In the winter of 2017, I struggled with my individual learning processes and how their facets intersected with others around me and the institution that I’m in. As a response to that, I worked through the spring to put together a self-designed co-op that effectively makes me self-employed, thus allowing me to more directly engage my natural learning processes in a number of ways: by doing an independent study on the anthropology of work, developing the foundations of my senior project, and working as a Resident Assistant in the Residence Life department.
For the first of my three activities, I designed an independent study (my third at Antioch) during the spring term to take this summer. Caitlin Meagher, Associate Professor of Anthropology, is the professor for the course, and she and I, along with another student who is taking it with me, meet every two weeks to discuss our readings and how they intertwine.
So far, it’s a very intense class, one that is based on some graduate-level syllabi I examined as I designed the class, and the other student and I always come away mentally drained, yet having learned a lot in the process. By the end of the term, we’ll have covered several themes and topics in the field of anthropology of work such as value, identity, markets and globalization, liminal experiences, and the future of work. The literature we read in the course will also be of aid to me as I build my senior research project.
My second major activity, and by far the most intensive, deals with setting the foundations for my senior project. I am working on determining the research topic, question, and methods, as well as reviewing relevant literature and deciding how I will collect my qualitative data. The object of my research is turning C-Shop—a small, student-run group on campus that provides limited coffee services—into a non-profit organization that will operate on a worker cooperative model. Cooperatives are firms/organizations that are democratically owned and operated by the people who work in them. In the long term, our vision is to provide coffee delivery and event catering services, offer jobs to students, and work through events and community organizing to bring our small community together in ways that best utilize our organizational and member capacities.
My research in political economy has a few layers that directly relate to my work with C-Shop: 1) local and democratic economic development, 2) the ways in which cooperatives can broadly address issues of political, economic, and social instability and disorganization, and 3) how worker cooperatives can specifically help in building more cooperative and sustainable communities. I am incorporating what I learn into C-Shop’s operations and our plans for how we will move forward. As of now, there are five other students working with C-Shop and a few staff and faculty from Antioch who offer varying levels of support and engagement in our project.
For more information about cooperatives, please follow this link the to International Co-operative Association’s principles and values: https://ica.coop/en/whats-co-op/co-operative-identity-values-principles.
Last but not least is my third activity: covering my room and board for the term. I’ve already worked as a Resident Assistant for two years so, when I found out there was an open position on the Summer RA team, it was an obvious decision to submit an application for it, especially since I want my last year as an RA to have as much impact as possible.
My main project within ResLife is to ‘beautify’ North Hall. I am starting by installing picture rails, frames, and pictures (whether they come from students, classics, etc.) so that the white walls will no longer be lifeless and confining, but instead vivid and inviting. Future steps over the next year will include physically building the common spaces to add what residents want, whether that be bookshelves, different lighting, different (and more!) furniture, or anything else. Our team will also be working with our residents to start taking care of our common spaces, kitchenettes, and bathrooms in a more active way. I’m also looking forward to helping support new staff members and their projects this term and onward.
Later this term, I’ll also be spending two weeks in Austin, TX informally exploring the cooperative economy in the city.
Photo credit: https://ysnews.com/