On the Poverty of Student Life: Considered in Its Economic, Political, Psychological, Sexual, and Especially Intellectual Aspects, with a Modest Proposal for Its Remedy

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    Situationist International, Mustapha Khayati

    Publisher: Common Notions

    Year: 2022

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 208 pages

    ISBN: 9781942173571

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The manifesto that launched the Situationist International (SI) into the public eye and sparked an uprising is back—with the story of its creation and the histories of its publication told.

When the Situationist International was a little known revolutionary art group, before Guy Debord’s philosophical masterpiece The Society of the Spectacle was published, and before Paris’ universities were occupied in May ’68, a pamphlet titled On the Poverty of Student Life spurred a scandal that would turn into a global revolt. On the Poverty of Student Life was a match that recognized and described student and youth alienation, and the way it was printed and distributed spread that fire.

For the first edition, supporters of the SI (mis)appropriated school funds to create and distribute 10,000 copies of the pamphlet. From there, dozens of editions were produced by worker- and student-run printing presses around the world, from Paris to East London, from Tokyo to Detroit. This new edition highlights this global underground circulation and brings attention to the common conditions of students, workers, and internationalist resistance in the world of the sixties—bringing that historic reckoning to the present.


Featuring the original English adaptation by former SI member and celebrated translator Donald Nicholson-Smith, an interview with primary author Mustapha Khayati where he traces his map from colonial Algeria to imperial France to the university and the streets, and essays about the political relevance of the manifesto (then and now)—an edition like this has never before existed. With beautiful photographs of nearly one hundred different editions this book provides a cartography of an uprising.


About the Authors/Editors

The Situationist International was an international organization of social revolutionaries made up of avant-garde artists, intellectuals, and political theorists. It was prominent in Europe from its formation in 1957 to its dissolution in 1972.

Anna O’Meara’s research investigates Middle Eastern art and activism between the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, particularly the work of Mustapha Khayati. Her translations have been published by Three Rooms Press, Annex Press, BauerVerlag, and Verso (forthcoming).

Mehdi El Hajoui has been researching and collecting the Situationist International for over a decade. Items from his archive have been exhibited at Princeton University, Indiana University, the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain of Geneva, and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, among others. He frequently writes and lectures, and as a board member of Booklyn and ProArts Commons, supports marginalized artists working at the intersection of art and social change.

Mustapha Khayati was a member of the Situationist International between 1966 and 1969. Though On the Poverty of Student Life was a collective endeavor, Mustapha Khayati is one who put pen to paper and was the pamphlet's primary author.

Donald Nicholson-Smith was a member of the Situationist International between 1965 and 1967. He has translated a number of their texts (and much more) into English.

What People Are Saying

“This edition of On the Poverty of Student Life, edited by Mehdi El Hajoui and Anna O’Meara is a hefty compendium on ‘the most scandalous pamphlet of the century.’ Following a series of articles on the origins and reverberations of the pamphlet (notably including an interview with its main author, Mustapha Khayati), the editors present an illustrated bibliography of more than a hundred different editions and reprints in some twenty different languages.” Ken Kabb, Bureau of Public Secrets

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