14 January 2011

On the Poverty of Student Life, Redux

"The spatial politics of the occupations themselves are obviously worth consideration," writes Owen Hatherly in an article about recent student unrest and the aesthetics of occupation in the U.K.. Via Afterall:

"It's also a reminder that students were encouraged under New Labour to be an ideal combination of indentured serfs and aspirant yuppies. The actual conditions of students' existence in the 2000s, from the poverty of their housing, to their catastrophic debt, to their part-time jobs in call centres, to their years of unpaid intern labour, were bleak indeed; but all was hidden by an oxymoronic language of inclusivity and privilege -- they might have been living in cupboards, but they were cupboards with plasma screen TVs; they might have felt underpaid, overworked and tithed, but were also constantly reminded of how lucky they were to enjoy the hedonistic student lifestyle. Suddenly, under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, one half of that bargain -- the expansion of education that accompanied its part-privatisation -- has disappeared, and we're now witnessing the fallout. So it's worth keeping New Labour's student architecture -- desperately private, paranoid, gated, restricted, securitised -- in mind when you think of the occupations of universities that have been such an important part of the student protests. Implicitly or explicitly, this is the kind of space they are reacting against. It is a protest against the coalition, to be sure, but it's also a magnificent rejection of the fear, quietism and atomisation that was the result of earlier policies. The students' use of space is equally fearless. ..."

Full article here.

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