GUEST BLOGGER: FREEDOM TO STUDY ANTAGONISM AND RESISTENCE AT SCOTTISH UNIVERSITIES

Mauro Di Lullo, a PhD student at the University of Stirling, reflects on his appreciation for the freedom to study in new, innovative, and even potentially controversial topics without boundaries in the Scottish doctoral community.

In July 2012, I gratefully accepted a three-year scholarship from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities for my doctoral thesis on Maurice Blanchot. I submitted my thesis last week. Yet, my work—and by extension, my extraordinary experience at the University of Sterling—has not yet come to an end.

Admittedly, it is difficult to phrase, in short, my learning experience at the University of Stirling. However, in trying to summarise the Scottish doctoral experience from my perspective, the freedom of students to pursue the research they are driver toward without boundaries stands out as one of the most significant. The University of Stirling is fully aware of its place within a geographical space where unconditional intellectual freedom is guaranteed and upheld, and where students can therefore learn, unfettered, under the guidance of a creative, open and highly prepared academic staff, with an inexhaustible emotional, logistic and helpful support staff who are always trying to assist students with kindness and great patience.

Image Credit: http://www.marxists.org.

Academically, my work focuses on the concept of ‘relation without relation’ in Maurice Blanchot’s oeuvre as it relates to death and communism in, offering a defense of Blanchot’s particularised conception of communism. The idea at hand—relation without relation—may appear at first self-contradictory, but according to Blanchot it speaks to a a relation that is not a dialectical relation, and in which the Other (Autrui for Blanchot) is accepted in his/her absolute Otherness without any attempt at becominf a forced part of a given culture, political affiliation, or  more broadly, our Eurocentric society. In this sense Blanchot says this kind of relation opens itself toward the advent of communism (as it is understood in this specific context).

From this, my work demonstrates that Blanchot directed his work to a relevant, antagonistic and destructive task: recovering the space and the function of communism and death in which the individual cedes his/her space to a renewed conception of the relation with the Other, which takes death and communism as radical and original concepts; he has transformed the stereotypical, theoretical approach beyond our restricted understanding of these terms. Where some academic environments may try to curtail this sort of broad-based, potentially controversial reading, Stirling has provided me with the interpersonal and intellectual resources and support to read and discuss communism and death with the freedom required to search for relation of a third kind with the Other in these texts, and by doing so open a path for a renewed understanding of death and communism in their relation-without-(explicit)-relation. This freedom has afforded me the space to do meaningful research and develop my original theses without restrictions: this dedication to intellectual progress and freedom has been absolutely crucial to my experience, and has been to me indicative of the unique academic culture of Scotland for doctoral researchers.

Additionally, as an active member of the University of Stirling Post Graduate Journal, I’ve been able to immerse myself in the community aspect of this rich research environment. Among other who are researching and enthusiastically engaged, in reading groups and writing articles, I’ve been able to explore the role and the antagonistic impact of Universities in neoliberal regimes. Engagement and political activism cannot stop, and all of us (academics and early researchers) bear a responsibility to speak up for those who cannot speak.Since the early ‘80s, neoliberal states have recovered and completely rehabilitated their essentially authoritarian and in some aspects disturbing fascist foundations, repressing any form of political, social and cultural antagonism and resistance through new techniques of domination. Since 9/11, perspectives to this end have been used to justify approvals by parliaments in the Western world of authoritarian and fascist laws: the Patriot Act in USA[1] or anti-terrorism legislation in UK.[2]

Delving into these issues in community, in a free and open intellectual space, I have only deepened my conviction that Universities should become authentic and antagonistic spaces of resistance against alienation and hegemonic values as designed and created by bourgeois theorists. My work—under the supervision of Dr Andrew Hass and Prof. Bill Marshall— has tried to unfold a groundwork to create these political, cultural and social conditions of antagonism and resistance. As such, I am extremely confident that with my enthusiasm, dedication and commitment, I will be able to help young students to develop a renewed political consciousness and—at the same time—fully demonstrate my gratitude and pride to be part of this inspirational journey at the University of Stirling by perpetuating the legacy of my enducation in training future scholars, in kind.

[1] USA Patriot ACT enacted by the 107th US Congress and signed into law by President George W.Bush on 26/10/2001.

[2] Terrorism Act 2006 Chapter 11.

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