Weaving, guts and darkness

This text is a part of a travelling conversation Response to Keri’s letter Reading your reflection makes me think a lot of Vanessa and colleagues’ Bricks and Threads cartography; the bricks and threads stand for a set of ways of being, the bricks representing fixed forms, linear time (‘things move forward’), and self-worth depends on external validation; threads emphasize shape-shifting, layered time, everything is living, and self-worth is grounded in connection. Knowledge under the metaphor of bricks is layered – it can be discovered, accumulated and transmitted – while knowledge in the threading metaphor is interlacing – oriented towards relationality, it comes from many places and is earned, rather than being an entitlement. The frustration I think you reflect on is with the brick sensibilities, a frustration that I share with you. While I (unfortunately) haven’t experienced the final episode of Buffy, I think I can appreciate the comparison – Our job is not to rescue the university, but to create conditions for thoughtful cultures to grow. In the university, there are a lot of people (and other creatures?) holding threads of myriad colors, lengths, passed down by different ancestors. But the university is also physically a pile of bricks,…

Working with impossibility

This text is a part of a travelling conversation Today, talking with a dear friend and close collaborator, we were discussing how the hell to work and what it means to try to work as an academic when faced with the all encompassing shitshow that is our current planetary situation – not just the pandemic, but the sheer unholy mess that is our economic, ecological, spiritually impoverished condition. Just having the conversation helped get me out of a funk I’d been in all week. Lakin is right, encounter matters. Above all, for me, conversation matters. Conversation is a place for crying and for laughter, for testing ideas, for human connection, for articulating and working out what on earth it is you think you think. Conversation is also the place where something new can emerge alongside relations of care, of love, of friendship. And conversation is precisely what we don’t usually have time for in universities. We are all talk – and god this pandemic has made that apparent, words words words, meetings meetings meetings – but no conversation. At the moment sustainable academic culture is an impossibility. Academic culture is not sustainable – at all. It depends on resource extraction…

Encounters in Pandemic academia

This text is a part of a travelling conversation Throughout this pandemic we have focused on what’s changing. But we should also notice what conspicuously hasn’t. The parts of our social lives that were already aligned with the apparent ‘new normal’. Academic cultures vary. But the one I find myself in can feel as if it is a set of social arrangements in which people try to avoid getting close to each other, as if scared of what might happen in their encounters with others. Which is a shame, because any collaboration that is transformative means getting close enough to others to become changed in the process. In her book The Mushroom at the End of the World*, anthropologist Anna Tsing contrasts two different ways of understanding encounters. The first image of encounter is familiar to us, as it runs deep in the modern world. Its central concept is that of the self-contained entity, operating towards its own optimal ends. Tsing locates it in the great ‘twin disciplines’ of modern knowledge, population genetics and neoclassical economics. Their frameworks are similar: “at the heart of each is the self contained individual actor, out to maximize personal interest, whether for reproduction or…

World-making conversations

This text is a part of a travelling conversation Everything is a conversation, and it is the world we inhabit. – Tim Ingold Outside my window, the day has begun. Sun reaching above the rooftops, attempting to burn through the hazy, diffuse clouds covering the vaulted sky this morning. In the distance, fir-trees dancing happily in the wind. A greeting from the edge of the forest. I’m starting my second cup of Darjeeling & Earl Grey tea. Sitting at my writing desk, candle burning at my side. As I write, we are a few weeks into the pandemic now sweeping the world. I’ve been working from home for some time now. Perhaps this is a strange time to be writing about sustainable academic cultures. Or perhaps not. As I read the essay by Sachiko, my mind travels back in time. I am somewhere in France, in the late 1960s. I think of the unusual collaboration and friendship that developed between philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyst Felix Guatarri. Felix would wake up and write first thing in the morning. He would then send off his text to Gilles – unrevised and unpolished. Gilles would rework and rewrite it. Every Tuesday afternoon…

Slow down and care

This text is a part of a travelling conversation What are sustainable academic cultures? Sanna asks. Ah, this is such a good question, I think to myself on a Thursday evening past 6 pm. I had just discussed with one of my supervisors this week that it’s important to try to focus on my dissertation project, to try to cut out everything else. Nothing is worth it if you break down with stress and overwork, she said. I had asked her strategies for dealing with stress, since I haven’t been able to sleep very well this semester. It still feels like I am trying to adjust back into my usual rhythm in my Swedish academic life, even two months after coming back from my three-month stay in Japan. I was happy to be able to discuss my vulnerable sides with her (as well as with my other supervisor, which gave similar advice), and I thought their advice was wise. It’s really important not to overload myself. And here I am again, agreeing to give some thought on a writing project “for fun.” To try not to do other things than my research –this seemingly simple act, why is it so…

A culture that cares?

This is a part of a travelling conversation I come from a place of thinking about sustainability and climate change in higher education (HE) and how education can support and enable learners to participate in a world characterised by complex sustainability challenges. Thus, my questioning leads me to the main question of how can universities be places that actively respond to these challenges? This piece is therefore situated around my thinking of Western higher education institutions and their academic cultures. Care of earth, care of people, return of the surplus – Principles of Permaculture Ethics My recent thinking around HE has been coloured by my interest in permaculture – permanent agriculture where social and economic, not just ecological, patterns are included in the equation – and in permaculture design principles. Could the principles and ethos behind them help to reimagine academic cultures? At first glance, these principles seem to offer generative ways to think upon what practices could be sustainable in HE academic culture. Permaculture design takes to heart that engaging in and with a complex world is inherently unpredictable. Uncertainty is a basic characteristic of life on our planet. As such, it seems like following a specific recipe or…

What could Sustainable Academic Cultures be?

– A Travelling Conversation During the Spring of 2020, just when the Corona pandemic was starting to unfold, some of us at CEFO – The Center for Environment and Development Studies Research Forum, started talking about writing something together in a different way. Instead of everyone sitting together or working on the same document to come up with a single voiced narrative – the common approach to co-authoring – we wanted to try something new. If we had a different writing process, would it change the written outcome? How would how we write change what we write?  We came up with the idea of a “traveling conversation”, inspired by a method witnessed at an Anticipation conference in Oslo recently. Everyone participating would get a common question, in our case “What are sustainable academic cultures?” One person, let’s say A, would start by writing a response to this question, and then pass it on to another person, B. Then, B would write a piece responding both to the overarching question and to A’s response. The third person C, however, will only receive the piece that B wrote, and write a response based on that. The following Person D will only receive what C wrote, and so on….