Academia is Utopia

Given so much of the current scholarly and higher education landscape is filled with dystopian think pieces, pessimistic statistics and reports, assaults against academic freedom and academic labor, urgent calls for action against harassment, xenophobia, and white supremacy, and the growing genre of “quitlit,” I offer few droplets of hope, fortification, solidarity, and collegiality against what I feel is becoming “ruin porn.”  These are meaningless and meaningful, silly and serious.

In no particular order, first is a riff on Jose Esteban Munoz’s introduction to Cruising Utopia, which should be a beacon, a harbinger, shield, and sword:

Academia is not yet here.  Academia is an ideality.  Put another way, we are not yet academia. We may never touch academia, but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality.  We have never been academia, yet academia exists for us as an ideality that can be distilled from the past and used to imagine a future.  The future is academia’s domain.  Academia is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present.  The here and now is a prison house. We must strive, in the face of the here and now s totalizing rendering of reality, to think and feel a then and there.  Some will say that all we have are the pleasures of this-moment, but we must never settle for that minimal transport; we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds.  Academia is a longing that propels us onward, beyond romances of the negative and toiling in the present.  Academia is that thing that lets us feel that this world is not enough, that indeed something is missing.  Often we can glimpse the worlds proposed and promised by academia in the realm of the aesthetic. The aesthetic, especially the academia aesthetic, frequently contains blueprints and schemata of a forward-dawning futurity.  Both the ornamental and the quotidian can contain a map of the Utopia that is academia.  Turning to the aesthetic in the case of academia is nothing like an escape from the social realm, insofar as academia aesthetics map future social relations.  Academia is also a performative because it is not simply a being but a doing for and toward the future.  Academia is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world.

The second was inspired by the recent replaying of Alanis Morrisette in cars, bars, and coffee shops in my recent travels:

I’m broke but I’m happy,
I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded,
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby

What it all comes down to
Is that academia’s gonna be fine, fine, fine
‘Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five

I feel drunk but I’m sober,
I’m young and I’m underpaid
I’m tired but I’m working, yeah
I care but I’m restless,
I’m here but I’m really gone
I’m wrong and I’m sorry baby

What it all comes down to
Is that academia is going to be quite alright
‘Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is flicking a cigarette

What it all comes down to
Is that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet
‘Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a peace sign

I’m free but I’m focused,
I’m green but I’m wise
I’m hard but I’m friendly, baby
I’m sad but I’m laughing,
I’m brave but I’m chicken shit
I’m sick but I’m pretty baby

And what it all boils down to
Is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playing the piano

And what it all comes down to, my friends, yeah
Is that academia is just fine fine fine
I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is hailing a taxi cab

And finally, a cat on the internet:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.