Power and Education Special Issue: Neoliberalism and Primary Education

With Mark Pulsford, I have co-edited a forthcoming Special Issue of Power and Education, with contributions that ground neoliberal policies and logics in the everyday routines and practices within Primary school communities.

The special issue is titled:

Neoliberalism and Primary Education: Impacts of neoliberal policy on the lived experiences of primary school communities

The original call for papers is available here. I also have some notes taken from a BERA critical theory special interest group symposium on neoliberalism and education.

The papers to be included are as follows and in this order:

Editorial: Neoliberalism and Primary Education: Impacts of neoliberal policy on the lived experiences of primary school communities (authors: Richard Hall and Mark Pulsford)

How neoliberal policy inhibits partnership-building in the primary phase: A new social movements approach (Michael Jopling – published online first)

Local authority instrumental music tuition as a form of neo-liberal parental investment: findings from a deviant, idiographic case study (Ross Purves – published online first)

Power, influence, and policy in Arizona’s education market: “We’ve got to out-charter the charters (Amanda U Potterton – published online first)

Making little neoliberals: the production of ideal child/learner subjectivities in primary school through choice, self-improvement and ‘growth mindsets (Alice Bradbury)

A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Let Our Kids be Kids Protest (Angela Sibley-White – published online first)

Just play the white man – go into school, get a cushy job, move to a better area: male primary school teachers, neoliberalism and hierarchies of person-value (Mark Pulsford)

The issue of the whole will be published in November 2019.

Presentation: Strategic Visions & Values: Inclusive Curricula and Leadership in Learning and Teaching

On Wednesday I spoke at a Leadership in Learning and Teaching programme event at the Durham Centre for Academic Development. I was asked to share my experience of working to embed inclusivity in the curriculum, and framed what I said/our discussions around:

  • policy and institutional change;
  • participants’ perspectives on embedding inclusivity in the curriculum;
  • two DMU examples of institutional change projects relating to disability (Universal Design for Learning (UDL)) and work to close the attainment gap (Freedom to Achieve); and
  • participant engagement with DMU’s UDL framework.

I utilised our UDL2 project interim evaluation report and UDL2 literature review, alongside our Freedom to Achieve interim evaluation report.

I also made contextual reference to DMU’s access and participation plan, submitted to the Office for Students for 2018/19, and pointed participants to Durham’s plan. These highlight the differences across the sector between intake, upon which approaches to inclusivity/diversity (whatever they mean) rest.

My slides are available below. I have also appended some of the key points that emerge from our discussions. Finally, I append a limited number of resources, which I find particularly useful or challenging.

Key points from participant discussions

Q. What are your experiences of working to embed inclusivity in the curriculum?

  • Issues around the pace of change, and who has responsibility when so much activity is devolved.
  • What is the meaning of these terms, and in particular in different disciplinary contexts and at different levels of study?
  • What is the relationship between strategy, policy and practice? Here, issues of curriculum development and curriculum delivery, pivoting around curriculum Design, pointing towards assessment and feedback are surfaced. There needs to be discussion about institutional, departmental and subject-specific agendas, in order to avoid the impact of hidden or unconscious curriculum intentions.
  • There are issues of workload that need to be considered.
  • How do we encourage sharing across disciplinary boundaries and separations created by different workloads/roles/job types?
  • We recognise a range of cultural expectations, including the expectations of students attending different institutions with different histories, cultures, practices, forms of capital. We also recognise a range of expectations in relation to employability and the generation of new skills, competencies and knowledge.
  • We recognise the need to create a lingua franca, through which we can generate a shared approach to communication. However, this needs to be sensitive to different expertise and experience, and the ways in which language can affect interpretation and activity. Our aim is to avoid unnecessary friction, whilst supporting and scaffolding our students’ struggles to master the curriculum.
  • Is it possible to avoid simply retrofitting a physical or curricula infrastructure, and to build something that celebrates diversity and inclusivity (whatever they are)?
  • There are competing pressures upon staff in relation to career, Department and institution, and in terms of student experience/support. There are competing pressures upon staff in relation to research, teaching and administration. How do search innovation projects relate to academic progression?
  • How do we decide what is valued and who is valued in our approaches to innovation? How do we engage with new workload models in this process?
  • We have more agency than we think, and are able to shift the emphasis of the curriculum, in order to focus content and activity upon previously marginalised areas of study. In this way, we can begin to ask questions about privilege and power, and centre new individuals/groups. In this way we can also approach problems differentially, and enabling students to take ownership.
  • In terms of having a framework for inclusive practice, at the level of curriculum design, delivery and assessment/feedback, there is interest in the concrete practices of particular subjects (as opposed to more abstract or open-ended frameworks). How might this work in different disciplinary contexts? As a result, is it possible to move beyond the threshold engagement with inclusivity/diversity, in order to do more?


Ahmed, S. 2012. On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ahmed, S. 2017. Living a Feminist Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Barnett, R. 2016. Understanding the University: Institution, Idea, Possibilities. London: Routledge.

Bhambra, G., Gebrial, D., & Nisancioglu, K. (Eds., 2018). Decolonising the University. London: Pluto Press.

Connell, R. 2013. “The neoliberal cascade and education: an essay on the market agenda and its consequences.” Critical Studies in Education 54 (2): 99-112.

De Sousa Santos, B. (Ed., 2007). Cognitive Justice in a Global World: Prudent Knowledges for a Decent Life. New York: Lexington Books.

O’Dwyer, S., S. Pinto, and S. McDonagh. 2017. “Self-care for academics: a poetic invitation to reflect and resist.” Reflective Practice 19 (2): 243-49.

Steinþórsdóttir, F. S., Heijstra, T. M., & Einarsdóttir, Þ. J. (2017). The making of the ‘excellent’ university: A drawback for gender equality. ephemera: theory and politics in organization, 17(3), 557-82.

Styres, S. (2018). Literacies of Land: Decolonising Narratives, Storytelling, and Literature. In L. Tuhiwai Smith, E. Tuck, & K.W. Yang (Eds.), Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education: Mapping the Long View (pp. 24-33). London: Routledge.

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society, 1(1), 1-40.

Tuhiwai Smith, L., Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (Eds., 2018). Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education: Mapping the Long View. London: Routledge.

Paperback version of Mass Intellectuality and Democratic Leadership in Higher Education

I’m really pleased that a paperback version of Joss Winn and my 2017 edited collection, Mass Intellectuality and Democratic Leadership in Higher Education is now available. This makes this important work on re-imagining HE much more accessible.

For more details on the book, including the key features and chapters see: https://bit.ly/2UaoI0G

For details on how to get hold of a copy, see: https://bit.ly/2toybqZ

Podcast episode seven and alienated knowledge production

Episode seven is up over on the podcast channel, I’ve been talking with John Coster about coffee, documentary media and the boundaries between us, with a particular focus upon academic work and public engagement.

I’ve also been speaking at Academics, Professionals and Publics: Changes in the Ecologies of Knowledge Work. My slides on alienated knowledge production are below. Next week, I will give a fuller write-up of this event, with my takeaways in terms of academic identity and the abolition of academic labour.

education, technology and the end of the end of history

In June 2009, a group of people who loosely knew each other, or were connected through emergent social networks and individuals, gathered for discussion about the intersection of education and digital technology. This collective, known as the ‘52group’, gathered from across the Higher Education sector in the global North produced a position paper entitled ‘Preparing for the postdigital era’.

At the time the paper was largely met with a mixture of scepticism and confusion, a common response being “The digital hasn’t been superseded?” Despite this, over the intervening years the term has slowly gained traction in educational contexts. In 2015, to mark the shift from Digital to Post-digital thinking, members of the original ‘52group’ individually revisited the term to consider its continued definition and relevance. My own response is here, with links to reflections from the other members of the group.

In 2019, Petar Jandrić (editor of the newly founded journal Postdigital Science and Education) discovered the original position paper and 2015 responses. Delighted by this rare opportunity to examine ten years of development of the concept of the post-digital, Petar contacted the group with a request to revisit the theme in 2019. Dave Cormier has posted his reconsideration here. Mine is appended below, with an extended bibliography.

NB After the fact, and following a decade of attempting to reconsider my position in light of intersectional and indigenous struggles, I note that the 52 Group consisted of white men of a certain generation, with plenty of social and intellectual capital, each working in the global North. It would be interesting to critique these positions and possibilities, in light of status, privilege and power. That is not to say that the original members of the group did not do this, just that there is more to say.

ONE. No shade in Capital’s shadow.

When the 52 Group originally met to discuss the intersection of education and digital technology the world was very different. It was more hopeful for connectedness and meaningful forms of connectivity. Such forms of connectivity were rooted in the humane, and in liberal values, which naturally emerged from the dominant political economic order. This order tends to describe the relationship between technology and society (or technology and the reproduction of that society) in positivist or determinist terms. Moreover, it does not help us to reimagine society in the face of crises, precisely because technological determinism reinforces the idea that we have reached the end of history. As a result, the limits of our imagination can only be shaped by finessing our future through our capitalist present.

Yet, in the intervening decade we have witnessed: the ongoing struggle of the global economy to overcome the crash of 2007; the rise of economic populism and the reinforcement of political binaries; the imposition of austerity politics, with differential impacts for specific populations; an inability to deal with crises of the environment; and on and on. We have witnessed the ongoing separation of politics and economy, such that solutions to these ongoing ruptures cannot be imagined beyond the existing, dominant mode of production.

This dominant mode of production warps our imagination through imposition of technological solutions. Such solutions are used not for humane values, rather for the generation of surplus that can be accumulated. Surplus emerges in the form of economic value, wealth in the form of profit or money, or time that can be diverted to more work, either collectively or on the individual self. Technological solutions are central to the accumulation of surplus, and as a result they are used inside capitalist production processes to discipline labour, to drive efficiencies in the use of labour power, to create new commodities, and to generate new markets.

TWO. Techno-discipline

At the intersection of education and technology, the work of students, academics and professional services staff is disciplined through workplace and attendance monitoring, performance dashboards, and the imposition of rating and excellence systems that seek to reshape affective labour processes. The labour processes of students and academics are increasingly commodified, as pedagogic processes and content are opened out such that new infrastructure and data services can be extracted by private providers and resold into the sector. The teaching, scholarly and research activity of the University is conditioned by discourses of employability, entrepreneurship, excellence and impact, and shaped by the intersection of performance data around debt, future earnings and learning outcomes. Moreover, these intersections are enabled globally, through flows of resources from the global South to the global North, with commodity-dumping in the opposite direction.

Individual bodies are conditioned collectively against dominant norms of production, shaped by an idealised view of how education and technology are generative of productive, human capital. As a result, digital technology is folded inside an apparently never-ending terrain of competition at the level of the individual, the subject, the institution and the nation. Digitally-reinforced performance metrics impose digitally-reinforced performance management.

Moreover, in this idealised view of production, in the technology-rich university of the global North, the reproduction of enriched human capital rest upon the ongoing exploitation of other bodies. These bodies undertake estates-related activities, cleaning, porterage, cooking and purchasing/logistics, at work and in the home. These bodies exist in low-wage, sub-economies that are often precarious and lacking in labour rights, such as pensions, maternity/paternity cover, holiday and sick pay. These bodies are often marginalised along intersections of gender and race.

THREE. Ongoing techno-colonisation, exploitation and expropriation.

The only space for radical imagination appears to be in the further, ongoing colonisation of the body and the Self by digital technology, as a means of generating surpluses. This is not the 52 Group’s original conception of ‘the act of [technology’s] colonisation, or appropriation, by people into their lives.’ Rather it is Capital’s colonisation of the soul in the ongoing search for surplus. Here, there is an overlay of these terrains of competition in ongoing corporate processes of exploitation and expropriation. Such processes limit the energy and capacity that societies have for re-imagination, precisely because these become bounded by the competition between humans and machines. Again, the 52 Group argued that ‘As digital technology is culturally normalised it becomes ever more transparent’, yet whilst technology and its commodities may be built upon ideas of openness these ideas do not enable transparency. Rather they are a legal terrain for the enforcement of privatisation and commodification through intellectual property, copyright, and patents.

Human engagement with technology has always had a contested history, in which individuals or groups or States attempt to break or harness specific technologies for particular political ends. Now, such contestation is amplified at the boundary between the human and the development of 5G cellular networks, cloud native applications, artificial intelligence, nanotechnologies, convergent technologies including biotechnologies, and the Internet of things. Interactions at these boundaries then enforces human-machine intersections with digital, monopoly capitalism in the form of Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, and the rise of alternate geopolitical rivals, in particular from China. As a result, techno-colonisation of what it means to be human is amplified.

In the original, 2009 conception of the post-digital, the 52 Group wrote:

Not only is the digital subservient to the social, it is, in some ways (and soon most ways), transparent.

Over the course of a decade this statement has become a dystopian pivot for understanding more than the relationship between digital technology and the social. It becomes a pivot for understanding the convergence of the personal/the person and a range of technologies (cognitive, biological, nano), in order to subsume what it means to be human fully under the dictates of capitalist reproduction. This has been described in terms of the post-information human or the post-human, or analysed in terms of what it means to be post-human. In these descriptions, society has viewed technology through an economistic lens, reinforcing the separation of politics and economics, and denying the potential for a reintegrated political economy that radically reimagines society. As a result, social reproduction cannot be viewed beyond the lens of capital, and technology cannot be viewed beyond the lens of expanding the field of accumulation.

FOUR. Techno-humanism at the end of the end of history.

In a crucial part of the original statement, the 52 Group write:

The obsessiveness associated with digitalism seeks to see innovation as the search for meaning (or use) in the newest technology. Innovation in a postdigital era is more effectively articulated as being associated with the human condition and the aspiration toward new or enhanced connectedness with others.

Existence at the alleged end of history can only define enhanced connectedness through the dystopian subsumption of the flesh under emergent technologies like biometrics, neurotechnology, human genetic engineering and 3D bioprinting, and speculative technologies like the exocortex. The terrain of aspiration is shaped through the exploitation of the flesh and of the mind, through the augmentation enabled by technology, and the ongoing expropriation of what it means to be human. Of course, it is imperative that we recognise that these moments of exploitation and expropriation are rooted in wider, intersectional injustices.

Populations struggle to imagine futures beyond socio-economic or socio-environmental problems where these do not emerge from experts, technocrats or technologists. Human-machine or environment-machine augmentation are sold as enhancement; as logical, next transhistorical steps. This is precisely because our imagination cannot be allowed to view solutions to such problems as anything other than mechanistic and economy-driven. They are devoid of political content, in part because imagining a different history is too threatening to the established order.

Yet, this is exactly what is required – a radical, political horizon, which is reinforced through a radical, political imagination. A radical, political imagination that seeks to renegotiate the relationship between humans and technologies, grounded in the inter-disciplinary re-integration of life. So that it becomes possible to reimagine the relationship between humans and technologies at the end of the end of history. So that it becomes possible to reimagine the relationship between philosophy and the natural sciences, or between the social and natural sciences. This is a reintegration of the material modes of production with what it means to be human.

In terms of the intersection between education and technology, the focus must shift towards intellectual work, as opposed to academic labour, being recombined at the level of society to ensure that knowledge is socialised rather than privatised. Moreover, productive technologies need to be collectively controlled, such that the things that societies actually need in order to flourish, namely socially-necessary goods and services, can be produced in ways that reduce the waste of time, energy and lives. Waste, the counterpoint to surplus, emerges from the production of useless commodities.

The integration of technologies with a new political economy reduces the space and time required for the production of the things needed for self-sufficiency. It widens as base for autonomous existence. The very automation or human-machine augmentation and symbiosis that capital demands and develops in order to discipline and control labour makes possible an exodus from the society of capitalist work. This potential erupts through the radical redisposal of the surplus time that arises as an outcome of that automation, alongside the new ways in which different groups can interconnect in that surplus time. At issue is less the reality of automation at the end of history, and more the role of human dignity in rupturing the end of history.

This rupturing is the end of the end of history. The liberation of science and technology from capital’s competitive dynamics emerges as a new political horizon erupts. This is central to moving beyond capital’s digital colonisation of humans, such that it can exploit and expropriate what it means to be human and humane. Instead of the intersection of education and technology, we might speak of convergence, such that students, professional services staff and academics are able to focus upon the relationship between freedom and necessity, in order to widen the former and reduce the latter.

At the end of the end of history, can we make it possible to focus on alternative educational practices that develop socialised knowledge as a direct, social force of production? At the end of the end of history can we re-imagine ways to deny capital’s abstract, normalised monopoly over the productive resources and potential of society? In this moment, it may be that educational contexts form dynamic sites in the struggle to recuperate social productive power, where they are predicated upon the dignity of inclusive and participatory work. A starting point is recognising flows of power and privilege that are reinforced digitally, and opening out political structures for refusing techno-fuelled colonisation.


Andreotti, V. 2016. Research and pedagogical notes: The educational challenges of imagining the world differently. Canadian Journal of Development Studies 37 (1): 101-112

Berardi, F. 2017. Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility. London: Verso.

Bhambra, G., D. Gebrial, and K. Nisancioglu, eds 2018. Decolonising the University. London: Pluto Press.

Bologna, S. 2014. Workerism: An Inside View. From the Mass-Worker to Self-Employed Labour. In Beyond Marx: Theorising the Global Labour Relations of the Twenty-First Century, ed. Marcel van der Linden, and Karl Heinz Roth, 121-44. Leiden: Brill.

Bruff, I., and C.B. Tansel. 2018. Authoritarian neoliberalism: trajectories of knowledge production and praxis. Globalizations. 10.1080/14747731.2018.1502497

Connell, R. 2013. The neoliberal cascade and education: an essay on the market agenda and its consequences” Critical Studies in Education 54 (2): 99-112. 10.1080/17508487.2013.776990

Davies, W. 2017.“Elite Power under Advanced Neoliberalism. Theory, Culture & Society 34 (5-6): 227 – 50. 10.1177/0263276417715072

Davis, A. 2016. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.

De Sousa Santos, B (ed.) 2007. Cognitive Justice in a Global World: Prudent Knowledges for a Decent Life. New York, NY: Lexington Books.

Dyer-Witheford, N. 2015. Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex. London: Pluto Press.

Gorz, A. 1982. Farewell to the Working Class: An essay on Post-Industrial Socialism. London: Pluto Press.

Hall, R. 2018. The Alienated Academic: The Struggle for Autonomy Inside the University. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Haiven, M. and A. Khasnabish. 2014. The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity. London: Zed Books.

Hochschild, A.R. 1983. The Managed Heart Commercialization of Human Feeling. Berkeley, CA: University of California.

Holloway, J. 2016. In, Against and Beyond Capital: San Francisco Lectures. Oakland, CA: PM Press.

Hoofd, I. 2010. The accelerated university: Activist academic alliances and the simulation of thought. ephemera: theory and politics in organization 10 (1): 7-24.Jappe, A. 2016. The Writing on the Wall: On the Decomposition of Capitalism and Its Critics. London: Zero Books.

Lapavitsas, C. 2013. Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All. London: Verso.

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O’Dwyer, S., S. Pinto and S. McDonagh. 2017. Self-care for academics: a poetic invitation to reflect and resist. Reflective Practice 19 (2): 243-49.Pasquale, F. 2018. Tech Platforms and the Knowledge Problem. American Affairs II (2). https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2018/05/tech-platforms-and-the-knowledge-problem/.

Peters, M.A. 2018. Deep learning, education and the final stage of automation. Educational Philosophy and Theory 50(6-7): 549–53.

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Steinþórsdóttir, F.S., T.M. Heijstra and Þ.J. Einarsdóttir. 2017. The making of the ‘excellent’ university: A drawback for gender equality. ephemera: theory and politics in organization 17 (3): 557-82.

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Tuhiwai Smith, L., E. Tuck, and K.W. Yang eds 2018. Indigenous and Decolonizing Studies in Education: Mapping the Long View. London: Routledge.

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Conference call: Radical Pedagogies: Macpherson 20 years on

Radical Pedagogies: Macpherson 20 years on

Thursday 19th September 2019

De Montfort University, Leicester


Call for papers

In November 2018 the University of Kent hosted the first event organised by Radical Pedagogies: The Humanities Teaching Network in Higher Education. This group was established as “a forum for Lecturers, Educators, Administrators and students to share resources and discuss innovative pedagogy and praxis.”

It is with great pleasure that De Montfort University (DMU) will be hosting the second Radical Pedagogies event in conjunction with the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre and the Freedom to Achieve project at DMU. The main focus of the event will be on how radical pedagogies can be used to highlight and address issues relating to race and institutional discrimination. This event is not constrained by subject area, discipline or geographical location and is not just open to academics. We hope that researchers, PhD students, learning technologists, library professionals, academics, teachers, parents, students, educational activists and anyone interested in radical pedagogies, both within the UK and internationally, will consider contributing to and attending the event.

We are therefore looking for proposals for papers and interactive sessions (the more interactive the better!) or more innovative and radical session proposals for this one-day event.

On the 20th anniversary of the publication of Macpherson Report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, we are reminded that Macpherson made reference to organisations and areas beyond merely the police force when he was referring to the problem of institutional racism.  Paragraphs 6.54 and 45 state that:

6.54 Racism, institutional or otherwise, is not the prerogative of the Police Service. It is clear that other agencies including for example those dealing with housing and education also suffer from the disease. If racism is to be eradicated there must be specific and co-ordinated action both within the agencies themselves and by society at large, particularly through the educational system, from pre-primary school upwards and onwards.

45.15 There was a weight of opinion and concern in relation to two specific aspects of education. First the failure of the National Curriculum to reflect adequately the needs of a diverse multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. Secondly the number of exclusions from schools which were apparently disproportionate to the ethnic mix of the pupils.

What followed were recommendations 67 and 68:

67. That consideration be given to amendment of the National Curriculum aimed at valuing cultural diversity and preventing racism, in order better to reflect the needs of a diverse society.

That Local Education Authorities and school Governors have the duty to create and implement strategies in their schools to prevent and address racism. Such strategies to include: that schools record all racist incidents; that all recorded incidents are reported to the pupils’ parents/guardians, school Governors and LEAs; that the numbers of racist incidents are published annually, on a school by school basis; and that the numbers and self-defined ethnic identity of “excluded” pupils are published annually on a school by school basis.

This event is an opportunity to explore and discuss issues such as (although not exclusively):

  • how far recommendations 67 and 68 have been implemented and had an impact, not just in schools, but across the education sector;
  • whether a focus on the curriculum goes far enough in addressing institutional racism in education;
  • has the focus on working class white boys shifted the attention/discourse away from institutional racism in education?
  • what needs to be done to close the attainment gap?

We therefore welcome proposals for sessions which address some of the above broad themes. Other indicative areas are:

  • Anti-oppressive teaching practices;
  • Punk pedagogy;
  • The role of the marketisation of Higher Education on radical pedagogies;
  • Critical Race Theory, intersectionality and pedagogy;
  • The role of radical pedagogies in reducing attainment gaps;
  • Institutional discrimination and radical pedagogy;
  • Student experiences in the classroom; and
  • The role of parents/carers as educational activists.

The aim of this event is to encourage participants to push the boundaries of current educational and pedagogic practices.

Please submit a 500-word abstract, or a 2-minute video clip by the 19th June 2019 to RadicalDMU@dmu.ac.uk

This event is a free, one-day, event.  Travel bursaries are available. Please contact us for further details.

Radical Pedagogies Call for papers

De Montfort University PhD scholarships

De Montfort University has launched its latest round of competitive PhD scholarships, for full scholarships (UK and EU only, with a stipend of £15,009 per annum) and fee waiver scholarships (including overseas). More details on how to submit applications and what to include in the final submission are available here: https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/BQL657/de-montfort-university-phd-scholarships.

If you are interested in making an application in relation to education (in all sectors), please let me know via rhall1@dmu.ac.uk In particular, we have expertise in relation to the following, although other areas of education-related research are possible.

  • Educational transitions
  • Intersectional experiences of schooling
  • Educational psychology and the student experience
  • School refusal
  • The impact of disability
  • The impacts of neoliberal education policy, across sectors
  • The relationship of policy to pedagogy and practice, across sectors
  • Academic labour and the political economy of higher education
  • Alternative and co-operative higher education
  • Critical race theory and higher education
  • Intersectionality and higher education
  • Prison education
  • Music education and the professional development of music educators
  • Forest schools and environmental education
  • Schooling and spacial theory
  • Translational education and the impact of research and practice

Your work would be based in our new Institute for Criminology, Education and Social Justice (ICESJ). Broadly, we welcome applications from students capable of developing innovative, interdisciplinary and internationally-relevant social science research in fields related to criminology, education, community and social justice, including (but not limited to) policing, probation, prisons, education (in all sectors), youth work and social work. We further encourage applicants interested in collaborative projects across research centres.

Applicants interested in working with us on an education-based PhD should, in the first instance, submit a research proposal of around 500 words, outlining the proposed project. This should include:

  • an overview and research questions;
  • an explanation of the theoretical positioning of the project;
  • the proposed research methodology and methods;
  • links to one or more research areas noted above, alongside one or more of the 17 United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The proposal should be submitted, with a CV, to me (rhall1@dmu.ac.uk), to identify support and supervision for the project.

Once approved by a potential supervisor, the student must submit final scholarship applications to pgrscholarships@dmu.ac.uk by Tuesday 26 March 2019.

Slides for Bath Spa Presentation: The Alienated Academic

On Wednesday I’m presenting at Bath Spa in an open discussion of my book, The Alienated Academic.

The slides are appended below.

NOTE: I will only speak for 20 minutes but wanted to present a full slide-deck.

On authoritarian neoliberalism and poetic epistemology

Well, this is very exciting, and I have an article accepted for publication in Social Epistemology: a Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy that picks up on some work I have been doing previously on authoritarian neoliberalism (see presentations and notes from a BERA Special Interest Group symposium here and here). The article also attempts to maintain some momentum around academic labour, academic practice, knowledge formation and the critical terrain of decolonisation. In this, I explicitly connect to Audre Lorde’s work on life as a poetic existence.

The article should be out in the Spring.


As one response to the secular crisis of capitalism, higher education is being proletarianised. Its academics and students, increasingly encumbered by precarious employment, debt, and new levels of performance management, are shorn of autonomy beyond the sale of their labour-power. One heuristic for analysing this response is authoritarian neoliberalism, imposed as a means of enacting disciplinary practices in the name of the market with an anti-democratic rationale. This has a distinctly technocratic focus, rooted in techniques of performativity, including audits and assessments of teaching, research and scholarship, grounded in productivity, the management of time and value-creation. However, there are a range of intersectional and geographical responses to such an imposition, through which it is possible to describe alternatives to these architectures of subsumption. In particular, a second heuristic emerges which challenges the restructuring of the University in the global North, erupting from struggles for decolonisation. Here, Audre Lorde’s invocation to an integrated, poetic existence that situates bodies in places, and respects feelings and emotions as the site of epistemological development and understanding, underpins the possibility for dismantling hegemonic knowledge production. The article examines whether humanist narratives of solidarity, in particular from marginalised voices, might help academics and students to analyse their alienated labour and to imagine that another world is possible.

Keywords: academic labour, authoritarian neoliberalism, decolonisation, poetic epistemology.

The references for the article are listed at the end of this blogpost.

alienated academic book review

Over at the new PostDigital Science and Education journal Joss Winn has a review of my monograph, The Alienated Academic: The Struggle for Autonomy Inside the University. Joss plays around with the review style, in order to highlight some of the alienating realities of academic (over)work and time. He makes several important points about the book that resonate for me as follows.

  • Categorical critique: “Where Hall’s book differs from much of the literature on the marketisation of higher education and threats to professional identity, is his thoroughgoing, relentless attempt to explain what is happening at a categorical level that cuts through (i.e. intersects) the differences in professional experience in order to find what is common among us.”
  • The hopelessness of labour: “The alienation that Hall identifies at work goes beyond estrangement and hopelessness and is rooted, he argues, in the critical category of labour. In fact, to see the problem as marketisation, metrics or managerialism is to mistake the manifestation for the cause of our problems. Such an approach tends towards an unreflexive resistance to our own objective conditions and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. That helplessness breeds hopelessness, a recurring theme throughout Hall’s book. What is required (and this is key to the whole book) is a categorical critique of academic labour; one which perceives labour in the university through the basic critical categories of wage labour.”
  • A productive synthesis: “The Alienated Academic is structured in three parts over nine densely written and heavily referenced chapters. It covers a lot of ground in 270 pages, drawing widely from contemporary Marxist theory as well as an extensive engagement with Marx’s original work. It provides a useful survey of the concept of alienation and argues for the continuing and contemporary relevance of Marxist theory and its basic categories of labour, value, the commodity, subsumption and so on. What is likely to make this sometimes difficult book both intriguing and more broadly appealing is that Hall extends his contemporary Marxism with the literature of feminism, (de)colonialism, identity politics and intersectionality. It is a productive synthesis that is set in the context of contemporary changes in English higher education, while recognising that the alienating features of English university life can be found across the world. For these reasons, this is a unique and ground-breaking monograph in the field of critical university studies.”

I think that it is only right to thank Joss for this very kind review, and to accept that it is densely written and heavily referenced, drawing upon a range of theoretical positions. A friend who has engaged with the book questioned whether it was to0 theoretical, although in the acknowledgements I do point to a range of primers and readers about Marxist theory, and the book is part of a Marxism and Education series. One of the reviewers also argued that it was perhaps over-referenced, whilst another wondered whether my voice got lost in my citation of others.

What interested me in the process of writing was my attempt to understand my own work and academic practice. I could not do this without accepting and drawing upon a range of positions. This is why the literature on feminism, critical race theory, identity politics and intersectionality were so important. It is nice to read that this is received by some as a productive synthesis when I feel that I am simply trying to find my way by listening to a range of alternative positions, and in so doing hopefully enabling others to do likewise. However, in order to find my way I had to read a lot of things, and it feels only right to cite those authors who shape my own position.

One of the critical issues for me now is to think through how a categorical critique of academic experience, practice and work, rooted in the estrangement of the person employed as an academic or fractured as an academic, from her academic self, her academic identity, her academic community, and her academic products, can enable us to overcome the hopelessness of labour. How can sitting with and processing a hopeless position enable us to develop useful alternatives? How can accepting the hopeless university enable us to reimagine and reignite our humanity in the name of another world?

I’ll be speaking about the book at Bath Spa on 23rd January, and also at a University of Sheffield Ed.D. residential on 15th February.