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Giorgio Agamben: "Requiem for the Students"

At Medium, D. Alan Dean has translated a short text by Giorgio Agamben, recently published by the philosopher on the Italian blog Diario della Crisi. The text laments the shift to online university learning since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a change that Agamben believes will be irreversible. Here’s an excerpt:

Much more decisive in what is taking place is something that, significantly, is not spoken of at all: namely, the end of being a student [studentato, studenthood] as a form of life. Universities were born in Europe from student associations — universitates — and they owe their name to them. To be a student entailed first of all a form of life in which studying and listening to lectures were certainly decisive features, but no less important were encounters and constant exchanges with other scholarii, who often came from remote places and who gathered together according to their place of origin in nationes. This form of life evolved in various ways over the centuries, but, from the clerici vagantes of the Middle Ages to the student movements of the twentieth century, the social dimension of the phenomenon remained constant. Anyone who has taught in a university classroom knows well how, in front of one’s very eyes, friendships are made, and, according to their cultural and political interests, small study and research groups are formed that continue even after classes have ended.

Image of Giorgio Agamben via the European Graduate School.