Debt Series


OccU would like to thank all people who attended, and the presenters:  Andrew, Raphaele, Cynthia, Cassie, Amber, Pam, Winter, Nicole, Aleks, George, Nick, Yates, Ann, and Thomas, as well as our gracious hosts (EFA, Momenta, Trade School) for their efforts in making the OccU Debt Series a grand success. Together we thought, felt, questioned, debated and discussed Debt in ways that we hadn’t before. Thanks everyone!!

Click here to see the flier for our DEBT SERIES.

Debt binds the 99%, though it binds some more tightly than others. This educational series, organized by Occupy University, aims to challenge the idea that debt is primarily about personal responsibility and start a conversation about debt as a structural problem of social justice. Who profits when people go into debt that is unpayable? Who is responsible for this debt, why is it so rampant and where did it come from? How do we connect debt with what we want and why we want it? The series will include general discussions on: debt resistance, race and debt, student debt, municipal debt, the art of debt and more. Encounters will happen as a part of one of the following:

  • Debt Discussion Series: Panels, speakers, teach-ins, and reading groups focused on various aspects of debt.
  • The Art of Debt: Ways to visualize debt as a problem of social justice.
  • Debt Clinic: Roaming dialogue with individuals and groups about particular debt problems and tactics.

Schedule of Encounters

 10/3–7pm–Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (EFA) – Debt Discussion Series:

  • Debt & Growth-ANDREW ROSS
    Our present money system can only function in a growing economy. Money is created as interest-bearing debt: it only comes into being when someone promises to pay back even more of it. But growth, especially when finance-driven, is ecologically destructive. How do we reconcile this contradiction?

10/5–7pm–The Trade School, NYC – Debt Discussion Series:

    Do we really need all this stuff? Do we spend because of need, or transitory pleasure? These are the main questions we’ll tackle, grounded in excerpts from Scitovsky’s book “The Joyless Economy” as well as videos from the YouTube channel “My Debt Story.” Via an engaging discussion we will try to answer these questions, and investigate the psychological drive behind the consumerist society in which we find ourselves. Participants will be encouraged to share their own debt stories.

10/9–630pm–Momenta Art -Art of Debt Series:

  •  Communal Debt as Sound–CASSIE THORNTON

10/16–7pm–Momenta Art – Debt Discussion Series:

    Debt is often perceived as a problem of the declining middle class. Nothing could be further from the truth. From “third world” countries impoverished by odious debts and structural adjustment programs, to broke U.S. cities cutting basic and welfare services, to 400% payday loans rampant in low-income communities, to predatory lending in the credit card, student and housing markets, debt affects us all. This teach-in will explore the ways in which debt in a capitalist society functions to ensure that class divisions along racial lines remain unchallenged.

10/17–7pm–Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts – Debt Discussion Series:

  • A Brief History of Debt Resistance–GEORGE CAFFENTZIS
    Debt slavery, indenture, torture and imprisonment have a long history, but so does resistance to them. The class will trace the forms of debt resistance in the past, aiming to glean the knowledge of those involved in previous anti-debt struggles to help us in our debt resistance today.

10/18–7pm–Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts – Art of Debt Series:

  • The Visual Culture of Debt–NICK MIRZOEFF
    Neo-liberalism has visualized the debt society as a distinctly new arrangement of public space that Occupy has tried to counter. While debt is often said to be invisible, it is the means of naming, separating and ordering space in such a way that it comes to seem right. This teach-in will offer ways to analyze this visualization of debt, both in the present and by means of a comparison with the Civil Rights Movement.

10/19–7pm–Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts – Art of Debt Series:

  • The Aesthetics of Debt Resistance–YATES MCKEE

10/20–2pm–Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts – Debt Discussion Series:

  • On Municipal Debt–ANN LARSON
    Is your town experiencing a budget crisis? Is your city laying off workers and cutting services? If this is happening in your community, you are a debtor. Come and learn about municipal bonds, the favorite weapon of mafia capitalists everywhere!

10/23–7pm–Momenta Art – Debt Discussion Series:

  • Debt and our Climate–NICK MIRZOEFF
    This teach-in shows that the interactions between the global debt crisis of personal and the changing biosphere provide the key to understanding both issues. In this view, all debt resistance is climate resistance:  a world financed by debt can only continue to make the climate crisis worse, while a sustainable future requires a post-growth economy. We’ll discuss the implications for activism on both issues.

10/25–7pm–Momenta Art – Art of Debt Series:

  • Jubilee and $49,983–THOMAS GOKEY

What would non-cooperation with Wall Street look like? This presentation will share just one vision for how we might organize such large scale resistance on a nuts and blots level, starting with a rolling jubilee and ending with a global debt strike.How can we put a price on the priceless? What is an artwork or an education worth? As an art student Dave Hickey told me that if I was going to spend $50,000 on “a fucking piece of paper” then “it had damn well better be a de Kooning” as opposed to a diploma which is also a very expensive piece of paper. Our money is just valueless paper notes which can be rendered as “legal tender for all debts,” basically IOUs we pass around. Our universities are little more than ivy walled banks which exchange one form of credit (debt) for another (academic). “$49,983″ is a paper artwork made out of real money (pre-shredded by the federal reserve) and a performative exchange, an attempt to turn my tuition debt from art school into an artwork which can be sold for the same amount as my debt.

10/26–7pm–Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts – Debt Discussion Series:

  • Debt, Desire, and Denial–WINTER, NICOLE HALA, PAM BROWN