This is an interview with Creston Davis, the originator of the Global Centre for Advanced Studies. We are catching up from our previous interview you can read here. Since the inauguration of this movement, there have been new exciting elements materializing. We're going to investigate on what they are!
How old is GCAS now? Can you share with us some of the new developments? Have you run into any major issues? How have you dealt with those?
Things for GCAS are taking off brilliantly, even beyond our boldest expectations. We've been a school for less than five months and we've had over 200 students from more than 20 different countries. There are many major developments but I will only name three for now: One is our partnership with The Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities (ISSH-S), which on the educational program level, is now GCAS-Southeastern Europe (GCAS-SEE). This means that GCAS students can pursue three M.A. degrees in Cultural Studies, Identity Studies, and Policy Studies.
These programs will be in place in September. A second is our Summer Institute in Grand Rapids this summer. And the third exciting thing is our partnership with The Kandinsky Library at Centre Pompidou in Paris where Profs. Jack Halberstam and Beatriz Preciado will be giving a seminar called "We Have Never Been Queer" (Sept. 8-12). So in general things are looking solid for us even as we continue to organize and offer an extremely low cost responsible education so students can be empowered not just by ideas but also in their lives.
Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming Summer Institute? What inspired it?
The Summer Institute is set in the context of the working class town of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here Grand Rapids serves as a site of struggle of the working class for representation, and since the global recession by irresponsible bankers six years ago, the workers and middle-class families have suffered the consequences. GCAS is committed to joining these struggles, so we're creating a context in which we can learn from the best minds in the world in the context of a working class city that is affordable. Badiou, Critchley, Laruelle, Kolozova, Caputo, Peter Rollins, and Shapiro will be teaching seminars on truth, activism, and struggle for empowerment. Students can work towards their graduate and undergraduate degrees or just audit courses.
A century ago, the University of Michigan faculty passed a resolution encouraging the establishment of junior colleges in Michigan and in 1914 Grand Rapids Junior College (now a community college) was established. It is in this spirit of creating these publicly accessible working and middle-class educational institutions that GCAS was formed--educating to empower not to exploit via massive student loans and irresponsible tuition costs is our mission. Much of this, of course, depends on student involvement. We're hoping to attract students, which we call "researchers" to the summer institute, which can be taken online or in person. But so far there hasn't been as much interest as we would like to see, but time will tell--time always tells.
Since GCAS's inception there have been a few questions that have arisen, such as: Is the goal of GCAS to eventually be a 'free' university? How does GCAS differ from say MOOC's and/or other universities like EGS? Is there a culture of 'star-status' (i.e., some of the professors are quite high-profile and etc.)
The questions and critiques are, of course, expected after all, our core element is critical theory and our paradigm marks a radical break in many ways from education defined by the configuration of modernity and hyperized in neoliberalism. In the first place, our aim is to struggle for a "college" in an early meaning of the term, collegium meaning: partnership, association. Learning is like a dance that takes on the form of partnership, co-operations between faculty, among students, and between students and faculty because our destiny is never fixed but always unfolding through us, collectively. GCAS has been a collective with the researchers who have literally invented their own in-depth news-analysis program, "GCAS Interventions." We are developing the next generation e-book via GCAS Press (Conatus Publishing), and refining our platform, and organizing new seminars and conferences and in general letting the process of learning breath and become both experimental and structured differently from the traditional format.
So, yes, in the end, it is my personal desire to offer a free education to all but first we must continue building our foundation together. And GCAS will take on different forms, styles and intonations based on its composition. GCAS is not MOOC, firstly because we are not "massive": We are a small collective of acto-theorists breaking down the elite walls of privileged and providing avenues of empowerment for many in different parts of the world. For example, our classes are small, about 30 students per. Secondly, the lectures professors give are live and interactive: a student can have an exchange with the professor, like when, you recall this George, Zizek and several GCAS students exchanged ideas and even opened a significant debate about the status of democracy. And sometimes these exchanges have gone on for weeks, months even.
Our students are active not passive. And unlike MOOCs students can control whom they want to study with. That's empowering students. In terms of the so-called 'star-status' I don't know what to say besides the fact that the founding faculty, for the most part, are personal friends of mine. So this criticism seems odd as if what they want is a sub-par faculty and not creators of concepts. In terms of the EGS, I am on faculty there, and they have given us much encouragement and support our future looks bright together.
Philosopher Gilles Deleuze once said: "The various forms of education or 'normalization' imposed upon an individual consist in making him or her change points of subjectification, always moving towards a higher, nobler one in closer conformity with the supposed ideal. Then from the point of subjectification issues a subject of enunciation, as a function of a mental reality determined by that point. Then from the subject of enunciation issues a subject of the statement, in other words, a subject bound to statements in conformity with a dominant reality"
GCAS is paving the way for new and bold ways of both discourse and praxis. Follow the links below to find out more information and take part in developing yourself and the world for a better tomorrow!