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The body, the mind, and dissent

5 May

by Kiley Goyette

For many people, a picket line is the essence of a strike, without which a strike might as well not exist. What a picket line means, the shape that it takes, and the power that it holds will all vary depending on the moment, the place, the people, the cause. As we discovered during the student strike at Concordia (Montreal), it depends on the body as both a form of political expression but also a strategic tool.  This is echoed in our course readings on feminist geopolitics, such as Sara Koopman’s (2011) description of how the presence of privileged bodies beside those threatened by violent repression in Colombia creates opportunity for hopeful change.  Judith Butler (2011) discusses the prerequisite of the body in politics in the context of the Occupy movement.  Although I have experienced the almost surprising power of embodied politics during the strike, it is difficult to ignore the essential role of the mind in this process. During arguments with angry students, encounters with security, or mobilizing groups of strikers when scenarios suddenly change and next actions are unclear, an agile mind and an in-depth understanding of the situation at different scales is required —  not something that is possible for all bodies.  Additionally, the intellectual and emotional demands that accompany picketing can ultimately deter people from participating in picket lines. Continue reading

Love Song for March 22, 2012

2 May

by Jess G

Geogging – Strike Edition

1 May

Members of the Geogging Collective have been writing about their experiences in the student strike from a critical geography perspective, especially based on readings from the course GEOG398G Critical Geographies (read about the creation of the class in previous posts).  We are happy to share these reflections with you as a series of posts over the next few days. Hope you enjoy!

P.S. submissions are welcome if you are interested in having your reflections posted. Email kileygoyette at gmail dot com

Concordia Student Strikes: Reflection, reflexion and solidarity

28 Apr

The following was delivered at the Concordia-wide General Assembly on April 26th, to introduce a motion on non-denunciation and respect of diversity of tactics. It has been updated to reflect some observations made during the Assembly. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the discussion on this point, especially Prof. Anna Kruzynski of the School of Community and Public Affairs for adding her expert precision to the motion.   

I am a student of the Geography, Planning and Environment (GPE) Department. The majority of lectures in this department did not take place during the last 5 weeks of classes. The message from the University at President Lowy’s Townhall meeting was that it was up to the professors to determine the best way to evaluate the courses, given the circumstances.  This response is one of a university interested in passing students, not educating them. This undermines the value of class time. This undermines the value of professors. This undermines the value of a degree at Concordia. It was irresponsible of the administration to deny those students whose class time had been missed the education they had been offered at the beginning of the term.

From the time we learned the university’s intentions for the rest of the semester, it was in a sense our responsibility to block exams. During the weeks prior we had endured the méprise of our peers, with our hearts conflicted over our principles and our friendships, on the belief that the University’s responsibility to provide an education to its students would spur it into action. When that failed, it was our responsibility to block the exams: to force the University to acknowledge the state of affairs, to ensure they provided all students, whether participating in the strike or not, with the opportunity to make up those classes. Continue reading

Putting the Quebec Student Strikes in Context

17 Mar

Written in response to a thread on CRIT-GEOG-FORUM@JISCMAIL.AC.UK discussing the Quebec student strikes. Since it is a geography listserv I thought this would be a good opportunity to share some broader reflections on the place/space/identity of the movement. The thread at the bottom of the page.

Susan has done a good job of simplifying a complex situation.  As a student involved in this strike, I would agree that this is more a fight “for” a principle than “against” a tuition increase, although most of the rhetoric in protests and pamphlets is focused on opposing the hikes specifically.    This single issue has also been expressed in positive terms as a fight “for accessible education”. However, the student strikes in Quebec are not limited to the specific monetary amount that tuition will be raised, but the entire system of values that accompany it.  While I hesitate to throw around the word “neoliberalism”, it really is the term that best encapsulates what we as students are opposing.   Tuition increases are one aspect, but there are also concerns about incentives to increase private funding of research, increasing the marketing portion of the budget, defining “quality” of education in terms of the number of graduates, etc… Continue reading

Spaces of a Student Strike

13 Mar

I have been wanting to write something about my experiences with and observations of the strike for a while now, but time and energy have been scarce resources.  There are many spatial elements that have played a role in how the strike has unfolded: the horizontal distribution of the campus downtown, the vertical distribution of classes in a multistory building, and the number, size and distribution of doors to a classroom have all contributed to how we’ve organized and sometimes contributed to our success or failure.

I observe and obsess over these little things on a day-to-day logistics level, but from wider tactical perspective there is one issue that is very problematic. It is tangled up in the nature of a student strike, the purpose of picket lines, the individual, education as a download… the question is, how many hours should I put into writing this article in order to get across all these things?  What should my central problem and main argument be? (Oh school, you were supposed to prepare me for this!)

Continue reading

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