Anthropology and the “imaginators” of future European universities

in Focaal

This article focuses on the site where much anthropological work is conducted—universities—and anthropological approaches to studying their current transformations. Although I work comparatively on the imagining and enactment of universities in Denmark and Britain, here I focus on the recent changes to universities in England, which have taken many by surprise, as if they exceeded anyone's wildest imagination and were even beyond belief. I will trace how the “conditions of possibility” for the current changes came about—the tripling of student fees, removal of government funding for teaching in arts and social sciences, and transfer of public resources to commercial, for-profit higher education companies. I will briefly outline the problems that opponents to these moves are having in imagining an alternative future, let alone organizing themselves to contest current developments. In conclusion, I will point to the changes in anthropology itself that are incurred when engaging in an ethnography of such a large policy field and when attempting to capture “what the present is producing” (Moore 1987: 727).