Academic Cannibalism

Ten-part public lecture series on the artsprogram theme of the year

What could a university look like that does not consume itself, but is resolutely oriented towards a planetary future? How much Apollonian order would it need and how much Dionysian energy? How could the members of such a university dwell in it? And how radically democratic could it be?

As early as the 1980s, the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard made the observation of an unstoppable "mercantilization of knowledge". "The old principle that the acquisition of knowledge is indissociable from the training (Bildung) of minds, or even of individuals, is becoming obsolete and will become ever more so," he summarized at the time. In the 21st century, professors and students are now primarily practicing a kind of over-regulated pseudo-entrepreneurship, preferably raising their own funding. At the same time, however, their members operate in a highly bureaucratized academic routine in which the constant expectation and demand for self-evaluation and external evaluation has become ubiquitous practice. Evaluation, which promises to advance the development of individual researchers and institutes, equips students with the power to evaluate without empowering them intellectually. As a result, writes historian Joan Wallach-Scott, students become customers and professors become bureaucratic service providers. To paraphrase Friedrich Kittler's famous formula of the “exorcism of spirit from the humanities” (Austreibung des Geistes aus den Geisteswissenschaften), this de facto promotes an expulsion of the critical spirit (Geist), and it does so far beyond the humanities.

Further Information

Are universities therefore possibly places that raise false expectations and leave them to a toxic existence? Are they places that, as the Australian management professor Peter Fleming said, have become a psychological hell, "darkocracies"? If one reads the literature of recent decades, universities are in ruins (Bill Readings) or appear as places of white oppression into which critical minds should only sneak in order to steal as much as possible from them; at least this is what the American cultural theorists Stefano Harney and Fred Moten suggested.

Many self-descriptions of professional academics tend to lament the situation of universities from an (imagined) position of victimhood. In the context of the lecture series, however, we want to ask to what extent it is not external constraints or a cannibalistic capitalism that undermines its own foundations - as Nancy Fraser has recently described it - that is to blame for the current academic misery, but rather a central element of late capitalist ideology that has been part of the self-image of academics for much longer as a phantasm of sovereignty: the assumption of being creative, innovative, free and flexible.

In a lecture series, we want to discuss which ideas lead to a kind of self-sabotage of critical thinking and which alternatives can be developed.

Form of Event

The series of ten lectures will take place on Tuesdays at 7.15 p.m. in the Black Box of the Fallenbrunnen Campus of Zeppelin University. From 7:00 p.m. and after the lectures, the artsprogram and center for cultural production invite you to drinks and a stew.

Events in detail

| Tuesday, 6. February: „Was heißt hier Academic Cannibalism? – Ein einführendes Podiumsgespräch zwischen Prof. Dr. Armen Avanessian, Prof. Dr. Karen van den Berg und Prof. Dr. Jan Söffner.

To the event

| Tuesday, 13. February: „Alle Macht den Zahlen? Die Universität im Wettbewerb um Exzellenz“ mit Prof. Dr. Richard Münch, Seniorprofessur für Gesellschaftstheorie und komparative Makrosoziologie an der ZU

To the event

| Tuesday, 20. February: „Moabit Mountain College als Bildungsplattform im Exil“ mit der Berliner Künstlerin und Aktivistin Marina Naprushkina

To the event

| Tuesday, 5. March: „Narziss und Echo in der Universität, oder: Wahrnehmung und Kommunikation akademischer Interessen“ mit Prof. Dr. Maren Lehmann, Inhaberin des Lehrstuhls für Soziologische Theorie an der ZU

To the event

| Tuesday, 12. March: „Between Infrastructural Critique and Critical Infrastructure: what’s anti about AntiUniversity?“ mit Sophie Mak-Schram, Akademische Mitarbeiterin am Lehrstuhl für Kunsttheorie & Inszenatorische Praxis an der ZU

To the event

The Podcast

| Tuesday, 19. March: „Die Universität heute – eine Genealogie“ mit ZU-Präsident Prof. Dr. Klaus Mühlhahn, Inhaber des Lehrstuhls für Moderne China-Studien an der ZU

To the event

The Podcast

| Tuesday, 26. March: „Die agile Hochschule“ mit Prof. Dr. Dirk Baecker, Seniorprofessur für Organisations- & Gesellschaftstheorie an der ZU

To the event

| Tuesday, 9. April: Magazine Launch und Vorstellung der studentischen Zeitung „Eine Spurensuche: Neoliberale Ideen im studentischen Leben“

To the event

| Tuesday, 16. April: „Die Akademie: Agon oder Pantheon? Konkurrenz, Kannibalismus, Kunst“ mit Dr. Joachim Landkammer, Akademischer Mitarbeiter am Lehrstuhl für Kunsttheorie & Inszenatorische Praxis an der ZU

To the event

| Tuesday, 23. April: „Brain-Eating Zombies: The academic form versus knowledge production“ mit dem Künstler und Kurator Mohammad Salemy und dem Researcher Rafael Pedroso

to the event

Annual theme "academic cannibalism"


Stage designer Katharina Pia Schütz will transform the university's art space, the White Box, into a futuristic study room containing an artistic archive of utopian, failed, experimental and surprising educational formats and alternative educational institutions. The spectrum ranges from Black Mountain College to the "New Centre for Research & Practice and the Fixing the Future platform". Over the course of the year, the study space, bathed in a cool, magical blue, will be used to show, perform, document and experience how Academia can also be conceived.

Further Events

Friday 15.03.24 | Exhibition Operning „Blueprints for Studies“ – a Study Space from Katharina Pia Schütz Kunst-Freitag | Opening at 19.00 h Introduction to the Archive 20.00 h

Further information about events on the program & archive page of the artsprogram

Time to decide

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