Austerity across Africa has been operationalized through World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs since the 1980s, later rebranded euphemistically as poverty reduction strategies in the late 1990s. Austerity’s constraints on public spending led donors to a “civil society” focus in which NGOs would fill gaps in basic social services created by public sector contraction. One consequence was large-scale redirection of growing foreign aid flows away from public services to international NGOs. Austerity in Africa coincides with the emergence of what some anthropologists call “audit cultures” among donors. Extraordinary data collection infrastructures are demanded from recipient organizations in the name of transparency. However, the Mozambique experience described here reveals that these intensive audit cultures serve to obscure the destructive effects of NGO proliferation on public health systems.
Audit cultures and the weakening of public sector health systems
Neoliberal policies in teacher education marginalise faculty voice, narrow conceptions of teaching and learning and redefine how we know ourselves, our students and our work. Pressured within audit culture and the constant surveillance of accountability regimes to participate in practices that dehumanise, silence and de-form education, teacher educators are caught between compliance and complicity or the potential and risks of resistance. Written from my lived experience within the neoliberal regime of teacher education, this article examines the vulnerabilities, fears and risks that shape our choices, as well as the possibilities for ethical, answerable action.
A Comparative Perspective
Susan M. DiGiacomo
Audit culture is examined comparatively in US academic life and in Catalan universities, medical research institutions and scientific publishing. In the case of Catalan universities, audit is shown to be a political practice as well, serving the centralising interests of the Spanish state at the expense of Catalan home rule. Despite the variation in formal practices and institutional contexts, then, the similarities in both the appearance and effects of these practices are remarkable. As anthropologists working across cultural boundaries, we should be attentive to the many forms coercive surveillance may take.
A Review of Organic Certification
Shaila Seshia Galvin
As organic food becomes more widely available, great faith is placed on the seal or logo that certifies organic status. This article treats the mark of certification as a starting rather than an end point, critically reviewing literature from diverse national and regional contexts. Exploring questions concerning the extent to which organic certification assists or undermines the goal of ecological sustainability, abets the advance of large-scale agricultural capital, and supports the livelihood of smallholder farmers, the article considers the theoretical foundations, methodologies and modes of inquiry that have guided studies of organic agriculture and certification. It brings this research into conversation with literatures on audit cultures, quality, and with ongoing nature-culture debates. Through critical review of the literature and the author's extensive fieldwork with organic smallholders in northern India, the article suggests possible directions in which the literature may be expanded and advanced.
Drawing upon ethnographic data, this article investigates the effects of a new online campus management system in one of the largest universities in Germany. It shows the various ways in which this technological innovation influenced students', teachers' and administrative personnel's relations and everyday working practices and how it is influential in the reorganisation of university structures. The online management system is regarded as an important part of an emerging infrastructure of excellence, which materialises the changing understanding of qualitative studies and teaching. Findings show that the online management supports standardised and economised study, teaching and administrative practices and silences creativity and flexibility. However, these standardisations are negotiated and questioned by the actors involved.
Universities and the Politics of Accountability
Don Brenneis, Cris Shore and Susan Wright
Audit culture and the politics of accountability are transforming not just universities and their role in society, but the very notions of society, academics and students. The modern 'university of excellence' applies a totalising and coercive commensurability to virtually every aspect of university life, from research output and teaching quality to parking space. But more than this, the politics of accountability enmesh universities in conflicts over neoliberal transformations which are taking a wide variety of forms in different parts of Europe, North and South America, and Australasia.
Neoliberalism, Illiberal Governments and Australian Universities
This article explores neoliberalism in Australian universities, in the context of the politics of a higher education 'reform package' introduced by the Liberal-National Party Coalition presently in power in federal government. I focus attention on the relationship between the broader national environment and the local university configuration at the Australian National University and the dialectic between university academics and students as objects of bureaucratic practices and self-auditing subjects in these new modalities of power. I situate the Australian experience in broader global debates about neoliberalism and universities and earlier ethnographies of audit cultures.
Constructing and practising student engagement in changing institutional cultures
Lisa Garforth and Anselma Gallinat
This introduction sets the theoretical and historical context for this special issue on student engagement. Drawing on literatures about audit culture, governance and change in higher education institutions, and theories of practice, institutions and organisation, it sheds light on the current era of English higher education. The Browne Review led to the withdrawal in 2010 of the majority of the government teaching grant for English universities, and it tripled tuition fees in 2012. In the post-Browne era, ‘engagement’ emerged as an organising concept linked in multiple ways to other objects and discourses, in particular university league tables and measures of student satisfaction; and it was swiftly and often unreflexively translated into visions for developing learning and teaching. This special issue focuses on this specific shift in policy and discourse, exploring institutional change and everyday experience, and reflecting on the power and limits of policies.
A Discussion with Marilyn Strathern
Samantha Page and Marilyn Strathern
As part of my ‘impact editor’ role for Anthropology in Action I approached Professor Marilyn Strathern to seek her personal reflections on the impact agenda related to her own experiences working as head of department, at Manchester and Cambridge Universities, as member and then chair of two Research Assessment Exercise panels, her anthropological research in Papua New Guinea and her work on audit culture. I wanted to find out how Professor Strathern’s work has been engaged with policy and practice or has influenced it. I also discussed my own PhD research with Professor Strathern, including the challenges of being an early career researcher, as well as seeking advice about the best way to disseminate research findings to inform policy and to have ‘impact’.
This is the third edition of the year 2005. We have moved from neoliberalism and the audit culture in the university, to embodiment in the teaching and learning of anthropology, and finally to the involvement of anthropologists in the Second World War and the following Cold War. In this volume, we are still experimenting and finding our feet. Here, after articles by David Price on the OSS and Japan, Gretchen Schafft with archival biographical research on a Nazi medical doctor, and Eric Ross on university involvement in the Cold War, we give Janice Harper some extra space to make her points about nuclear tourism. Rather than split Harper’s article, we have decided to let it run on. It is an article about the curious construction of cultural heritage. And it can be read from a post-9/11, post-7/7 vantage point where the catastrophe as well as catastrophic places can become Zeitgeist (tourist) sites (see also Feldman 2002). The piece links in with the other contributions to show the longue durée of wars with and on terror, and the changing nature and commemoration of our involvement with them.