Just refusal

I don’t feel like I’ve been doing a lot of refusing lately. Lee Skallerup Bessette, ‘Refusal‘ 1. It’s 2019, I’m sitting at a thing, and a senior university leader is addressing us with a vision. My attention is drifting, I’m cold and I’ve had too much coffee. The vision seems familiar. And then there it is: “We think the casualisation problem will be solved by AI in about 15 years or so.” It’s like hearing a breaking plate in the…

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Background

Make sure the background is clean and generic, and make sure to remove any family photographs, or anything that might be a distraction. I try not to write much about the place where I work, but this week my employer has produced a video about how to video from home, and I’ve watched it, open-mouthed. As we’re prompted to more thoughtfully stage our houses for teaching and meetings, the illustration of what can go wrong is a blurry woman picking…

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Unmasked

If they’re not in a position to support themselves, then there is the alternative for them to return to their home countries. ‘Time to go home,’ Australian PM tells foreign students I’m floored. The PM is talking about my actual day job. I don’t know where to start. Maybe it began yesterday, when I was meeting online with a Vietnamese student who has begun her PhD here in Australia, investigating whether international students’ attitudes to environmental issues change when they…

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Cherries

When the choices and rhythms of lives change, as they have in our time, the study of lives becomes an increasing preoccupation. Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing a Life, 1990 1. My mum Gwen was born in 1921. Tomorrow would have been her birthday, and I’ve been thinking about her, and the stories that she told me about her life. Gwen and her siblings experienced wartime at the same age as university students in our classes today. Gwen was 18 in…

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How good is work?

Do we or do we not live in a world in which we assist each other? Judith Butler, Examined Life (Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor 2010), You Tube 1. We’re in the last few weeks of the class in which students use narrative methods to explore their experiences of working, along with those of their families, friends, workmates, managers and strangers. We’re thinking together about the fact that “the future of work” has a cultural history, and a vivid, anxious…

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Start somewhere

Indeed, my stronger point is simply this: no human creature survives or persists without depending on a sustaining environment, social forms of relationality, and economic forms that presume and structure interdependency. Judith Butler, ‘Can one lead a good life in a bad life’, 2012 We’ve had a burst of cold weather followed by a sudden warm wind and every living unplanned thing in the garden has sprung up. I’ve been weeding paths, and thinking about things I’ve planted or pruned…

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Scriveners in the attic

From the perspective of capital, what most of us see as tremendous ethical and even existential problems literally don’t count. Jason Hickel, ‘The Nobel Prize for Climate Catastrophe‘, foreignpolicy.com, December 2018 1. This year I’ve been reflecting on the many reasons that I find writing difficult, even when I’m apparently eager to write. I know from conversations I had at OER19 that others feel the same. This sense of being choked is spreading around a community of good writers I…

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Many hands

It isn’t like researching and writing so don’t think that I was physically working on it all that time, but thinking about it also occupied the sewing time. Also talking with fellow quilters to get problems solved quicker. Rebecca Albury, email to me 1. I’m steering an underinsured rental car around a parked truck in a back alley in Dublin, and Bon Stewart is peering at two different digital maps, offering advice. Driving in new country is always like this:…

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Not our dark

What is required, is quite simple. Professor Michael McDaniel, 2012 1 It’s 2013. I’m in the backroom of a small library in a town in western New South Wales, scrolling through a microfilm newspaper reader, scribbling notes with a pen I’ve found in the bottom of my bag. Next to me, my daughter’s looking through a book of war records. We’re all there, the five of us together, looking for a family history for which we only have two clues….

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Not my shoes

Disrupt your industries, if that is what you are in business to do, but do not disrupt the bonds that tie employees, however loose or unspoken they may be. Isabel Berwick, ‘Workplace communities matter–now more than ever“ 1. I’m standing in line, and someone sends me something to read. Distracted and unprepared I open an article about Annie Werner, who was in breast cancer treatment in 2014, like me. But there’s more. She’s an academic like me. Like me, she…

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