Widespread perceptions of `crises' of higher education call for the challenge of re-imagining and re-composing it. Recognizing that this is no easy task, I resist simplifying solutions that tend to suppress the complexity of the challenge. To counter such limitations of vision, I motivate the construction of my theory from engaging with controversial questions that are composed from the perspectives of those actors who are most marginalized from higher education, that do not immunize from critique the positions of those who narrate crises about higher education, that explore the rich interconnections of higher education with wider institutions, and that highlight the processes of co-constitution of higher education with its abject figures and places. For examples of the simplifications against which I develop my problematic as a response, I analyze the history of narrations of the `national dropout crisis' and `crises of global higher education.' To signify my anti-reductionist re-centering of the marginalized in the composition of my theory, I make my key problematic: how should higher education be changed from within, re-working it against its current forms, while also re-composing it from the outside and the margins, with those who are excluded and marginalized, and for enabling the alternative regimes of study that they are already enacting? I abbreviate this problematic as: "within and against // with and for." Through examining the literature on the politics of higher education and interviewing contemporary participants in struggles around this problematic, I draw out key controversies, particularly between different approaches to describing the complex relations between communities, people, resources, communication, study, teaching, and knowledge. Focusing on narratives that take critical perspectives on university reform and that present radical alternatives to the institutions of higher education, I find that these approaches also fall back on simplifications, and thereby, neglect to bring the `within and against' and `with and for' struggles together in order to grapple with the controversies around the complex tensions between them. In opposition to critical university reformers' simplification of drawing on a romanticized ideal of `public higher education,' I show how this ideal is based on modernist assumptions--particularly what I call the education-based regime of study--that short-circuit a deeper questioning of what is at stake in contemporary struggles. For a non-modernist, more nuanced alternative to the concepts of `the public' and `education,' I elaborate interconnected concepts of `study,' `the common,' `commons,' and `undercommons.' Focusing on the historical and contemporary oppositions between the modernist/colonial education regime and alternative regimes of study, I theorize how they are articulated in the undercommons of movements for abolition, decolonization, exodus, and composing communal futures. Then, I illustrate the complexities of this conceptual framework through deploying it to describe the historical and contemporary examples of marronage and Zapatismo. Elaborating the theory further in relation to regimes of study, I use it to analyze a contemporary community- and movement-embedded free university, Experimental Community Education of the Twin Cities (EXCO). Through militant co-research in my roles as an organizer and as a facilitator of a class on `Radical Pedagogy,' I investigated how dispositions acquired through institutions of the education-based regime of study infiltrate activities of aspirationally `radical' study and pedagogy. Against the usual romance of ideals of `community,' `commons,' and `education,' my theory provides more nuanced guidance for organizers of movement-embedded study projects to create better infrastructures for courses in which participants can grapple with the controversies of their intersecting lives, places, communities, and movements. Taking a decolonial perspective to unsettle modernist/colonialist ideals of `security,' both in classrooms and employment, I call for building relationships-in-struggle between the `waste products' of the education system--from `dropouts' and `contingent faculty' to Foxconn workers--in and through spaces of autonomous study.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2013. Major: Political Science. Advisor: Joan Tronto. 1 computer file (PDF); xiv, 365 pages.
Political Theory for an Alter-University Movement: Decolonial, Abolitionist Study within, against, and beyond the Education Regime.
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