[URBANTH-L]Campus: Gold, Silver. . .Green?

mckennab at umd.umich.edu mckennab at umd.umich.edu
Tue Aug 19 11:50:31 EDT 2008

It's a given that green anthropologists work on gold campuses. . .but  
is there a silver lining? The gold is "Mr. Moneybags" - the  
military-industrial-academic complex. The green is, too often, a  
coopted movement of energy audits and adopt a river programs which  
leave Eisenhower's dark forces alone. David Orr says that trying to  
change universities is like walking north on a moving train going south.

But how well are anthropologists doing? Is there a silver lining?  
That's where I need your help for an article I'm writing.

Here's a devil's advocate view. . . .not mine of course. . .

Most university anthropologists are more concerned with typical  
academic career matters (grant writing, academic publishing, teaching,  
merit raises, excavating, or protecting their "own adopted group" of  
natives elsewhere around the world) than they are with radicalizing  
their own universities along "green" lines. Their own backyards  
crumble while their journal entries grow.

Yes, there are a hundred or so anthropologists (of thousands and  
thousands) who push hard to transform their "campuses" towards  
policies and practices that radically challenge non-sustainable  
capitalist social relations. But, as a group, anthropologists on  
campus are generally co-opted by a sustainability movement that asks  
little of them in terms of challenging or overthrowing the reigning  
"culture, resources and power" arrangements of their universities.  
Some may work with administrators and colleagues on energy  
audits,biofuel alternatives, Earth Day celebrations, pesticide reduc  
tion, adopt a river
programs and other initiatives. But though important, these substitute  
for a powerful overarching movement to "green the campus." Over in the  
cloistered seminar room radical theories about the ecology get full  
exposition but generally do not when one is sitting across from  
scientists, engineers and patent officers of the campus. "Why! you're  
certainly not against patents, are you?" an anthropologist was once  
mockingly asked by one such administrator at a public meeting.

The penultimate "green campus" a form of eco-socialism that is  
organized against neoliberal practices. It is pre-eminently concerned  
with the fact that colleges and universities are for sale to the  
highest bidders and that the non-sustainability military is growing  
and growing on campus. A green campus is also a red campus, a festival  
of critical pedagogy in all venues. . . .where there are an abundance  
of union drives, student loan forgiveness, a democratically elected  
university administration (by students, faculty and workers), constant  
demonstrations against corporate influence, the take-over of PBS  
stations on campus by democratic representation, and a clear public
communication about how universities are more gold than green.

The corporate knowledge factory model advances by leaps and bounds  
while the "red and expert" model wanes. A good many anthropologists do  
extraordinary work in teaching and research ing about conservation,  
biodiversity, sustainability, commodification,privatization,  
interdisciplinarity and so on, but too many of these same  
anthropologists at missing in action when it comes to challenging  
corporations like Dow Chemical, General Motors, the Business college,  
the Pentagon, university media and their Boards of Trustees
in jettisoning neoliberal authoritarian movements on their own campuses.

What happens in their curricula or classrooms or in their speciality  
substitutes for border crossing work on their campuses.

Back to me again. . .the devil is, er, gone.


Brian McKenna

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