In my first post, I wrote about my teaching experiences that inspired me to write Creative Universities. Here I want to write about some more personal adventures that have nourished my interest in alternative futures.
I grew up in former East Germany, in a small town 20 km from Weimar, the birthplace of the Bauhaus. Its radical experiments in education have been informing my own interest in arts-and-design based education. Weimar was also home to many German writers, musicians and artists and in school, we studied Goethe’s Faust from cover to cover. Much less enlightened, you can see the Glockenturm of the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp from Weimar. I left home about six months before the Wall came down in November 1989; what has stayed with me from this upbringing is a skepticism of all state-sponsored socialist projects, a yearning for travel that has since brought me to all corners of the world and an affinity for repairing things (since that is what everybody did in a place where new things were hard to come by). I was therefore particularly excited when a repair cafe opened in my home town a few months ago, where I volunteer once a month.
A gap year in Montreal turned into Canada becoming my second home for 10 years. During that time I also discovered Latin America and anthropology. For my undergraduate and MA studies I conducted research in Northwestern Argentina, with traditional healers and a community of Kollas, an indigenous peoples who were fighting for the restitution of their lands. Learning about indigenous ways of thinking and being has become an enduring interest in Latin American alternatives, as for example articulated in the work of Arturo Escobar.
Upon finishing my PhD, which had brought me to the San Francisco Bay Area at the height of the dotcom bubble with its techno evangelism and rampant greed, and attempting the impossible task of surviving on short-term contract teaching and research for a few years whilst raising a family, we packed up and moved to New Zealand. It allowed me to re-connect with some of my German roots when our kids attended a local Steiner school with its child-centered and arts-based philosophy. I also discovered the power of Māori and Pacific culture, which furthered my interest in indigenous cosmologies and plurality. Swapping the sunny beaches in Auckland for the grey coast of South-east England has now brought me to Lewes, a town where Thomas Paine first developed his revolutionary ideas.
It is from all of these sources, travels and experiences that I draw in my work. I hope to do all of them, and the amazing people that have been accompanying me along my journey, justice in my writing.