How do we make space for time?

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If there is no church in the wild, if there is study rather than knowledge production, if there is a way of being together in brokenness, if there is an undercommons, then we must all find our way to it. – Jack Halberstam
We invite you to join us in the break! For one night, we will occupy space, take possession of time, and think about what it means to ‘be with’ each other. Through a score of discussion and silence, activity and play, we will collectively make space for time and co-create a new institution*.
Is there something you wish you had more time for? Gazing at clouds, fly-fishing, cat stroking, laughing? Bring an object or idea to contribute to a playful potluck of unproductive activities and everyday expertise.

The Institute of Killing Time is a new (anti)-institute for the experimental study and exploration of time. This inaugural event is part of Antiuniversity Now 2017.

Do join us! Book your place on Eventbrite.

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Stories we dare to tell

relentless optimism

Easter meditation. I have been absent for a while. The winter of my discontent is over. Every year I tell myself ‘this time it won’t get me’. It always does. Short days, feeble winter light get the better of me. And I always come out at the other end. In the meantime, we have been plunged into a dystopian world that would put Ray Bradbury and George Orwell to shame. An inarticulate, narcissistic white supremacist is now the most powerful politician on the planet and he seems determined to pick a fight. A schoolyard bully with weapons of mass destruction at his disposal. Can I freak out now?
No, I can’t. We can’t. I don’t know what the future will bring, but we’d better stay lucid.
From my privileged spot, I can campaign, I can protest. What else? I am fortunate enough to be able to turn my job into a militant practice. I am fortunate enough to be working with students who (most of the time) demonstrate a remarkable generosity of spirit. I can build a militant classroom, to borrow Kim Solga’s words. But how? Teaching and research are hardly predictable activities: if you are looking for neat and ordered stuff you might as well change career. Dealing with living, breathing human beings requires a good degree of flexibility and responsiveness.
What then? How do you turn academic work into a militant practice? I’m not sure, but somehow I’ve always known that my practice (on and off stage, inside and outside the classroom) boils down to sharing stories. Forget the post-truths or the alternative facts. Beyond the news, we have stories to tell. Stories that reconnect us with our resilience, kindness, and generosity. Stories to counter the pestilent narratives of the past few months; stories to heal, stories to overcome fear, stories to make sense of the illogical and frightening stuff the world throws at us every day. And, by all means, stories to explore the monsters that inhabit the deepest cracks of our conscience; stories to face our biases and our prejudices. Teaching and research are conversations: we build images, we weave narratives, we propose visions of the world.  I’m starting here. Is it enough? Of course not!
Happy new season, everyone.

War Scars

I saw my grandfather crying once. Only once. He was telling a wartime story. In 1943, he was 17 and enlisted in the Italian navy. On 8th of September, the Allies signed the armistice with the Italian government. The civil war had started. Granddad was in Venice at the time. The Italian army had no orders from central government and northern Italy was occupied by Nazi forces. He had two choices: joining the fascist army in northern Italy or run away. Granddad and a group of fellow youngsters decided for the latter option. Maybe it was fear, maybe hope, maybe it was the recklessness only 17-year-olds can muster.
It was a dangerous journey. He was a deserter and the Nazi occupiers were not exactly a conciliatory bunch. After many adventures, he reached Civitavecchia where he hoped to board a ship back to Sardinia. I’m sure he must have known fear, but his tale was always upbeat. There was almost a hint of self-complacency. We asked what was Civitavecchia like. The town was still occupied by Germans and grandad had to hide. In the meantime, the British were bombing the area. And as his memory went back to the bombings, the sirens, the shelters, civilians dying, buildings reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds, something inside him broke. He started crying. He could bear going back to his escape from Venice, the perilous journey through occupied Italy, hiding in Civitavecchia, but the bombings were still an open wound. I don’t know why, but I can try to imagine. The explanation I have given myself is that somehow he had agency over his desertion and his journey but he had no power whatsoever over death falling upon you from the sky. A faceless enemy, constant fear, not knowing what you would find when you come out of the shelter.
Years later, I found out that Grandad took medications for anxiety all his life. He rejoined the navy after the war, but he quit in the early Sixties, probably because of his panic attacks. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I can’t help wondering to what extent the war had shaped him.
Family stories emerge as I watch the news coming from Aleppo, as I think about the displaced, the dead, the injured, the city in rubbles. Even if the war ended tomorrow, reconstruction would take decades and it would only fix the material damage. The memory of violence shapes individuals and communities. Aleppo will never be the same again. Scars will be visible, wounds will remain open, survivors will wake up in the middle of the night paralysed by fear, they will have panic attacks and burst into tears many decades from now. Just like my Grandad.
I would like to write about my extraordinary first term at Exeter, about my students, about teaching, research, about the exciting feminist theorists I’m studying, but everything seems redundant now. All I can do now is contemplate the senseless violence humankind is capable of. I think about the survivors, racking my brain for solutions, focusing on the minuscule acts of charity within my reach. All I can do is think about the living, hold my loved ones close. Time will come for philosophy, for art, for beauty. Not now. Not yet.