The Power of Abundant Friendship

Words are torture in my mouth.Words are weapons when we shout: Ya Basta! Enough.

I attended an un-conference on higher eduction at the Tamera Peace and Research Centre in southern Portugal, 20th- 26th  August, 2015. The theme for the event was A Gathering of Kindred Folk – Reimagining Higher Education. The shared assumption was that higher education is complicit in the commercialisation of knowledge and that another form of knowing needs to be reimagined  to undermine the process of academic capitalism and the colonialisation of knowledge and of life. The colonisation of the world by capitalist civilisation was regarded by many of the participants as a catastrophe for the planet and its biosphere.

There was a tension in the group between people from the global south committed to indigenous and land based knowledges and revolutionary radicals from the global north for whom a critique of capitalism is required in order to recover the connection between humanity with nature. There was another approach based on developing  practical solutions for the many problems confronting the planet through, for example, permaculture, and others who favoured systematic decision-making processes to resolve problems on the organisational and global scale. There was consensus between the participants involved with the Zapatistas who argued for an anarchist-Marxist critique grounded in the values and culture of the Mayan people. All agreed on the power of love. I argued for the power of hate, not a subjective hate but a radical hate against what the world has become, as the other side of the love-hate dialectic and the basis for a negative critique of our commodified lives. We told each other stories about our own predicament and shared each other’s suffering and joy. There were more than forty of us from all over the world. We lived together, ate together, laughed and cried together, and had fun together.

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We were all developing alternative universities and other types of critical education projects,  including the Universidad de la Tierra en Oaxaca and California, Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture,  H3Uni, The Journey Network, Free Home University,  Kainai Studies, RedCrow Community College, Auroville, Jangu E.V., Enlivened Learning, Gaia University,  Schools Without Borders,  Social Science Centre, Transition TownsSwaraj  University,  Centre for Convivial Research and Insurgent Learning, Black Daddies Club, Ubuntu Learning Village, Schumacher College, Maui Youth in Action,  as well as  Chto Delat/What is to be Done/School of Engaged Art?

A problem was how to connect and communicate through the pedagogy and the pain. We started to create a language that went beyond words. I felt the power of abundant friendship and its ability to confront the violence that attempts to maintain the gap between the intellectual, manual, natural, the immaterial/spectral and creaturely life. We discussed the overcoming of capitalism and colonialism through practices that support humanity-in-nature in the context of higher education. This could be the practice of enquiry-in-solidarity with the rhythmatics of blood pumping heart-beats and breathing, where ‘everything is pregnant with its contrary’, like labour, but this time more of a delivery than a process. We agreed to meet again and to invite other people. Someone dreamt our next meeting would be on a beautiful island in the middle of an ocean.

Keynote: Innovation in Built Environment Education Conference, September 4th 2015: Student as Producer – Making the Classroom history

Abstract

Mike Neary presents a utopian vision for higher education based on the socialist architecture of Cedric Price (1934-2003) and the actor Joan Littlewood (1914-2002), whose work included ‘The University of the Streets’ (1961) and ‘The Thinkbelt’ (1966). These futuristic visions are grounded in a social theory of time that involves reconstituting the relationship between work-time and learning-time as a new pedagogy of space and time (Neary and Amsler 2012). Mike will show how these architectural visions have been developed as the ‘Psycho classroom’ (Lambert 2009), a prototype learning space built by the Reinvention Centre at the University of Warwick in 2006; a new form of cooperative learning, the Social Science Centre, Lincoln, UK, providing no fee higher education, and ongoing plans to develop a transnational co-operative university (Neary and Winn 2015, Teamey and Mandel 2014). At the core of this new work lies the pedagogic practice of Student as Producer, based on the problematic ‘how do revolutionary teachers teach?’ (Neary 2010, Neary 2015)

References

Lambert, C. (2009) ‘Psycho-Classroom – Teaching as a Work of Art’, Social and Cultural Geography 12 (1): 27-45

Neary, M (2010) ‘Student as Producer: A Pedagogy of the Avant-Garde’, or, How Do Revolutionary Teachers Teach? Learning Exchange 1 (1), University of Westminster

Neary, M. and Amsler, A. (2012) ‘Occupy: A New Pedagogy of Space and Time’, Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies 10 (2)

Neary, M. (2015) ‘Inhabiting the Learning Landscape’ in J. Lea (ed.) Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Open University Press

Neary, M. and Winn, J. (2015) ‘Beyond Public and Private: A Model for Cooperative Higher Education’, Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy

Teamey, K. and Mandel, U. (2014) ‘Reimagining Higher Education’, Open Democracy