Snippet 3: DH as Critical University Studies

What DH calls critical infrastructure, thinkers of critical university studies call militancy as co-research. Indeed, it does not take a careful reader to detect a radical undercurrent to Mohanty’s interest in feminist literacy, nor should it be a surprise that those disproportionately affected by institutional inequity might rely on a radical political logic with which to situate their intellectual labor. This avenue of thought begins with a warning, one that is certainly applicable to DH’s interest in infrastructure, and proceeds with a complex political proposition.

Writing of their work with CAFA (Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa), George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici comment on institutional formations like those that Liu invokes, but also those that are already operative in DH: global initiatives organized around a common goal. Where Caffentzis and Federici depart from the question of DH infrastructure is certainly a question of technological focus, but also it is also a political one. “As was the factory,” Caffentzis and Federici write, “so now is the university” (125). The import of this claim comments on our institutional alliances, as well as our collective understanding of what educational institutions are. Is the university a site of institutional exception, managed by a gifted intellectuals who can steer social forces, or is the institution managed by corporate forces that require those committed to intellectual labor to contest its current socio-economic commitments? Thinkers of critical university studies clearly refer the latter, but they do so because it maximizes the forms of solidarity that are available to us in the face of sovereign institutional control.

Caffentzis and Federici’s warning, then, rests on the character of our labor and its role in advancing our collective vision of the university. If the university is the contemporary iteration of the factory, opposition to our exploitation requires a diversity of skills, one they attribute to a new form of internationalism that brings “computer programmers, artists, and other edu-workers in one movement, each making its distinctive contribution” (129). A globalized vision of the university also requires that we see

the continuity of our struggle through the difference of our places in the international division of labor, and to articulate our demands and strategies in accordance to these differences and the need to overcome them. Assuming that a recomposition of the workforce is already occurring because work is becoming homogenized — through a process that some have defined as the “becoming common of labor” — will not do. We cannot cast the “cognitive” net so widely that almost every kind of work becomes “cognitive” labor, short of making arbitrary social equations and obfuscating our understanding of what is new about “cognitive labor” in the present phase of capitalism. (129)

The militancy that follows from this proposition is located in a discussion of collective self-making, one that focuses heavily on the production of subjectivity.

In his 2011 The Production of Living Knowledge, Gigi Roggero opens with the following claim: “Above all, [The Production of Living Knowledge] inquires into the new production of subjectivity: the category of living knowledge is the attempt to reread the Marxian concept of living labor within the present context.”


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