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n fall 2016, each of us entered a study room at SFU’s downtown Vancouver campus. Individually, we were each responding to a call that had been sent out a few weeks prior, to create a human geography and urban studies reading group. After a few minutes though, the small room was very crowded. As we began to share our reasons for being there, so many of our responses centered around a feeling of loneliness and disconnect as we were making our way through graduate school. We wanted (needed) friendship and we wanted (needed) solidarity. In the coming weeks, we would meet again and spend two hours discussing what solidarity meant to each of us. We realized that what we needed was not a reading group, but a collective. We needed what would become the Place + Space Collective.
The Place + Space Collective is an interdisciplinary academic solidarity collective that formed at Simon Fraser University in 2016. The Collective is a space for members to reflect on our geographies, engage each other and our departments, and present and publish as a collective. The Collective leads with solidarity for each other and works within a non-hierarchical model of consensus, friendship, empathy, and care. The work of the collective takes place on the unceded, ancestral territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We recognize the many ways that Indigenous resistance and education to the land has deeply informed our own activism, within and beyond the academy.
The collective meets twice a month: one meeting is a work meeting where we conduct check-ins and organize projects we are working on together, including our solidarity actions. The second meeting is a social event, where we focus on just being together and developing deep friendships. Our collective methodology for our collective has been deeply inspired by the work of the Great Lakes Feminist Geography Collective, the Combahee River Collective (1977), carla bergman and Nick Montgomery (2017), Sara Ahmed (2017), Mountz et al. (2015), adrienne maree brown (2017), and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (2018), among others.
Since the Collective formed, we have presented at numerous conferences, written together, organized training for teaching assistants, and raised funds for land defenders on unceded Tsimshian territories, Venezuelan migrants, Ríos Vivos Antioquia (Living River Antioquia), and progressive municipal election candidates. Continuing to think about what solidarity means runs through all of our time together and we actively discuss it each time we have new members join.
As one member reflected: “I could not do grad school without solidarity and I am so grateful for the collective. I feel the solidarity in a way I never have before--as something more than words. The collective will always show up for you and it’s the first time I’ve ever felt that unwavering level of solidarity and support.”
By 2017, it became clear to us how much the collective had already shaped our graduate school experiences. We wanted to share ideas with other students about ways they too could form academic solidarity collectives. We organized an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional conference for those interested in forming academic solidarity collectives to resist neoliberalism in universities. The conference was called Strategies for Solidarity: a mini-conference on organizing collectives in the neoliberal academy.
The conference was a formative experience for both the collective and us as individuals. Coming out of that event, it was clear to us that everything we had been feeling--the isolation, the competition, the exhaustion, the frustration--was not something unique to our own graduate experiences. The Place + Space Collective provided respite and solidarity for so many of these feelings and we wanted to share our experiences with the collective in case it could be beneficial for other graduate students and academics. But, we wanted to find a way to expand the reach of the collective: people had contacted us on an international scale when they heard about the conference, asking if there was a way that they too could participate. We dreamed of a podcast that could model our collective and create space for difficult conversations that would be available to people regardless of their physical geographies. The result is Acadammit.
Acadammit is an experimental podcast produced by the Place + Space Collective on unceded Coast Salish Territories. Academic podcasting is an emerging practice, and Acadammit explores solidarity across disciplines, in conversation with folks with diverse backgrounds and ideas. The collective hopes the podcast inspires other graduate students to form their own solidarity collectives in their communities, within and beyond the academy. Acadammit has five episodes that explore decolonization, scholar activism, and burnout. The first episode provides a short introduction to the Place + Space Collective.
Funding for Acadammit was generously provided by the SFU Graduate Student Society. Music played in the episodes was created by Rooms. The Place + Space Collective would also like to thank Dr. Hannah McGregor who generously facilitated a podcasting workshop for us, and to the guests who joined us in conversation.
Ahmed, S. (2016). Living a feminist life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
bergman, c. and Montgomery, N. (2017). Joyful Militancy: Building thriving resistance in toxic times. Oakland, CA: AK Press.
brown, a.m. (2017). Emergent Strategy: Shaping change, changing worlds. Oakland, CA: AK Press.
Combahee River Collective (1978). ‘The Combahee River Collective Statement.’ In Smith, B. (ed.) Home Girls, a Black Feminist Anthology. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, Inc. Accessed from: http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html.
Mountz, A., Bonds, A., Mansfield, B., et al. (2015). ‘For Slow Scholarship: a feminist politics of resistance through collective action in the neoliberal university.’ ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 14(4), 1235-1259.
Piepzna-Samarasinha, L.L. (2018). Care Work: Dreaming disability justice. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press.
The Place + Space Collective is an interdisciplinary academic solidarity collective that began in 2016 at Simon Fraser University. The collective leads with solidarity for each other and works within a non-hierarchical model of consensus, friendship, empathy, and care. The work of the collective takes place on the unceded, ancestral territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. The current members of the collective are Marina Chavez, Kate Elliott, Liam Fox, Katie Gravestock, Dennis Lee, Diandra Oliver, Natalia Perez, John Pickering, Samantha Thompson, Steve Tornes, and Trevor Wideman. The P+S Collective can be reached via Twitter (@_pscollective) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).