Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Autonomous Organizing: The MLA Subconference

here's a link to the MLA Subconference I mentioned yesterday in my introduction of Nora, who is involved in this counter-conference to the main MLA (Modern Language Association) conference.

1 comment:

  1. I’m so glad that you brought this back up, Marco. I’ve been following the (mis)adventures of academia and the MLA more closely over the past few months. This seems like a particularly auspicious year to become much more involved given the push back from the sub conference. While neither new nor surprising there have been, as I’m sure you all noticed, a massive wave of articles popping up about the imminent demise of academics, especially – it seems – us in the humanities.

    I want to believe that a group like the sub conference can make a difference in how the academic economy is increasingly undervaluing the work of the humanities. I have heard it said that we in the humanities are not doing enough to prove our case of why our disciplines are important and therefore deserve monetary support. Well, it seems clear that this group is trying to do something.

    What I find interesting about this problem, an observation that is reflected in my response here, is that slashing of the humanities in the university system is oscillates between seemingly distinguished factors 1) Proving the validity of the humanities as an important and influential aspect of education 2)Rewarding that validity through funding (I’m talking direct funding from the University/State, not fundraising from graduates and bake-sales). I think there is the perception, no – there is the perception that the humanities are outdated in todays capital. It would be far more fiscally advantageous to get a degree is finance – or something. I’m desperately trying to understand this in Negri (and Hardt’s) terms of productivity versus work. The humantities do not openly – obviously- produce anything in the way that capitalist driven degrees create more capital. But, the knowledge and social activity produces the “skills” for the capitalist workplace (I think it does much more important things than that, for the record but we always hear this business about skills). Has anyone thought through this at length?

    Naming the work we do seems to be the first step in getting it recognized. The multiplicity of that work makes naming even more challenging. I appreciate the sub conference because they are voicing concerns alongside possible action steps. The sub conference hits its mark when it states that academic “professional organizations have failed to confront the jobs crisis in a way that is resistant to and critical of the private market’s role in dictating the terms of higher education and of our labor. This . . . is why it is necessary to work outside academic organizations in order to transform our collective futures.” Whether or not they will be successful or spin their wheels remains to be seen.


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