Hope, Pedagogy and Utopia in the Neoliberal University
City South Campus
Westbourne Road Edgbaston Birmingham B15 3TN United Kingdom
A dialogue on hope, pedagogy and utopia within, against and beyond the neoliberal and colonial University.
You are warmly invited to join us for a CSPACE sponsored Research Event with a wine and drinks reception that will take place on 18 December 2019. From 17:00 - 19:00 at Birmingham City University City South Campus.
The contemporary moment in capitalism is beset by news of crisis and disaster: a decade of austerity, the commodification of evermore spaces of life, snowballing evidence of the severity of the ecological crises we face, and the increasing cruelty and racism of border regimes. There appears to be some hope in radical movements within and outside universities, yet there are concerns that these movements are empty of meaningful political content. Social movements such as Extinction Rebellion have exploded in popularity, bringing climate change to mainstream attention, yet have been criticised for populism, failing to draw links between social and ecological justice, and for claiming that climate change is ‘apolitical’ or ‘beyond left and right’. Recent movements within HE, begun by the grassroots and adopted as official policies within some institutions and departments include moves to ‘decolonise the curriculum’, and to declare ‘climate emergency’. These movements also appear hopeful, yet their emancipatory potential is belied by soaring student fees and corresponding debt, the precarisation of academic labour, and the introduction of ever-changing metrics such as REF, TEF, and KEF. All of these dynamics are linked to increasing gender, race and class exploitation, the corporatization of university space and the commodification of knowledge.
In this joint keynote, we take a dialogical approach to exploring ways in which spaces and curricular practices for utopian hope can be introduced as part of contemporary Higher Education pedagogy. We will consider – and propose for consideration – opportunities for connecting wider practical utopias, social movements, and creative tactics, that recognise and encourage alternative pedagogical practices for student activism and democratic knowledge creation. Alongside this, we will explore the canonisation and bordering of knowledge within the university as part of a context of historical struggle and curricular control.
Following the joint keynote, you are warmly welcome to a wine and drinks reception where we will continue the conversations.
Rhiannon Firth is Senior Research Officer in Sociology at the University of Essex. Her research interests include anarchist utopias, critical pedagogy, social movements and radical epistemologies. She is the author of Utopian Politics: Citizenship and Practice (Routledge), which involved ethnographic research with several intentional communities, housing cooperatives, and autonomous social centres around the UK. She has published several articles on utopian pedagogies in radical social movements. She is currently writing a book on anarchist disaster relief social movements in the USA, contracted for publication by Pluto in 2020. She is also currently conducting research on radical perspectives mobilising around future technologies and skills in manufacturing. She recently wrote the afterword for a new edition of Marie Louise Berneri's Journey Through Utopia for PM Press in 2019.
Craig Hammond is Senior Lecturer in Education at Liverpool John Moores University; prior to moving to LJMU, Craig taught across further education and college based higher education (CBHE) for 18 years. From 2015 to 2017 Craig was the Research and Scholarship Leader at University Centre Blackburn College. Craig gained his PhD in Sociology from Lancaster University in 2012, and obtained recognition as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) in 2015 for his college-based higher education research and scholarship work. His recent publications 'Hope, Utopia and Creativity in Higher Education: Pedagogical Tactics for Alternative Futures' (Bloomsbury, 2018), and ‘Folds, Fractals and Bricolages for Hope: Some Conceptual and Pedagogical Tactics for a Creative Higher Education’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) address and develop concepts and practices associated with democratic learning and radical creativity. In addition to being one of the co-convenors of the BERA ‘Higher Education’ Special Interest Group, he is Deputy Editor for the education journal PRISM, an editor with the Cultural Difference and Social Solidarity Network, and Vice-Chair of LJMUs Centre for Educational Research Centre.