Constructing fear in academia: neoliberal practices at a public college

in Learning and Teaching
Author: Dana-Ain Davis
View More View Less
Restricted access

Neoliberal values and ideology, which have broadly undermined social justice ideals, have been inserted into a range of public spheres both in the U.S.A. and internationally. Public higher education institutions have increasingly acquiesced to neoliberal strategies, which restrict access to public services, commodify the public sphere and challenge the legitimacy of progressive and liberal politics. This article explores some neoliberal practices at one public institution of higher education in the United States. I present three incidents that took place between 2000 and 2006 at a college that is part of a public State University system: a shift to disparagement of 'activism' in a college that had prided itself on its activist traditions; a confusion over the profitable marketability of Global Black Studies, in a context where political pressures diminished 'minority' perspectives in the interest of reasserting homogeneous 'Western civilisation'; and a partnership between this public college and a prestigious private university. In each case I explore my own response in terms of faculty governance, and how I developed new courses and pedagogies to open up these aspects of the operation of neoliberalism to critical examination by students. These incidents show how neoliberal practices create fear and feelings of vulnerability among faculty, especially faculty members of colour; they also show the importance of developing critical pedagogies to expose their assaults on social justice and equity.

Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences