COMPOSTING #53: Composting the University

The university is a colonial, capitalist assemblage. ….should we, could we, compost it? In ‘COMPOSTING the university’, we gather, as we did in the devastation of this fiery Australian summer, to take stock of what is laid bare by crisis, seized now as we were then by the urgent call to build more tender worlds. Focused this time on the university, we take up questions raised in many earlier COMPOSTINGS (not to mention other moments in our lives): What kinds of universities are possible? What kinds of universities may our labours within it/attached to it create? May we—“decolonising dreamers who are subversively part of the [university’s] machinery, part machine [ourselves]” (paperson 2017: 1/5)—harness the nourishing function that COMPOSTING plays for each of us to transform the machine we work in/for? Abiding questions for “decolonising dreamers”, perhaps. But they grow pressing in this coronavirus pandemic and the hasty move to online teaching/learning/labour.

Our enquiry will be guided by excerpts from la paperson’s short text, ‘A Third University is Possible’. The text spells out the university’s material, processual relationships to land; how campus grounds and satellite campuses play out as settler accumulation and expansion. La paperson details the simultaneous possibilities housed by these mechanics: “The first world university accumulates through dispossession. The second world university ‘liberates’ through liberalism. The third world university breaks faith from its own machinery by inspiriting the academic automaton with a fourth world soul.” Grounding accompaniments for this text are Aimi Hamraie’s collated guide to accessible online teaching, as well as sustainability and strategic plan documents of an Australian university, and Conor Tomas Reed’s recap of social movements involving Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara and others at the City College of New York.

All are welcome, old, new, curious composters alike. Click on the link to join in, and feel free to stay for as long or as short a time as you like.




WHEN: 10-11.30 AEDST (GMT+11), Wednesday 1st April, 2020


la paperson, ‘Introduction’, ‘Chapter 2. Land. And the University is Settler Colonial’ and ‘Chapter 3. A Third University Exists Within the First’ (in ‘A Third University is Possible’)

The University of Sydney, 2016-2020 Strategic Plan

The University of Sydney, Environmental Sustainability Policy 2015

The University of Newcastle, Environmental Sustainability Plan, 2019-2025


Header images: 

Left, sandstone cliff (“2016/366/338 Snuggling Sandstone” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC0 1.0); right, sandstone campus (“Main University of Queensland of Sandstone-1=” by Sheba_Also 43,000 photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)




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