Creating activist scholars

  • Posted on: 9 August 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href="">SF Bay Guardian</a> - by Yael Chanoff

<em>New anarchist-led program at CIIS aims to help Bay Area social justice groups</em>

This semester, the California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS) will start a new Anthropology Department featuring teachers who are grassroots organizers with decades of experience, including Boots Riley, Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz, Sasha Lilley, and Chris Carlsson.

The program's goal is to create "activist scholars," to get students into communities outside the institution, and to use their research and intellectual opportunities at the school to move social justice projects forward. And the man who organized it all is an unrepentant anarchist.

"The most distinguishing character of anarchism for me is prefigurative politics — creating the new within the shell of the old," Adrej Grubacic, the new department head, told us.</td><td><img title="The prefigurative synergies are fantastic!" src=""></td></tr>...

His classes come at a time when anarchism is being more widely discussed in the US than it has been for generations. Non-hierarchical general assemblies and consensus-based "direct democracy," long practiced in anarchist and other leftist circles, swept across the country along with the Occupy movement last year.

Anarchists have been associated in the public eye with everything from spirit-fingered affirmations to the masked, black-clad protesters smashing bank windows and scrawling anti-corporate messages on walls. But Grubacic says it's more than that.

As anarchism exploded into practice in Occupy's tent cities, it was also experiencing a renaissance in the ivory tower. The North American Anarchist Studies Network was founded in November 2009, and since has brought together a growing number of professors who want to explore and teach anarchism through annual conferences.

Big names such as Yale Anthropology Professor James Scott have declared themselves anarchists. In a country where the study of economics is usually code for the study of capitalism, professors longing to talk alternatives are coming forward in droves.

It's more than a little ironic that, within an ideology focused on a lack of hierarchy, it can be hard for those on the street to connect with those in the lecture halls. So how can the academic-types truly support The People?

From Zapatista schools in Mexico to universities run by the Landless Worker's Movement in Brazil to popular universities throughout Canada and Europe, people all over the world have developed institutions based on anarchist and Marxist principles.

Now, in San Francisco, Grubacic is hoping to do the same.

A historian who was an anarchist by age 13, Grubacic grew up in socialist Yugoslavia, a country engulfed in brutal civil war by the time he reached his 20s.

"I was raised a Yugoslav," Grubacic says. "So I was raised to be a citizen of a country that doesn't exist anymore."

He was teaching history at the University of Belgrade, but his political beliefs became a problem.

"The political cultures and political groups in power were either Serbian nationalists or these hyper-capitalists," Grubacic told me. "And going after them, because I was publishing and I was doing a lot of things, was—let's say, not a smart career choice."

It was with input from his mentor, famed leftist writer and academic Noam Chomsky, that Grubacic left the crumbling Balkan state for his own safety. After a frustrating stint at University of San Francisco, he found CIIS.

"This is the first place where I think that I was hired because I was an anarchist, or I am an anarchist. It's kind of funny," Grubacic says.

Founded in 1968, CIIS grew out of the California Institute of Asian Studies, and has quietly taught holistic approaches to psychology and integrative approaches to psychology, spirituality and the humanities since then . Today 60 percent of CIIS students are studying clinical or counseling psychology. The Anthropology and Social Change program is part of the School of Consciousness and Transformation.

"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.

"The document they're going to produce after two years of activist research is going to be written for that community," Grubacic said. "We are the second readers. We are less important in the process. What they do has to be useful to the community. They have to be passionate about working with that community group. And they have to produce something that's going to be useful to what that community group does."

In addition to classes and research projects, students will participate in "convivias," one of the most unique aspects of the program. People from the public, scholars, and others with special knowledge will hammer out ideas with students in week-long "political laboratories." Revolutionary art will be practiced in a convivia called "Atelier of Insurrectionary Imagination." And Grubacic and his students will turn a certain vacant part of the CIIS building into an "Emergency Library," a place for books as well as what the program description calls "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." The convivias have corresponding student work-study positions — yes, there will be a paid Emergency Librarian.

CIIS spokesperson James Martin said Grubacic brings a lot to the school: "The thing I'm really excited about is that we're engaging the local community. We live in San Francisco for a reason. This is one of the places in the world where all these intellectuals come together who have the passion to try and change things."

Despite the paradoxes and problems that come when the elite meets the grassroots, Grubacic has high hopes. "We need to redefine what it means to be an intellectual who works within academia," he said. "And the only way to do this is to become a part of a larger social movement's formation, that is aimed at changing society. We cannot offer much. But we can offer something."


yes yes yes yes this is what is missing from anarchism


Can someone forward this to for the lulz please thanks

I always thought that if more of the children of the bourgeoisie would just study anarchism in college then there would be anarchy.

Worked in the early 20's century. I always thought if more kids listened to emo rock and communicated big abstract ideas at tackling the state like a bunch of fuckers who do as much there would be Anarchy. "Fuck the police," not fight the police, "fuck the grand juries," not resist the grand juries. Maybe Anarchy is all subjective anyway.


hey that guy is cool leave him alone you bully

No, he really is

yea he is.
... wait are you the same guy clarifying that he was cool or another anon agreeing that he is cool.
I guess we will never know.

Grubacic: "Pre-figurative is what we need"

More like pre-shut the fuck up! Fucking leftist. This is not a program, motherfucker. This is negation. Your entire conception of what the new world should look like is constructed within the values created by this civilization. The problems of this culture will not be solved by this culture.

"doesn't one risk defining this human nature which is at the same time ideal and real, and has been hidden and repressed until now - in terms borrowed from our society, from our civilisation, from our culture?"

M. Foucault (my favorite maoist/islamofascist)

REVOLUTIONARY UNIONS ARE REVOLUTIONARY, YOU REV-FOOL-UTIONARY! Can't Stop the Democracy!!!!!!!!!!1!!!one!!!!!!!!

i think this is the most stupid "nihilist" anarchism has got around here.

I think your the most stupid Armandesque egoism has around here.

"Higher education" always struck me as paying to be institutionalized. Then again it's h.s. dropouts like me who piss off the grammar nazi's

No apostrophes for plural nouns please

Use proper punctuation, asshole. Like this: "No apostrophes for plural nouns, please."

"Like this" is an incomplete clause and is lacking a subject and verb.

Nice try but you fail.

Nice try, but you, fail.

^ C- student at a community college ^

Teach yourself to say this now, while you still have a chance: "Do you want fries with that?"

I and others are trying to start a Bay Area paper/magazine called The Academic Activist right now, all of the content will be written from an anarchist perspective. The point of the paper is to present kids interested in society and politics a perspective that they aren't likely to get while inside the academy until they're a junior or senior or grad student. If you want to have your stuff published contact us through twitter @theAcaActivist

Fuck Off

None of these people are anarchists. In general they have histories as
leftists/marxists/academics/or reformist activists - or all of the above.Obama, too, was an activist organizer.
Fuck that.

Academics and activists. Two of my least favorite groups of people.

Thank god for the episteme.

Just what anarchy needs - academic leftist recuperation. Not. And WTF is Boots Reilly involved for? I like the guy, but dude has become a straight Islamist. From what I can tell he would be fine having a Muslim State installed in America. Doesn't sound very anarchist to me. I imagine this will please all the Chomsky & Bookchin lovers though.

no. even the l(eftist) commun(ist)ity hates boots o'reilly.

the leftist ibertarian communism communistunity, brutal diss

Libcom is no more anarchist than Boots the Muslim Reilly.


OMG! Libcom, if you've ever breathed a single anarchist idea in their comments section you will be shot down from 6 different directions by a conglomerate of platformists, marxists( even the odd fucking Stalinist lingers there), maoists, workerists, liberal journalists, trotskyist boors, capitalist state teachers. It's the one place where primos and anarchists are treated with equal disdain, and quickly evicted.

It is so hot right now for Maoists to be posturing as if they are anti-authoritarians.


They only spark if you try to light their farts on fire.

Do @s in PNW cooperate with anarcho-capitalists? Serious question.

If it was a truly serious question, you'd have asked it somewhere else.

No, no, I'm serious. Do PNW @s ever cooperate with anarcho-capitalists? I could see the possibility to work with them on anti-police actions for example (not that I would).

^ worst troll ever ^

I'm still curious.

No, the @'s in the PNW do not cooperate with An-Cap scum. Although, two of the major contributors to one of the main An-Cap websites live on Mercer Island. They don't dare let make their presence known though. I also feel that I'll regret answering this query though...anyone who needs to ask this question is fishy to say the least.

Thank you for answering. I hope you won't regret answering. I've worked just as hard as any troll (harder than most, actually) to ensure that no real discussion or discourse can happen on anonymous message boards, so I understand your trepidation in engaging with me.

Do @'s in the PNW cooperate with authoritarian socialists, that is, Marxists, Leninists, Maoists, crypto-Maoists, Trotskists, etc.? I feel that the answer to this might be more nuanced than your answer about "an"-caps and am prepared to handle nuance.

Yes we do.

-Scott Crow

The PNW has left anarchists who consider themselves socialists, anti-left primitivists, nihilists, libertarian socialists, anti-state communists, Maoists posing as anti-state communists, etc etc etc. So it's not possible to answer whether anarchists generally participate with socialists generally. Why do you ask?

I feel that anarchists have as much in common with "an"-caps as they do with authoritarian socialists, that is, they have nothing in common with either. Why is it that all anarchists reject cooperating with "an"-caps and yet will often work with statists of all sorts despite their repeated betrayals, manipulations, and cooptations both historic and contemporary?

I ask about the PNW @s because they seem to have their shit together like nowhere else in North America.

This was not meant to be a rhetorical question.

This is a question that @'s in the NW should be confronting more openly. At least where I'm looking at things (put a bird on it) - anarchists have allowed authoritarian leftists posing as anti-authoritarians to assume the lead on above ground organizing efforts. That's because a lot of the most authentically anarchist actions are happening via closed groups of like minded comrades on the down low. Unfortunately, that plays directly into the hands of wanna be vanguardists, who claim that the only real revolutionary activity can occur amongst close knit cadres. Trolls are dumb, but the open revolt versus clandestine action meme is one that should be more closely considered. Obviously if we want to take down the State, it's going to take more than a few vegans willing to break windows. That isn't a call for creating a water downed populist front, but rather a desire to broaden struggle, with the idea that practice will come to inform theory.

But in answer to your question - there's really no difference between anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-maosits - they should both be approached with caution and as allies only in very limited capacities.

I feel this is a question anarchists everywhere should be confronting. I have seen nothing gained and a great deal lost in cooperating with the machinations of authoritarians. History is full of examples of anarchists getting dead or otherwise fucked as a result of cooperating with authoritarian socialists and yet the cooperation and getting fucked continues.

The open revolt versus clandestine action meme has some truth to it. Petty vandalism has become a cargo cult wherein low-risk no-gain "attacks" are substituted in place of anything that could meaningfully be called an attack or sabotage. These gestures are ineffectual, quite literally lacking effect, and continue to fail at escalating into anything effectual.

There is some precedent for clandestine action having good effect on target. When the ELF and ALF were active they were often sage in their choice of target and method of attack. Their actions resulted in many saved lives and/or inflicted massive physical and/or economic damage.

Activist campaigns are often looked at with derision and in place of these campaigns a bank loses its windows. And yet SHAC was an activist campaign and it achieved brutal effect. Quantitatively the bankrupting of HLS is conservatively one order of magnitude beyond all the anarchist broken windows of the past decade.

It seems that the actions of these animal liberation and earth liberation anti-authoritarians possessed a deep urgency informed by empathy for the suffering. They felt they had to do something and now, yes, but they knew they had to be effective and to that they took risks and pushed the envelope.

This urgency of action seems to be present today in our own immediate struggle but the careful consideration of efficacy is glaringly absent. Why? Or if answering that is unhelpful, how can that careful consideration be encouraged?

Yes, but anarcho-capitalists are just a handful of idiots, a few nerds whose ideas don't even make the slightest sense and who no one pays any attention to. Working with them would just be pointless and embarrassing. Terrible as authoritarians are, they can at least bring out thousands of people, if that's what you want or need, they have infrastructure, their ideas are actually coherent and not just pitiful ramblings, and they at least think they're anti-capitalist. I don't recommend working with socialists but I can see how it might be tempting. What exactly would anarcho-capitalists bring to the table? A couple guys with a yellow and black flag and some Ayn Rand novels?

I don't think "an"-caps bring anything to the table.

At least they don't have a history of imprisoning and murdering anarchists...

So-called @-caps are not your typical leftist parasites of the state, that's for sure. They have a profound understanding of how the "real" market functions, and in that are actually more autonomous, fluid, and opaque. I cannot think of anything more "coherent" in the "big picture".

This is NOT a recommendation, it is a defense.

Source for Riley's islamism?

He told me. Ask him yourself.

Why would an Islamist State within USA (fuck talk about vague! America is from Alaska to Terra Del Fueggo)please Chomsky and Bookchin? Do you know how Islam as a socially integrated judicial system works, or do you just throw it into the blind mystical bin for superstitious timid morons? Islamic societies don't have street people starving under bridges or in parks. There is free education and health care. Why do you sound like a fascist republican? Have you any critique which would for a start consider the Judeo-Christian Western historical narrative, of how the most horrific world wars and industrial armament industries of the 20th century are a product of christian, not Islamic societies? Have you ever read 'in pursuit of the millenium' and developed a deeper insight into religio-political forces and how ultimately society must accept a degree of religious tolerance if it is ever to attain the freedoms of social conduct that approach anarchistic desires?
If you are an individualist-nihilist, you don't have to answer, you already understand, but if you are a true anarchist, you would not sling off about people who have beliefs which don't impose upon your freedom.

Reading comprehension - work on it!

This is some truly repugnant shit. Grubacic is a marginal anarchist, going on and on about democracy and collaborating with leftists - which of course makes this the perfect program for him to lead!
Boots is a Maoist chip off the old block of his dad, an old-time PLP leader.
Roxanne is a Marxist with a cursory understanding of the fundamental differences (often clearly hostile) between Marxism and anarchism.
Chris is a long-time ultra-left Marxist, so accustomed to pretending he isn't one that most people still believe it.
Sasha is also a straight up Marxist. I guess her husband Ramsey is too much of an anarchist fundamentalist (aside from not having one ounce of scholarship on his CV) for Grubacic to consider for his faculty.
It's nice to know that all these reprehensible creatures will be teaching people about a tradition to which they don't belong, which is a return to the most despicable practices of 19th century Euro-American anthropology: Othering with a (world-historical) vengeance.
Well done comrades! Humanity will not be free until the last fake anarchist academic careerist is hanged with the guts of the last Marxist anthropologist

cools judgments, bro

Such a punk conformist

can a trombonist be punk?

Leftists seem obsessed with trying to bring anarchism under the left umbrella. Grubacic has more in common with Capitalist politicians than with Anarchy. This is just privileged academicians doing their part to keep anarchy in check and to keep civilization churning towards extinction. It doesn't matter whether they are syndicalists, capitalists, socialists, communists or whatever. They are all pro-industrial civilization and therefore anti-anarchy. They may not agree or even realize it, but they are part of the system they claim to be against.

Poor Ramsey! But define anarchist fundamentalism. I agree with most of what you say, but were you being ironic with the juxtaposition "anarchist fundamentalist", of what seems to me to be a contradiction? Or else you refer to the theoretical Bakunin definition of what anarchism stands for as an historical foundation? Can you elaborate?

Just more mind candy for wealthy Bay Area peeps to think they are changing the world, while in reality they are partying on the top floor as the Titanic sinks. Also, as an anthropologist, I feel for the people that come out of this program way over 60K in debt just because of the cost of living in SF. Students that graduate will have their heads on fire, but hands of clay and little ability to close the gap. Better put that 60K torwards buying land, and building grass roots community with likemindeds while trying to free yourself from the machine.

Buy some land, buy some land, fuck spinning rims!

Better to spend mommy's money at Urban Outfitters, I think.

Back to the land! Back to the land! The land! It's land! Dirt and shit! Commune-ism!

I really miss dirt and shit,

I kind of have to agree with you.

Where are the anarchists?

Not at the California Institute for Integral Studies's anthropology dept. That is reserved for aging authoritarian leftists and muslims posing as anti-authoritarians.

i love how the comments are evolving.....

GRUBABICK= Authoritarian leftist.
Boots O'reily= Muslim

Welcome to anarchy

I mean I guess this is that whole "being destroyed by your own success" thing- sort of, anyway.

Hey worker- can you please use some pictures from this website???

for example, this one:

PRETTY PLEASE? It would mean a lot to me and my birthday is coming up soon.

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