[texts of email messages from the first weeks of June 2020]

Dear Everyone:

Thanks to all of you able to join the discussion on Friday afternoon, and to those who provided input through email, and to all of you doing all you can take care of people – through protest, feeding, housing, calling, writing, laundering, all of it — all of it facets of world-making!

That we do and must continue to think in terms of continuities and entanglements is robustly evident in the streets across the planet!, and was very much so the ethos of our program discussion on Friday.  From thinking about how the administrative structures and corollary salaries have magnified at the GC (and throughout CUNY) over the past decade is related to the impact on professional staff of personnel freezes, and from understanding cuts to CUNY funding as part of the logics of racism and racial capitalism that underwrite the permissibility of police violence against Black people, and from acknowledging the intensification of the distinctively precarious position of international students by the cutting of graduate fellowships, and from the ongoing inequities that characterize the consortial structure organizing the GC, the question of what’s important to us in the determination of the GC’s distribution of resources bespoke, I think, our general understanding of the connectedness of all of this, of all of us.  While there are clearly differing points of emphasis – on student funding, on professional staff working conditions, on consortial faculty research and labor, and so on – I so appreciate the embrace of both complexity and collectivity that characterize our conversations, which strike me as axiomatic to the address of the question of the nature and purpose of our work in the present context.  All of which is in part a way of saying thank you again for your engagements and efforts.

More specifically, here are the things compelling to the English program in thinking fiscal priorities, which I’ll also share with the Executive Committee of EOs — with all the EOs for that matter – as well as with the group of mostly central line faculty as well as others who identify the GC as a primary institutional site, and who are organizing ourselves to insist on shared governance.  These aren’t in order of priorities so much as how I clustered things in the notes I took, by the by – it’s all simultaneously important.

  1. Support for students: not only protecting funding but also extending it; recognizing and working to ameliorate the distinctive vulnerabilities of international students (more on this below); importance of health insurance; impact on ability to continue research/meet program milestones; offering rich array of courses/robust curriculum (always!); acknowledging the already existing vulnerabilities resulting from ableist structures and their intensifications in the context of pandemic; acknowledging the differential impact of pandemic along the axis of racial difference; operating with the knowledge that students are simultaneously students and teachers and thus are toggling multiple demands;
  1. Recognition of labor: continuing to work against the obfuscation of consortial faculty labor; acknowledgment of interrelatedness of faculty, staff, and student conditions of work;
  1. Support for faculty teaching and research: cuts to or absence of research funds; uncertainties as to what courses will run and where (at colleges, at GC); ongoingnesss of remote teaching and challenges to creation and sustenance of us as vibrant and hospitable space (always!);
  1. Information sharing: historical overviews of growth of CUNY/GC upper level administration in the past 10 years; cuts to fellowships that often served as 6th year funding for students; attuning to PSC, to students, to what’s happening at colleges, to CUNY central;
  1. Multiple points of address: GC administration, CUNY Central, Mayor’s office, Albany – all have decision making authority.

No surprises here!  And the reiteration/making things explicit is welcome, at least to me. 

As we move into these next months, we’ll do our best to continue to realize these ideas in program practices. 

Two other notes before signing off:

  1. Regarding international students:

from China, h/t Shoumik (Bhattacharya): this proclamation came down from the White House at the end of May.  It is designed to curtail graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from China from entering the U.S., thus compounding difficulties posed by COVID19-related visa regulations, though is so vague in some of its specifics that the full extent of its parameters has yet to be fully scoped – but there’s no reason to believe the current regime won’t use this as an opportunity to limit drastically and enthusiastically.  This is of course only the most recent iteration of the U.S.’s exclusion of people from China (1875 Page Law, 1882 Chinese Exclusion, alien land laws, perhaps most well known as mechanisms of U.S. exclusionary nationalism), and perversely coincides that history of exclusion rationalized on racial capitalist economic terms with that of exclusion rationalized through public health discourses throughout U.S. history.  The treatment of people from China has been modeled on indigenous dispossession and the dehumanizing economies of chattel slavery, and in turn inspired the anti-semitism of the Nazis.  There are students who are citizens of China in our program – though even if there weren’t, still an issue for us – and as more information comes down the line as to how this proclamation will translate into practice, I’ll send forward.  (Likewise, if any of you hear more, please let us know.)

from anywhere: because visas limit the kinds of employment available to international students, uncertainties regarding the availability of courses to teach and how remote teaching will work, as well as what limits there may be to returning to the NYC area when we return to in-person courses (whenever that might be), factor into determination of vulnerabilities as well as specific conditions of work life.  While the GC/CUNY will be bound by federal government regulations, as a program, we’ll improvise as much as possible regarding working with specific situations and students. 

  1. Suggested reading: Even as there is necessarily concerted attention to police violence as a mechanism of racism, we know that other institutions including higher education have participated in the legitimation and longevity of racism. The reading I’m suggesting is this essay by English program alum Debarati Biswas, which reviews the work of another alum, Lavelle Porter, as well as the latter’s book, The Blackademic Life: Academic Fiction, Higher Education, and the Black Intellectual (Northwestern UP, 2019).  Amid the abundant luminous work that details the nexus of higher education and anti-Black racism in the course of elaborating Black intellectual thought, these emerge out of CUNY, out of this place, to provide guidance as to how to envision and enact our work in the present and for the presents yet to come.  Let’s fold these into our collective knowledge base!

I think that’s all I’ve got for now.  I’ll be largely offline the bulk of this week, fyi, and will write again if and as information comes in.  In the meantime, as ever, abundant gratitude and well wishes to all!


Kandice Chuh

Professor of English, American Studies, and Critical Social Psychology

Executive Officer/PhD Program in English

CUNY/The Graduate Center

365 Fifth Avenue, Room 4406.03

New York, NY  10016



From: Chuh, Kandice <kchuh@gc.cuny.edu>
Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2020 12:06 PM
Cc: Chuh, Kandice <kchuh@gc.cuny.edu>
Subject: states of emergence/open discussion 4p, 5 June

Dear Everyone:

Below please find the invitation to the open meeting scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. 

Per my earlier (also below), I’d be glad for your input on things you’d like the GC administration to consider as we move to determine fiscal priorities.  As preparation for conversation, but also to key into what it is that I’m thinking, I’d asked in that earlier message for us to consider what it is our work is in the present context, and in the past week, “present context” has obviously taken intense shape.  Some version of that question is always present for me and, I’d imagine, for many if not most of us.  In the immediate, the framework of “states of emergence” has strongly resonated for me in this regard.  The particular iteration of this framing that keeps me company is as it was articulated as the theme of the 2018 American Studies Association annual meeting, which in essence, pulling forward Homi Bhabha, Frantz Fanon, and Walter Benjamin, reminds us of the ordinariness of states of emergency and the simultaneous emergence of new worlds ushered in through resistant, revolutionary work.  In a recent conversation with Queenie (Sukhadia), Eric (Dean Wilson), Chad (Frisbie), and Elliott (Jun), we talked about the temporality of revolution, of how it is an ongoing phenomenon, of the fact that we might think of it has having begun centuries ago with those who refused enslavement and exploitation, and how in these terms, what we are living in now is emergence and decidedly not only emergency.  I mean neither to romanticize the present – people are grievously suffering/are cruelly made to suffer – nor really to offer consolation – but perhaps simply to acknowledge the contradictions we’re living and have been living in the long history of modernity.  State/Police violence as a mechanism and manifestation of racism isn’t a new story, we know; neither are the deep vulnerabilities to communities of color made sharply clear in the light of pandemic.  How could we not grieve and rage at what are simply the most current examples racism’s structuring/destructive presence?  For me, such observations are points of entry to the address of that question: what is the work we do – ought to do – in the present context?  How – by what means – can we create the conditions that would minimize grief and rage, which is to say, defunction racism? 

This is always to remember that institutional life – what we do in and with institutions like the GC – are also always matters of history that land on real people in/and the world.  I’m in other words trying to remember to land the soulless nugget of ‘fiscal priority’ into substantive grounds…

Other/related things:

I realize many of you are participating in protests, and my apologies if a 4p meeting conflicts with that.  For my own scheduling reasons – there is much juggling that happens in my household as well as, I know, many of yours – that’s the functional time for me.  I trust you’ll convey ideas separately.  But more to the point, at the risk of repeating things you already know if you’ve participated in direct action of any kind, be prepared: tell someone (or several someones) where you’re going and create a time to check in; write their phone numbers on your body in permanent ink along with the number of a lawyer (or several); make sure other beings in your care (two or four footed) have necessary coverage; bring a mask.  There’s no shame in getting arrested (ever!), so let people (me) know if that happens.  Some of you are doing all this already, which is great (not the getting arrested part, which, while decidedly without shame, is also really ugly and hard).

(And just to have said it out loud, there’s no shame in not being on the streets either.  Racism is so structurally pervasive, there umpteen ways to practice anti-racism and we’ll need all of them.  In my view, any individual act of heroism won’t change the world, but everyone’s work collectively cannot but.)

This will perhaps be the most unexpected part of this message: here, from Elle magazine (!!!), links to lists of pro bono legal services across the U.S.  It was shared to me and I found it pretty comprehensive (scroll down for the links).   I don’t know what the picture for pro bono lawyers looks like more globally but am trying to find out. 

And, finally for now, just to note that the GC administration has begun to ask us (EOs) to start cutting expenses relating to our programs.  The EOs are meeting collectively to talk and think through our responses to such requests, and I’ll keep everyone updated as things proceed.

Holler with questions, and abundant well wishes, as ever!


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