13 SES 03, Theory of Education
The aim of this presentation is to elicit a philosophical discussion about the future of the university. The starting point is Bill Readings’ meanwhile commonly known diagnostic that “we have to recognize that the university is a ruined institution, while thinking what it means to dwell in those ruins without recourse to romantic nostalgia” (1996, p. 169). From Anna Tsing’s anthropological stories about Matsutake mushrooms, however, we learn about the possibilities of life in capitalist ruins (Tsing, 2015). Constrained by Reading’s analysis and inspired by Tsing’s narrative, this presentation discusses the Palestinian grassroots university Campus in Camps. It was founded in 2012 in Dheisheh refugee camp to inquire the social and spatial conditions of the camp together with the inhabitants in order to undertake small urban interventions (Hilal, Petti, & Weizman, 2014; Petti, 2018). Using the philosopher of science Isabelle Stengers’ ecology of practices as a framework to study the relation between this university and its environment, we describe and analyse the study practices the participants engage in to transform the camp into a matter of study, hence opening up the possibility to critically inquire and imaginatively transform the space of the camp.
Together with Donna Haraway and Isabelle Stengers, this mode of theorizing can be called speculative fabulation. It is a way of philosophizing in an affirmative mode, which means that it bears the commitment to start from real and particular places. This, however, not in order to criticize from a transcendent point of view which would allow to judge, but rather by following the process and practice as it occurs in order to speculate about possible futures (Wilkie, Savransky, & Rosengarten, 2017). Taking up the relay from Haraway (2016) who writes that:
It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories (p. 12).
We can argue that it matters what university we study to study the university with. As such, speculative fabulation is a way to situate our thinking concerning the university and to set up a lure for possible university futures (Haraway, 2015; Stengers, 2015).
The method of speculative fabulation will be tried as a mode of theorizing that could possibly be interesting for philosophy of education. In the course of the presentation, it will be explained what this precisely means in relation to the question of the so-called ruins of the university. The central part, however, will be the analysis and discussion of the university practice Campus in Camps from the point of view of the philosophy of Isabelle Stengers (both her work within philosophy of science around the ecology of practices, as well as her work on the speculative philosophy of Whitehead).
A philosophical-educational understanding and discussion of the university today based on (1) Stengers' theory of the ecology of practices and (2) the specific university practice of Campus in Camps.
Haraway, D. (2015). Sympoièse, sf, embrouille multispécifique. In D. Debaise & I. Stengers (Eds.), Gestes spéculatifs (pp. 42-72). Dijon: Les presses du réel. Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble. Making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Hilal, S., Petti, A., & Weizman, E. (2014). Retours: penser le futur dans l'extraterritorialité. In M. Agier (Ed.), Un monde de camps (pp. 194-202). Paris: La Découverte. Petti, A. (2018). Campus in Camps. Knowledge production and urban interventions in refugee camps. In G. Bhan, S. Srinivas, & V. Watson (Eds.), The Routledge companion to planning in the Global South (pp. 334-344). London: Routledge. Readings, B. (1996). The university in ruins. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Stengers, I. (2015). L'insistance du possible. In D. Debaise & I. Stengers (Eds.), Gestes spéculatifs (pp. 5-22). Dijon: Les presses du réel. Tsing, A. L. (2015). The mushroom at the end of the world. On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Wilkie, A., Savransky, M., & Rosengarten, M. (Eds.). (2017). Speculative research. The lure of possible futures. London: Routledge.
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