Session Submission Summary

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Collective Reflection on Critical Hope and Structural Change

Sun, November 6, 10:00 to 11:45am, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Grand Salon C - Sect 16 - 1st Floor

Session Submission Type: Experimental Session


Today's higher education system can be oppressive, antagonistic, exclusionary. Challenges around uneven distribution of resources have been revealed and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, glimmers of hope and community persist. We propose a hybrid session—part reading group, part question-driven–that invites participants to consider: What can thrive in a ruined landscape?

The discussion is predicated on critical hope: a hope that does not overlook the challenges of our current reality. We will focus on the quiet attunement that predicates urgent action. How might pausing—slowing down, observing—be a purposeful act of resistance? Join us to imagine what higher education might look like if organized around the collective flourishing of those who work, learn, and teach within its bounds—and to create a springboard for structural change.

Session Structure

We invite participants to read the following texts prior to the session:
- Katherine McKittrick, Dear Science and Other Stories: "Curiosities (My Heart Makes My Head Swim)" and "Footnotes (Books and Papers Scattered About the Floor)"
- Natalie Loveless, How to Make Art at the End of the World: Introduction
- Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: "Arts of Noticing"

To ensure that the session is accessible to all, we will provide these texts in advance, and will also bring brief excerpts of each for those who have not read the pieces in full.

The primary question that motivates our proposal is: How do we create the conditions that allow students, faculty, and staff to thrive in postnormal times?

We also ask, how can momentary and provisional collectives—like "patchy assemblages" (Tsing)—spark new modes of working, thinking, and being together in higher education?


This session grows from an informal collective that started in October 2021, a gathering of practitioners in and around higher education who share a frustration with the status quo and a hope that things can be better. We value curiosity and care, equity and mutual sustainability, messiness and beauty.

Through a series of wide-ranging readings, we have discussed how institutions shape the ways we think, know, and relate to one another. Our work builds on long traditions of study that have flourished in liminal spaces, including those rooted in Black radical traditions (Moten and Harney, Kelley). This group is a space of abundance and overflow, where desires exceed institutional parameters. We delight in thinking together across and through differences, with perspectives that span a wide range of roles both within and beyond the academy and physical locations across North America.

The fluid structure of our collective also applies to temporality. We try to imagine November 2022, what questions we will be asking, what decisions our institutions will have made. We don't know. But within that uncertainty, we find hope in the idea that we will want to have this conversation, no matter what may be happening. We gather because connections are vital and valuable, and because academia—from learning and teaching to research and administration—is relational. We will probably be angry. We will also be hopeful.

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