Fictitious seminar on imaginary disobedience

I’ve been reading some listserve archives from the 2009 strikes and I came across a mocking proposal for an alternative seminar. I don’t think the somewhat heavy-handed irony is likely to get lost in translation.


You will find below a proposal for an alternative seminar.

A seminar titled “The expression of social malaise” will be held every monday at 9pm. Drawing on the recent works of our colleagues from Guadaloupe and those of our working-class neighbors from 2005, we will learn to generate acts of symbolic, media-ready disobedience.

The seminar will begin with a theoretical exposition of alternative means of expressing social malaise (occupying train stations and commercial buildings, setting garbage cans on fire, vandalizing bus stops). The practical application of these means will be open for discussion, and there will be a presentation on indispensable information for strikers (about the cracks in the riot police’s armor, protecting yourself from tear gas grenades, and practical legal advice).

The second part of the seminar will be dedicated to physical exercises relevant to this expression of social malaise (exercises in dispersion, intensive running, basics of close combat, unarmed and with blades, throwing paving stones, fabricating Molotov cocktails, and so on).

Course credit for students will involve an individual and spontaneous student project, preferably of a practical nature. This seminar can be counted for credit either in Law or in Communications.

Participants from the experimental centers of Clichy-sous-bois and Villiers-le-Bel will intervene in the seminar.

A and M

PS: If this proposition is taken seriously, the organizers of the seminar are not to be held responsible.

Some of the listserve participants then chimed in with suggestions on the grading system; whereupon a professor suggested rather more seriously that even in fun, such discussions probably shouldn’t be left in the public record.

It’s probably superfluous to note, at any rate, that the humor of the proposition apparently derives from the juxtaposition between the register of illegal street violence and academic discourse. The former is mockingly dignified by the latter; the latter is profaned by the former. One is left wondering, though, what sort of impulse towards imaginary disobedience motivated the authors, and what sort of social function this humor is serving or undermining.