"Intolerant Universities": Anthropology professor Chris Knight suspended over G20-activism
(UPDATE: Alternative Summit cancelled, university occupied) Shortly after The Sunday Telegraph wrote that anthropologist Chris Knight is one of the organizers of a mass demonstration against the G20 summit in London, he was suspended from his job at the University of East London, several British newspapers report.
Chris Knight, (or Mr. Mayhem according to the Evening Standard) said:
“To be honest, if he winds us up any more I’m afraid there will be real bankers hanging from lampposts and let’s hope that that doesn’t actually have to happen.
“They [bankers] should realise the amount of fury and hatred there is for them and act quickly, because quite honestly if it isn’t humour it is going to be anger.
“I am trying to keep it humorous and let the anger come up in a creative and hopefully productive and peaceful way.
“If the other people don’t join in the fun - I’m talking about the bankers and those rather pompous ministers - and come over and surrender their power obviously it’s going to get us even more wound up and things could get nasty. Let’s hope it doesn’t.”
>> G20 protest professor suspended (BBC, 26.3.08)
>> Anarchist professor Chris Knight suspended after G20 ‘threat’ (The Times, 26.3.08)
Professor Chris Knight’s suspension for voicing anti-G20 sentiments is a sign of how intolerant universities have become, writes Rupa Huq in The Guradian.
The incident is “symptomatic of how university management culture has changed":
The introduction of fees over the past decade has meant universities adopting more business-like ways, serving paying customers rather than Young Ones-style indolent students.
To some extent, as the polytechnics became universities, the universities underwent a degree of polytechnic-isation too: new and different types of courses appeared ¬– programmes with vocational outcomes and “transferable skills” in place of critical thinking. Exams were shunned in favour of continuous assessment, reflecting the changing needs for skills-based provision to produce good workers to service the economy
One of the group members posted a comment by Chris Knight:
“Management at UEL are telling the press the Alternative Summit (http://www.altg20.org.uk) may not happen. Meanwhile, they are actively sabotaging the Summit by crashing the only e-mail we have been using to organize it and by countermanding all requests to the UEL print-shop to produce vital publicity material. Not to mention barring me from getting into my own room on campus which until now has been the organizing centre.
They have done nothing to convince me that they will be respecting Earth Hour from 20.30 this evening. Maybe some of us should get down there around 19.30 tonight? We could then use UEL campus to enforce Earth Hour, secure the Summit venue and uphold the rule of law. I will certainly be down there.”
Comments from group members:
wherever you work you have a point of view about what is going on in the world…how dare jobs be threatened just because of your views…..
they can never stop what we think!!!!!!!
I do support the reinstatement of Professor Knight as it looks like his university have thoroughly overreacted, but I think the anger at the city, specifically, is misplaced. Bankers have behaved as they were encouraged to within the logic of capitalism - it’s not a case of if they’d been a bit less greedy we could have had some version of “good” or “compassionate” capitalism; the entire system is the problem, not a figurehead bunch of bankers.
“Think theyve been trying to find an excuse to suspend him, personally though the move to suspend him over what was said is a stupid move; it shows nothing but UEL being an institution where individuality and political opinion is barred.”
Perhaps the most “threatening” thing Dr. Knight has said is to caution the police not to use violence. He is making a perfectly legitimate point, that has been made many times over the centuries, even from the seats of monarchic power and the Vatican: closing off avenues for peaceful protest and dissent will justify, legitimate, and even mandate more violent action for necessary and urgent change.
More anthropologists in action in London at the Alternative London Summit 2009 - here an excerpt from the anthropology section (!):
- David Graeber will be analyzing the banking crisis from a 5,000-year historical perspective.
- Jerome Lewis will adopt a hunter-gatherer perspective on the crisis, explaining how life is possible without hierarchy, money or notions of inevitable scarcity.
- Neil Bennun will be drawing on South African Bushman mythology to illustrate how “Another world is possible”.
Financial crisis: Anthropologists lead mass demonstration against G20 summit (my post 5 days ago)