[iDC] It Doesn't Just Get Better, This Is Political

micha cárdenas azdelslade at gmail.com
Sat Dec 11 00:32:09 UTC 2010

Hi Margaret,

Thank you so much for your response. It's nice to know someone's reading and
someone gives a shit. I've received a few responses from this piece,
including ones from cara and brian (i think brian is on this list so i'm not
cc'ing him), and I'm really grateful to hear back from you all.

Frankly, I'm terribly mistrusting of diplomats, politicians and chancellors.
My article was really kind of just a crying out, sharing my emotion to try
to help (re-)stir the pot and get some more movement from people around me,
particularly in Southern California, but also to try to make connections for
people between our personal experiences of difficulty and the very real
institutional situations that create those situations. I included the new
school quote in the beginning because I truly believe that the occupation
movement is doing extremely forward thinking right now towards ways that we
can reimagine the university, but also while saying that we have to stop
tolerating the problems with the universities we're in. I'm not talking
about protest here, which would rely on some modernist notions of truth and
democracy and ultimately an appeal to an institution that can be
recuperated. I'm talking about direct action, using the existing
institutions we find ourselves in to make connections, find resonances and
begin to build something else.

I appreciate brian's comments about this being a long term project. Perhaps
that is a limitation of the occupation movement, a focus on spectacularly
stopping the problematic now to the detriment of creating a better future. I
hope that those of us who want to and are willing to imagine better
structures, maybe not institutions, but better long term ways of educating
ourselves and each other, can come together. Just thinking of the cohort of
people here in southern california and friends involved in other occupations
in other parts of the world, it's clear to me that we are so, so rich in
terms of knowledge, passion and creativity. There must be some way for us to
come together to start the long term process of leaving these oppressive
universities behind us like a bad memory.

There is a log of amazing discussion on this topic on this list, so forgive
me if this sounds naive to you. More than anything, my hope was to connect
the very real emotions that I have about my experience here to a radical
critique that can hopefully help create new spaces for all of us.

Specifically, I'm talking about the problems in the admissions process and
the credential system in general. How is it that social engagement can be so
undervalued? Many of the social activists I know from the no borders,
anti-globalization and anti-war movements are much more "educated" than many
of the students I encounter in the university. How is it that their
experience has no currency here? Experience in creating and facilitating
dialog, forming complex ideas about society and the world and ways to solve
them, writing grants, calls to action, news stories and websites, experience
producing media, software and technologies for social change. Could we
imagine an "admissions" system where such ethical actions are weighed just
as heavily as course work? Just thinking of the many activists who could
teach our students so much makes me all the more furious that those guilty
of committing acts of violence against queer, trans and POC people on a
daily basis are admitted to these universities.

As for the adjunct system of temporary labor, I just can't begin to
understand why systems like the technicality of having a phd preventing
people from getting better jobs, real lasting jobs. Surely this is a longer
conversation, but there are so many extremely talented and experienced
artists and activists I know who can only hope to get a temporary teaching
job. I have a hard time believing it's not a system specifically designed,
as noam chomsky talks about, to simply instiall and reinforce compliance and
value obedience over all else. Ahh, I feel like I'm ranting, so just to be
specific, I'll ask how can we imagine a system of education without
credentials, but with a system of documenting and rewarding experience?
Clearly the kind of structure that the sciences want of documenting the
learning of a specific set of skills at particular levels does not map well
onto the humanities.

I hope this contributes to the discussion on this list and to all of our
efforts to create a new educational world.



2010/12/9 Margaret Morse <morse at ucsc.edu>

> Dear Micha,
> I was very moved by your outrage and frustration.  I can't speak for UCSD,
> but I think UC Santa Cruz was also established in an isolated and beautiful
> area on a hill and given architecture without a center.  It might well have
> a few friendly spots in it for trannies, judging from a couple of my
> students.   The campus generates microclimates that can support difference,
> but then it takes a conscious effort and dedication to overcome an often
> unconscious apartheid that creates seams and paths that keep people apart
> even when they are together throughout daily life, in town, in dorms and in
> the classroom.  I am glad the Chancellor has established an initiative this
> year to work on this problem.
>  I met a retired diplomat (Middle East, Balkan war) two years ago who
> developed literature and a method of student run "sustained dialog".  The
> method indicates that this dialogue between the races (in this case) takes
> sustained effort over a longer time frame.  His name is Harold Saunders,
> www.sustaineddialogue.org.  He mentioned that it was in use at Stanford
> and a few other campuses.   Perhaps someone knows if it has achieved any
> successes and if it is still being supported by students. The guidebook is
> built using diplomatic techniques and experiences and possibly South African
> truth and reconciliation methods so we know it can have ghastly failures as
> well heartening successes.  I personally walk across the seams whenever I
> can, but I'm thinking about how I can join an initiative to work toward
> widespread and lasting results of inclusion.
> RE dialogue, I think it gets longer term results than protest, but protest
> has to be there to draw attention and resources (hopefully) to the problem.
>   Thinking about Obama's faith in dialogue, however, when the "other side"
> would llke to take over and abolish the US government it gives me pause.
>  There has to be a necessity for and commitment to dialogue for it to really
> happen.  There has to be a more complex strategy for the coming dreadful
> years in US politics and economic policy.  (It occurs to me that the war in
> Afghanistan has become a strange mixture of entry level dialogue, drones and
> IEDs for our soldiers.  It is certainly a new kind of fighting compared to
> Vietnam and Gulf Wars I and II.)  A rethink or "concept work" is probably in
> order for me to sort out what might be productive to do now rather than
> relying solely on traditional understandings of dialogue.
> Thinking about those who are excluded from the university as
> teachers--including yourself--requires even greater consideration and long
> term effort since it involves redesigning a system that relies on cheap,
> disposble labor. I was a disposable "gypsy scholar" fo many years and was
> often told that my work record was "not real."  Nothing counted and the
> longer I was in that status the worse my chances were of getting out.  I
> wrote my way of it.  Now the "gysies" are being shed from an educational
> system fighting for economic survival.  What to do?  Especially if this
> shedding results in less diverse faculty and teaching pools.
> Thanks for sharing your anguish with us!  I hope that people who are far
> more practiced in dealing with the seams directly will weigh in.  I could
> use some help and ideas for when I return to teaching in 2011.
> Margaret Morse
> U of California Santa Cruz on sabbatical in Berlin
> On Dec 9, 2010, at 3:17 AM, micha cárdenas wrote:
> http://occupyeverything.com/features/it-doesnt-just-get-better-this-is-political/
> Last week was the first Queering the Campus Mixer at UCSD, organized by
> SPACES and the Transnational Queer & Transgender Studies Research and
> Curriculum Group, including a large effort from Sarah Shim. I wanted to add
> a comment to the discussion in the open forum, but I left the event crying
> and didn’t really feel like talking to people at that point.
> Early in the conversation, the group was discussing the need they feel for
> more queer and trans spaces on campus. One person in the circle, to
> paraphrase, said that they feel that this campus is the most homophobic
> environment they’ve ever been in. This person went on to say that they don’t
> know how the rest of us manage to do it, to come here day to day and face
> the coldness, the hostility, the feeling that everyone here is against you.
> Going on, they said that they feel like this campus is so cold that it goes
> beyond just homophobia, that everyone ignores each other, that the buildings
> feel like they are against you, the air, the cement. It’s like death, they
> said, this place is like death.
> ...
> The question I want us to ask is: who feels welcome here? And why?
> Certainly some people feel very welcome on this campus, from the looks of
> how they walk around. I’m sure you have someone in mind who you’ve seen on
> campus recently. Since the mixer, I’ve been haunted by this question,
> reconsidering what I see at this school.
> Read the rest at:
> http://occupyeverything.com/features/it-doesnt-just-get-better-this-is-political/
> --
> micha cárdenas
> Co-Author, Trans Desire / Affective Cyborgs, Atropos Press,
> http://is.gd/daO00
> Lecturer, Visual Arts Department, University of California, San Diego
> Lecturer, Critical Gender Studies Program, University of California, San
> Diego
> Artist/Researcher, UCSD School of Medicine
> Artist/Theorist, bang.lab, http://bang.calit2.net
> blog: http://transreal.org
> gpg: http://is.gd/ebWx9
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micha cárdenas

Co-Author, Trans Desire / Affective Cyborgs, Atropos Press,
Lecturer, Visual Arts Department, University of California, San Diego
Lecturer, Critical Gender Studies Program, University of California, San
Artist/Researcher, UCSD School of Medicine
Artist/Theorist, bang.lab, http://bang.calit2.net

blog: http://transreal.org

gpg: http://is.gd/ebWx9
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