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Students in revolt: the pedagogical potential of student collective action in the age of the corporate university.

The last decade has been marked by a significant increase in the number of student protests worldwide. A diverse range of reasons has contributed to the upsurge of student activism, but generally, most of the movements have risen up as response to the aggressive attacks that education is suffering globally at the hands of capitalist interests (Zhou & Green, 2015). The effects of neoliberal capitalism on universities have been widely discussed and studied (e.g., Aronowitz, 2001; De Sousa Santos, 2010; Giroux, 2003, 2010; Hill, 2013; Molesworth, Scullion, & Nixon, 2011; Petrina & Ross, 2014; Ross & Gibson, 2007; Simons & Masschelein, 2009). Scholars like Aronowitz (2001), Fernandez (2014) and others, have argued that the rise of the 'corporate university' is one of the central elements that has drastically transformed the global landscape of higher education.

The context in which universities and colleges have been and continue to be transformed into private corporations (Giroux, 2003) has been called 'academic capitalism' (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). It can be summarized as the result of several factors: the growth of international markets, the development of governmental policies focused on applied research and innovation, the advancement of austerity policies that lead to the decrease in state funding, and the growing financial dependence of universities and colleges on market forces and private capital. In this context, as Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2010) argues, universities are undergoing different types of crises that challenge among many other aspects, universities' autonomy and the academic freedom of its members.

In parallel to the rise of the corporate university and the general reorganization of higher education that mirrors corporate style governance and the pursuit of profit, students and professors have coordinated resistance movements at national and transnational levels (e.g., initiatives such as the Rouge Forum in the US, the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics in the case of students in economics departments around the world calling for a change in their curriculum, among many other forms of organized resistance). (1) Acting from different front lines, inside and outside of the traditional structures of the academy, students and professors are trying to reinvent the idea of the university and transform it (Noterman & Pusey, 2012; Pusey & Sealey-Huggins, 2013). In Kanngieser's words, those efforts have sought to 'establish additional means of exploring different organizational dynamics and developing new tactics, both for resistance and, more importantly, for our own creative processes by which we might constitute alternatives' (Kanngieser, 2007 cited in Noterman & Pusey, 2012: 184-5).

During the last decade students have played a prominent role, as part of the many resistance efforts against the privatization of the university. They have organized massive movements, occupied campuses and buildings, and they have made extraordinary and creative demonstrations to raise the public's awareness about the consequences of the corporatization of higher education (Hill, 2013). Among the most popular and studied movements of the decade are the ones that took place in 2011 in Chile (Salinas & Fraser, 2012; Somma, 2012) and 2010 in England (Ibrahim, 2011). In these cases, students not only organized unprecedented large marches and public demonstrations, but also they inspired many subsequent national and transnational movements.

As students' collective actions keep gaining more political relevance, student and university movements also establish themselves as spaces of counter-hegemony (Sotiris, 2014). Students are constantly opening new possibilities to displace and resist the commodification of education offered by mainstream educational institutions. As Sotiris (2014) convincingly argues, movements within the university have not only the potential to subvert educational reforms, but in addition, they have become 'strategic nodes' for the transformation of the processes and practices in higher education, and most importantly for the constant re-imagination and the recreation of 'new forms of subaltern counter-hegemony' (1). The strategic importance of university and college based moments lays precisely in the role that higher education plays in contemporary societies, namely their role in 'the development of new technologies, new forms of production and for the articulation of discourses and theories on contemporary issues and their role in the reproduction of state and business personnel' (8). Universities and colleges therefore, have a crucial contribution in 'the development of class strategies (both dominant and subaltern), in the production of subjectivities, (and) in the transformation of collective practices' (8).

The main objective of this paper is to examine how contemporary student movements are disrupting, opposing and displacing entrenched oppressive and dehumanizing reforms, practices and frames in today's corporate academia. This work is divided in four sections. The first is an introduction to student movements and an overview of how student political action has been approached and researched. The second and third sections take a closer look at the repertoires of contention used by contemporary student movements and propose a framework based on radical praxis that allows us to better understand the pedagogical potential of student disruptive action. The last section contains a series of examples of students' repertoires or tactics of contention that exemplifies the pedagogical potential of student social and political action.

An Overview of Student Movements

Generally speaking, students are well positioned as political actors. They have been actively involved in the politics of education since the beginnings of the university, but more broadly, students have played a significant role in defining social, cultural and political environments around the world (Altbach, 1966; Boren, 2001). The contributions and influences of students and student movements to revolutionary efforts and political movements beyond the university context are undeniable. One example is the role that students have played in the leadership and membership of the political left (e.g. students' role in the Movimiento 26 de Julio--M-26-7 in Cuba during the '50s and in the formation of The New Left in the United States, among others). Similarly, several political and social movements have either established alliances with student organizations or created their own chapters on campuses to recruit new members, mobilize their agendas in education and foster earlier student's involvement in politics (2) (Altbach, 1966; Lipset, 1969).

Students are often considered to be 'catalysts' of political and social action or 'barometers' of the social unrest and political tension accumulated in society (Barker, 2008). Throughout history student movements have had a diverse and sometimes contradictory range of political commitments. Usually, student organizations and movements find grounding and inspiration in anarchism and Marxism, however it is also common to see movements leaning towards liberal and conservative approaches. Hence, student political action has not always been aligned with social movements or organizations from the political left. In various moments in history students have joined or been linked to rightist movements, reactionary organizations and conservative parties (Altbach, 1966; Barker, 2008).

Students, unlike workers, come from different social classes and seemly different cultural backgrounds. As a particularly diverse social group, students are distinguished for being heterogeneous and pluralists in their values, interests and commitments (Boren, 2001). Such diversity has been a constant challenge for maintaining unity, which has been particularly problematic in cases of national or transnational student organizations (Prusinowska, Kowzan, & Zielinska, 2012; Somma, 2012). To clarify, social classes are defined by the specific relationship that people have with the means of production. In the case of students, they are not a social class by themselves, but a social layer or social group that is identifiable by their common function in society (Stedman, 1969). The main or central aspect that unites student is the transitory social condition of being a student. In other words, students are a social group who have a common function, role in society or social objective, which is 'to study' something (Lewis, 2013; Simons & Masschelein, 2009).

Student movements can be understood as a form of social movement (Luesher-Mamashela, 2015). They have an internal organization that varies from traditionally hierarchical structures, organizational schemes based on representative democracy with charismatic leadership, to horizontal forms of decision-making (Altbach, 1966; Lipset, 1969). As with many other movements, student movements have standing claims, organize different type of actions, tactics or repertoires of contention, (3) and they advocate for political, social or/and educational agendas, programs or pleas.

Student political activity has been studied by scholars interested in social movements, youth activism, communication, anthropology, sociology and history. Outside of mainstream academic publishing, activists and militants have also contributed to document experiences of student activism by writing booklets, autobiographies, weblogs, music and poetry (e.g. from Goliardic poetry in medieval Europe to contemporary song writing). Some activists have also registered their experiences and perspectives in storied form and their work can be found as part of the literary genre. (4)

Commonly, the majority of academic studies on the topic are empirical (e.g. Cammaerts, 2013; Rheingans & Hollands, 2012) or historical (e.g. Altbach, 1989; Boren, 2001; Lipset & Altbach, 1969; Spector, 2013), and they consist largely of close examinations of specific events, organizations or movements (Begin-Caouette & Jones, 2014; Bellei, Cabalin, & Orellana, 2014; DeGroot, 1998; Esler, 1973; Ibrahim, 2011; Landau, 2014). Given the great diversity and difference between movements, in most cases research found in the literature is focused on particular geographic locations, campuses, movements or organizations and historical periods. As Gill and DeFronzo (2009), Van Dyke (1998) and other authors have stated, there is not much academic literature that seeks to theorize student movements and their collective action as a whole.

An important part of the scholarship on the topic attempts to explain what factors or circumstances facilitate the development of student political activism, which continues to be highly debated and contested. Scholars such as Crossley (2008) argue that student activism is influenced by campus-based networks that have maintained it through history as an impelling force on campus. Other prominent approaches to student activism have based their analysis on generational arguments that consider student movements to be the result of a gap between generations (Feuer, 1969; Olcese, Saunders, & Tzavidis, 2014). Similarly, a number of scholars, particularly before and during the 1960s, argued that student activism was a consequence of behavioral, developmental or psychological reasons (Flacks, 1970). However, the latter approaches have been criticized and dismissed by scholars in the field since they fail to represent the social value and progressiveness of activists' aims and agendas (Crossley, 2008).

Furthermore, scholars are divided on the role of education and the influence of critical scholarship in the development of student unrest across the globe (Crossley, 2008; Gill & DeFronzo, 2009). (5) In general terms, critical and radical education has been highlighted as a source of inspiration and critical awareness for students (Altbach, 1966; Gill & DeFronzo, 2009; Olcese et al., 2014; Van Dyke, 1998). One of the strongest illustrations of the connection between critical scholarship and student activism is the fact that students in the humanities and social sciences are more politically aware and socially engaged in activism than students from other disciplines (Crossley, 2008; Gill & DeFronzo, 2009).

Nevertheless, as many critical pedagogy scholars have argued, awareness is not enough to foster social change, much less grow a social revolution (Malott & Ford, 2015). Hence, theory has to be complemented by praxis and political engagement to become truly transformational. Sotiris (2014) argues social actions have the potential to breakdown the traditional hierarchical structures in the academy and create spaces of encounter and dialogue. In such spaces both students and educators can explore different ways to exercise radical and critical pedagogy, to study social reality free of the logic of the corporate university and to experiment counter hegemonic practices.

Repertoires of Contention and Direct Action

One of the recent areas of the study of collective action focuses on the repertoires of contention and the study of direct action. The following section presents an overview of the concept of repertoires of contention and its manifestations in student movements.

The concept of repertoires of contention refers to the tools and techniques used by social movements to act collectively in a confrontation or struggle. According to Taylor and Van Dyke (2004),

'If there is a single element that distinguishes social movements from other political actors ... it is the strategic use of novel, dramatic, unorthodox, and noninstitutionalized forms of political expression to try to shape public opinion and put pressure on those in positions of authority' (263).

According to Tilly (2006), who coined the term in 1977, 'repertoires of contention' are forms of social interaction ingrained in the relations between two or more political actors. Although repertoires have been adapted to contextual variables, they have remained limited in range and most of the time fairly standard in their basic principles (e.g. stoppages, sit-downs, strikes, blockades). Repertoires are adjusted according to the place, the period of time, the cultural traditions and the history of conflicts between similar political actors (Taylor & Van Dyke, 2004). Social movements and activists innovate in their repertoires but Tilly argues that such innovations are rather slow in time. He claims that contention actions vary or evolve mostly due to shifts in the way in which social actors interact with institutions and relate to each other and with themselves. In other words, external factors and internal movement processes and learning shape, affect and challenge the use of particular tactics or contention actions (Taylor & Van Dyke, 2004).

Repertoires of contention have socially constructed meanings and are part of the creative and cultural labor that social action entails. Each repertoire is composed by a set of instances, that Tilly (2006) calls performances. These performances are created, learnt and appropriated by activists and movements in order to make and respond to claims (Tilly, 2006). The concept of repertoires of contention has been updated and reviewed by several authors, and it continues to be debated in the literature (McAdam, Tarrow, & Tilly, 2004, 2007; Taylor & Van Dyke, 2004; Tilly, 2006, 2008). One of the main, and more relevant, critiques to Tilly's understanding of repertoires of contention is that they are describing only those tools and techniques that apply to large scale public events covered by media, which means that this concept does not include actions at the personal level (i.e. lifestyle decisions, self presentation, etc.), or resistance actions focused on local or small scale issues (i.e. boycotts, group petitions, etc. See more examples in Ross & Vinson, 2011). Therefore, as Taylor and Van Dyke argue, repertoires of contention, as a framework, underrepresents a wide range of actions that activists and movement participants develop to resist in their everyday lives (Taylor & Van Dyke, 2004).

In this regard, as DeLeon (2008, 2010, 2012), Juris (2009), Amster, DeLeon, Fernandez, Nocella and Shannon (2009), Haworth (2012) and others have stated, anarchist thought (6) has a long time tradition producing, theorizing and documenting micro-resistance, everyday resistance and direct action. Anarchist organizations, for instance, have been prolific in their production of pamphlets and booklets that illustrate many possibilities for direct action, and even direct confrontation. In the case of student movements, there are also many handbooks, booklets and webpages with suggestions, ideas, experiences and pointers from other student organizations. (7) The focus taken in this paper is based on larger events and public demonstrations, however it could be also extended to actions in smaller scale, and less conspicuous forms of resistance (see, for example, Ross & Vinson, 2013; Ross, 2016).

Students' repertoires of contention have been characterized by the use of a combination of classic and creative types of action. Classic tactics of student political action involve mass marches, the occupation of buildings, campuses, blockades, stoppages, assemblies, and hunger strikes. The more creative and innovative repertoires are characterized for the use of art, music, theater and comedy. For instance, contemporary student movements are famous for their creative use of flash-mobs, artistic interventions, mass run races, kiss-ins, hug-ins, viral internet campaigns, street dances, carnivals, circus-routines, sarcastic performances, costumes gatherings, among many other tactics (Bellei et al., 2014; Boyd, 2012; Cammaerts, 2013; Kowzan, Zielinska, & Prusinowska, 2014; Prusinowska et al., 2012; Thompson & Sholette 2004).

Pedagogical Potential of Student Collective Action

Social movements are filled with learning experiences. They are spaces of social engagement, encounter, creation and transformation. However, as the American educator John Holt argues in his book Instead of Education, we are always learning, and there is not really a classification or division of experiences between the ones that are conducive to learning and the ones that are not. He says:

'The trouble with talk about "learning experiences" is that it implies that all experiences can be divided into two kinds, those from which we learn something, and those from which we learn nothing. But there are no experiences from which we learn nothing. What we learn may make us more informed or more ignorant, wiser or stupider, stronger or weaker, but we always learn something. What it is depends on the experience, and above all, on how we feel about it. ... We are very unlikely to learn anything good from experiences which do not seem to us closely connected with what is interesting and important in the rest of our lives. Curiosity is never idle; it grows out of real concerns and real needs' [emphasis added] (Holt, 2004: 12).

For Holt learning is a product of human experiences, and curiosity is the trigger of the kind of learning that is long lasting, that connects to us and means something. Social movements are spaces that may offer precisely that, the interaction between learning experiences, social engagement and political practices among people that are truly concerned and interested about an issue (Choudry, 2015; Hall & Turray, 2006; Hall, Clover, Crowther, & Scandrett, 2012). Student movements, as a form of collective action, also constitute a similar educational space that combines elements and potentialities for learning, creation and curiosity.

Furthermore, social movements besides being spaces where people socially engage and learn, also have the potential to be pedagogical (understanding pedagogy from a broader social perspective that goes outside classroom settings and embraces the complexity of social interactions). In this regard Ross (2015) argues, drawing from a dialectical understanding of human experience and the relations between thinking and acting, that experiences become educational--and pedagogical--when they are 'critically examined in relation to the past, present, and the future.' Additionally, he argues that pedagogical experiences can also account for the 'external conditions (that) interact with the subjectivities of the person having the experience(s)' (152).

In other words, pedagogical experiences are relational and socially grounded since they are the result of social interaction. Additionally, pedagogical experiences are reflective and critical because they are connected and rooted dialectically in human experience. As Ross (2015) puts it '(a)n educative experience suggests the past is part of who we are now and that the present is important as a precondition for resolving major social contradictions in the future' (152). Lastly, pedagogical experiences are meaningful because they 'help us construct personally meaningful understandings of the world and in the process to make change' (152).

Budd Hall's understanding of how knowledge is created and shared in social action is particularly insightful and allows us to better understand the type of popular pedagogy that occurs within the context of social movements. Hall says:

'Knowledge is produced and renewed by continuous testing, by action upon one's theories, by reflecting upon one's actions, and by beginning the cycle again. It is the combination of social transformation and education that has created the kind of knowledge which forges the personal and communal commitment for sustained engagement' (Hall cited in Choudry, 2015: 33).

Hall and Clover (2000; 2005) argue that there are multiple dimensions in which learning--and pedagogy--can be interpreted in the context of social movements. On one hand, there is in internal dimension where learning results from experiences that people have when they are participating in the movement. In this context, pedagogical relations are developed between participants in their effort to create, share and transform knowledge. For example, when members, activists and demonstrators teach, learn and reflect upon organization skills, repertoires of contention, politics of social action, media management, etc.

On the other hand, learning also can be found in an external dimension; it refers to the experiences that people outside the movement have 'as a result of the actions taken or simply by the existence of social movements' (Hall & Clover, 2005: 188). In this case the pedagogical relation develops between the movement participants, their actions, material production and the general public. For example, when people out in the streets interact with movement participants, see their performances during marches or protests, read or listen to their arguments and stories in pamphlets or public hearings, encounter material culture that the movement creates (street graffiti, art, music, theatrical stages, illustrations, etc.) In those cases, people teach, produce and transform knowledge by listening, reading, judging and reflecting about movements and their claims.

Repertoires of Contention in Contemporary Student Movements

One recent movement that has integrated classic and creative repertoires of action is the Chilean student movement of 2011. Among the range of strategies and repertoires of contention that the movement employed, this movement became well-known for the use of creative street performances that were based on the ideas of non-violence, joy, love and carnival. Contextually, the movement emerged as a civil response to the fact that in recent years higher education in Chile has been overtaken by neoliberal reforms that have left about 70% of Chilean students overwhelmed by expensive education loans (Somma, 2012). The student movement advocated free education, the end of for-profit institutions (78% of the funding sources of higher education in Chile are private, according to Bellei, Cabalin and Orellana, 2014), the defense of public education, and the elimination of schools with discriminatory practices (Bellei et al., 2014).

In Chile, students are considered important political actors (Guzman-Concha, 2012; Simbuerger & Neary, 2014; Somma, 2012) since, historically, they have been a very active political force. Student federations are a prominent part of student politics in Chile. In 2011, these traditional student organizations incorporated their experiences of previous struggles bringing not only historical grounds to the movement but also contributing with practical and methodological tools to strengthen the movement's repertoires, narratives and discourses (Guzman-Concha, 2012: 414).

One of the tactics that reflect the pedagogical aspects of student organizing mentioned above is the employment of irony and humor to illustrate the burden of student debt, provoke critical reflection to the public and incite people to take action. For example, one of the ideas that Chilean students used the most as a humor device was the idea of Love. Marches and kiss-ins (besatones) were filled with messages that included both, meanings associated to the idea of love and the feelings and experiences of being in debt. Students, in most of the cases, either compared or contrasted both ideas by using sarcasm and irony. For example, students used messages such as: 'our love is infinite, our money would not last that long,' 'I would like to be a student loan, so we could be together for the rest of our lives,' 'We are deeply in love but most of all we are dangerously in debt,' and 'if love is free, why isn't education?'

Students' messages reflect an antagonistic logic of two concepts that inspire opposite feelings, where the idea of love has a positive connotation and debt, on the contrary, brings sorrow and anguish. Hence, the associate meanings of love are not transferable to the idea of debt without becoming a joke. The messages used by Chilean students underline the idea that love and affection could potentially be disruptive for the logic of debt and economization and their suggestion, open to interpretation, is that society should think and organize an education system that incorporates the logic of love instead of the logic of economic growth and profit.

Another dimension of the pedagogical potential of student performances and repertoires of contention is illustrated by the evolution in the arguments that students used during their negotiations. As Somma (2012) shows the movement developed comprehensive and sound understandings of how the Chilean education system works. Strategies the movement needed to employ were precisely pedagogical, in the sense that students organized themselves to gain and share more knowledge about the ways in which the Chilean higher education system works. This effort suggested a pedagogical endeavor not only for understanding particular information, data and specialized knowledge about the reality of Chilean education, but also developing the language and the tools needed to make that knowledge translatable (Somma, 2012). Both aspects were important for the movement in order to publically challenge the discourses that government officials used to gain the public's attention and delegitimize the movement. These dynamics illustrate an internal organization, pursuing the intention to learn and share information about the issue that students were caring about, and directly speaks to Holt's insight about curiosity, 'it grows out of real concerns and real need' (Holt, 2004: 12).

The student movement in Colombia, led by the Mesa Amplia Nacional Estudiantil (MANE), used performances and repertoires similar to those employed in the 2011 Chilean movement. In the Colombian context, as it is described by Archila (2011), the movement originated after the government attempted to reform the national law called 'Ley 30 de 1990,' that defined how universities receive their funding. The reform sought to increase competition among institutions and encourage the advance of corporate managerialism to carry out the day-to-day operations of the universities. In their movement, Colombian students employed both classic repertoires such as strikes, mobilizations, assemblies, and creative strategies, such as kiss-ins and marches using humor, costumes and ironical and sarcastic frames. Additionally, they added contextual elements from national carnivals and holiday festivities (Archila, 2011).

One element particularly helpful to understand the pedagogical potential of the movement tactics and the symbolic aspects of their performances of contention is the strategy called 'pupitrazo.' This strategy consists of moving desk and chairs (pupitres) outside of the university classrooms, to public parks, streets and outdoor areas to either have lessons there or to discuss and debate particular issues of interest. This strategy had dual objectives. The first goal was to disrupt the logic that universities are contained within the boundaries of enclosed spaces. By using this strategy, students opened a space where they could inquire into the purposes of their own education and the connections that their studentship has and potentially could have when it meets social reality, inequities, poverty and so on. Secondly, students also disrupted the quotidian use of streets, parks and public spaces by physically occupying them as spaces to learn and debate. The strategy provokes reflection among participants and observers about the public character of higher education and the artificial separations between academic institutions, knowledge, and social reality as it is presented day by day, out in the streets.

Among other examples of the pedagogical potential of students' performances and repertoires of contention, Fernandez (2014) analyses the use of 'Book Blocs' as a type of action used in contemporary student protests. This strategy became famous for its use in the building occupations carried out by UK students in 2010. Fernandez explains how by using 'Book Blocs' students borrow symbols and meanings traditionally associated to the academy. Book blocs are big rectangular pieces of cardboard with colorful images of covers from books that are well-known for being sources of inspiration, reflection and critical thought (e.g. the covers of Marx's Capital, Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, Illich's DE schooling Society, De Beauvoir's The Second Sex, etc.).

As Ambler puts it, students 'do not shield themselves behind knowledge, but hold before them the symbolic promise of all the radical traditions of oppositional knowledge and politics signified through these works' (Amsler, 2011: 5). These pieces are used as the front line to open marches, to block buildings, or as banners and signs located around campuses. They represent the relations that the movements have with intellectual theories and philosophical thinking, allowing a space where 'social theory is materialized not only in practice, but as practice' (Amsler, 2011: 5). Fernandez (2014), Ambler (2011) and others have argued that 'Book Blocs' are also a good example of the diffusion of knowledge among contemporary student movements, since the initiative was created by students in Italy and quickly spread to Spain, London and even more recently it was part of student demonstrations at City University of New York in the US.

One of the most studied and theorized repertoires of contention is the occupation of buildings and in the case of students, the occupation of campuses. For instance, Lewis (2013) argues that blockades and building occupations allow an interaction between people and ideas, since it opens a space for them to converge in a state of suspension because in building occupations, for example, students have the opportunity to organize themselves by assuring the availability of 'free time' and 'free space' to think and struggle. As Fernandez (2014) argues occupations have the goal of achieving 'the social time necessary to articulate the protest and, at the same time, to break with the faculty daily routine and visualize the conflict inside the institution' (207).

Taking the argument even further, Lewis (2013) argues that occupations have the particularity that allows students the chance to reclaim the 'state of suspension' that belongs to the act of studying something. Hence, by blocking their buildings students gain back their 'free time' needed to seriously study an issue, space that is no longer granted by the corporate university. 'Letting things idle through occupation stops or interrupts the incessant need for "results" and is itself a kind of impotent result, or a result that withdraws from calculation and measures' (154). Occupations disrupt the economic logics that have overtaken learning, such as calculation, accountability; testing, etc. these aspects of the economic world are deeply entrenched into today's forms of corporatized learning, and are part of the bio-politics of neoliberal capitalism. When students disrupt this logic they are reclaiming the essence of what it means to study (Lewis, 2013).

Often, when the literature refers to students, it does so in a way that locates them as if their social value were tangible only in the future. In other words, students' possibilities to transform reality is not placed in the present, but somewhere in the future, either at the moment when they have their degree, or get a job, or are acknowledged as incorporated in the economic system of production. By taking an approach that accounts for the pedagogical and political possibilities that students social action has in the present, students gain back their transformative potential not as an abstract end that waits to be made present, but as part of the actual moment they are living as students (Fernandez, 2014; Weiss, Aspinall, Abinales, & Ortmann, 2012). Student social action then becomes a vehicle by itself that offers the possibility to engage here and now, as part of a process of becoming that starts and has roots in the present moment (Malott & Ford, 2015).

Furthermore, student's repertoires of contention and direct action can be understood as part of what Vinson and Ross (2011, 2013) call 'dangerous citizenship,' since as they argue:

'The pedagogical power of "dangerous citizenship," resides in its capacity to encourage students ... to challenge the implications of their own education or work, to envision an education that is free and democratic to the core, and to interrogate and uncover their own well-intentioned complicity in the conditions within which various cultural texts and practices appear, especially to the extent that oppressive conditions create oppressive cultural practices, and vice versa' (Ross & Vinson, 2013: 15).

Therefore, student movements and their repertoires of contention have the potential to be alternative spaces that facilitate formative and pedagogical experiences as they contribute to critical reflection, social engagement and action on specific social issues.


As student activism continues to play an imperative role in the political, social and educational environment, student movements and student political organizations will continue to consolidate as alternative spaces to institutionalized education and become central actors in the processes of reinventing the university. Students' repertoires of contention and direct action involve aspects of both pedagogy and politics, since they encompass direct action that confronts authority figures, but student movements also include working with a community, critically reflecting and creatively producing knowledge in ways to merge theory and practice.

Student movements as a form of social action allow students to interact, teach and learn from each other as part of an exercise of civil engagement. These experiences of resistance and collectivity transform the university into a space that could potentially transcend its institutionalized role. As Sotiris (2014) puts it, student movements are not only about 'mounting resistances, but also experimenting with attempts to make use of the university, its people, its resources in a manner antagonistic to the dominant entrepreneurial model, offering concrete examples of critical and emancipatory social and educational practices' (13).

As social spaces of collective construction and radical imagination, student movements contribute to building authentic communities as students create the time and space to confront and struggle against the neoliberal corporate university. In the present moment, students exercise their intellectual potential and work without compromising it, refusing compliance to absence of a transformative praxis.


Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy,

University of British Columbia


Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy,

University of British Columbia

(corresponding author)


(1.) See Rouge Forum:; International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics:

(2.) There are many examples that illustrate this connection. For instance, in Colombia the Communist Party created La Juventud Comunista Colombiana (JUCO), which gathers together several youth and student organizations. Among them, the Asociacion Colombiana de Estudiantes Universitarios (ACEU) that has chapters in different public and private universities across the country ( Another example is the creation by liberal parties of the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY) that gathers different youth and student groups affiliated to liberal parties across the world. Most of them have chapters in university campuses and postsecondary schools, for example at the University of British Columbia the filial chapter is UBC Young Liberals of Canada. (

(3.) For the purposes of this document, tactics and repertoires of contention are synonyms and are used interchangeably. To explore the theoretical distinctions, see Taylor and Van Dyke (2004)

(4.) Examples of some of the work written by students, activists and militants narrating their experiences as part of their participation in student movements could be found in: How the Steel Was Tempered by Nikolai Ostrovsky (1952), Amor Propio by Gonzalo Celorio (2004), Al calor del tropel by Carlos Medina Gallego (2002), Al sur de la alameda by Lola Larra (2014), among many others. In movies, documentaries and films examples of student activism could be found in El Grito, directed by Leobardo Lopez Aretche (1968), La Noche de los lapices directed by Hector Olivera (1986), among others.

(5.) One of the main arguments used to debate the influence of critical scholarship in students' involvement in activism is the ties that student movements located in very liberal universities or colleges have had with rightist movements, reactionary organizations and political parties form the far right. On the other hand, it has also been argued that many student movements have risen from non-liberal contexts in non-liberal educational institutions. (Crossley, 2008)

(6.) Anarchism, as DeLeon (2008) puts it, is a body of political thought that seeks to dismantle coercive hierarchies, disassemble neoliberal corporate capitalism and 'build a society based on communist aspirations, free people's desires from historically oppressive social norms, and create organic and communal societies based on mutual aid and social justice' (123). For more information about anarchism and anarchist philosophy see DeLeon (2008, 2010, 2012), Haworth (2012) Amster, DeLeon, Fernandez, Nocella and Shannon (2009).

(7.) For example, student organizers in the UK recently created a new Handbook sharing their experiences and giving advices for other organizers in their country, see http:// Likewise, students in Montreal wrote a short guide for working out student associations at the Faculty or Department level, see: https://organise


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Author:Delgado, Sandra; Ross, E. Wayne
Publication:Knowledge Cultures
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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2016
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