Hacking the Academy
Hack/The Academy: A Dialogue in Seven Segments – part one here
I’ll steal my favorites and put them here:
First of all, then, the question of critique itself – of the possibility of critique.
We who “hack” the academy – and in participating, even to critique, I can hardly exclude myself – where do we think we stand?
I’m not trying to point to any hard or fast rule, since rules always have exceptions. I’m just asking – how many of us do not have at least a BA from ‘the academy’? How many of us have never taken something that might be called a ‘theory’ course? And is there anyone more invested in “hacking the academy” than graduate students, the very cogs whose underpaid labor turns the wheels of the machine and whose bodies provide its fodder? And even those who have never formally been a part of the machine, who have never participated in the institution – how many of you have never been influenced by a book written by a tenured professor or published through a university press?
In other words, we can’t afford to resist or even begin thinking without first remembering that we are hacking (away at) the very flesh that birthed us, in one way or another. That doesn’t make this project any less important or useful. But this basic question of origin cannot be disavowed, and surely we must allow it to limit our expectations.
Have you ever tried to fundamentally change the behavior of one of your parents?
Exactly. As Ziggy Stardust once said, “It ain’t easy.”
At the end of the day, in other words, it is not a question of inside and outside: nothing could be more odious than a radical challenge whose “radicality” would be quantified in terms of distance from the institution or the practices of “the academy.” It is, simply put, a question of production: what does this “hack” – or any “hack” – allow us to do? What does it create that did not exist before? What does it allow us to think that we couldn’t think before?
Derrida’s legitimate distrust of the notion of “interdisciplinarity” is a perfect example of how a nominally or originally radical “hack” can be co-opted into a largely meaningless feel-good concept about which the academy can pat itself on the back. And if you need another example, what better to serve as one than the very fact that, within this imaginary dialogue, I can mobilize the words of Jacques Derrida, one of the most radical and irreducible thinkers of the 20th century, to serve as the voice of “the academy”?
There is no radical challenge that the institution can’t assimilate. Change emerges from productions we generate while their forces are regrouping.
Us. V them. Over and over again.