‘as a normalised part of the academic repertoire in which direct action is an engaged and engaging form of research and pedagogy. This creative and politicised form of academia works by being both a seminar and a blockade, intended to transform everyday practices of the academy into a creative act of struggle and solidarity with social movements.’
So, here’s what we’ve come up with for discussion. Our day of action has actually grown to span two days:
Wednesday June 15th
We propose to join with and support groups from Wales who will be blockading. Acting together as an academic affinity group, we will care for people who will be ‘locked-on’ or otherwise blockading and making themselves vulnerable. We will meet with the groups from Wales to decide how best to offer our support, but we anticipate supplying them with food, drink etc. (people’s hand are often not free but inside lock-on tubes of some type).
We also anticipate communicating with people as an act of care that is also research (see for instance Mason, 2015). We have already suggested this and will further clear it with Wales groups beforehand. Kye Askins is taking a lead on formulating our themes/questions. Please do contribute to this process by sharing ideas with this list and perhaps on our Facebook event page too (https://www.facebook.com/events/637605826378821/). We anticipate that our interest will focus on the nexus* of democracy, nuclear weapons (Mutually Assured Destruction), and protest. Here are a couple of key references:
Phil Johnstone and Andy Stirling, Shining a light on Britain’s nuclear state https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2015/aug/07/shining-a-light-on-britains-nuclear-state
David J. Bailey, Hard Evidence: this is the Age of Dissent – and there’s much more to come
Thursday 16th July
When we realised the limited response from academic to the call for participation in the ASB, we began to focus on the notion of absence. Dismayed at first, a number of ‘great idea, with you in spirit’ messages didn’t help. Or maybe they did, at least as a spur for thought.
The idea of absence recalled an image from ‘Conflict Time Photography’, an exhibition in the Tate Modern in 2015 (http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/conflict-time-photography). It was a powerful exhibition, looking back at conflict, challenging itself to consider the past ‘without becoming frozen in the process.’ A photograph by Chloe Dewe Mathews (http://www.chloedewemathews.com/home/) of a place, Six Farm, Loker, West-Vlaanderen, had a particular resonance. It’s black and white, taken on a misty morning, and shows only a meadow, a tree and a gate. It was taken 99 years after three British soldiers were shot for desertion in this place during the first world war: Private Joseph Byers, Private Andrew Evans and Private George E Collins. The photograph is part of a series ‘Shot at Dawn’ (http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jun/29/chloe-dewe-mathews-shot-at-dawn-moving-photographic-memorial-first-world-war). This uninhabited image of a very ordinary place conjures these men and the injustice of their executions very vividly. The ghosts of the past came to life to share their stories.
AWE Burghfield is or likely will be inhabited by the ghosts of the future. This is the place that will make and maintain nuclear warheads that could kill millions of people and pollute other places for generations. And the people killed, like those British soldiers of the past, will be executed in an act of retaliation not justice. They will not be those responsible for future wars. They will likely be urban citizens of one nation bombed because their ruling elite have attacked the vulnerable population of another nation. So when we come to conceive and enact a protest at AWE, we might mark and respect the ghosts of the future. True to the ethos of the ASB and affected by the absence of our fellow academics, we might imagine the place inhabited by all those involved in teaching and research in the future, beings from the world over, an academia of all people and every place. How, though, might we represent those slain people and blighted places? In shadows like those left at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; in chalked outlines like murder victims; in words read over uninhabited quotidian images… Could we represent the ghosts of the future being fashioned at AWE by inserting books into such images, or by hanging pictures of other places in the razor-wire surrounding the factory…
If participation in this day of imagining presence interests you, please share ideas for particular actions and how we might record, disseminate and archive them with this list.
A recent inspiring readings in this context:
Robert Macfarlane, What have we done?
* ‘nexus’ is a trendy word in academia that will probably be passé with leading theorists by the time you receive this email.
Mason, K. (2015) ‘Participatory Action Research: coproduction, governance and care Participatory Geographies: Doing engaged research’, Geography Compass 9 (9) 497 – 507