Unread book of the day

As usual, a notice: as a non-native English speaker, I’m always concerned about language issues and do my best to write in proper English. Nevertheless, some irregularities may happen.

As a new academic year is about to start and we’re also wrapping up some tasks from the previous one (in Poland teaching commence in October, but September is a hell of work for those of us who are involved in various aspects of academic administration and/or supervising), I’m experiencing more acutely than ever to what extent my university is turning into a corporation. Combined forces of neoliberal economy, looming economic and energy crisis, increasingly illiberal democracy under far-right extremism’s spell married with the utter, frenetic chaos of bureaucratic madness are to blame. No matter the reasons, its consequences are dire for my ability to research and write (I’m sure such a sentiment is shared far and wide across academia).

At any rate, to partially compensate for the lack of creative space, I’m going to start a thread on ‘unread book of the day’. Books that drew my curiosity which I would have gladly read, if given a luxury of a bit more time and space in my mind (because the grinding mill of contemporary academia most of the time manifests simply as mental exhaustion, so even if technically having an hour or two on a bus or any other means of public transportation, more often than not the only activity I am able to engage in is meditating (yes, here my Zen practice comes handy).

The thread is not meant to vent the steam and complain. I would rather like to start carving out some kind of alternative world that could have happen, if. And then I maybe see it manifest in whatever way it wants to.

So, today’s unread book of the day is Liminal Commons. Modern Rituals of Transition in Greece by Angelos Varvarousis.

First of all, I just got intrigued by an idea to look closer into how “communing practice” has been employed in a country that until recently was seen as plagued by an acute economic and financial crisis and a proverbial “weak link” of the EU (the North – South debate in a local variation). And yet Greece is still one of the places where we can experience what counts as the quality of life – with its slow tempo, friendly and welcoming people, creative fervour in the air. Granted, I’m visiting mostly as a tourist, but the one that always seeks to improve local economies rather than industrial conglomerates with their “tourist gulags”. Over the last couple of years, I’ve become more and more impressed by how Southern Europe – be it southern Italy or Greece – copes with many crises and how rich are the lessons we can learn there. That is why I would like to read more about “liminal commons” proposed by Varvarousis. Such a concept seems to me crucial in tackling some of the most palpable problems (economic, social, and environmental) we’re confronted with on a daily basis. As Massimo de Angelis writes in his introduction: “Liminal commons are thus social systems that catalyse a transformation of the subjects in particular moments of crisis, with a corresponding intensity of perturbation.” (introduction was the only part I read sipping my morning coffee). And now I’m wondering about our liminal commons in academia. How can we support such temporary yet crucial arrangements and let them transform us (students, academic staff and administration) in the process? Are “liminal commons” what Hakim Bey called Temporary Autonomic Zones? Are “liminal commons” some kind of social mycorrhizal networks? These are the questions off the top of my head that I may have been able to find answers to, if. I’m keeping high hopes that one day, circumstances (and funds) permitting, I will. Now off the the usual academic pulverizer, 40 minutes of daily creative practice awarded to myself has been complete.

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