Conference at the Gates is an attempt at blurring the boundaries of academia and activism- trying to both think and do a radical politics of resistance. As academics studying war and conflict in different ways, we want to resist DSEi in a more direct way than ‘conventional’ academic practice usually permits, yet without jettisoning our academic ideas and identities.
Co-organiser Dr Chris Rossdale, teaching fellow at LSE, about 2015’s event:
“As government funding is drained from universities, the arms trade and the military are moving in and are playing a bigger role than ever”
“This conference is our chance to come into their space. It will be an opportunity to build relationships between academics, students and the wider community in ways that are often excluded from corporate university agendas, and to explore our ideas in a more direct fashion.”
This format is directly influenced by similar instances of academic activism at Faslane in 2007, themselves inspired by anti-militarist blockades in West Germany during the 1980s. As Kenrick and Vinthagen state of the Faslane seminar-blockades:
‘[this is] a form of resistance in which you resist by using and doing that which you defend… If you wish to defend academic inquiry and critical reflection, you have an academic seminar on the road’.
For all that academia might be associated with ivory-tower theorising, the history of academic activism is a long one. Academics have participated in political struggle in a variety of ways, including – yes – theorising, but also in direct action and organisation. Most prominent, perhaps, were the numerous ‘teach-ins’ around the time of the US intervention in Vietnam. Yet academics remain active in contemporary campaign groups both against militarism and for other political causes.
Despite this on-going tradition, however, it is also clear that the connection between academic practice and political action is not always as strong or as obvious as it could or should be. ‘Conference at the Gates’ is therefore an attempt to strengthen the bonds between the two.
While Conference at the Gates is a particular action against militarism and against DSEI, we also wish to build more long-term relationships and collaborations between activists and academics. Some of the guiding questions for this action are therefore:
What responsibilities and opportunities do critical academics have to work with and support social movements? What forms should this support take?
Is the academic / activist distinction a useful one?
What are practical ways in which academics can respond to and resist militarization and securitization within universities?