Dec 2019 – UCU Strikes Back & SOAS

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At the beginning of December, I had a dilemma: I’ve agreed a while back to give a seminar at the SOAS China Institute, but then there was the UCU strike. At Kent, or more specifically, at SSPSSR, my colleagues and I were protesting on universities’ failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads. To complicate things further, SOAS did not take part of this strike.

What would you do? I eventually decided to deliver the seminar as planned, partly because that was NOT part of my institutional responsibility (so technically it was outside of the strike’s scope?), also partly because I felt especially given the circumstances, I had a message that I want to give.

My talk was mostly on the Good Food Movement in China (papers 1, 2, 3). The point was really about how impactful bottom-up initiatives can be (even in an effectively one-party state). So I ended the talk with the following remark: ‘Just as Chinese grassroots actors demonstrated to us that another modern food system is possible, I feel, with solidarity, we should be confident that in the UK another university is possible.’ And yes, I intentionally chose to wear a deep green jacket so that the pink pin was more conspicuous.

I thank Prof Steve Tsang (bottom-right pic, middle) for the invitation and for the stimulating conversation both during and after the event. Also thanks to an almost full room of audience for a really interesting discussion!

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