Notes on an Academic Revolution – Eileen A. Joy

The revolution is happening in US Higher Ed. In someone’s living room. In many living rooms and studies and bedrooms and patios and kitchens and coffee shops and bars and even in parked cars where someone might be poaching free wireless from someone or illegally downloading journal articles and monographs. It’s outside the University but it’s about the University, and for the University-to-Come. It doesn’t partner with questionable and unethical companies like Newgen, or Kudos, or Udacity, or Google, or Apple, or Springer, or Elsevier, or Informa, or Kroll Security, or Intel, or Microsoft. It doesn’t take advantage of other nations’ allowance of inhumane labor practices (as the majority of university and commercial academic presses do). It is not working to eliminate working (it is not building robots and algorithms to eliminate people and other forms of creaturely life). Its head is in the clouds (but not the Cloud), and its feet are in the streets. It doesn’t rely on the Internet for freedom or democracy. Instead, it writes messages in bottles while scrambling government and corporate digital signals from the rooftops at night. It takes down drones before they reach their destinations. It surveys the surveyors and issues the broadside writs for their arrest. It sets free the whistleblowers. It believes in locally-embedded, socially-embodied forms of life. But it also believes that everyone should have the right to determine the life form that is best for them and to be supported and affirmed in that desire. It believes in wandering and practices wanderlust. It sets down roots in order to be able to keep moving while always setting down roots (the Radicant). It believes in exhaustion and exuberant existentialism. It puts the eros back into the demos. It wants a civic erotics! It refuses to perform. It refuses to fill out the forms. It is against all forms! It believes in the freedom and open sharing of all information. It disobeys copyright as an obscenely immoral appropriation of “property rights.” It does not believe in property, except what is common to all who desire to learn and to teach. It does not believe in rank. It does not believe in status. It does not believe in tenure for some and not for all. With Simone Weil, this revolution says that there is no such thing as equal privilege because privilege by its very nature could never be equal, and also because to even desire privilege over others is obscene. It believes in libraries and archives as the greatest hive-mind, time-traveling spacheships ever created. This revolution is, in fact, a Library, which is also a Hall of Muses. This revolution has one weapon and one type of captain. Books and Muses. For the University-to-Come, all we need are the books. And the Muses, by which we mean our Mentors, by which we mean our Teachers. And perhaps some time to Read. To Think. To Write. On the other side of the neoliberal hurly burly. There is no need for anything else.

Eileen A. Joy is a scholar of medieval culture and literature who has written a number of academic books on those subjects. She is also associate director of Punctum Records, founding director of Punctum Books, and editor of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies.

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