AltSOU summative report

(updated 15 July 2024)

The AltSoU taskforce hereby presents its summative report on the Alternative State of the Union 2024. We hope you find enjoyment and satisfaction in surveying the results, outcomes, and proceedings of our collective experiment in alternative conferencing, research, and community-building.

This report is also a testament to the long hours of visible and invisible labour that went into the realisation of this project, which often involved setting aside doctoral research, careers and many other responsibilities. It is the culmination of more than six months of work and many more of mutual care, emotional labour and protest, not to mention our pilot AltSoU in 2023.

In a university world that tends to reproduce structural inequalities and hierarchies of power and knowledge-sharing, we are proud to have carried forward the legacy of those who have historically opposed the presence of the exclusionary and politically problematic State of the Union conference at the EUI. We are delighted to have produced a three-day-long space where freedom of thought and action and academic ideals could briefly be brought to fervent life. We are glad to have embodied opposition to the opacity and aloofness that, sadly, often characterise institutionalised academia.

We feel fortunate to have engaged in our participatory reflections upon the role of the university in society and social movements, at a time when students, researchers, and members of the university world are braving repression and fears to take action against complicity in the genocide being perpetrated in Palestine. We are proud to have participated in, and platformed the demands of, the inter-university Florence Encampment for Palestine in Piazza Shireen Abu Akleh, formerly San Marco.

With the EUI poised at the cusp of change, we would like to salute the efforts made to engage with our movement, and we express the hope that our culminating demand – Abolish the SoU! – will be met in the near future. Further to this, we would urge the EUI to fully fund and support a researcher-led grassroots conference. We hope that true community engagement and participation will fuel further experiments in researcher/activist-led conferences (or “un”conferences), to make the EUI and the university world a place of academic freedom, support, and the tangible endorsement of rights.

We would like to make known our deepest gratitude to all those who participated in AltSoU 2024, who made the journey to Florence, who helped us piece together funding, who helped us make travel and logistical arrangements, and who put their time, mental and physical energy, and effort into making this happen. We could not have done it without you. If there is a community at the EUI, it turned out and manifested itself during the AltSoU 2024, to demonstrate that “another academia is possible”, and that the fight for the abolition of inequalities, and against exclusion and repression, is a long and hard road. 

Please accept our most heartfelt thanks.