Analysis of UK University Occupations.
The demands being made by UK students are directed not at some anonymous government figure head, or drudging up notions of rights and responsibilities.
Instead, they are calling for their universities themselves to actively respond to the situation, rather than passively remain a silent partner. The demands include scholarships for Palestinian students, equipment to be sent to students in Gaza, and for the universities to condemn Israel’s actions. There are also calls for disinvestment from companies which support the Israeli war machine.
What these demands do is not only prove that our student body is a thinking, articulate collective, but also that there is a wide spread linking up of our systems of authority. An Israeli student I spoke with after a planning meeting for one of these occupations said: ‘I don’t know what to believe any more – my history has been taken away from me.’ She has been radicalised by the recent conflicts – not because it has appealed to her on any particular level of identity, but because her notions of authority are being challenged.
As the recession hits deeper, and as the G20 hits London, more and more these questions of authority and legitimacy will be raised. Universities, as institutions privileged with cultural authority, are being forced to play out the ends of their own logic.
Imperialism is a method of capitalism and authority, and right now that is what is being challenged on our campuses. At SOAS the security guards brought in to deal with the protesters had their logic flipped back on them, being described as the real occupation on campus. And perhaps this is the exact kind of argument we need right now, demanding that our so-called leaders act up to their rhetoric, and then watch as they fail.
Related: photos from the Cambridge occupation are now available.