Creating activist scholars - Page 2

New anarchist-led program at CIIS aims to help Bay Area social justice groups

Anarchist Adrej Grubacic heads CIIS's new Anthropology Department.

"It's the only department like it in the United States," Grubacic says. "This is going to be one of the few places where anarchism is going to be studied."

"So anarchist social theory, anarchist education, anarchist ideas in general. We are going to study them, seriously, because they need to be recognized seriously. It's a beautiful history, it's a beautiful tradition," he says. "How important it is, I think, is revealed, by the recent rediscovery or reinvention of anarchism at Occupy. So I think that it's more relevant than ever to create a space where anarchism will be studied."

A CIIS education doesn't come cheap. Two years in the masters program costs at least $35,000, and to earn a PhD will cost more than $60,000. Scholarships and financial aid are available, but Grubacic called the question of access to this program "a huge question."

"It's troubled me from the very beginning," he says. "We are creating an experiment. It's a social justice, community-based program in a private school."

He hopes, however, that students will learn applicable skills in the program. Classes on radio, film, and writing, Grubacic says, will give students practical skills. "They will be able to continue, either as academics and go to get their PhDs, or to join the non-governmental sector, to work with NGOs, to work with community groups, to work with labor groups."

Not the most lucrative professions, perhaps, but likely the chosen fields for many Anthropology and Social Change students.

Grubacic calls creating a program based on teaching grassroots and subversive knowledge in an elite institution "a paradox," and one he's not alone in. Grubacic got advice on the issue, he said, from Anibal Quihano, a Peruvian scholar known for his theories on colonial power who now teaches sociology at the Binghamton University in New York.

In fact, Grubacic practically convened a conference of post-colonial and anarchist scholars to help develop Anthropology and Social Change. Grubacic sent the program's description around to everyone from his buddy Chomsky to Immanuel Wallerstein to World Social Forum organizer Boaventura de Sousa Santos. He got advice, too, from organizers at the Popular University of Quebec and the Popular University of Social Movements, a school in São Paulo, Brazil run by the landless workers' movement there.

"The deciding thing about our own methodology was that we would like to listen, both to the voices coming from the past, so people who are doing similar things before us, and to people who are doing similar things right now," Grubacic said. "We also went — and this is the third form, let's say, of listening — to the people in the community."

He reached out to contacts and friends of professors in the university, as well as hanging out in gathering places and striking up conversations with those who showed up. He told one story of doing this covert outreach in the Tenderloin National Forest, the botanical garden and neighborhood spot just 10 blocks from CIIS's building on Mission and 11th streets.

"Some people were completely uninterested and thought, what's the purpose? Who are you, with this weird accent? Go home," Grubacic laughed. Some, though, were more receptive, including a woman who said the program could help with those fighting against San Francisco's problem of environmental racism.

"This person told me that she thinks activists can come to a particular community, do an ethnography, do research, and then present that research to people in the city, and show the people who have power in the city to make decisions why such behavior is unjust," Grubacic said.

In the end, that is essentially how the program will work. Students will partner with local organizations, neighborhood groups, or other affiliated people working on social justice goals, doing research to help further their goals.


"We hate the government, the government should give us more money because we are entitled to it because we represent dozens of people who hate the government."

So hilarious.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 08, 2012 @ 5:46 pm

This is laughable considering that the original Anthropology program did what Grubacic claims to have "developed". What has really been created is a Sociology program masquerading as an "Anthropology" department where education serves one purpose, to professionalize radicalism, ignore institutionalized issues of racism, sexism, classism, and transphobia, while turning a blind eye to the ways an anarchist joins forces with a assimilationist and dominance-driven administration. Clearly it helps to have friends in the media, because this piece of writing actually makes the 'new' department sound like it's doing something 'new' with education.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 9:58 am

yes, and the original anthropology department was completely fucked up, inbred, and cultish. this department will actually be new and open, and possibly even healthy.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 12, 2012 @ 10:50 am

maybe the new department won't be fucked up and dysfunctional.

Posted by DCount on Aug. 12, 2012 @ 10:52 am

wow, cool!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 3:32 pm


Posted by paul on Aug. 09, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

Yet another "new" program that has not considered the history of CIIS. Nothing new here. Great ideas but not new, CIIS has been dedicated to just such transformative learning since it began.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2012 @ 9:45 am

Yes, CIIS is a great place. This program is a welcome addition to an already great school.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2012 @ 10:41 am

Convivial Approach to Communication of Knowledge
We offer several forms of convivia, or convivial spaces of knowledge communication:

Emergency Library is a space that affirms the original meaning of the library as a communal institution: it is a convivial space of exchange of books, poetry, and ideas. In this convivia, we exchange ideas, skills, and organizing knowledge with the communities outside the Institute. We are scholars on call, responding to the emergent needs of the communities in struggle, who might be in need of legal advice, activist companionship, scholarly input, or a media suggestion. We bring this information not as impositions but as gifts, in the spirit of exchange and mutual aid, learning from the communities in the process.

Political Laboratory is held once each semester as a weekend-long convivial encounter of local or international scholars working on a particular project, students, and selected participants from the local community. Together they think collectively about a particular idea, book, concept, or project.

Atelier of Insurrectionary Imagination is a space of occasional magic, where artistic production is combined with political imagination, and subversive creativity. Here, artists inspire students and members of the community to dream collectively and explore the unsettling alchemy of art and social justice.

Autonomous Classroom is an experimental class created convivially by MA and PhD students, a class where the world is turned upside down, students become teachers, teachers become students, and all graduate students autonomously design a class that they teach and self-manage over the course of one semester.

Guerrilla Workshop is an improvised event-space where students, faculty, or students and faculty, present on their current work. This includes papers to be presented at various conferences, report backs from academic or activist events, and dialogues relevant to anthropology, social justice, and critical theory.

Dialogues and Interrogations. Instead of interrogating people, in this public convivia we interrogate ideas. This takes form of a bi-monthly conversation between activist journalists and prominent organizers and activist intellectuals.

Posted by paul on Aug. 11, 2012 @ 3:25 am

snooze..... this "program" is such a joke in regards to some of the anarchist institutions/free skools that have been in SF/Oakland for years now. Academic recuperation is always a shame to see.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 8:36 am

Best program in the world. Haters gonna hate...

Posted by Guest on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 9:22 am

People, research the history of this school, and what they did to the previous SCA department. You say a cultish department? How about a cultish school? For realz.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

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