To mark the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, professor Roxanne Panchasi of SFU History decided to do something different. She launched La Commune 2021, a virtual free school created in partnership with artist Britt Bachmann and the UNITT/PITT Society for Art and Critical Awareness, an artist-run non-profit organization that has been operating in the Chinatown, Downtown Eastside and Gastown neighbourhoods of Vancouver since 1975.
The free school lasted 10 weeks – just like the 10 week span of the original 1871 uprising – and explored the history of the Paris Commune through thematic modules, such as the Commune and colonialism, the role of women, and the role of art & artists during the Commune. Each week’s ‘class’ began with a selection of readings, both primary sources and historical as well as modern commentary, and was anchored around an episode of Radio 1871 – a series of podcast-style interviews that took listeners on a deep dive into that week’s theme with Panchasi and various experts on the history of the Commune. Participants were alerted by email when a new ‘week’ of material was available, as well as to relevant Commune-themed events hosted by UNITT/PITT and other organizations marking the 150th anniversary.