Ongoing transformations of the university - from changing working conditions to issues of affordability and access, increasing 'accountability' measures and commodification of academic production - are increasingly referred to as university corporatisation and are unfolding within and concomitant to neoliberal globalisation. In this paper we outline some of these processes as they are occurring at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and explore the limitations and possibilities of a critical response mounted by a number of students and faculty in the Department of Anthropology. Drawing on ethnographic data and interviews with group participants, as well as our own experiences with the group, we describe and assess this project as a means to investigate and respond to neoliberal governance. Through this analysis we problematise conventional discourses and imaginings of university corporatisation and neoliberalism and explore the sometimes contradictory subject positions that complicate our efforts to respond critically to university corporatisation.
Reading neoliberalism at the university
Boone W. Shear and Angelina I. Zontine
Constructing fear in academia: neoliberal practices at a public college
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.
Universities and neoliberal models of urban development: using ethnographic fieldwork to understand the 'Death and Rebirth of North Central Philadelphia'
Susan Brin Hyatt
As a political and economic philosophy, neoliberalism has been used to reshape schools and universities, making them far more responsive to the pressures of the market. The principles associated with neoliberalism have also extended to programmes for urban economic development, particularly with respect to the largescale gentrification of neighbourhoods rendering them amenable to investments aimed at creating spaces attractive to white, middle-and-upper class consumers. In this article, I discuss how universities themselves have come to play a significant role as urban developers and investors, promoting commercial retail development and building upscale housing in neighbourhoods adjacent to their campuses. My entry point into this discussion is through describing an ethnographic methods class I taught in 2003, whereby students carried out collaborative research in the African-American neighbourhood surrounding Temple University's main campus in Philadelphia. As a result of their work, we produced a neighbourhood newspaper that sought to disrupt the commonplace assumptions about 'rescuing' the neighbourhood from what was presented as an inexorable spiral of decline; rather, our work showed that actions taken by the university, itself, had helped to produce the very symptoms of decline that the new development project now purported to remedy.
Analysing a 'neoliberal moment' in English higher education today
Joyce E. Canaan
English higher education, like other parts of the public sector and higher education in other countries, is currently undergoing considerable change as it is being restructured as if it were a market in which universities, departments and academics compete against one another. This restructuring is producing new processes of subjectivity that discipline those who work and study in higher education institutions. Feminist poststructuralists have suggested that this restructuring is enabled partly through new forms of accountability that seemingly offer the 'carrot' of self-realisation alongside the 'stick' of greater management surveillance of the burgeoning number of tasks that academics, amongst others, must perform. This paper, located in the context of these changes, builds on Judith Butler's insight that processes of subjection to the dominant order through which the self is produced entail both mastery and subjection. That is, submission requires mastery of the underlying assumptions of the dominant order, which concomitantly introduces possibly subversive responses to subjection. This paper explores a 'neoliberal moment' I recently experienced when I had to fill out a form introduced for modules that failed to reach newly introduced marking 'benchmark' criteria. As I suggest, the process of being subjected to the disciplining that this new criterion demanded, brought me the mastery necessary to avoid such disciplining in future. However, individual subversion did not significantly challenge these forms of accountability; only a collective 'scholarship with commitment' could do so.
Neoliberal individualism in Dutch universities: Teaching and learning anthropology in an insecure environment
Ellen Bal, Erella Grassiani, and Kate Kirk
This article is based on our own experiences and that of several of our colleagues teaching social and cultural anthropology in different Dutch institutions for higher learning. We focus in particular on teaching and learning in two small liberal arts and science (LAS) colleges, where anthropology makes up part of the social science curriculum and/or is part of the core curriculum. The data collected from our own critical reflections developed during informal discussion and from formal interviews with colleagues, together with literature on recent changes in academia, leads us to argue that neoliberal individualism, shaped by management tactics that constantly measure individual performance and output, is making academia an increasingly insecure place in which to work and study. The consequences of this insecurity include increasing mental health problems among both students and staff, intensifying competition at the expense of collegiality and collaboration and an overall decrease in the quality of academic jobs and teaching. Although the discipline of anthropology can help us better understand our own conditions, the personalisation of problems and the focus on success obscure the anthropological lens, which looks at social and cultural structures of power and depends on critical reflexivity.
Surviving the Neoliberal Maelstrom: A Sartrean Phenomenology of Social Hope
It might seem that Sartre's thought is no longer relevant in understanding and combating the maelstrom unleashed by triumphant neoliberalism. But we can still draw inspiration from Sartre's hatred of oppression and his project to understand how his most famous theme of individual self-determination and responsibility coexists with our social belonging and determination by historical forces larger than ourselves. Most important today is Sartre's understanding in Critique of Dialectical Reason of how isolated, serial individuals form into groups to resist oppression, and the ways in which these groups generate social understandings and collective power.
To market, to market to buy a ... middle class life? Insecurity, anxiety, and neoliberal education in Michigan
Corporatisation of universities and restructurings of K-12 schooling in the United States occurred during a period of broad economic, social and political restructurings, which have transformed the lives of middle-class Americans. Community and individual level investments in education are frequently represented as antidotes to increased insecurities confronting these subjects. This paper draws upon my interactions within both the school system and the university in which I work to explore how such practices continue to make sense to students, parents, and policy makers despite the lack of evidence demonstrating that such strategies overcome declining economic security and to suggest possibilities for alternative practices to produce collective mobilisations against inequality.
On theorising and humanising academic complicity in the neoliberal university
Most academics that I know take it for granted that higher education in capitalist countries has become deeply corporatised over the last thirty years. But as an undergraduate student in the 1990s, dreaming of joining the ranks of the professoriate, the institutional and structural changes that were transforming the university were largely hidden from my view. Looking back, I had no idea how such trends might be impacting the men and women who excited my intellect and set me on an academic path. I did not even think to ask.
In/Difference in the neoliberalised university
Eva Bendix Petersen and Bronwyn Davies
In this article the authors take up the invitation to respond to the previous articles in the special issue. They discuss why it is so difficult to speak and write about gender and sexuality, and difference more generally, in the neoliberalised university. They make the case that the neoliberal university engages and uses categorical difference, and the individuals inhabiting these, mainly for auditing purposes. The authors develop the argument that despite the enterprise university's official commitments to diversity and inclusion, it remains indifferent to difference, understood as openness to becoming different, to differenciation in a Deleuzian sense. Difference is privatised and depoliticised and is only acceptable if it is useful and exploitable in pre-specified ways and if it conforms to and facilitates neoliberal agendas.
Gender and sexuality: the discursive limits of 'equality' in higher education
Liz Morrish and Helen Sauntson
This special issue sets out to investigate a number of areas of concern, regarding gender and sexuality, which are identifiable in the current British higher education environment. We argue that current dominant 'neoliberal' discourses, which emphasise the commodification of higher education in the U.K., function to set limits upon 'equality'. While these discourses often suggest a widening of opportunities within higher education, with an emphasis upon unlimited individual freedom and choice, the lived experience can be rather different for women and sexual minorities. This issue explores the impact such discourses are having upon gender and sexuality identities and practices in the academy.