The University Beyond Crisis, Monday, 8 April 2013

[see here for pictures from two great days of conversation!  from the UnivBeyondCrisis symposium and roundtable around Rod Ferguson’s The Reorder of Things]

You are invited to participate in a day-long symposium on 8 April 2013 at the CUNY Graduate Center.  Titled “The University Beyond Crisis,” this symposium is part of a larger project designed to occasion collaborative critical discussion that attempts to think beyond the rhetoric of crisis that is so much a part of the current diagnoses of the state of higher education.  Indeed, the symposium is a result of collaborative thinking the five of us (Tita Chico, Kandice Chuh, Roderick Ferguson, Laura Hyun Yi Kang, and Siobhan Somerville) have begun to undertake, as well as of conversations that have taken place at the CUNY Graduate Center and the University of Maryland, College Park.  With this project, we wish to think in difference from the narratives that collectively forecast a grim future, one characterized by the foreclosure of access, academic freedoms and increasingly narrow definitions of the purpose of higher education, by taking up the work of theorizing the university anew.  Critically mindful of existent critiques, this project deliberately brackets the sense of crisis generally characterizing that scholarship.  We believe that the discourse of “crisis” has a tendency to produce a defensive reaction that can disable or stall attempts to reimagine education and its responsibilities to the public sphere — to a substantive engagement with the idea of the “public” or “common good.”  The collaborators on this project seek to identify and craft new pathways for re-imagining the university, by taking up the question of the university as a specifically intellectual problem.  This symposium is part of this ongoing work.

The overarching question of this symposium is, what is, or what ought to be, the relationship of the university to the common good?  Given contemporary conditions, how might we both envision and work toward the realization of a university that addresses that relationship and in the process, toward illuminating the idea of the public or common good itself?  What alternatives to defensive postures might we identify and elaborate?

The schedule and suggested readings may be found below.

Location: CUNY Graduate Center Skylight Room (9th Floor), free and open to the public

11a-1p Opening remarks by Kandice Chuh and Session I: on the current condition

Panelists: Duncan Faherty, Roderick Ferguson, Sonjia Hyon, Laura Hyun Yi Kang, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Chi-ming Yang

This session will be concerned with illuminating the exigencies of the current situation, including identifying the contours of the current conditions of possibility circumscribing and/or contextualizing interdisciplinarity in particular.  We share a sense that there is a kind of re-disciplinization unfolding now, which prompts a concerted attention to the possibilities and prospects of contemporary interdisciplinarity.  We wonder the extent to which there is a curtailed worldview that is animating the perspective of crisis right now — i.e., an absence of discussion of alternative models, or models of different kinds of university/educational systems that might provide some pathways for articulating new arrangements in and for the US/the universities we inhabit.

2p-3:45p, Session II: sites and practices of learning

Panelists: Tony Alessandrini, Lisa Duggan, Sujatha Fernandes, Michelle Fine, Jennifer Miller, Justin Rogers-Cooper, Conor Tomás Reed

This session will be concerned with attending to non-university based intellectual work, and to academic labor beyond the academy.  We might think about the different sites of knowledge/teaching practices and the ways in which they are undertaking the kinds of work that universities have traditionally done, and/or that “minority” discourses (women’s studies, ethnic studies, queer theorizing, and so on) have undertaken.  In what ways might such sites (their emergence, their shapes, their principles of organization) inform the ways in which we craft the contours of the academy?  This might include rethinking undergraduate and graduate education, and reflecting on the foreclosure of thinking itself given the emphasis on the instrumentalization of university education.

4p-6p, Session III: the university as an object of knowledge

Panelists: Tita Chico, Gayatri Gopinath, Edwin Mayorga, Victoria Pitts-Taylor, Robert Reid-Pharr, Siobhan Somerville

This session will be concerned with addressing the ways that the university is itself an object of knowledge.  We might mean by this both the regularity and kind of metrics used to assess knowledge/success/productivity (what evidence gets to count?), and the meaningfulness of the emergence and work of “critical university studies.”  Along these lines, we might attend to the particular situations at our respective institutions, perhaps with an eye toward generating not only the critiques of metrics, but also asking after their objectives and trying to identify new ones (this is along the lines of the idea of crafting a beyond-the-crisis concept of what universities “should” do).

suggested readings:

Participants and attendees may find the following materials of interest in thinking through the questions and issues that are the focus of this symposium:

Roderick Ferguson, The Reorder of Things: The University and its Pedagogies of Minority Difference” (U Minn P, 2012).

Michelle Fine, “Commencement Address, Forty-seventh Doctoral Commencement Exercises, The Graduate School and University Center, The City University of New York, May 27, 2011.”  [please email for a copy of this reading]

Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, “The University and its Undercommons.”  Social Text 79, 22, 2 (Summer 2004): 101-15.

Special issue on “Decolonizing the University: Practicing Pluriversity”,

Boaventura de Sousa Santos. “The University in the 21st Century.”

Andrew Ross,

Annie McClanahan, “The Living Indebted: Student Militancy and the Financialization of Debt.”  Qui Parle, 20, 1(Fall/Winter 2011): 57-77.


This event is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate Center’s Revolutionizing American Studies Initiative, the Office of President William Kelly, the Advanced Research Collaborative, the Mellon Committee on Globalization and Social Change, and the Center for Place, Culture & Politics

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