The CPGJ Speaker Series on Political Practice (SSPP) is an initiative for collaborative dialogue and action between political activists and academic researchers. Based at the University of Cambridge, the series leverages the skills, experiences and perspectives of political actors to ask how academic communities can better understand, learn from and support their work.  

Our inaugural program brings together activists from Syria, Italy, Turkey and Palestine to speak about front line action on anti-authoritarianism, decoloniality, feminist movements for degrowth and the resistance of illiberal politics in the university.  SSPP sessions are held twice per term during the first week of each calendar month.

While our speakers represent a diverse range of contexts and commitments, each session deals with a shared set of questions regarding political education, action and solidarity. These questions include: 

  •     What role can academic communities play in political struggle, and how might this challenge or expand normative ideas regarding the place and purpose of higher education in society? 
  •     What are the  barriers to constructing and sustaining solidarity networks across and between activist groups and universities, and what forms of action might address these issues?

SSPP is built around a belief that notions of objectivity and apoliticism—both as terms of knowledge production and as institutional values more broadly—serve to pacify, veil or excuse the inherently political nature of universities. In this light, we see the urgent need for greater political engagement within our faculty not as a matter of politicization, but rather as one of recognition and reclamation; the task is not to ‘become political’ insomuch as it is to both acknowledge and take responsibility for the existing ways in which academic life is already imbricated in struggle, oppression and issues of justice.

Conversely, SSPP is also a challenge to the tendency towards performative politics within academic spaces and discourse. To this aim, we seek to trouble assumptions regarding the relationship between thinking about politics and acting politically as one that is necessarily linear or correlative.

While SSPP events are open to members of the public, the series is resolutely feminist, anti-racist, anti-imperial and queer-embracing in its commitments and approach. As such, we have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, intimidation or abuse of any kind at our events.

SSPP events are intended to be informal and discussion-based. Each session begins with a 20-30 minute presentation by the speaker, followed by a group discussion.



Thursday, 10 June, 2021 at 17:00 BST on Zoom

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The language of knowledge decolonisation is rapidly on the rise in Cambridge. Concomitantly, Cambridge colleges invest tens of millions of pounds in arms manufacturing companies that supply weapons to countries complicit in violating human rights and international law. Cambridge Service Alliance has close partnerships with companies that have been directly involved in advancing the settler colonisation of Palestinian lands. Recent developments in Palestine lay bare the violence inflicted on Palestinians by what seems to be an ongoing forced dispossession, an ongoing Nakba. More than 1600 members of our university have challenged the complicity of Cambridge by signing this open letter.

In this session, we will host Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian leader, legislator, activist, and scholar. Our hope is to centre an important Palestinian voice and have an interactive conversation on recent and current developments in Palestine, their implications, how they are related to the ongoing Nakba, and the way forward. We will also discuss the role that academic communities can play to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, the barriers to constructing solidarity networks between activist groups and universities, and what actions might address these issues.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi served as a member of the Leadership Committee and as an official spokesperson of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace process, beginning with the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991.  Making history as the first woman to hold a seat in the highest executive body in Palestine, she was elected as member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 2009 and most recently in 2018. In 1996, Dr. Ashrawi was appointed as the Palestinian Authority Minister of Higher Education and Research. She was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council representing Jerusalem in 1996, and she was re-elected for the “Third Way” bloc ticket in 2006. As a civil society activist, she founded the Independent Commission for Human Rights (1994), MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (1998) and AMAN, the National Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (1999).  She serves on the advisory and international boards of several global, regional and local organizations, and she is the recipient of numerous awards from all over the world, including the distinguished French decoration, “d’Officier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur” (2016), and several academic accolades, including eleven honorary doctorates from universities in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Arab world.  



Monday, 1 February, 2021 at 17:00 BST on Zoom

Mariana Karkoutly is a Syrian political and human rights activist based in Berlin, where she works on international criminal investigations at the Center for Justice and Accountability, and as a program manager at the Syrian political organization Adopt a Revolution. As the 10-year anniversary of the revolution approaches, Mariana’s session will focus on the movement for justice within the Syrian diaspora. She will also discuss the #SyriaNotSafe campaign and its aim of ending the unlawful and inhumane forced return of refugees and asylum seekers to Syria.

Monday, 8 March, 2021 at 16:00 GMT on Zoom

The Care Income Campaign is an international grassroots network demanding payment and recognition of housework, care for others and environmental stewardship. Its history dates back to the early 1970s with the International Wages for Housework Campaign founded by Selma James, and includes a creative 20 year period of international campaigning and activism relating to Income Equality, Global Women and Queer strikes, anti-war campaigning and innovative academic writing on Feminism, work, sexuality and power. The Degrowth movement also demands equitable and just wages for all, while at the same time acknowledging the biophysical limits posed by ecosystems to growth economies. Care Income and Degrowth campaigners recognize that caring for people and the environment are interconnected conditions for achieving well-being, and that both express an anti-capitalist vision for the future. Giacomo will make explicit the differences that exist between the basic income and the care income proposals. He will then pose the issue of Care Income in the context of degrowth, in an effort to imagine a different more sustainable planet for all.

Giacomo D’Alisa is a political ecologist and ecological economist with interdisciplinary skills. He is a research fellow at the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. In 2015 he co-edited a book titled: Degrowth: A Vocabulary For a New Era. The book has been translated into ten different languages. Together with prominent social scientists, he has been advancing the political ecology agenda of the “Barcelona school” of environmental justice and degrowth. For Spanish readers only, a book Giacomo edited about care income is downloadable here.

Wednesday, 5 May, 2021 at 13:00 GMT on Zoom

In our 3rd SSPP session, Zeyno Pekünlü will discuss the attacks on academic freedom in Turkey and the subsequent resistance to it, most recently occurring at Boğaziçi University. Drawing from her own experience as part of the Academics for Peace, Street Academies, and Solidarity Academies movements, she will focus on how being forced out of the academy and banned for life from working in Turkish universities has shaped her thinking on radical pedagogy. Zeyno will explore ways in which grassroot politics and organisations can work together with radical pedagogy to create new spaces for social and political imagination. 

This session will conclude with an interactive discussion and Q&A around the question: What role can academics and universities play in political struggle, and how might this challenge or expand normative ideas regarding the place and purpose of higher education in society?

Zeyno Pekünlü (b. 1980, Izmir) is an internationally known artist and activist-academic. Based in Istanbul, she currently runs the Work and Research Program of the Istanbul Biennial (ÇAP) for young artists and researchers. She obtained her M.A. from University of Barcelona and her Ph.D. from Mimar Sinan University and is now part of the editorial board of e-journal Red Thread and member of IRI (Institute of Radical Imagination). Scanning a range of issues, from the construction of maleness and femaleness as gender roles to questioning knowledge and it’s distribution, her works aims to decipher “power” that encompasses the intimate and the social simultaneously. Her important shows include; 2020 Artists in Quarantine, The museum confederation L’Internationale, 2016-2017 Institute for New Feeling, Artist Film International/White Chappel Gallery/Hammer Museum/MAAT/Istanbul Modern Museum, 2016 Zeyno Pekünlü, SALT Ulus, 2015 Istanbul: Passion, Joy, Fury, MAXXI Museum/ Salt Water, 14th Istanbul Biennial/ Neither Back Nor Forward: Acting in the Present, Jakarta Biennale/ Every Inclusion is an Exclusion of Other Possibilities, SALT Beyoglu/ Sights and Sounds: Turkey, Jewish Museum, New York.