Politics of Opacity (a note on anonymity)

The number 85.42.1 is the tax office code that employees in higher education in Greece use in order to provide educational services. This code establishes the new working status of the freelancer in university education in conditions of precarity.
We are a collective formed to share experiences, politicize our needs and the difficulties we face in our everydayness, and to collectively claim better working conditions in research, teaching and management of Greek universities, research institutions and foundations. We operate in self-organized and horizontal processes of collective decision making.

Anonymity in academia is not expected. Developing a theoretical argument in obscurity is not recommended or acknowledged to put it mildly. Trusting 'reason', 'discourse', 'debate' and 'social contracts' entails that subjects know how to present themselves 'as such' or 'as they are' in the public sphere. The politics of identity is a fight for exactly that: the freedom for every 'minority', 'outcast', 'weirdness' or 'unconventionality' to co-exist safe (and visible) in their queerness and in civility with others. Many scholars in the humanities, the social and political sciences, and law schools have devoted their studies and interest in disclosing the socio-political conditions of exclusion and precarity. At least in Greece, there is a multitude of academics who have been well noted in the last decade for their writings on the debt crisis’ dispossessed, the Syrian-war refugees, the precariousness of gender different, and the vulnerabilities of differently-abled.

What is particularly strange, in this context, is how in order to avoid facing their own vulnerability and anger, academics often become detached from lived experiences of precarity. Many, especially tenured members of staff but also precarious ones, spend entire academic careers writing about the precarity of others, but fail completely to break the silence on the unheroic precarious academia of the Greek University. At best, some calls for discussion will address the current distances and advocate the need for more or better connection with the market or/and state services; thus, they will conceal even more the social conditions, the power struggles, and the modes of knowledge production that sustain academic precarity in the 21st century. To ask for one to disclose the 'public secrets' of tenured relations is to ask one to expose themselves to longstanding power relations. How vulnerable can one be for the sake of another colleague? Politics of opacity is not a request to protect one’s academic name in face of their fragile social relations. Indeed, it results from the need to reveal 'toxic behaviours' and 'Machiavellian strategies' intensified due to reduced tenured positions, yet its purpose is not to protect one’s 'bourgeoise' relationships. To the contrary, to engage in politics of opacity means to acknowledge that academic affinity is bonded through common interests and shared responsibilities; and that a much-needed debate should not turn into character assassination.

Politics of opacity entails an understanding of our ultra-individuated work interests and lives. No collective can speak easily in the name of precarious academics as a whole. Taking responsibility to write on academic precariousness means above all to politicize one’s vulnerability, thus making it available for affective encounters and ethical responses. We are too many and too different, and no political party or state institution can incorporate our distress and frustration in such a way as to provide the much-awaited changes in academia.

Politics of opacity reflects that there is no single name or persona behind these texts, not because of a supposed need for anonymity but because many different people have edited and re-edited them. To engage in politics of opacity means to reduce attachment to 'texts' and 'ideas'; it means to engage in writing without expecting to see your name in the end product. Hence, it means to accept that a change in academic relations entails a change in ethics, not in politics as such.

Politics of opacity means to deny 'branding' the precariousness of others, let alone of your colleagues; it means to situate the changes in academia in the historical present of social media and platform capitalism within which personas, academic interests, articles and social mechanics mash-up reducing politics of representation to the desire for public recognition and personal fulfilment. These are the social modes of current knowledge production, which we ought to reflect on, if not resist.