Precarious International Online!
Discussion Forum (June, 25 – July, 1) and final Zoom panel (July, 1 6pm, CET)
Please find below:
– Our initial call for participation that we sent out in early January, with a deadline for the registration of interest and suggestions at February 15 (which yielded much response!)
– Covid-19-induced changes of date(s)& format, digital infrastructure, schedules, (re-)registration/contact
Please keep on joining us!
OUR INITIAL CALL FOR PARTICIPATION (Jan. 2020)
many of us have made and continue to make disenchanting experiences, to say the least, in the German academic system. While it markets itself as a world of excellence, liberal egalitarianism, cosmopolitanism, freedom and generosity towards scholars at risk, the reality of its structural labour conditions and culture of ignorance betray this image to be a grotesque misrepresentation. German academia is characterised by an ingrained and almost cultivated lack of consciousness towards multiple forms of discrimination (based on race, class, gender, age, etc.) and by related modalities of exclusion as well as paternalistic and infantilizing norms and practices particularly vis-à-vis international and non-naturalized scholars and students. As a system that has never been as much as confronted with a debate on quotas or human rights, German academia expects everybody to ‘integrate’ into what is essentially a structure normatively built around the ‘white male’ and organised according to steep hierarchies around disciplinary chairs. The consequences are direct dependencies of various kinds and precarious, fixed-term employment structures unparalleled by international comparison.
Many who came here with hopes and expectations have meanwhile withdrawn, tending to pressing political issues in other ways. While very much understandable, this inadvertently strengthens the fragmentation and division among the large class of underprivileged and precarious scholars that the system relies upon. The Network for Decent Labour in Academia (Netzwerk für Gute Arbeit in der Wissenschaft, NGAWiss) has been working for the past three years to publicise and scandalise the miserable employment conditions in German academia and to advocate for structural reforms. Its working group ‘Precarious International’ aims to make intersectional discrimination a central issue of the network’s activism.
As a part of this effort, we invite scholars, unionists and activists with different histories of mobility and migration to discuss and reflect on the intersection between precarious labour conditions and different forms of discrimination in the German academic system. We want to come together and learn from each other in order to come to a better analysis of the different problems and challenges faced by differently positioned scholars and activists, but also to exchange experiences and knowledges over struggles for academic freedoms and labour conditions in different contexts. The aim is both to position the question of labour in academia within broader societal struggles in Germany and to link it up to related struggles in other countries.
We propose to frame the discussion along two lines of debate and exchange. However, we are very much open to alter and adapt this proposal according to what participants consider urgent and relevant to be discussed!
1) Critical diversity: As against a neoliberal depoliticised celebration of diversity that follows a calculative logic of added value while blanking out structural inequalities, we want to engage in a critical discussion on the realities of diversity in German academia.
Possible questions to be discussed include: what are the effects, limitations and problems of current discourse and practices of diversity? Is it possible – and acceptable – to speak of ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ in the European and especially German context? When does it make sense to speak of ‘migration backgrounds’ to address the issue of underrepresentation of scholars in high academic positions? What are the concrete problems and challenges faced by people with a variety of different migration/mobility histories? What about forms of discrimination affecting people who do not master the German language? And how do these issues intersect with other vectors of discrimination, such as class, age, gender or disability?
2) Network of solidarity: We want to learn from each other’s struggles and experiences, think through concrete possibilities for solidarity and envision common political actions.
How can we connect the activities of scholars, unionists, and activists struggling against precarious labour and different forms of inequality and discrimination in different academic settings? What are the larger political struggles in which these activities are involved? How and what can we learn from each other? What kinds of concrete steps towards mutual assistance could be developed and what common political actions could be envisioned?
Dates, Times and Format
We have decided, so as to ease participation for as many interested as possible under the given conditions, to stretch the event over a week into a flexible workshop format. The workshop is open from Thursday, 25th of June until Wednesday, 1st of July. There will be several discussion forums where participants are invited, at their own times of convenience, to share inputs and discuss different questions and critical issues. Finally, on Wednesday, 1st of July, at 6pm, we are planning to have a final Zoom online panel to bring together the different insights and questions that were raised in the different forums and round up our workshop.
We have decided to rely on Moodle as a platform, for several reasons. It appears the safest option in terms of data protection. We are also hoping that many of you might already have had experiences with using Moodle (however, we will prepare a tutorial video for you to help you navigate the platform, so no worries if you have no experiences!). It allows us not only to set up a number of discussion forums according to our different topics and themes, but also to upload inputs that can be shared and viewed by the different participants at times of their convenience. And finally, it permits us to set up a Zoom conference that would be embedded within Moodle itself. We are using Humboldt University’s Moodle system and therefore also its Zoom licence, which adheres to stricter data protection standard than the publicly available version.
Drawing on our initial call but slightly adapting topics to this open workshop format, there will be three main discussion forums, open throughout the week, with several subsections:
1) Critical perspectives on the German academic system
- Intersections of labour precarity and discrimination on different grounds (critical diversity)
- The predicaments of a labour market dependent on third-party funding
- The systemic logic behind Germany’s policy of academic labour precarisation/casualisation
2) Academic struggles in various contexts
- Political campaigns
- Anti-precarity initiatives/labour and union struggles
- Intersections between the two
3) Towards a Precarious International
- Possibilities for solidarity
- Action plans
We hope to welcome many of you to our shifted gathering! While inhibiting our physical meeting, Covid-19 has opened the digital doors to potentially many more people, across Europe and beyond, fighting similar fights as we do. Please do not hesitate to contact us in case you still want to take part. We will then provide you with more details.
Your Precarious International-team Alice, Asli, Britta, Christopher, Florence, Kathrin and Zeynep