you are in: What is Casa?
(Cultural Analysis Summer Academy) emerged out
of discussions about the function of academia in society, and about the
role of the academic or the intellectual in society. Over the past year
the world system has changed dramatically. The war against Iraq has shown
the disregard of major world powers for international organizations,
institutions and rules that have originally been introduced to protect the
human rights of each world citizen, and that sought to attempt to
introduce a world order that is ruled by mutual agreements and consensus.
At the same time we witness the worldwide imposition of an economic system that is based on the exploitation of many by few, that seeks to privatize public services and that, in doing so, takes the control over public services such as education away from the state (which at least officially is controlled by the public) and puts it into the hands of private owners.
These developments demonstrate clearly that major players in the international community, as well as on national and local levels, attempt to "objectify" people. They need their votes, but do not listen to their concerns. Rather, they provide false information, be it on the reasons for going to war or on the success of the economic system they are implementing. Thus, they in fact seek to deprive people of the agency that the democratic system seeks to implement.
However, since the early 90s a growing force within "civil society" has emerged to oppose these developments. Increasing numbers of people refuse to accept the developments outlined above and try to take control of their communities by engaging with interest groups from all areas and orientations. Examples are the World Social Forum, the European Social Forum and the growing numbers of local social forums, and events like the European Education Forum. The enthusiasm and the strength of the international anti-war movement has been another example of a large number of people refusing to be treated as the objects of economics and politics.
As young academics we see ourselves faced with the double challenge of international politics that disregard the opinion of citizens and the neoliberalist politics that seek to take control over public services away from the public. While we do believe that academics have a responsibility towards their society, we realize that society seems to be less and less interested in academia and in what academics --- especially those coming from the humanities --- have to say. At the same time many academics seem to withdraw deeper into the Ivory Tower. For these reasons we feel that the responsibilities of academics and the role of the academy within society have to be rethought.
Some of the questions we see ourselves confronted with are the following:
What is our place in civil society? Are we academics, are we theorists, or are we intellectuals? What is the difference between the three and how would we define them?
Is there any way that the academy can become a force that feeds into, and is inspired by, the society it functions within? If there is, then how do we perform this task?
On a very practical and technical level, how do we perform our task as teachers? If our objective is to educate our students to think for themselves we have to confront and answer the question of the impact of our selection of certain books and articles. Does not the very fact that we choose some and leave out others enforce some standard of right and wrong? How can one teach someone to be free?
In social situations --- and which situation is not social? --- our actions also express a choice, either in our choice of words, or in our performance. Each choice carries with it an exclusion of the not-chosen. In many cases this exclusion will be oppressive, and clash with the desire, which is had by many, that everyone should be free.
We want CASA to be flexible. It is an open and receptive discussion forum
and setting anything in stone would contradict its purpose. But in the
early stages of the project several principles have emerged as being so
fundamental to the project that they have shaped it and without them, it
would not be the same. These principles are the following (order has
nothing to do with importance):
|The organizers of the CASA meeting|
The organizing committee does not like to think of itself as an organizing committee because the CASA meeting should be a joint project of many forces. Ideally, everybody on the list should be involved. Out of necessity there are currently several people in Amsterdam who meet up regularly to coordinate whatever is necessary to coordinate, and several people outside of Amsterdam who participate in the coordination via email.
Cultural Analysis Summer Academy