So, this year I will say goodbye to academia. Admittedly, that far from fond farewell may linger a little as I’ve already agreed to convene a day of academic action on the UK government’s imminent decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, a travesty from all points of view, morally, politically, economically… I’m looking forward to working with others on that project, but otherwise I’ve decided that I’ve had it with academia. Not that my decision matters much, because it seems academia has had it with me! And it has all the power/violence in this relationship (Arendt, 1958). Academia and geography were never a vocation for me: I arrived in Aberystwyth from Denmark and needed a job (or rather an income, I’ve always had plenty of work to do). Then, as now, there were no jobs for me in Aberystwyth and so I seized the chance to do a four year funded PhD, researching sustainability and citizenship, concluding that green citizenship must be invested with the imperative to take direct political action. I never really ‘got’ academia. Human geographers write a lot about imagination and creativity, even irony and playfulness, but very little of that makes it into the quality of our work: we don’t often dare a vision of the future, we seldom use irony, and we never tell a decent joke! There’s a story I recall about Isabelle Allende interviewing Pablo Neruda, and the grandee of Chilean poetry tells her she’s a terrible journalist. Though she was humiliated at the time, Allende later realised he was right: she was a novelist. Someone in academia could have shared that sort of home truth with me! Apart from the limitations in the forms and content of expression in academia, I’ve also been disappointed by our ethics: the lack of solidarity, mutual aid and care; the way we’ve allowed, even facilitated, the neolibralisation – the fouling – of most of what is good in pedagogy and research. Quite a bit of my academic effort has addressed this lack, for instance ‘Imagining Resistance’, the communifesto for fuller geographies etc. Early on in my academic career (sic) I discovered the Participatory Geographies Research Group, and PyGyRG has always been a port in a storm. So, although I’m bidding academia adios, I’ll keep contact with those wonderful friends and colleagues who have made the journey bearable, sometimes even enjoyable in a masochistic way! I’ve worked closely and written with some special people. Thank you.
I used this image for the 'fracking and the imagination' conference I convened this year. And Frack Free West Wales has used it as the banner on our Facebook page. The original photo is of the traces left on a wall when a climbing plant - maybe ivy - had been torn off. I love it, and I think it's a powerful invocation of what happens underground when shale rock is fracked.
I am he as you are he as you are me, and we are all together
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A story, essay, lyric or rhyme with no reason almost every day...