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

Margaret Morse morse at ucsc.edu
Tue Dec 14 22:41:18 UTC 2010

Dear Micha,

sure, I share your mistrust authority figures per se.  Perish the  
thought.  I am talking about actual persons I have come to know and  
trust.  Remember that students will ultimately be responsible for the  
initiative of which I spoke--how could it be otherwise, when racial  
relations are at stake (queer relations in your case) and students are  
the prime stakeholders in this context.   I have seen the Provost in  
charge of making this possible within the realm of the colleges solve  
problems in another context that had lingered in an institutional  
Sargasso Sea for decades before she undertook a long term dialogue  
with the parties involved.  The neo-liberals who consider only  
exchange value are not necessarily the people you meet on the ground.   
Those people you can know can be caring and visionary and can make a  
difference that sometimes lasts a while.  This can happen even when a  
society is corrupt--not to deny Brian's point that ours is corrupt.   
Freire's difference begins at this ground level, as I understand it.

I don't quite understand the difference between protest and occupation  
since they were the same thing in the "olden days" and they were very  
direct.  Clearly I need to investigate the current way things are done  
(or as Brian proposes, not done).  I was a bit frustrated when I tried  
to download the article you identified since it required $25--and I  
didn't find it elsewhere online within the next five minutes.  I don't  
know why I couldn't find the Armin Medosch post Brian mentioned;  
probably too bleary eyed.  At any rate, I would like to know more  
about occupation strategy today.

RE why should  a Ph.D. be required for accomplished activists and  
artists to get long term positions, it isn't always.  The exceptions  
you mention are people who have become known and "accredited" or  
validated in some other context.  As for students getting academic  
credit for life experience, this is already possible, sometimes in  
visionary contexts and at other times in rather shady commercial  
degree mills.  Another option is a Ph.D. program that allows (perhaps  
activist) artists to get Ph.D. s that have a creative as well as  
critical basis.  My own department in  Film and Digital Media has  
developed such a Ph.D. and you can find variations of this in quite a  
few places.  Such Ph.Ds are still somewhat controversial.  We also  
have a Social Documentation M.A. at Santa Cruz that especially  
encourages activists with a track record to apply.  On the other hand,  
Brian is right, you need to find a place where you can make a  
difference and it need not be in academia.  When I think of how few of  
my brilliant cohort in grad school actually wound up in academia I  
also think of what they accomplished in other ways that are really a  
part of a long term social revolution.  I endured the obstacles of  
seeking a position in academia for many years because I felt I had to  
be an intellectual and there didn't used to be very many places a  
woman could do it.   It could have been even harder were I of color or  
more queer.

I didn't want to dismiss or be dismissed by your response, so I hope  
this stab at encouragement is not misplaced.  In essence, I am open to  
the issues you raised and was moved by your post.


On Dec 11, 2010, at 1:32 AM, micha cárdenas wrote:

> 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.
> thanks,
>   micha
> 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, 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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