Fortified Knowledge: From Supranational Governance to Translocal Resistance


Contemporary educational structures are a basis for capital reproduction, a laboratory for the creation of branded epistemologies that are the centre and starting point for the reproduction of these concepts inside and beyond the walls that fortify it. International economic crisis is being remedied with a knowledge economy, at the cost of those constituting knowledge production. One of the consequences of the expanse of education has been the geopolitical restructuring of spaces of education, not only as another sphere of life appropriated by capital, but in terms of national narratives on a supranational level, echoing the corporate agendas in and around education. That expansion builds “areas” and “zones,” in which a greater marketability and exchange of “education units” can take place on behalf of supranational market agendas.

The consequences of this process are manifold and as interlinked as capital and nation, exposing the two as joint partners in the enterprise of the knowledge economy. Supranational market expansion challenges traditional national borders, with the production of profit nevertheless regulated by a “centre,” which creates hierarchical strata of outlying territories, the bottommost of which constitutes the “zone.” This shifting base forms the foundation which ebbs and flows in relation to the needs or crises of the centre. The consequences of this structure have echoed worldwide, ranging from lack of access to education, to the loss of homes, to student debt, to an increase in police forces on university campuses, regulating and preventing discord, worldwide.

However, such conditions within education are not being tolerated and the antagonism which has erupted, despite and due to the forces of regulation, has expanded as far as the problems being contested. Individuals have been protesting around the world. Just as the crises are of a transgressive nature, expanding to all spheres of life, so too has the nature of the protests. The demands of the protestors have extended to a critique of the commodification of all spheres of life. People in Europe have been protesting against the current Bologna Process reforms, in the US against high tuition fees and cutbacks, Indians in Australia against structural racism and abuse, and in the “developing world” against the ever-changing institutions following Structural Adjustment Policies implemented decades ago, to name a few. In the US, protestors have referred to the “war on our universities,” in which public funds are invested in financing the war effort and prisons, rather than invested in improving the school system. All the while, education, militias and prisons become increasingly privatized, placing public moneys into private pockets. These worldwide issues have a common element. They are part of a complex system, building a knowledge economy, as a purported solution to a failing global capitalist order.

The necessity has come for a struggle that transgresses national borders. As educational areas become supranational, the manifold protests have, for the first time, reached a transnational level. However, a new logic of resistance may need to be assessed, as the entanglement of capital and education examine the roots of supranationality within capitalized education. This analysis will, therefore, approach how supranationality substantiates a centre, semi-periphery, peripheries and zones of suspension in regard to education, following a supranational market logic, accumulating profit from education and using education as a tool for reproducing that very logic. The concept of transnational struggle against supranational structures will thus be questioned in terms of the entanglement of state and capital, proposing alternatives for a struggle against both capitalism and nationalism in their variegated and obfuscated forms.

Opening world markets – US adjustment policies

The commodification and homogenization of knowledge and education are grounded in a long history of international structural “development” policy that was conceived and installed by the US in order to ensure its position as the centre, dominating and exploiting its peripheries. In terms of regulating the centre, standardization and evaluation have served to filter through the institutions where filtration by monetary investment is unavailable, such as public primary-level education. For example, the No Child Left Behind Act  has allowed for such radical transformations as entire staffs of “under-performing” public schools, which have failed to satisfy “world class standards,” being fired – the consequences of which are the segregation or gentrification of the social, which in nearly all cases, more evidently “underperform” economically, justifying their “reform” and greater financial investment, but under the terms of upgrading such schools into private industrial research facilities.  The intervention of financial “rescue” brings with it the consequences of capitalized regulation of formerly public spheres, as a private-public partnership, with consequences most heavily experienced by those not financially endowed enough to intervene. Among poverty-stricken regions suffering the most, the social space is essentially cleansed, providing new “standards” and a new production of knowledge.

In terms of regulation of profit on a global level, the “dependency theory” provides an important model for analysis. Officially introduced in 1949, but relating to earlier Marxist analysis, Hans Singer and Raúl Prebisch, in two separate papers, published what later became known as the Singer-Prebisch thesis. It claims that a centre and a periphery must exist in which the periphery provides the resources and cheap labour, stabilizing and supporting the development and wealth of the centre in a traditional colonial format. Immanuel Wallerstein, however, introduced the semi-periphery in his “World Systems Theory,” claiming that a far more complex and  shifting relationship between colonizer and colonized exists, with the semi-periphery playing an increasingly significant role as the balancer of the system and the disguise of the wealth gap between the “developed” and the “developing” in globalism. This analysis, however, does not take Wallerstein’s theory as a given. It draws from that economic model in order to create parallels to education in regard to the development of economic education areas and the production of “zones” for better understanding effective methods of protest. Wallerstein’s theory provides a point of departure which implies the inherent colonialism in capitalist expansion. However, specific economic and structural reform processes need to be considered in order to elaborate education’s role in not only colonial or capitalist systems, but also in neoliberal capitalist ones, taking a closer look at the relationship between state and capital.

In order to analyse the transgressive commodification and privatization of public goods and commons, opening the door for the development of neoliberal capitalism and new relations between state and capital, the policies and structures initiated by the Bretton Woods System must be examined. The underlying Bretton Woods Agreement was signed by all of the Allied nations in 1944 as a US rescue mission for the ravaged European continent during WWII. In exchange, an international monetary system was introduced, which established homogeneous capitalist market logic, based on the standardized exchange rate of currencies relayed to the massive US gold reserves. The Agreement founded the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (later to become the World Bank Group) in order to control and regulate the system. The US encouraged long-term adjustment policies through the system, promoting European and Japanese competitiveness in order to rebuild their devastated economies, turning both into US semi-peripheries. This would form the basis of a system of triangular trade, in which the US would trade at a tremendous profit between the “developing” nations of the periphery, expanding the market and expropriating raw materials. This surplus would be sent to semi-peripheral Europe to rebuild the war-torn economies, providing the US as the main market for goods and as a salvation army.

A continuation of this US “salvation policy” of development aid, following Bretton Woods, was further articulated in the Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP), of the IMF and World Bank. SAPs were expanded for restructuring “developing” regions in favour of producing dependence on the sovereign nation. They can be understood as the Bretton Woods policies for the periphery, rather than those, which have been granted to build up the semi-periphery. The development aid of SAPs was more likely to establish debt slavery and “long-term adjustment” than the short-term adjustment policies which provided a semi-periphery for fertile competition with Europe and Japan.

SAPs granted aid in exchange for opening up markets for foreign investment, a devaluing of the local currency and a privatization of formerly public systems, resources or services, such as water, healthcare or education. Education played a significant role, establishing the “developing” world as a testing field, maintained by the colonial ideological basis that education was necessary for that very “development” to proceed. This led to educational reforms in South America and Africa during the 1970s and 1980s that have left irreparable damage, making privatized education more inaccessible rather than opening it up. The parallel process of implementing rewritten histories and corrected knowledges was the ideological basis of Structural Adjustment Policies, justifying the very reforms taking place.

As “developing” regions were aided under terms that implemented debt slavery, and the first measures to eradicate socialism were made through SAPs in socialist-aligned regions of the Global South, transitional regions would gain a significant position in creating new semi-peripheries as Europe rose to be a substantial economic competitor to the US. In order to ideologically justify the economic expansion to socialist regions – which created a great hindrance to opening global markets – an eradication of the socialist “evil” would be purported through the salvation mission, led by the Washington Consensus – a series of regulations, supporting open market ethics and a privatization of previously socialized goods and services, implemented by the financial institutions set up by Bretton Woods for opening up the region to capitalization processes through “development aid” following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Socialism would essentially be eradicated worldwide during the “Second” Cold War,  allowing a complete transition towards global capitalism. This marked the moment that the global capitalist “salvation” process succeeded, implementing a new semi-periphery and a new competition between the USA and Europe, based on the level of development of the former Eastern Bloc, in which both centres were avidly investing, opening the new era of “transition” and liberal “democratization.”

The neoliberal capitalist turn, following the Bretton Woods System and its many extensions, would establish a neocolonial platform for financial development. What was and still is referred to as the “liberation” of territories and a salvation mission of bringing “democracy” to the oppressed world, merely echoes colonial salvation missions, fashioned for the expropriation of wealth and resources from outlying territories and the appropriation of everything that produces it. As Bobby Subhabrata Banerjee states, in an “imperialism without colonies,” we can now refer to a “democracy without choices.” 

European recovery – paving the way for a competitive knowledge economy

Supranationality would become the method necessary to strengthen Western Europe’s position in an approaching neoliberally-capitalized, neocolonized world. As the disastrous laceration of WWII weakened Europe, it would become important that the US domination and salvation mission remain within limited boundaries of fertile competition. Following the US establishment of strong capitalist trading areas and the parallel communist bloc, the project of the European Community would begin. Formed according to the US format of the military-industrial complex,  Western Europe would begin to form supranational areas based on the pillars of the military, economy and resources: the Western European Union, the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. Each of these constellations would depart from the basic assumption of the principles of human rights and the anti-tyranny  consensus of the participating countries, safeguarded by the political collaboration of the Council of Europe and its European Court of Human Rights. These structures would lay down the basic framework for the approaching European Union, an open area of economic and political union.

With the establishment of the EU in 1993, expanding the market area in Europe, a long-winded integration process of the post-socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe would begin, enforcing guidelines for “development” by which the “East” should become “civilized” enough to enter Europe, all the while supporting competition between the US and Europe on “developing” soil. This should additionally be viewed in terms of what was taking place during the Cold War. While the Cold War, in contrast to a “hot war,” was not violently fought between the nations which wagered war, their dirty work was being done in the outlying peripheral regions of the “developing world.” The expropriation of goods and resources, cheap labour and opening of markets to capital and financing civil wars in the periphery maintained a perpetual state of exception  in the regions which were not recognized as part of the war. The peripheral battles could by no means be considered “cold.” With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a new zoned global market would arise in which nearly all regions would be open to intervention by the Centre. The “cold” tensions between the centre and its competition simmered down, but the unrecognised “hot” portion would continue into the present. This situation describes the regions open to capitalization at the time, however, following the opening of the Eastern Bloc after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the conditions of capitalist expansion and development aid would reach and open the area.

In order to protect the economic and political area of the EU, claimed to be an open area “without borders,” a system of detention camps and zones of suspension  fortify the borders to the outlying “developing” territories, forming what is criticized as “fortress Europe,” a term originally coined in reference to the Nazi occupation of Europe. However, applying the Nazi propaganda term to current conditions becomes problematic as it likens the methods of the German Wehrmacht to those of the contemporary EU border and migration regimes. Therefore, we propose the use of the term “fortified Europe” instead.

Referencing Balibar,  who analyzes the transformation of the border into the zone, Marina Gržinić states that: “We do not talk about the East and West of Europe any more, but of the transformation of a whole territory into a zone that functions in such a way as a (new) border.” The question of borders disappears in order for the physiognomy of borders to change radically. She claims “former Eastern Europe” constitutes such a “border zone” for testing the whole territory. However, as the integration process expands, these zones continue to shift and reappear in different constellations.

In terms of shifting borders and the creation of zones, it is important to recognize the nearly complete EU integration process. The only exceptions, however, are the non-Christian nations of Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania, which have instead been converted to zones, deemed unworthy for the salvation missions dictated by the cultural superiority of Christianity. This example clarifies the terms under which open market ideology functions – coupling liberal capitalism with conservatism or neoliberalism with neoconservatism – exposing coloniality in the “salvation” of the “undeveloped” as the very basis of capitalization. Additionally, in order to continually fortify the centre and extend the logic of salvation, the EU has shifted the focus of its policy to the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), already established in Maastricht in 1992 and largely expanded in the Lisbon Treaty of 2007/2009, establishing a joint military policy, which aims at forming an EU army for military missions outside of EU territory. This logic must reeducate the citizenry in order to gain consensus to its advancement. With the example of SAPs, it can be observed how restructuralization under capitalization begins with the privatization of commons, implanting itself within education, regulating itself through violently fortified borders and reproducing its own logic through reeducation.

Knowledge economy areas

As Europe began the process of emancipation from the economic dominance of the USA following WWII, education would take on an increasingly significant position. This would allow Europe to elevate its global economic status from a semi-periphery to a centre of power, supplementing other political interests such as economic, legal and military intentions with educational restructuring.

While Europe lagged in scientific development during WWII, the USA excelled. To catch up and challenge the US foothold in scientific development, Europe would invest in a growing engagement in Research and Technological Development (RTD). In order to increase Europe’s competitiveness with the USA, it would enhance intra-European academic mobility and promote Europe’s profile as a study and research destination for non-European students. This intra-European academic mobility would be structured through the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) aimed for 2010. That structure has been supported by the launch of the Bologna Process in 1999, whose joint primary focus, however, is the development of a European Research Area (ERA) incepted in 2000, in supporting Research and Technological Development (RTD).

 With the elevation of Europe from a semi-periphery to a centre, influenced by the successful knowledge economic model, Australia would also enter the race by initiating the Brisbane Communiqué in 2006, targeting an Asia Pacific Higher Education Area for competition with the US and aspiring EU models. Australia has subsequently gained significant economic success, based on incoming students, seen as “guest consumers,”  represented statistically as an “educational export.” The area under the Brisbane Communiqué, or the broader Asia-Pacific region, includes the 52 countries of the region invited to the Asia-Pacific Education Ministers’ Meeting in April 2006.  This region subsequently composes Australia’s periphery.

It is important to understand that the functionality of the centre-periphery model as a territorial strategy of dominance is based on the control and regulation of mobility and migration. We therefore, use the term “fortified knowledge centres” to refer to how this relates to the fortification around the knowledge economy areas, as the EHEA and EU are congruent with the EU border and migration regime supporting the necropolitical  border defence projects of Frontex, not only accepting the consequences of drowning boat refugees, but enforcing it.  

By aiming to declare all of its neighbouring countries “safe” “third countries”  and financing massive detention centres there, the EU creates a semi-peripheral buffer zone, into which any asylum seeker who is caught in the EU can be deported to without the EU legally violating the Geneva Convention. This outsources the responsibility of accepting asylum seekers, subjects them to cruel conditions the EU effectively imposes, meanwhile blaming the conditions on the “underdeveloped” conditions of the outlying regions.
Those who are able to enter the centre from the peripheries through means of educational mobility are strictly regulated and framed accordingly to work force demands, supplying cheap labour to the centre, allotting them a position at the base of society. Simultaneously, however, the appeal of Europe to researchers and students outside of the centre is exacerbated. Incoming students are seen as guest consumers during their studies and as potential intellectual or scientific upgrades after their studies. Thereby a core of wealthy consumers who can afford the investment are welcomed, those who arrive at the base and filter into a useful elite can be granted some eventual rights to stay, whereas the most excluded group gets sent back to the peripheries as sediment following the expiry of granted access.
This flexible, yet regulated mobility arrangement has introduced the same terminology into education as used in economic trade, of “areas,” such as the EHEA, ERA, etc. Is it also significant to maintain the difference here between mobility, which is protected by law, and migration, which is punishable by law. In these “areas,” maximal mobility of goods, services and capital allow an unlimited production of profit. The outlying regions in which movement can be sanctioned can be defined in terms of the aforementioned zones, defined by Balibar, which function to replace the traditional national borders. These zones are regulated through a permanent state of suspension or exception. Such zones can be the outlying regions of Europe, never to be integrated into the EHEA or EU, or in the example of the entire region of sub-Saharan Africa, a region not “civilized” enough to enter bilateral or multilateral trade, but simply support the “developed world” as resource-rich bargain bins.  

The centre

When examining the development of the Bologna Process leading to the EHEA, the creation of the centre and its peripheries becomes clear. The signatories of the Bologna Declaration are congruent with the Member States of today’s EU  and form the core of the EHEA or its centre. Being inside the borders of the Schengen area, the countries’ citizens purportedly increase the intra-European academic mobility as they enjoy the freedom of movement and are therefore enabled to study, research and teach in any location within the Schengen area. As EU citizens, they are additionally protected from discrimination based on their national origin e.g. they cannot be charged more tuition fees than residents, scholarships are available to them, they have the right to work and make a living – principles that are guaranteed by the EU judiciary.

The semi-periphery

The part of the EHEA outside of the EU forms its semi-periphery. This includes the Western Balkans, Turkey, Russia, the Ukraine, Moldova, the Caucasus Republics, thereby all non-EU countries on the Eurasian landmass west of the Caspian Sea  and (since March 2010) Kazakhstan. The semi-periphery is defined through all signatories of the European Cultural Convention  and the Member States of the Council of Europe (the only exception is Belarus who signed the previous, but not the latter). Its citizens benefit from the comparability of the national education systems, therefore, they can transfer credits and easily continue their studies in the centre in case they are selected and permitted to enter the Schengen area where they are subjected to a number of (nationally-varying) discriminations such as the obstruction to work for money and the simultaneous obligation to prove the possession of an amount of money, which exceeds the maximal allowed annual income.  

The periphery

The periphery of the EHEA is comprised of the countries of Northern Africa,  the Middle East  and Central Asia,  all of them participating in Tempus, “a vehicle for the promotion and exchange of Bologna ideas to countries surrounding the EU.”  According to the Bologna Process Conference Berlin 2003, there is no perspective to integrate these countries into the EHEA, because they are not signatories of the European Cultural Convention, therefore, they are not considered to share the “common cultural heritage of Europe” and “safeguard and encourage the development of European culture.”  In the case of the periphery, the domination strategy – the export of epistemology and “braindrain” of the zones – is established “with regions and countries in other parts of the world by promoting the idea and practice of regional cooperation and through practical cooperation and dissemination of experiences,”  meaning to advocate “the need to expand cooperation, exchange and scholarship programs for administrators, faculty and students from non-Bologna countries.”  With that aim, Europe is even fishing in foreign waters by launching academic exchange programs with Latin America, such as Alfa  or attaching “priority to the creation of the EU-LAC (European Union, Latin America and Caribbean) Common Area of Higher Education, geared towards mobility and cooperation.”  Interestingly, there is no country which is part of both the EHEA or its periphery and the Australia-dominated Asia Pacific Higher Education Area, with the exception of Turkey. This precise apportionment of the territories can be seen as a continuation of the territorial demarcation processes that the colonial empires carried out with their colonial conferences until the 20th century.

The establishment of the EHEA, with its exclusive and inclusive mechanisms of the centre and its peripheries, not only closely relates to the fortification of Europe by utilizing the same centre and buffer zones, but its function depends on the disfranchisement of excluded and included individuals. So it is necessary to not only refer to “fortified Europe” in terms of its migration politics and border regime, but to understand the fortification as a transgressive logic being gradually applied to every sphere of life regulated by EU policy to, therefore, understand the EHEA as a “fortified knowledge centre.”  

So what is at stake is that the centre of the First Capitalist World (USA) dominating its peripheries (Western Europe and the “developing” world)  was ruptured within the last two decades into three centres – with the emerging EU and Australia – who established structures for education and research areas in order to compete with the US and create their own profitable peripheries. The central position of the US territory, as the centre of knowledge production, exporting its epistemology to rule and “braindrain” its periphery, is the result of hegemony of the US research and knowledge production system that lasts for decades worldwide.  

As Europe and Australia elevated themselves from a (semi-)periphery to a centre at the expense of US domination, it is always possible for other (semi-)peripheral territories to do so, such as China and India.  China and India, for example, are members of the BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – the most rapidly developing economies in the world and those with the greatest investment in Africa (their periphery). Goldman Sachs argues that by 2050, the combined economies of the BRICs could eclipse the combined economies of the current richest countries of the world.

Expanding education as an empire

The dominant models of the educational areas of the centre have expanded and linked to their peripheries globally, with the appeal of allowing the elevation to a semi-periphery, through multilateral trade agreements and academic exchange programs. Some significant emerging semi-peripheries can be seen in the Maghreb region and in South Africa, for example. The five states of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia established the Maghreb Union in 1989 to promote a common market. It was envisioned by Muammar al-Gaddafi as a supranational Arab state, which has begun fertile competition and coordination with Europe, including acting as a regulator for African migrants into the EU.  

In December 2009, the “International Conference for Knowledge-Based Economies for Creating Job Opportunities, Raising the Level of Competitiveness and Realizing Balanced Development” was organized by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the World Bank and the Tunisian government. The Tunis Declaration, which emerged from it, calls for holding a world summit that should guarantee the Maghreb’s transformation into a knowledge-economy based region. Additionally, the Declaration calls for establishing suitable mechanisms for “enhancing cooperation and partnership, strengthening the role of private-sector enterprises and civil-society organizations, and coordinating contributions from specialized regional and international organizations.”  Algeria, however, urged by the Ministry of Education’s disappointment with graduation statistics, has begun fining the parents of children who do not regularly attend school. On the other hand, many parents simply cannot afford to send their children to school, so while drastically disciplining and enforcing class division, investment is nonetheless made in order to bolster the knowledge economy area models.

Zones stabilize the elevation and “opening” of entire regions. On January 26th 2010, the World Trade Organization Secretariat launched a new program of support for teaching, research and outreach activities at 14 universities in the “developing” world. International financial organizations and institutions (UNESCO, World Bank, etc.) are in favour of the adjustment of African universities to the Bologna model. This example demonstrates one of the attempts of the periphery to rise to a semi-periphery, however, the incompatibility with the “common cultural heritage of Europe,” inherently excludes the participation of, for example, Muslim countries, thereby merely supporting a continuation of a European panopticon model.

Nationalism and transnational struggle – the fortified Hofburg

On March 12, 2010 the launch of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), as envisaged in the Bologna Declaration of 1999, was declared by Ministers of the participating 47 countries at the Bologna Ministerial Anniversary Conference in Vienna, a city which had been the site of massive education protests in late 2009, with several Universities squatted and tens of thousands demonstrating against the commodification of education and knowledge. After the protestors invited activists from all over the world to join them in a counter-summit and days of action challenging the official Bologna Summit, the Austrian police reactivated the original function of the Hofburg, which hosted the Bologna Ministerial Anniversary Conference, as a fortified castle. Thereby it applied the same structure of the fortified centre, regulating its peripheries through domination on a micro-level, effective throughout “fortified Europe” and the “fortified knowledge centre.” Therefore a micro- and macro-level analysis must be made in order to compare potentialities, action, resistance and policies.

The Hofburg, Vienna’s Imperial Palace, is not only known for its royal past, but for Adolf Hitler’s speech on the Hofburg’s balcony on March 15, 1938, the annex of Austria to the German Reich to hundreds of thousands of raving Viennese after the Nazis took over power from the Austro-fascists. On January 29th, 2010, shortly before the Bologna Summit at the Hofburg, the police had a dress rehearsal for the Hofburg’s fortification, during a ball held by far-right extremist fraternities, or Burschenschaften,  in that very building. Some of them, such as the infamous Olympia, have close ties to neo-Nazism.  In order to prevent protestors from jeopardizing the event, the police closed the fortified Hofburg. A demonstration against the ball was forbidden by Viennese authorities; hundreds of assembling protestors were closed in by police and criminalized through penalties. 14 anti-fascist activists were arrested and at least 20 individuals were hospitalized after injury by police forces.

Approximately one month later, as the first day of the Bologna Summit was held in the Hungarian parliament in Budapest, Vienna’s streets were populated with around 10,000 demonstrators. The main part of the protest led people to and ended in front of the Hofburg’s main gate, which was closed off from the international protestors, creating a true fortified stronghold. This fortification of the Hofburg is not customary, nor do those involved recall such an action in their lifetimes. Meanwhile, participants were called out to join a series of blockade actions in the city’s arteries surrounding the Hofburg. The protesters were separated into several groups, each serving to blockade a major route to the fortress within the city’s semi-periphery in order to prevent the Ministers and their peons from accessing the fortified centre. Several of the blockade attempts were successful as police became overwhelmed by the flexibility of the protestors. As these can be seen as actions against the divisions of centre and semi-periphery on a micro-level, they gained significance because of an additional action in the city’s periphery, when railroad tracks were blockaded on the route from Budapest to Vienna, forcing a transfer from the chartered trains to buses, delaying the Ministers’ and their cohorts’ arrival to Vienna by several hours.

The fact that the police were relatively subdued in their reaction to the blockades of “fortress Hofburg” (none injured, “just” five arrests) shows, that the micro-level comparison to “fortified Europe” and its “fortified knowledge centre” drifts apart at the moment when the question of citizens and their rights comes into play: Those who challenge the system on the macro-level are oppressed with brutal restriction and absolute disfranchisement.  In contrast, the protestors on the micro-level in Vienna were regarded as part of the macro-centre, therefore enjoying all legal rights of European citizens, additionally regarded with a benevolent method of cross-fertilization,  indicating their recognized eligibility as potential future successors of the administration within the (micro-)centre.  However, in violation to the unwritten law that police are not to enter university grounds in Austria,  Austrian universities have adopted policies of open repression, which had been carried out against education protestors worldwide, by calling the police to evacuate occupied spaces at the University of Vienna and the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in December 2009.

International oppression

As most of the university occupations and protests against the commodification of knowledge were reacted to with police violence and oppression, varied levels of brutality have depended on geopolitical locations, economic status, class and segregation. For example, several universities in Germany were evacuated by the police with teargas and beatings immediately after they were occupied.  A student was severely beaten and 11 were arrested at the University of Zimbabwe, following arrests in Harare and Bulawayo the week before.  In Melbourne, Australia a demonstration of 4,000 Indian students, protesting against racist assault, was violently broken up by police.  Water cannons were used to disperse protesting university students in Johannesburg demanding free tertiary education for the poor.  6 students were arrested for distributing flyers against the neoliberal university at Hosei University in Korea.  17 activists were arrested for anti-racist demonstrations at the University of California Irvine  and the “Open University,” established by protestors at UC Berkeley was raided by police, with 65 activists detained.

The presence of police on campuses can, nevertheless, exceed far beyond such levels of violence, such as in the exceptional case of Kofi Adu-Brempong, a 35-year old doctoral student and teaching assistant at the University of Florida. Adu-Brempong, an immigrant from Ghana, lived in on-campus housing was reported as worried that his student visa may not be extended. Referred to as “delusional” and “hysterical,” the police were called when Adu-Brempong raised his voice in his home. Adu-Brempong was then tased by police forces twice, shot twice with an assault rifle, then finally shot in the face twice, leaving him in critical condition after losing his tongue and jaw. After the brutal attack, the 165 cm tall man, who needed a cane to walk due to a childhood case of polio, was arrested with felony charges for “violently resisting arrest.” The five special operative police officers involved had been charged with racist violence in the past, having thrown eggs at African-American passers-by, with the team leader being demoted to campus security for that reason.  

This context becomes exposed differently, as no significant protests had taken place in Florida until then, with the attack on Kofi Adu-Brempong taking place on March 1, 2010, three days before the nationwide protests against the privatization of education were declared to take place. In a state with a dense history of slavery and racism, it was historically common for a slave-owner to “make an example of a slave” to prevent any potential rebellion. However, not a local phenomenon, this panopticon model of surveillance and submission for fear of violent punishment is a global model. In Adu-Brempong’s case, however, the extremity provoked a group of 400 students, locals and professors to march into the Board of Trustees office at the University of Florida, protesting and demanding “justice for Kofi” and an end to oppressive, violent strategies at universities.

Taking down the fortress

The examples of blockade in Europe, international uprising, transnational meetings and solidarity with Adu-Brempong show a significant realignment of protest methodology. They show a struggle that transgresses national borders, expanding to question all of the spheres of life appropriated by capitalization and privatization.

“Politicized by the three-month squatting of the ‘Arena’ in 1976,”  as reflected in a recent interview , the Austrian Jewish film-maker, Ruth Beckermann, worked on a film about a workers’ strike at “Semperit,” a tire factory in an industrial quarter south of Vienna. Reporting on an interview with one of the workers about the trouble of the strike movement, he clarifies that companies and syndicates are controlled by “the Jew.” At the editing table, Beckermann decides to leave his conglomerate of classical anti-Semitic dictums out of the film, remarking: “It is about the worker’s struggles which we want to support with this film. […] You shouldn’t be over-sensitive because of an anti-Semite.”

By including “demands, criticism and claims that go beyond the immediate context of education and universities, expanding to the identification of how the neoliberal capitalist market logic has infiltrated all parts of life,”  the global education protests proved to be transgressive – a crucial characteristic considering the transgressive character of the opposed system. However, this must include the protest movement itself. Therefore it is essential to be vigilant about all exclusionist strategies that are reproduced within the protests. Sexism and racism were not sufficiently attacked and led to some of the affected individuals breaking away from the protests.

Within the protests, it was alarming, for example, to see redundant anti-Semitic stereotypes reproduced by a group of students from Weimar’s Bauhaus University without being called out and contested. While travelling past international university occupations, they spread thousands of flyers of fake dollar bills, replaced with a picture of Milton Friedman and a claim criticizing Bologna on the back, identifying a Jewish economist as the root of all evil, reproducing one of the most dangerous anti-Semitic myths of the Jews and their economic dominance. As the only personified supplement for all possible claims against the commodification of knowledge, the banknote can be downloaded as a template to fill in ANY claim,  therefore ANY claim criticizing the commodification of knowledge is supplemented with “the Jew” as the universal scapegoat. It is also remarkable that this action came from a university just 10km (approximately 6 miles) away from the Buchenwald concentration camp, censoring an art project dealing with the Shoah  and concealing its own cruel history of anti-Semitism.  No matter what the protestors intended, the reproduction of sexist, racist, anti-Semitic and other exclusionist elements must be critically confronted with uncompromising rejection regardless of any wrongly intended restrictive thoughts “for the sake of the protests.”

As increasing levels of oppression are the response to resistance, protestors cannot accept a reproduction of such ideologies within their articulated demands and actions. In a fight against the commodification of education, its subservience to capital and coloniality and education’s role as reproductive machinery, the link between capitalization and nationalization – supranational or transnational – must be observed and fought against as well as transnationality has the danger of accepting, perpetuating and reproducing the logic of the nation-state. The expansion to transnational struggle and transnational networking of protests is key, but perhaps this is the moment to envision a new vocabulary of worldwide resistance.

This broader interlinkage of local implications of oppression and struggle describes what Banerjee terms “translocality” as “[…] local communities living in democratic societies that are engaged in conflicts with both the state and the market, and sometimes even with ‘civil society,’ while also making connections with other resistance movements in different parts of the world,” continuing with: “The ultimate challenge of a theory of translocal resistance is to conceive the inconceivable: an extension of the democratic that transcends nation-state sovereignty, perhaps even transcends citizenship,” because “The nation-state then is a fundamental building block of globalization, in the working of transnational corporations, in the setting-up of a global financial system, in the institution of policies that determine the mobility of labour, and in the creation of the multi-state institutions such as the UN, IMF, World Bank, NAFTA and WTO. […] So the translocal emerges at the intersection of political society and civil society where groups of people comprising the political society in different parts of the globe are fighting similar battles over resources against market and state actors.”

The model of the siege of the fortress Hofburg demonstrates the micro-version of a macro-model. It showed that in order to take action and create a blockade, it must be carried out on all three levels: the periphery (of the fortress – blockades), the semi-periphery (siege) and the centre (sabotage). The same applies to the macro-level: radical change can only be achieved when the fortress is fought on multiple layers, from all regions, inside and outside.

Struggle and solidarity must not only take place within and across the centres, uniting the nations of Europe or states of the USA. The conditions of the centre are both connected to and complicit in the conditions of oppression worldwide, therefore, solidarity and struggle must extend to, for example, the struggles in non-Christian nations, the manifold protests taking place throughout the Global South, and zones subjugated to erasure. The protest cannot legitimize that erasure! Such zones receive brutal sanctions against movement of people, the very movement necessary for transnational union.

This is where translocality comes into play. It is an international mode of struggle which simultaneously resists the links between capital and nation-state, which does not acknowledge the privilege of those within the centre, and does not reproduce the colonial ideology of salvation through education or the complex structures composing the knowledge economy. It takes the understanding one’s own involvement in global processes into resistance actions. This model must be considered in future summits and meetings,  in order to expand future protests beyond the centre, to establish exchange and collaboration on a translocal level with resistant forces across all regions, extending and challenging the regime of fortified knowledge.

Lina Dokuzović is an artist and theorist, living and working in Vienna, Austria. Her artwork and research, predominantly as a series of diagrammatical visualizations of theory, analyse the mechanisms of appropriation, privatization and militarization of structures, such as education, culture, the body and land. She is a board member of the Austrian Association of Women Artists (VBKÖ) and a PhD candidate at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

Eduard Freudmann researches and intervenes in the intersection between art and politics, power relations and social contexts, contemporary theirstory/ourstory and media mechanisms, strategies of exclusion and the commodification of knowledge. He lives and works in Vienna and teaches in the department for Post-Conceptual Art Practices at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.