Nomadic University Meeting—November 5, 2011

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Nomadic University Meeting—November 5, 2011



Group: Nomadic University’s goals and Occupy Wall Street’s principles

–          One paragraph statement has been created (see appendix 1)

  •  would be useful to work that out now with the concept/definitions group
  •  insistence on the “work in progress” aspect of this statement
  •  foundation on which to build on our decisions in the group

Group: Concepts and Definitions

–          One text has been written insisting on the compelling AND problematic aspects of the two notions of nomadic and university (see appendix 2)

  •  the nomad here is considered too much as an individual rather than a community
  • question about the (doubted) importance of defining concepts
  • we need to have a discussion about the relevance of those two terms to define our action
  •  text very colonial from privileged white kids. University is not a safe place

RESPONSE: University here needs to be understood as a concept or a fantasy. This was not a description of the realit

  • need to be linked to the practice group’s work to gain legitimacy

RESPONSE: Criticism is needed in order to rework on it

Group: Practice (mergence between the Model & Critique group with the Labor % Context group)

–          One list of strategies has been created and is divided between a list of action within the existing university system (“inside job”) and another as a new structure (“outside job”) (see appendix 3)

  •  text should be less interventional, more invitational
  • problem of whether the Nomadic University should help people to fit better in the current system or stands alone of it
  • about the “inside job”: needs to address very specific noticeable problems in the current system and put a lot of pressure to implement specific answers that we bring
  • needs more examples
  • before asking “what do you need” we need to define “what we can do”

RESPONSE: Importance of the pilot.
Proposition of a 4h long workshop for the next meeting

Additional Agenda Item: Importance of “pluging-in” to other occupations. Barely discussed because of time. For more information see Bahareh and Alejandro who brought this item to the agenda.


Additional Agenda Item (not discussed): Questions about the unofficial website/wiki created by Chris for the Nomadic University.


NEXT MEETING: Saturday 12nd November. 12:00PM-4:00PM (maybe at the New School)
Facilitator will be Joe. People are invited to write to him ( for questions and proposition regarding the agenda




1. In accordance with OWS principles, we establish the nomadic university as education is a critical  component of social, economic, and political transformation. It is committed to equal access to education.  NU’s curricula will directly challenge the commodification of knowledge.  Our processes and structures will incorporate and prioritize transparent direct participatory democracy. A truly liberatory approach to education must challenge all forms of privilege, personal, institutional and structural. With the understanding that everyone is a learner, we believe in learning via collaborative processes.


2. Definitions and Concepts

On the ‘Nomadic University’

Part 0. Before we even start.

We’d like to establish something. We’re trying to contribute to a university that incorporates/melds theory and practice. Practice without theory is blind; theory without practice is empty. If we don’t question our own concepts, we end up working with someone else’s. This is what we’re here to contribute and we hope that the concepts, which are our practice, can live symbiotically with the ‘practice’ of the university at large.

Part A. Method

This is how we did what we did. We all went down to Wall Street, found the Education and Empowerment group, and heard about the Nomadic University. We formed this committee on definitions and concepts, wrote emails about ideas and process with one another. We played with the ideas, constantly questioning how and why we were doing so. We met and talked about them for several hours in a privately owned public space on Columbia University’s campus. We problematized the concepts ‘nomadic’ and ‘university.’ We are trying to question, together, what we are and what we’re not, what we want and what we don’t want–what this thing, the Nomadic University, is and could and should be.

Part B. Problematizing our terms

1) Nomad
What is the nomad? An intellectual concept? A metaphor? A literal figure, a hero? A roving and meandering gypsy, journeyman, shepherd, missionary? Homelessness? A way of moving through and relating to space?

What is appealing about the nomad?

The nomad represents, at its best, fluidity, flexibility, mobility and openness: moving through and across borders, breaking through artificial boundaries and creating new spaces and possibilities. The nomad is not tied down; it can join or affiliate with any group, movement, flock, for any length of time, for any purpose. The nomad helps the rest of us realize how we are enclosed, limited. The nomad is not a thing, but a style, an occasion, a strategy, which enables thinking about enclosures: the ways we must be enclosed, the ways we don’t want to be enclosed, the ways we might be enclosed. The nomad doesn’t say that anything goes; the nomad says that anything can be rethought and reformed at any time.

What is problematic about the nomad?

The nomad is a romantic and fetishized figure; it can only be thought by those stuck in the clutches of the state apparatus; it is a longing for a long lost fictional freedom. We are already nomads. Capitalism has made sure of this. Think of the knowledge worker with only its labor power to sell, living an unstable life, who can be dislocated or reappropriated at any time (for a profit); we nomadic workers have become weak, disposable, fragmented, ungrounded and disoriented. There is no togetherness in nomadism; the nomad is a loner, finds honor in solitude. The nomad has no kinship, togetherness, solidarity. The nomad cannot read, cannot write, doesn’t know economics or the first thing about Wall St, is helpless against the forces that abuse it. Nomads, historically, have been (at times) ravenous and violent warriors, constantly competing for limited resources. It is hard to hold the nomad responsible or accountable for its deeds because it could be gone when you wake up the next morning.

2) University
The university: a physical place, an institution. The concept of the university comes from the universe, wholeness, the sum of things, a community or corporation of people. The university’s foundational concept is universality.

What is appealing about the university?

The university operates in a different logic of time; in Latin, otium. Otium is leisure time, time set aside. This is not capitalist, labor or business time; the university is not on the clock. The university, historically an exception to business or the state, is open to all, accessible to all, a place where different kinds of people gather, where they can come and go, where they encounter culture and each other. It is a safe and hospitable place, where new ways of thinking and desiring can be introduced, where ideas are free to bounce off of walls and bodies. The university is an enclosure in which the occasion for the thought about ‘enclosure’ can occur. Due to this possibility, students have historically fueled revolutions. The university is an archive, a warehouse of wisdom; it offers libraries and intellectual resources.

What is problematic about the university?

In our present times, the actual university is shot-through with commodity, labor time, business logic and ethics. All of the good things listed above appear rhetorical and idealistic when confronted with the real functioning of actual universities, which are technocratic, corrupt, departmentalized, a source of revenue & profit, exclusionary, predatory. The university, along with the state and the banks, has created a dangerous and horrifyingly repressive education bubble. The university has become irrelevant, not taken seriously. It is an ivory tower.

Part C. Resonance and dissonance between the terms

Given what’s been said about these terms, do they belong together? If so, how? What should this Nomadic University be? What shouldn’t it be? What’s the most appealing combination of the ideas mentioned? What are the resonances and dissonances?


Inside job: within the already existing institutions and models

To challenge conventional models of pedagogy through raising awareness of limits and

contradictions of existing models.
To question the conventional relationship between university and society through rethinking new
process, concepts and dynamics of mutual engagement where
o society becomes a co-producer of knowledge –non conventional knowledge

(connaisance/savoir-conocimiento/saber) – instead of a passive recipient
o university becomes socialized by that non conventional knowledge.
To produce a pedagogical narrative based on a learning-unlearning approach and possible tools to

implement it.
Examples can include:
o Journal
o Speaker series
o Academic courses
o Workshops
o Policies
o Etc.

Outside job: beyond existing models and institutions

To develop and apply alternative models of education/knowledge transfer

o Methodology
– What is the model:
• learning by doing, discovering and refining as we go along
• we define the nomadic model through a “research-action” process
• Model should target pragmatic side (what is needed) and liberation side

(what the movement needs)
– How is model going to be developed
• Develop a social diagram of number of communities and territories
we are going to work with as part of a pilot project. Selection of
communities can be facilitated by:

o attending the GAs in different neighborhoods and connecting to
groups within these communities
o creating webpage and allowing online interactions
o using already existing resources such as Open Forum list of

community organizations

Protocol for the 1st meeting with selected communities– introduction of
the NU to target population and beginning collaborative process
o Narrative on the movement, organizational aspects, NU concept/

principles, pedagogy, etc.
2nd meeting on conducting a research-action workshop to assess needs
o Through simultaneous workshops and continuous dialogue with
stakeholders involved, collecting information to identify needs,

hopes and points of views.
Analyzing information based on systematizing data gathered from
meetings held with different groups.
Based on the analysis of data, designing a first nomadic educational
proposal (courses, workshops, curricula)

3rd meeting on sharing results of the analysis and discuss proposal and
include input/modifications/comments from communities to refine/revise

Based on the analysis of new data, modifying the proposal and meet until
reaching consensus. This can include multiple meetings and revisions to
the proposal until final proposal is agreed upon
Once proposal is finalized, we present it to different communities and
work with them on logistics and infrastructure (locations, timesheets,resources)
Creating administrative body for operations related to the program such
as registration, accreditation, curricula information, intranet, etc.
Assuring visibility of the program by organizing events (launching,teach-ins..), working with different media and communication outlets,
developing online platform, etc.

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