Soniya Munshi and Craig Willse
In this foreword, we revisit the history of the non- profit industrial complex cri-
tique, connecting it to emerging analyses of the academic industrial complex, as
well as its historical antecedents in critical interventions into the US military and
prison systems. Reflecting on the current context of neoliberalism, we also raise
some questions about the limits of these critiques to think about what kinds of
political responses to injustice we most want and need.
Beginning with the first Color of Violence conference in 2000 and continuing
with subsequent conferences and publications, INCITE! brought into conversation
community organizers and advocates, activists, service providers, teachers, and
scholars. While differently situated, these various groups find their work shaped
in powerful and often constraining ways by what was being called the “non- profit
industrial complex” (or NPIC). This term signaled what INCITE! identified as “a
system of relationships between the State (or local and federal governments), the
owning classes, foundations, and non- profit/NGO social service and social justice
As the critique of the NPIC spread among academic audiences, its analysis
was brought to the university setting, launching a nascent critique of the academic
industrial complex (AIC). To think in terms of an AIC was to ask parallel questions
about why we have the form of institutionalized education that we do and what the
role of universities might be in both maintaining status quos and furthering harms
caused by capitalism, heteropatriarchy, and white supremacy. The AIC framework
brought renewed attention to the role of the academy in directly supporting crimi-
nal punishment systems and military industrial complexes.2 At the same time, if
non- profits have been essential sites for access to life- saving and sustaining re-
sources, universities have remained important locations for generating critical dis-
sent. In recent years, students and teachers have found that space shrinking and
made vulnerable through attacks on critical and ethnic studies programs, centers,
and faculty members; the elimination of tenure track lines and adjunctification of
labor; and the cutting of state funds and increased privatization on the backs of
students in the form of unbearable debt.3
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