Notes from the Oxford Occupation*

November 30, 2010 at 4:05 pm (Building Occupations, Student Occupations) ()

From Occupied Oxford

We are in the Radcliffe Camera. We came to this building as a centre of knowledge, a centre of concentration, restriction, enclosure. Our wish was for the university to be recreated as an ‘other’ space: released. Our first pronouncement on entering was that no longer would you have to display your credentials, your receipt. Access to this space would not be conditional upon which identity card you hold, an identity constituted by the criteria to which you have conformed, the fee you have paid. Since we arrived no one has shown an ID, yet [at this point police raided the building, the remaining text is written in a house a few hundred metres from the centre of Oxford] only another twenty have joined the occupation — those who came in the middle of the night. Our actions gave the university and state a choice, either the university would be open to everyone or no-one. They chose no-one.

University is a location which exists at the intersection of systems.

To choose everyone would undermine the university as the pre-eminent location of the inter-systemic construction of knowledge as domination by a particular class. The foundation for such domination rests upon the limiting of claims to knowledge to those which concord with preformed conceptual frameworks. The practice of domination through the delimited production of knowledge is thus contingent upon the control of a vocabulary, a body of legitimate reference. The university serves as the location of this control to the extent that to be situated within it confers right to confirm or disconfirm claims to knowledge. In order to maintain its existence the university, then, necessarily reproduces itself as a mechanism conferring rights to epistemic authority. This first mechanism of the university is the accreditation of the person, work; it first acts to qualify-disqualify a right to membership.

They chose no-one.

The credentials upon which access to university are conditional represent the first signifier of a deferential relation: one has to prove one’s worth, one’s self and one will continue to do so. As external criteria are internalised, an attempt to meet demands becomes the process of constituting oneself. Conditional entry ensures that the university has set about framing, modifying, the individual even before they arrive. Yet, the university as a location of subject-formation extends beyond its members and potential-applicants. Within the university a standard is set against which the legitimacy of every subject is measured, as this location defines the standard by which the boundaries of the production of knowledge are set. Epistemic authority is thus enclosed by a process which ensures that subjects who are deemed to hold such authority are always those produced at that location, never outside it. It is only those within the university that achieve accreditation and who therefore hold a right to knowledge-production. In turn, as this standard is not isolated from the systems the university intersects, the products of the university serve to reproduce those intersecting systems.

The university is underwritten by the same structural logics inherent to the systems within which it is situated — the logics of scarcity and return.

Any product, to have value within a capitalist system, must be one to which access can be restricted. The university’s product is knowledge. The viability of the university is therefore dependent upon knowledge’s restriction (once ripped away it will fall J~), knowledge as commodity. The university is a location of the state’s investment in its subjects, and a subject investing in herself. Any investment demands the promise of return. The return of the university is determined by the extent to which its product serves as agent of the reproduction of complicit systems. The product, the individual, is therefore subjected to myriad criteria, standards of knowledge set by multiple systems of power. The university is thus the location of a meticulous government of individuals there produced. Divided, ranked, graded, individualised and under surveillance the potential of the product to perform is guaranteed, a return secured. The standards against which a product’s success will be defined are set by the very location in which the product is materialised. A standard implies a homogeneity, and a population which meets a standard is governable; it is the employment of different classes of subject, of governable, productive division which allows a system to work. The foundations of coalescent hierarchies, order, efficiency, enclosure, are undermined by the uncategorised individual – the void of power. The logics which maintain order within the university are those same logics which maintain order in the systems within which the university is situated. The order of the university supports the order of the systems it intersects.


The university cannot exist with open doors. To liberate education we cannot attempt to reform the university, instead we must destroy it. But first, we must seize control of any of its resources we consider of use, of value. That is, its resources which can be resituated outside of a framework in which their value is instrumental solely toward the reproduction of the systems which the university intersects. It is meaningless to engage in dialogue with the system of governance located within the university. Or even to seize its control. To control the university would be to control a location defined by the conferring of accreditation. We seek an education whose value is determined by its participants rather than its directors. We are therefore faced with two imperatives. The first, to negate the necessity, the relevance, of such accreditation, for this is the means by which we undermine the relevance of the location itself. Once we ignore accreditation it disappears. Yet, located within the university a material resource remains. Our second imperative is to seize this resource, release it.

* This piece was composed by a few rather than all the members of the occupation of the Radcliffe Camera and necessarily does not represent the views of the entirety of those involved

1 Comment

  1. Abraham said,

    Hi, I would really like to get in contact with the people who wrote this, as I share many of the points they hold by, I have a couple I am unsure of and would really appreciate sharing them with them. email me at – working on thingd like this

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