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Catherine Prendergast

This article reports on the multi-year collaboration between the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) at the University of Illinois and the University's Rhetoric Program, a required first-year writing course. I argue that this collaboration was successful in large part because the goals of writing programmes in American higher education settings – teaching the process of research, inviting students to see themselves as producers of knowledge and fostering collaboration between peers – are highly consonant with principles of EUI. Indeed, my own history with EUI reflects the parallel commitment of Writing Studies and the methods and goals of EUI. I suggest that EUI can serve as a powerful model for universities if they seek to place undergraduate student research writing at the core of their mission.

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Susanne Bregnbaek

This article is based on anthropological fieldwork undertaken at two elite universities in Beijing. It addresses the paradoxical situation of the many instances of suicide among Chinese elite university students in Beijing, which constitute a public secret. The pressure of education weighs heavily on the shoulders of China's only child in each family, known as the generation of little emperors and little empresses. Since the 1980s, the suzhi jiaoyu reforms (education for quality) have involved various attempts to reduce the pressure of education. However, simultaneously the aim is to increase the competitiveness of individuals. Drawing on existential and phenomenological thought, I suggest that the discourse seems to objectify and quantify a concern for well-being, rather than recognising its intersubjective character. Finally, I argue that the suicides are controversial since they are seen as a form of social criticism.

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Spatialising university reform

Between a centre and a periphery in contemporary Finland

Sonja Trifuljesko

This article investigates contemporary attempts to reform the institution of the university according to neoliberal ideological influences and oppositions to them. It employs Doreen Massey’s concept of space to focus on relations and separations made in the process. My ethnography of the University of Helsinki’s 375th anniversary celebration, which turned into a public spectacle of various visions of higher education, constitutes the main empirical material. Finland’s ambivalent position in the world renders the spatial work of forging connections and disconnections particularly conspicuous. It enables specific neoliberal aspirations (such as to be among ‘the world’s best universities’ amidst global competition) to become very strong but also allows additional trajectories, like the one about higher education as public goods, to present themselves as legitimate alternatives. The centre-periphery relations are therefore critical sites for analysing the contemporary university transformation, since they appear to be key drivers of the reform but also the primary source of resistance to it.

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Male University Transition Problems

A Guilt-Free Explanation

Clive Keen

It is becoming widely recognized that far fewer young males than females are entering university. Blame is directed, for example, to the school system, feminism and parenting, but the fundamental reason is not something for which anyone should be blamed; rather, it is a mathematically inevitable result of the relentless expansion of the university system. Other factors might be important, and some are very important, but they accentuate, rather than cause, the imbalance. The true root cause has to be recognized and tackled if we are to make progress concerning what is becoming a massive social problem.

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Marilyn Strathern

Universities offer environments apparently favourable to open-ended and exploratory research, especially when interdisciplinarity is embraced as an aim. But this is not always quite the invitation it seems. Under the aegis of accountability, a bureaucratic form of interdisciplinarity is reframing the ways society is imagined and drawn into the scientific enterprise. Some problems for Social Anthropology are sketched briefly.

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Decolonizing Cambridge University

A Participant Observer’s View

Keith Hart

I dwell here on my own experience of working at Cambridge University for methodological reasons. Anthropologists could make more of the humanities tradition of going deeply into particular personalities, places, events and relations in search of wider truths. Ethnography exemplifies this, but the discipline’s assimilation into the social sciences and academic bureaucracy counteract this impulse. I draw selectively on my anthropological education and academic work to interrogate the political relationship between western societies and their former colonies. Cambridge University is reactionary for sure, but its decentralized organization makes room for a minority sometimes to change the world. The historical example of the abolition movement illustrates this. Anthropology ought to be a way of rethinking the world, and I conclude with how and why I introduced students to the anti-colonial intellectuals who did just that when they led the liberation (not ‘decolonization’) movements that overthrew European empires.

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Boone W. Shear and Angelina I. Zontine

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.

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Henry Dyson

Lionel Blue became a residential fellow at Grey College at the University of Durham in 2000, an Honorary Fellow in 2002 and an Honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2007. He taught a course on 'Introduction to the Book of Genesis in Hebrew', and gave occasional lectures throughout the university and in the local area. Accompanied by his partner Jim, in informal ways and in many contexts, they played important pastoral and spiritual roles in the student life of the university. Lionel's 2005 lecture on magic and religion noted that faith at its best gives courage and strength for adventurous and creative living rather than religious certainty.

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Community–University Health Research Partnerships

Challenges and Concrete, Plain Language Strategies for Community Engagement in Research

Janet Page-Reeves and Lidia Regino

In recent years, there have been positive changes to the health research landscape, with increasing interest amongst community organisations and university investigators in establishing research partnerships and with more funding opportunities for community-engaged work. However, creating a community–university partnership requires new skills, new types of knowledge, and new ways of creating and maintaining relationships. On both sides of the research equation, people are looking for guidance. The discussion here uses our experience to offer concrete tips in plain language for strategies that can be used to build capacity for community–university partnerships for organisations and researchers in pre-partnership and early partnership stages. We comment on debates about epistemology and knowledge production in research and how anthropologists are well positioned to contribute to this process.

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Stephen J. Whitfield

In 1948, when the first non-sectarian Jewish-sponsored university was founded in a suburb of Boston, Jewish studies was integral to the curriculum, and three scholars - all of whom had been German-trained - became the pivotal figures in what became the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. Nahum Glatzer, Simon Rawidowicz and Alexander Altmann personified German learning at its most formidable, in their range, in their erudition, in their authoritativeness. They transmitted and perpetuated German and Jewish scholarship to a new post-war site, and in a sense revived Weimar culture in Waltham, Massachusetts.