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The Critical PulseThirty-Six Credos by Contemporary Critics$
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Jeffrey Williams and Heather Steffen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231161152

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231161152.001.0001

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Pack Consciousness

Pack Consciousness

(p.87) 11 Pack Consciousness
The Critical Pulse

Heather Steffen

Columbia University Press

Much activism, organizing, and criticism in the last few decades has reflected the ability of graduate students to accurately read and respond to their position as academic workers. But grad students also need a way to think the articulation of themselves as workers and themselves as students. The line between these two positions is so blurry as to be nonexistent for many, and it is further obscured by the mystified way in which labor is divided at the departmental level: one ends up doing more work the better a student one is perceived to be, regardless of whether this work will draw on one's erudition. This chapter sets out a proposal for working against this kind of labor system. It argues for developing, as a counterpart to the class consciousness of the contingent (grad or adjunct) instructor, a graduate student “pack consciousness”—a mode of tactical and collective thinking meant as a heuristic for guiding day-to-day actions by cohorts of graduate students against exploitative labor practices at the level of the individual department.

Keywords:   graduate workers, graduate students, unionizing, academic labor, pack consciousness, collective thinking, labor exploitation

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