and member of the AAUP and Aaron Hughes of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

We talked about 3 senses of ‘occupation’ –

  1. Our occupation as workers in the university
  2. Occupation as a struggle for university movements around the world
  3. How we use mapping to ‘re-occupy’ the university.

Therese spoke about contingent faculty organizing and ended with the following proposals,

  1. One faculty (full and part time faculty)
  2. Equal pay for equal work
  3. Job security for all
  4. Free and emancipatory education for all

Aaron discussed the relationship between education and militarization, the increasing militarization of our schools (starting at the elementary school level) and made a call for us to recognize our radical vulnerability. This relates very directly to some of the stuff we’ve been thinking about care and also opened up a whole other series of questions about the relationship between the military and the university, in terms of the class composition of the university, the relationship with immigration and research & funding.

Some of the questions we got concerned the public vs. private distinction (what does it mean that ‘public’ universities get less than a quarter of their funding from their local states?)  How can we understand and deal with what is tempting/pleasurable about ‘the private’? What do we mean by autonomous university? What is the relationship between the autonomous university and the state? How to work within the institution of the university in order to get paid, to receive course credits, and other resources?

Struggles over knowledge production

Reading list on Struggles over Knowledge Production

Blogs and Journals:


March 4th Day of Action

On March 4, tens of thousands of students and workers across the U.S. will be taking action against budget cuts, tuition hikes, and the privatization of education as part of the March 4 National Day of Action to Defend Education. From California to New York, Chicago to Tuscaloosa, Boston to Milwaukee, Seattle to Knoxville, Gainsville to Asheville, and all points in between, students and workers will be standing up and speaking out on March 4 to defend education in what is shaping up to be one of biggest days of action this country has seen in years.


International Map of Action:

View Struggles for Higher Education in a larger map

On Facebook:


Here at UNC Chapel Hill, a coalition of groups have come together to organize a week of action leading up to March 4. Below is a schedule of events:

March 1 at 12pm in the Pit
Street Theater Action: How much does your education really cost?
March 3 at 7pm in Gardner 105
Film screening and discussion about budget cuts, tuition hikes, privatization, and access to education
March 4 at 4pm in the Pit
Gather in the Pit at 4pm for a dance-infused march featuring the beats of local samba drum corps Cackalack Thunder! We’ll march to South Building, the administration building, and make our voices against the cuts to education and for equal access to education for all loud and clear! There will be a symbolic and peaceful sit-in at South Building at the end of the march.

Please keep checking back to this facebook event for more updates and other meeting times if you’d like to get involved in organizing this week of action. We’ve got to take a stand now to defend our education before it is too late!

More info on the national day of action here: http://defendeducation.org

3cs in Chicago (part 1)

Liz and Tim are in Chicago giving a series of mapping workshops and making contact with some of our collaborators up there…

Thursday night (Feb. 11) we trudged through the cold and ice through Pilsen neighborhood to a community center called Biblioteca Popular (formerly Lichen). We talked to a crowd of 20-30 map-makers and activists about our work as 3Cs and about the newly-released edu-factory book, and gave a mini mapping tutorial with an intro to free GIS data-sources and software.

There was a lot of enthusiasm for our work and for map-making in general, and it was neat to hear all the different projects folks were involved in (sound maps of Chicago neighborhoods, mapping the displacement of poor folk through gentrification, folks from Area Chicago and their web-mapping ideas, mapping anti-militarization and the university). Folks also asked some really useful critical questions:

  • One big point of discussion was how to deal with the embedded biopolitics behind data sources like US Census data that we use in our maps — as 3Cs, we often talk about how we ‘queer’ data or statistics by pulling map stories out of them that they weren’t intended for. But data sources often come so tightly bound up with state politics, white supremacist racial policies, definitions of family structure, etc., that queering them might require more conscious work than we always put in.
  • Some folks also asked whether we’ve engaged with historical examples of indigeneous counter-mapping, suggesting that we might find some useful inspirations and ideas there
  • There was also a long discussion of the idea of “using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house”, and whether we were also focusing enough on spreading knowledge of map-making to communities that haven’t had access to the tools. It made us realize that we should actually do some grassroots map-making workshops (something we’ve talked about doing for a long time but never actually organized…)

Here are some of the links to online mapping services we showed:

  • City of Chicago GIS — great source for property data, also for mapping police stations, parks, water mains, etc.
  • Geocommons Finder and Maker — Geocommons finder is  searchable online library of GIS data that anyone can upload to. Then you can bring layers into Geocommons Maker and design your own maps (here’s the sample one we showed at the workshop).
  • Trulia hindsight (hindsight.trulia.com) and snapshot.trulia.com for more generalized real estate data
  • National Atlas and OpenStreetMaps for basic physical/infrastructure data
  • USDA Food environment atlas
  • Chicago region GIS clearinghouse
  • http://opensourcegis.org/ for open-source GIS tools. Particularly recommend JUMP, uDig and QuantumGIS

3Cs meets Carrotworkers

When in London recently, Liz met with the Carrotworkers’ Collective – a collective of ex-interns in the cultural sector, working largely around issues of free labor. Their work counters some of the myths surrounding free labor in the cultural sector, which are very similar to some of those that we’ve encountered in graduate school – it’s a rite of initiation (you have to suffer as a grad student to eventually make it into the ranks of tenured faculty), we do this work out of love (therefore we don’t need to get paid a living wage), etc.

We talked about different forms of militant research, including mapping and graphing, and ways of doing both quantitative and qualitative research. They emphasized the importance of having at least some quantitative data on the cultural sector, as well as documenting the subjective experiences of interns. One technique they’ve used is to have folks graph how they spend their time in terms of unpaid vs. paid labor and the trends and transformations over time and how people would ideally spend their time.
They are currently working on a Counter Internship Guide

We’re planning on doing a collaboration with the Carrotworkers and students at Queen Mary University in April and May of this year, more coming soon…

3Cs in Bologna

Liz recently got back from a visit to Bologna…

My first night in Bologna I gave a talk at Bartleby – an occupied space at the university and spoke about university struggles in the US and the edu-factory project. The talk was part of a week of events leading up to the strike on Friday that included other talks, meetings, music and parties. Some themes that came up in the discussion during my talk were:

– the relationship between autonomous movements and major trade unions
– the effects of student debt (universities in Italy are now beginning to charge tuition fees, forcing students to go into debt in order to study – like the US!)
– the effects of the Bologna Process and other efforts at standardization of university curriculum

The next day, I participated in the autonomous student & precarious workers’ march during the general strike, as part of the Yes We Cash campaign for a guaranteed minimum income.

Back in NC, our discussions focused on the importance and the pragmatics of having a space – in Bologna, as many other places around the world, taking over a space, not only as a temporary tactic, but to create a more permanent presence, an alternative space. These spaces are used for talks and discussions like the one I participated in, and also  more generally as meeting places, spaces to enact the kind of university we want. Could we do this? It seems much harder to permanently occupy spaces within our university campus. For one, there is much less unused space to occupy and secondly, the administration is much less willing to negotiate with students for the control of a space. Yet this shouldn’t serve as discouragement, but rather open up new lines of inquiry and action. In Italy and other places, it is the strong base of student power that forces the administration to negotiate with students – building this power from below must be one of our starting points. Some questions that might merit further research – how are spaces used and controlled on our campus? What would we like that to look like? How might we begin to go about occupying university spaces differently? What about creating alternative spaces of knowledge production outside of the university?

Map of Occupied Universities in Europe

Comrades in Germany are trying to map the protests and occupations going on in universities across Europe… (there are a lot!)

It is getting a bit hard to keep a list on which university is occupied by its students and which is not. I am trying to map the international protests for a free and better education. Please feel free to comment on the blogpost if you have further information and I will update the map.


Esto es una mapa de las universidades ocupadas en europa. Los estudiantes protestan para una educacíon libre, para condiciones mejores a los escuelas y universidades y para el afianzamiento de la democracia a los universidades. Contacta a @schaffertom via Twitter o escribe un comentario antes del texto, cuando quieres contribuir algo a la carta.

Academia Insurgent – AAG Call for Papers

Annual Association of American Geographers Meeting
Washington, DC, 14-18 April 2010

Academia Insurgent: Occupying and Communizing Universities // Militant Research and Organizing (below)
Academia Insurgent: Geography, universities and cognitive capitalism

CFP: Academia Insurgent: Geography, universities and cognitive capitalism

Organizer: Counter Cartographies Collective
(University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)


Over the past few decades, the rising importance of what researchers have called ‘cognitive capitalism’, ‘knowledge economies’, or the ‘information society’ has accompanied significant developments in the role, function and governance of universities. New waves of scholarship and activism are attempting to understand these changes and their implications for the present-day conditions of labor on the university campus, as well as the future of universities in a global context. In this session, we explore recent work on the university and the global political economy of knowledge production, with a special focus on building connections between critical theory and current struggles. Submissions in formats outside the traditional conference paper are encouraged.

Possible topics include:

* Role of the university in a global knowledge economy and in the production of cognitive capitalism
* International and national competition for rankings, top students and research dollars
* Changes in the structures of university governance and the growth of an administrative apparatus
* Research funding and changing research priorities
* Patenting and privatization of university research and knowledge, the formation of spin-off corporations or other university-corporate partnerships
* Casualization and precaritization of university labor
* The effects of budget cuts and the recent economic crisis
* Struggles confronting these transformations and taking the university as a site of intervention
* Institutional writing of the university landscape and the exclusion of spaces of struggle from university narratives
* The relationship between these transformations and the university’s spatial organization and architecture

If interested, please send short proposals to liz.masondeese(@)gmail.com or tim.stallmann(@)gmail.com

Call for Papers and Presentations

Academia Insurgent: Occupying and Communizing Universities // Militant Research and Organizing

Session organizers: Elizabeth Johnson and Eli Meyerhoff (Univ. of Minnesota)

Human geography has long had a tradition of struggle–against capitalism, hierarchy, injustice; the list goes on. Looking outward from the center of the field, geographers have sought to critically engage the world through research, teaching, and activism.  In addition to Marxist, feminist, and post-colonial critiques, militant research that blends political struggle with investigation and analysis has often been a driving force within the discipline.  Yet, the institutions from within which these efforts emerge are far from unassailable, and our positions as critical scholars within them have become increasingly precarious:  as the university increasingly places a premium on products and profits, we struggle daily to maintain our roles as activists, researchers, and teachers. As individuals acting alone, the system tends to either crush or assimilate us in its mechanisms, endo-colonizing our autonomous space-times.  In the past two years many of us have witnessed and participated in a series of escalating resistances around the world that–looking inward–take the university itself as the target of critique and direct action.  A number of these struggles have involved the occupation of university spaces in attempts to interrupt and reclaim both the time and infrastructure of host institutions.  This panel/discussion seeks to ask how critical/radical geographers might continue and expand such occupations, both as direct actions and amid everyday operations, connecting with other forms of organizing.  It builds off of the conversations that were started at the ‘edu-factory’ roundtable in 2009 in Las Vegas to explore how graduate students and faculty might organize collectively across space to transform and create alternatives to the university.  It asks how we can approach such projects as the following…

* Strategies and tactics for university occupations

* Theorizing ‘occupation’ of academic spaces and times

* Militant research on universities

* Creating an “undercommons” that feeds us and feeds off of the university, enabling us to do radical work from *within* the institution without becoming *of* the institution

* Collectively preventing the alienating effects of leading such dual lives

* Valorizing our own work without submitting it to universities’ disciplinary metrics

* Maintaining our own invisibility (from capitalism/consumerism and from the university) while linking with one another and with common projects elsewhere

* Building “institutions of the common” across universities and across disciplines, as well as between academics, activists, artists, diverse economies, etc.

* Developing mutually supportive relationships for communities, movements, our teaching, and our activism without creating formal(izing) organizations

* Finding ways within the university’s walls to not only create “living communism” but also to “spread anarchy”

* Learning from university struggles around the world and across history

This session could combine formal paper presentations with shorter talks, followed by discussion. Please send expressions of interest and presentation abstracts (of 250 words or less) to Eli Meyerhoff – meye0781(@)umn.edu and Elizabeth Johnson – joh01868(@)umn.edu – by October 21st, 2009.