Building alliances across power-marginalised groups to reinvent academic praxis

Year: 2021

Author: Brennan, Marie, Zipin, Lew

Type of paper: Symposium

Decolonising unjust and badly-tending power in Australian higher education requires alliances across Australian Indigenous nations, Indigenous peoples across the world, refugee/immigrant and marginalised groups in Australia, and those in Australian universities from relatively privileged social positions. Yet university governance bodies have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic in ways that reinforce narrowly Euro-centric, authoritarian, divisive and careerist habits that align with colonial and capitalising logics. These habits inhibit alliances for reimagining the university and its possible contributions to new teaching, research and community-connected practices needed in times of social-structural and planetary-ecological crises. How, in such contexts, might we work towards building emergently new knowledges, along with retrieving older knowledges that university sectors narrowly exclude (what Santos has termed colonial ‘epistemicide’)? What new spaces for alliance might be opened up, around what kinds of teaching-and-research projects?In recent work, we have tracked links between symbolic and affective violence of university governance ‘pedagogies’ that compel compliance with agendas of institutional market-competition that empty academic labours of substantive use-value purpose, displaced by performative fabrications of ‘high quality’ that emphasises the exchange-value of academic work. Yet ‘use-value’ impulses, including collegial relationships in teaching, community service and research, still remain in many academic’s dispositions for purposeful labour, inducing emotive disturbances. In this presentation, we consider how these emotional labours of our current university situations, rather than plunge us into ‘affective crisis’, might fuel ethical-political alliances and praxis to reimagine and re-purpose academic work towards more use-valued contributions of our labours towards social futures.We explore Santos’ concept of a polyphonic university: an emergent place where diverse social-cultural groups and their knowledges forge ethical ecologies of mutual intelligibility and respect in collaborating against cognitive-emotional colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy and racism. With Andreotti, Stein and other colleagues in this space, we eschew building a large vision and long-term plan. Rather, we take a pragmatic-radical orientation to partnership co-designed projects Recognising the uncertainty and complexity of this historic juncture – for universities and societies – we must start from where we are to unlearn habits - to decolonise our habitus – through practising differently towards new modes of ‘subversity’. Project collaborations across between diverse groups – looking to colleagues from most-marginalised communities for where use-value (e)motivations are strongest - can initiate urgently needed creative ‘experiments’ in working together to reinvent academic knowledge ecologies, practices and relations for social and planetary futures.