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Instead of a Defence

Thoughts on the Humanities at Home and Abroad

Peter Vale

The place and future of the Humanities is under scrutiny in many parts of the world. The diminution in the university commenced in the 1980s with the rise of free-market thinking associated with Thatcher and Reagan. It was the end of the Cold War, however, with the rise of globalisation that control was tightened in higher education under the guise of increased freedom. The increasing emphasis on utilitarian forms of knowledge needed for economic growth further imperilled the Humanities. In South Africa, upon which the argument draws for illustration, policy-makers paid increasing lip service to academic freedom and institutional autonomy while directing policy interest and resources away from the Humanities.

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The Mutable, the Mythical, and the Managerial

Raven Narratives and the Anthropocene

Thomas F. Thornton and Patricia M. Thornton

The Anthropocene is rooted in the proposition that human activity has disrupted earth systems to the extent that it has caused us to enter a new geological age. We identify three popular discourses of what the Anthropocene means for humanity's future: the Moral Jeremiad admonishes the transgression of planetary boundaries and advocates reductions to live sustainably within Earth's limits; the Technofix Earth Engineer approach depicts the Age of Humanity as an engineering opportunity to be met with innovative technological solutions to offset negative impacts; and the New Genesis discourse advocates re-enchantment of humanity's connections to earth. By contrast, we find that in many indigenous and premodern narratives and myths disseminated across the North Pacific and East Asia, it is the trickster-demiurge Raven that is most closely linked to environmental change and adaptation. Whereas Raven tales among northern Pacific indigenous communities emphasize a moral ecology of interdependence, creative adaptation, and resilience through practical knowledge (mētis), robustly centralizing Zhou Dynasty elites transposed early Chinese Raven trickster myths with tales lauding the human subjugation of nature. Raven and his fate across the northern Pacific reminds us that narratives of environmental crisis, as opposed to narratives of environmental change, legitimate attempts to invest power and authority in the hands of elites, and justify their commandeering of technological xes in the name of salvation.

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High-tech Romania?

Commoditisation and Informal Relations in the Managerialist Informatisation of the Romanian Health-Care System

Sabina Stan and Valentin-Veron Toma

While informatisation has officially been hailed as a major component of the modernisation of the Romanian health-care system, this paper, based on ethnographic research in Romanian hospitals, shows that it has been mostly geared towards managerialist goals of administrative control and cost containment. Paradoxically, informal relations, which were supposed to be suppressed as a result of both informatisation and managerialist marketisation, continue to thrive in the Romanian health-care system.

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Geoff Payne

of the managerial repertoire. For example, the introduction of regular student satisfaction surveys (for convenience here, ‘SSSs’) in one university was explicitly motivated by the need to ensure that PDR [Professional Development Reviews

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Rationalizing Strategy

Game Theory in Management Pedagogy and Practice

Daniel Breslau

Since the 1980s, game theory has become a standard feature of management school curricula, treated extensively in textbooks and core courses in managerial economics and competitive strategy. It promises a formal and rational set of procedures for formulating decisions in situations of dynamic interaction. I suggest that the appeal, and key symbolic effect of game theory is not due to its actual influence on the decisions reached. Rather, it is due to the reframing of decisions and the contexts in which they are made, in terms of the framework of game theory. When strategic action is formulated and justified in terms of game theory, the theory serves as a kind of sociodicy, a social theory which justifies suffering as a necessary evil. I suggest that the increased appeal of game theory since the 1980s has to do with changes in the social organization and managerial culture of corporations.

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Critiquing governmentality

The social construction of participation and accountability in the Atlantic zone of Costa Rica

Pieter de Vries

This article sets out to test the Foucauldian concept of governmentality as it has been applied by social theorists working on the topic of neoliberal managerialism. It starts with a critical discussion of the 'good governance' agenda as developed by the World Bank. The question that the article poses is whether such technologies of governance are as successful in shaping new fields of intervention as assumed in the (managerial) governmentality literature. This question is answered negatively by way of a case study of an extensionist, working in an integrated rural development project in the Atlantic zone of Costa Rica, who developed his own 'participatory extension style of operation' for dealing with farmer beneficiaries. At a more theoretical level, the article takes issue with current notions regarding the malleability of the Self and the 'social'. The article concludes that the governmentality approach has perverse consequences for the anthropological project as it leads to an impoverished kind of ethnography.

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John Clarke

This article examines the modernisation of universities in the U.K., arguing that heterogeneous policy objectives and strategies have become condensed in the construction of higher education as a governable system and the university as a corporate enterprise. It argues that managerialism has displaced and subordinated professional and administrative logics for the coordination of universities, articulating them into supporting roles. Finally, it examines some of the cultural psychological states associated with the contradictory and uncomfortable assemblage that is the modernized university: identifying fantasy, dissociation and professional melancholia. It concludes with an argument that nostalgia for a lost academic community cannot be a foundation for political challenges to the present model.

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Natalia Luzhkova

After years of financial struggle, protected areas in the Russian Federation have been encouraged to open up to ecotourism in order to become more financially self-sustainable. This article focuses on this transition and examines the challenges of policy-related geographical and social aspects of the development of ecotourism in the nature reserves. The article identifies four main risk factors in the development of ecotourism: environmental, social, managerial, and economic. It outlines stakeholder interests in tourism, the local population's involvement in environment-friendly developments, and the possibilities for ecotourism on the model territory of the Baikalskii Nature Biosphere zapovednik.

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Values at Work

Ambivalent Situations and Human Resource Embarrassment

Jakob Krause-Jensen

The Manchester School brought with it a fundamental methodological heritage that continues to be generally relevant today and may be particularly pertinent to the study of business organizations, a field often described by narrow instrumentalism and an implicitly management-centric perspective. In this article, through an ethnography of the Human Resource Department of the Danish firm Bang & Olufsen, I argue that the legacy of the Manchester School can be used as an analytical vantage point to open up a rich field of inquiry. I further suggest that we need to move beyond both managerialism and Manchester in order to analyze adequately the pervasive ambiguity in the experience of consultants working as middlemen in value-based corporations.

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Liza Grandia

Alongside the melting of glaciers, human bodies warn of another petrochemically driven planetary crisis. Much as climate science ignored the early warning observations of Indigenous peoples, the medical establishment has oft en dismissed the canaries struggling to survive in the mineshaft of modernity. In an aleatory Anthropocene, we know not for whom the toxicity will toll. While case studies of environmental justice remain essential, the privileged must also be jolted into understanding their own ontological precariousness (i.e., vulnerability) from toxicants pervasive in everyday life. Moving beyond “citizen science” with inspiration from feminist ethics of care and relational Indigenous epistemologies, I make a case for the extrasensory value of “canary science.” If managerial “risk” was the keyword of the profiteering twentieth century, a sense of shared vulnerability in the coronavirus era could help usher in the transitions needed for survival in this polluted world.