<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español March 23, 2017 | Issue #67


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The School of Authentic Journalism is a Site of Heterotopia

Please donate to the school, to keep it going


By Hira Nabi
School of Authentic Journalism, Class of 2015

February 29, 2016

“First there are the utopias. Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have ageneral relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces. There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places—places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias.”

– Michel Foucault

The School of Authentic Journalism brings people together from all over the world, to think, talk, laugh, debate, dream, dance, work, and love one another in the space that is created during the school. This kind of intense living is so energizing, it is so filled with the spirit of possibility and hope that it is almost ecstatic. Before coming to the school, I was informed by alumni that I was signing away my sleep. When I probed further, I realized that the school required immense work, the sessions and classes lasted from morning till night, and then in the after hours, one had the option of passing out from exhaustion, or staying up to socialize and connect with the others around. So you could work, and then sleep, or work, and then party. Without fail, almost everyone chose to work and party – sleep was forgotten, and somehow we all powered through knowing that that was a surreal experience, we lived off borrowed future rest time, we burnt though reserves of future energy, it was heightened living.

And when you have this intense experience of life, it is almost addictive, you know you cannot return to your normal life, but you know you cannot continue in this state, as it doesn’t seem sustainable. What do you do? You have to return to your life as it was before you arrived at the school, but you take with you a consciousness, a newly awakened sense of purpose, community, sense of self, and of commitment to the world.

When all was said and done, I realized that we had spent far more time working and thinking together in small and large groups, than in sleeping or partying. We discussed ideas and strategies over lunch, on the way to the classes, it was all-absorbing. The school does that; it constructs a kind of heterotopia, where people converge together from all kinds of different places, schools of thought, ideas and ideologies, and learn to coalesce and create something new.

I attended the school in November 2015. The school has had several iterations, the one in 2015 was three days long, and the mode of instruction, communication, and connection was in Spanish. My own experience was actually filled with a kind of alienation and simultaneous resilience. I struggled to try and understand Spanish, and to keep pace with the flow of Spanish around me. I was mostly silent in larger groups, which was a new experience for me – I learnt to listen with greater attention. By the second day, however, my brain was physically hurting from trying to concentrate so much. I was able to have one on one conversations with people, but I was struggling to keep up with group discussions that sometimes moved fast, and were dynamic in content and form. I understood for the first time in a long time the extraordinary need for patience when trying to communicate ideas, life, philosophies, criticisms, and a life of the mind in a language that doesn’t flow off your tongue. This need for patience for me felt simultaneous with the immense requirement of a need for patience when it comes to building social movements, and simultaneously archiving and documenting them, trying to create something that can respond to the current political moment and be real.

I believe that I was able to possibly access half of the school linguistically speaking,and that has been enough to convince me that this school is a treasure that must not be allowed to die. The school needs support in order to be able to fully realize its potential of affecting change, and inspiring changemakers. It forges incredible connections between students and professors, creating a collective that is immense, and real, and brilliant.

The School of Authentic Journalism is a site of heterotopia. And that is why it must not falter. Please donate to the school, to keep it going.

Join the Kickstarter campaign or go to authenticjournalism.org to learn more about the school.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America