self-education in Constant 2016
eans of changing the world.”
This is the context of the emergence of the public library. A historical compromise between a
push for radical pedagogy and a response to dull its edge. And yet with the age of
digitization, where one would think that the opportunities for access to knowledge have
expanded immensely, public libraries find themselves increasingly limited in their ability to
acquire and lend both digital and paper editions. It is a sign of our radically unequal times
that the political emancipation finds itself on a defensive fighting again for this material base of
pedagogy against the rising forces of privatization. Not only has mass education become
accessible only under the condition of high fees, student debt and adjunct peonage, but the
useful knowledge that the labour market and reproduction of the neoliberal capitalism
demands has become the one and only rationale for education.
No wonder that over the last 6-7 years we have seen self-education, shadow libraries and
amateur librarians emerge again to counteract the contraction of spaces of exemption that
have been shrunk by austerity and commodity.
The project Public Library was initiated with the counteraction in mind. To help everyone
learn to use simple tools to be able to act as an Amateur Librarian – to digitize, to collect, to
share, to preserve books and articles that were unaffordable, unavailable, undesirable in the
troubled corners of the Earth we hail from.
Amateur Librarian played an important role in the narrative of Public Library. And it seems
it was successful. People easily join the project by 'becoming' a librarian using Calibre and
[let’s share books]. Other aspects of the Public Library narrative add a political articulation
to that simple yet disobedient act. Public Library detects an institutional crisis in education,
an economic deadlock of austerity and a domination of commodity logic in the form of
copyright. It conjures up the amateur libra
self-education in Dean, Dockray, Ludovico, Broekman, Thoburn & Vilensky 2013
ance, installation, website, blog - but the media form of
the ‘newspaper’ has an especially significant place for you: Chto Delat? began
its collective work through the production of a newspaper and has continued
to produce newspapers as a key part of its exhibitions and interventions.
Many will argue that the newspaper is now a redundant or ‘retro’ media form,
given the superior distributive and interactive capacities of digital media.
But such assessments fail to appreciate the complex form and functionality
of the newspaper, which is not merely a means of information distribution.
It is noteworthy in this regard that the Occupy movement (which has been a
constant throughout this conversation) has been producing regular printed
newspapers from the precarious sites of occupation, when an exclusive focus
on new media might have been more practical.
So, I would like to ask you some questions about the appeal of the media
form of the newspaper. First, Chto Delat?’s emphasis on self-education is
influenced by Paulo Freire, but on this theme of the newspaper it is the
pedagogical practice of Jean Oury and Félix Guattari that comes to my mind.
For Oury and Guattari (building on work by Célestin Freinet on ‘institutional
pedagogy’) the collectively produced publication works as a therapeutic ‘third
object’, a mediator to draw out, problematise, and transversalise social and
Materialities Of Independent Publishing 175
15. Gary Genosko,
Félix Guattari: A
and the Grande
html ; François
Dosse, Gilles Deleuze
and Félix Guattari:
Intersecting Lives, D.
New York, Columbia
Objects of Russian
MIT Press, 2005;
and the Values of
Social Text 28, 2
17. Gilles Deleuze
and Félix Guattari,
What Is Philosophy?
G. Burchell and H.
libidinal relations among groups, be they psychiatric associations or political
collectives. Gary Genosko has published some fascinating work on this aspect
of Guattari’s praxis, and it comes across clearly in the Dosse biography of
Deleuze and Guattari.15 With this question of group pedagogy in mind, what is
the role of the newspaper in the self-organisation and self-education practice
of Chto Delat?
DV The interrelations between all forms of our activity is very important, Chto
Delat? is conceived as an integral composition: we do research on a film project
and some materials of this research get published in the newspaper and in
our on-line journal (which is on-line extension of the newspaper); we start to
work on the publication and its outcomes inspire work on a new installation;
we plan an action and build a collaboration with new actors and it triggers a
new publication and so on. But in general, the newspaper is used as a medium
of contextualisation and communication with the broader community, and as
an interventionist pressure on mainstream cultural production.
I did not know about Guattari’s ideas here, but I totally agree. Yes, for us
the newspaper is also a ‘third object’ which carries a therapeutic function when it is printed despite all the impossibilities of making it happen, after all
the struggle around content, finance, and so on, the
self-education in Dockray, Pasquinelli, Smith & Waldorf 2010
d create new markets. Symptomatically, there is very little
resistance to this search for new forms and new models for the simple reason
that there is a consensus that the University should and will continue.
It’s also important to note that many of the so-called new forms and new
models being considered lie beyond the walls and payroll of the institution,
therefore both low-cost and low-risk. It is now a familiar story: the
institution attempts to renew itself by importing its own critique. The Public
School is not a new model and it’s not going to save the University. It is not
even a critique of the University any more or less than it is a critique of
the field of art or of capitalist society. It is not “the next university”
because it is a practice of leaving the University to the side. It would be a
mistake to think that this means isolation or total detachment.
Today, the forms of university governance cannot allow themselves to uproot
self-education. To the contrary, self-education constitutes a vital sap for
the survival of the institutional ruins, snatched up and rendered valuable in
the form of revenue. Governance is the trap, hasty and flexible, of the
common. Instead of countering us frontally, the enemy follows us. We must
immediately reject any weak interpretation of the theme of autonomous
institutions, according to which the institution is a self-governed structure
that lives between the folds of capitalism, without excessively bothering it.
The institutionalisation of self-education doesn’t mean being recognized as
one actor among many within the education market, but the capacity to organize
living knowledge’s autonomy and resistance.
One of the most important “new pedagogical models” that emerged over the past
year in the struggles around the implosion of the “public” university are the
occupations that took place in the Fall of 2009. Unlike other forms of action,
which tend to follow the timetable and cadence of the administration, to the
point of mirroring it, these actions had their own temporality, their own
initiative, their own internal logic. They were not at all concerned with
saving a university that was already in ruins, but rather with creating a
space at the heart of the University within which something else, some future,
could be risked, elaborated, prefigured. Everything had to be improvised, from
moment to moment, and in these improvisations new knowledges were developed
and shared. This improvisation was demanded by the aleatory qua
self-education in Graziano, Mars & Medak 2019
ions, and technology-driven marketization of education.
In what follows, we retrace the development of the online syllabus in both of these
contexts, to investigate the politics enmeshed in this new media object. Our argument
‘#StandingRockSyllabus’, NYC Stands with Standing Rock, 11 October 2016, https://
is that, on the one hand, #Syllabus names the problem of contemporary political culture as pedagogical in nature, while, on the other hand, it also exposes academicized
critical pedagogy and intellectuality as insufficiently political in their relation to lived
social reality. Situating our own stakes as both activists and academics in the present
debate, we explore some ways in which the radical politics of #Syllabus could be supported to grow and develop as an articulation of solidarity between amateur librarians
and radical educators.
#Syllabus in Historical Context: Social Movements and Self-Education
When Professor Chatelain launched her call for #FergusonSyllabus, she was mainly
addressing a community of fellow educators:
I knew Ferguson would be a challenge for teachers: When schools opened across
the country, how were they going to talk about what happened? My idea was simple, but has resonated across the country: Reach out to the educators who use
Twitter. Ask them to commit to talking about Ferguson on the first day of classes.
Suggest a book, an article, a film, a song, a piece of artwork, or an assignment that
speaks to some aspect of Ferguson. Use the hashtag: #FergusonSyllabus.8
Her call had a much greater resonance than she had originally anticipated as it reached
beyond the limits of the academic community. #FergusonSyllabus had both a significant impact in shaping the analysis and the response to the shooting of Michael
Brown, and in inspiring the many other #Syllabus calls that soon followed.
The #Syllabus phenomenon comprises different approaches and modes of operatin
, Resistance, and Populist Protest’, 2016, http://
‘#StandingRockSyllabus’, NYC Stands with Standing Rock, 11 October 2016, https://
a useful, fresh format precisely for the characteristics that foreground its connections to older pedagogical traditions and techniques, predating digital cultures?
#Syllabus can indeed be analyzed as falling within a long lineage of pedagogical tools
created by social movements to support processes of political subjectivation and the
building of collective consciousness. Activists and militant organizers have time and
again created and used various textual media objects—such as handouts, pamphlets,
cookbooks, readers, or manifestos—to facilitate a shared political analysis and foment
mass political mobilization.
In the context of the US, anti-racist movements have historically placed great emphasis on critical pedagogy and self-education. In 1964, the Council of Federated Organizations (an alliance of civil rights initiatives) and the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC), created a network of 41 temporary alternative
schools in Mississippi. Recently, the Freedom Library Project, a campaign born out
of #FergusonSyllabus to finance under-resourced pedagogical initiatives, openly
referenced this as a source of inspiration. The Freedom Summer Project of 1964
brought hundreds of activists, students, and scholars (many of whom were white)
from the north of the country to teach topics and issues that the discriminatory
state schools would not offer to black students. In the words of an SNCC report,
Freedom Schools were established following the belief that ‘education—facts to
use and freedom to use them—is the basis of democracy’,11 a conviction echoed
by the ethos of contemporary #Syllabus initiatives.
Bob Moses, a civil rights movement leader who was the head of the literary skills initiative in Mississi
self-education in Mars, Medak & Sekulic 2016
atic control over books that on behest
of copyright holders it can remotely delete
a purchased copy of a book, as quite indicatively happened in 2009 with Orwell's 1984.
The promised technological innovation that
would bring a new turn of the complexity in
the social allocation of goods resulted in a
simplification and reduction of everything
into private property.
The history of resistance to such extreme forms of enclosure of culture and
knowledge is only a bit younger than the
processes of commodification themselves
that had begun with the rise of trade in
books. As early as the French Revolution,
the confiscation of books from the libraries
of clergy and aristocracy and their transfer
into national and provincial libraries signalled that the right of access to knowledge
was a pre-condition for full participation
in society. For its part, the British labor
movement of the mid-19th century had to
resort to opening workers' reading-rooms,
projects of proletarian self-education and
the class struggle in order to achieve the
establishment of the institution of public
libraries financed by taxes, and the right
thereby for access to knowledge and culture for all members of society.
SHAD OW P U B L I C L I B R A R I ES
Public library as a space of exemption from
commodification of knowledge and culture
is an institution that complexifies the unconditional and formulaic application of
intellectual property rights, making them
conditional on the public interest that all
members of the society have the right of
access to knowledge. However, with the
transition to the digital, public libraries
have been radically limited in acquiring
anything they could later provide a decommodified access to. Publishers do not
wish to sell electronic books to libraries,
and when they do decide to give them a
lending licence, that licence runs out after 26 lendings. Closed platforms for electronic publications where the publishers
technologically control both the medium
and the ways
self-education in Sekulic 2018
w inmates to understand their position in
society and the workings of the prison-industrial complex. It is becoming
increasingly difficult for inmates to have chance encounters with a book that
could change their lives; given access to knowledge they could see their
position in life from another perspective; they could have a moment of
revelation like the one Cle Sloan had. Sloan, a member of the Los Angeles gang
Bloods encountered his neighborhood Athens Park on a 1972 Los Angeles Police
Department 'Gang Territories' map in Mike Davis' book City of Quartz, which
made him understand gang violence in L.A. was a product of institutional
violence, structural racism, and systemic dispersal of community support
networks put in place by the Black Panther Party.
The books in Herman's library can be seen as a toolbox of “really useful
knowledge” for someone who has to conceive the notion of freedom. The term
“really useful knowledge” originated with workers' awareness of the need for
self-education in the early-19th century, describing a body of 'unpractical'
knowledge such as politics, economics, and philosophy, workers needed to
understand and change their position in society, and opposed 'useful
knowledge' – knowledge of 'practical' skills which would make them useful to
the employer. Like in the 19th century, sustaining the system relies on
continued exploitation of a population prevented from accessing, producing and
sharing knowledges needed to start to understand the system that is made to
oppress and to articulate a position from which they can act. Who controls the
networks of production and distribution to knowledge is an important issue, as
it determines which books are made accessible. Self-help and coloring books
are allowed and accessible to inmates so as to continue oppression and pacify
resistance. The crisis of access persists outside the prison walls with a
continuous decline in the number of public libraries and the books they offer
due to the double assault
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