|More concerns over academic freedom...
||[May. 11th, 2005|03:17 pm]
In Support of David Graeber by Andrej Grubacic
David Graeber and I wrote an article together attempting to explain why
anarchist ideas have received almost no attention in the academy. When
you think of it, academia is full of Marxist radicals, but only a
handful of professed anarchists. We came to a conclusion that it must
have something to do with anarchism's concern with forms of practice;
with its insistence that one's means most be consonant with one's ends;
with its stubborn rejection of the idea that we can create freedom
through authoritarian means, embracing instead the position that we
should embody the society we wish to create. All of this does not
square very well with operating within a university. The university has
survived in much the same form since the middle ages, waging
intellectual battles at conferences, re-enforcing class distinctions,
making cabalistic decisions in secret rooms. As we stated in our
article: "At the very least, one would imagine being an openly
anarchist professor would mean challenging the way universities are run
and that, of course, is going to get one in far more trouble than
anything one could ever write".
enough, as if he was testing his own hypothesis, internationally
respected anarchist anthropologist, David Graeber, was fired from Yale
University a few days ago. Of course, that wasn't the official
explanation. The official one reads that "his contract wasn't renewed"
because of his lack of "collegiality". If you would allow me to
translate this: the "lack of collegiality" that David had showed was
when he was trying to defend his graduate students who were graduate
union organizers. Union organizers are regularly targeted at Yale. When
one brilliant graduate student organizer was almost kicked out for
clearly fabricated reasons, David Graeber was the only member of her
committee with the courage to openly stand up for her at that committee
meeting, and then later at a faculty meeting. On david Graeber's
behalf, Yale graduate students have initiated a petition which has been
signed by almost all graduate and good number of undergraduate students
why has David Graeber been given the boot? To begin with the obvious,
he is an unrepentant anarchist. David Graeber was one of the
spokespeople for the Anti Capitalist Convergence during the World
Economic Forum protests in New York. He was an activist with Direct
Action Network. He is one of the founding members of the Peoples Global
Action infopoint in New York. And he had authored many essays and
articles on anarchism. But he never did any organizing or activism on
perhaps was David Graeber's greatest crime was simply his apparently
over optimistic belief that he could remain true to his anarchist
principles within the academy. Graeber believes that graduate school
should be more than a training camp for becoming a commodity on the
academic market. Rather it should also be about joy and creativity.
Anyone who goes through a graduate program knows that such institutions
are all about socialization as an academic, much of which requires the
destruction of the sense of joy and creativity in learning, thinking
and imagining that draws people to become scholars in the first place.
For certain, some universities are worse then others. For various
reasons, Yale seems to specialize in this kind of soul-crushing sport.
Graeber offered his students an alternative model. He believes that
it's possible to be an academic intellectual and not an academic
prostitute, that it is possible not to sacrifice everything that makes
life enjoyable, that it is possible to be both intellectually
productive and politically committed. Given such convictions, is it
little wonder that David Graeber was given the boot?
a close friend of David's, I have witnessed a somewhat frantic activity
on the behalf of a few members of the Yale faculty to have him fired.
Not incidentally, these faculty members have not been speaking to David
since his name was mentioned in the papers in conjunction with the WEF
protests three years ago. But ostracizing him was difficult. Not only
because of few decent colleagues who ardently defended him. Since that
time David has published two well respected books and articles in
dozens of languages. Last year the Yale bureaucracy renewed David's
contract for only two years, citing his behavior as not being in
accordance with Yale's "academic ethics" and said that his contract
might be extended two more years if he improved "his behavior".
Tuesday a meeting was held to consider David's reappointment. Only
senior faculty were allowed to attend and David was not permitted to
respond to his accusations, nor where his accusers expected to present
evidence. After an extended slander fest, participants seem to have
concluded that it doesn't really matter if the accusations are false
and trivial, because his presence is clearly divisive thus it would be
safer to just kick him out.
someone who has spent many wonderful moments with David, I am certainly
not neutral here. But neither should you be. This issue extends beyond
the academic career of David Graeber. And beyond the price one may have
to pay for advocating anarchism in the academy. In this country, at
this exciting and surreal point of its history, this could happen, as
it already has, on so many different levels, to anybody who refuses to
participate in the Salem-like atmosphere that is being systematically
promoted in institutions like Yale, or Columbia, or Colorado. To
support David Graeber is to say that we have had enough of this
nation-wide persecution of leftist professors, accused of 'falsifying'
their "Native American identity", of supporting anti-Semitism, or of
being anarchists. To support David Graeber means to support academic
freedom and to reject the conformist dictate of fear and obedience in
the US academy.