A Call for Papers
Works and Days & Cultural Logic
Reflections on Transforming Praxis Inside and Outside the Classroom
Edited by Joseph G. Ramsey
Proposal Deadline: August 30, 2014
Paper Submissions Deadline: Jan. 30, 2015
To appear in the Winter of 2015
Where do radical scholarship, teaching, and activism connect? Where should they? How do academics at present engage in activism? How ought we to? What are the strengths and weaknesses of prevailing modes of scholar-activist political praxis—from union efforts, to conference assemblies, from summer seminars, to party-building efforts, to various on and off-campus coalitions? What do scholars and teachers in particular have to contribute to activist campaigns beyond the classroom? How can the classroom itself be understood as a site of activism? In what ways do the “educators need to be educated” today?What should effective activism produce? What can we learn, both positively and negatively, from past attempts at transformative intellectual-political praxis?
What positive models, past or present, local or distant, can we point to in terms of scholar or teacher activism that have opened new radical possibilities? What pitfalls threaten such academic-activist interventions? In what sense does the intellectual, scholarly, or pedagogical production taking place on or around university, college, of K-12 campuses today become a “material force” in the world in which we live? To what extent does it enable or become an obstacle to genuine movement for radical social change?What opportunities for transformative praxis are being opened up in the current conjuncture of crisis-racked neoliberal capitalism? Which are being shut down?
How is the shifting terrain of the “post-welfare state university” –with its decreasing state support for the humanities and its increasing reliance on super-exploited “adjunct” faculty and high stakes testing—creating new chances and new dangers for radical praxis? Which avenues of activism hold the most promise for us in the present period? Which appear to foreclosed or blocked? Which appear to be fundamentally exhausted and why? What modes of activism today in fact play a negative role in dissipating, confusing, or ensnaring radical political energies, preventing them from pursuing more productive avenues? How should we to relate to the experiences, the legacies, and the cultural productions of previous eras of activism? To what extent do we see our present scholarly and activist, intellectual and political commitments as extensions of these prior efforts? To what extent do we see our own praxis as representing a rupture from these past moments’ work? What are the positive and what are the negative lessons that can be critically abstracted from these prior moments, and how are they of value for us today? For instance: What are the correct critical lessons to be derived from the rapid rise and fall of the Occupy Movement in the US? From recent labor movements on and off campus? From other mass mobilizations across the world since the Great Financial Crisis of 2007-2008? In our writing, our teaching, our conversations, and correspondence: how do we relate to the notion of ‘activism’ in theory and in practice?
What is the unconscious political content of the scholarly and pedagogical forms in which we are engaged? What is the message that our activism sends out, and to whom is it addressed? In recent years Slavoj Zizek has invoked the need for a kind of “Bartelby” politics—a preference for not acting—against a liberal blackmail to “act” in ways that are fundamentally inadequate to the systemic contradictions and crises of the present situation (understood as structurally embedded in contemporary capitalism). Sometimes, he has warned, the injunction to “do something”… anything, right now functions, deliberately or not, as a means of deferring the conversations and investigations that are necessary for a subject’s discovering the correct thing that in fact needs to be done. At the same time, there are plenty on the left who would chastise Zizek and company for theorizing in ways that perpetually defer the necessity for some sort of outward oriented radical action, action that transforms the conditions of conversation and analysis by engaging people who are not usually so engaged. In what ways are left public intellectuals such as Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, David Graeber, or Arundhati Roy, making material contributions to movements for social liberation? What are the strengths and what are the weaknesses of these scholar activists’ theory and practice? We welcome contributions of any form or length that address any of the above questions or that contribute to any of the following tasks. In this 2015 special issue, help us to:
- Assess the role of scholars, teachers, and cultural specialists in activist communities, and social movements, past or present;
- Sum up the role played by academics, teachers, scholars, librarians and others in the Occupy Movement; from “Free University” efforts to “People’s Libraries” to attempts to bring Occupy discourse into classrooms (or union meetings);
- Engage the legacies, lessons, and limits of Labor Education in the United States;
- Sum up first-hand experiments with radical pedagogy, inside or outside the classroom; reflecting on attempts to expand or sustain student critique and community beyond the confines of the classroom, in time and/or space;
- Reflect on attempts (failed as well as successful, recent as well as more distant) to create new spaces for critique, new critical collectivities that transgress and transcend dominant divisions between “academia” and “activist,” from attempts to bring activist groups, methods, or perspectives onto campus or into classrooms, to efforts to bring academic work to the public, and to existing or emerging social movements and activist organizations;
- Critically analyze the role played by organic intellectuals in past struggles;
- Offer reports from the field of contemporary social struggles, including but limited to: Contingent Labor and Unionization efforts, Ecological Justice and Sustainability, Feminism, Prisoner and Immigrant Solidarity, and others.
- Reflect on the role of artistic production and its relationship to scholarship and/or activism. What productive examples of a mutual enrichment of radical politics and creative arts exist in the present? In the past? What are the lessons positive and negative to be grasped practically from a critical study of previous encounters of Art and Politics?
We welcome: Testimonials, Credos, Manifestos of Academic and/or Activist practices, and Reports from the Field, as well as more traditional essays and scholarly papers. We seek first-hand accounts of attempts to overcome particular obstacles to engaging social struggles and radical political issues in the classroom or in other academic contexts, in all their mix of positive and negative results. We also welcome personal accounts of struggles to overcome the various forms of alienation that characterize academic labor in the humanities today, and that confront academic activists in particular. How have you sought to reconcile your commitments as activist and as scholar and as teacher in the current environment? What insight or advice can you offer others facing similar struggles? We also welcome: Poetry as well as prose, photography, graphic art, and other creative forms, as well as reviews of recent critical or cultural production (books, films, blogs, etc) that thoughtfully engage any of the above topics. Please submit all proposals (250-500 words) by August 30 to: Joseph Ramsey at firstname.lastname@example.org . The print edition of the volume will appear in Works and Days in 2015. An expanded online open-access version will appear in Cultural Logic: An Electronic Journal of Marxist Theory and Practice www.clogic.eserver.org .