Over at Pedagogy, Culture & Society there is a book review of The Alienated Academic: The Struggle for Autonomy Inside the University, written by Enja Helmes. This is an extended essay titled Within the academy: alienated in more ways than one. Enja’s review complements that of Joss Winn in Postdigital Science and Education.
There is a new podcast episode available (episode 10: in which we discuss hope, purity and entanglement, whilst eating brownies), with my dear friend, Sarah Amsler from the School of Education at the University of Nottingham.
There is a new podcast episode available (episode 9: in which I blather on about Christmas markets, bourgeois ideology and the protest of creativity).
Something has kicked-in, and I have decided to start speaking again. So, there is a new podcast episode available (episode 8 on hopeless professors and abject universities). The plan is that this kick-starts a few conversations with compadres about the liberal idea of hope and its intersection with higher education, in order to critique the hell out of that position ahead of writing The Hopeless University.
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 email@example.com 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), to identify support and supervision for the project.
Once approved by a potential supervisor, the student must submit final scholarship applications to email@example.com by Tuesday 26 March 2019.
There will be an edited version of the book launch uploaded as a podcast towards the end of this week, hopefully. Or maybe early next. Actually, probably early next.
Over on the podcast channel, there’s a new podcast. It features some lovely music, which is licensed under Creative Commons as attribution, share alike, non-commercial. The tracks are as follows.
The podcast opens with: Tha Silent Partner, Roses (Intro), from the album Platters, Act 7: Tha Anniversary Plate. This is available on free music archive. Tha Silent Partner, Gregory Davis has a Tumblr that you should check out.
The podcast closes with: Rae Elbow and the Magic Beans, there is no…? from the album the human species. This is available on SoundCloud.
In this podcast I blather on about the interrelationship between UN Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education, and the recent IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C. It’s a fun listen for a Friday afternoon, although it is a little too long at 33 minutes (with six minutes of music), and features me saying the words “interesting” and “important” far too often, and forgetting to pronounce the letter “t”.
There are also shout outs to Sarah Amsler, Sara Ahmed, Audre Lorde, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Warren Pearce, and Rob Weale.
A few people have contacted me about the cost of my book with Palgrave, the alienated academic. I raised this with the publishers who replied:
I would advise that your colleagues check if they have access to the book via Springer Link through their institution as this will allow them to download it for free. We are now also able to offer the book as part of the Springer My Copy service. This means that the book is available as a paperback immediately after publication to those whose institutions have access to the book via SpringerLink. This edition is priced at £24.99 and further information is available here.
On Sunday I had the deep privilege of attending the funeral of Joyce Canaan. This was a service of celebration led by Joyce’s family who were held in the embrace of her friends as they carried her body to rest in the earth, whilst her heart, soul, dignity, courage, faith, perseverance, care and love are carried through us into new spaces and times. I have never been to a more beautiful and dignified funeral; one which celebrates the individual in the collective; one which enables a fuller and deeper engagement with the lifelong process of mourning; one which reminds us of the pain we are collectively able to bear, and the love we are collectively able to share.
I first met Joyce in 2013 at a critical pedagogy conference that she was keynoting in Edinburgh. For some time I had been reading her work at the intersection of neoliberal higher education, critical pedagogy, protest, developing alternatives and critical hope. At this conference I was speaking about the relationship between technology and the proletarianisation of academic labour, alongside our options for resistance. Her questions to me were also an invitation to conversation – what might we do to move beyond the current state of things? Is another world possible? It was only later that I realised we had been on the same marches and had tried to avoid the same kettles, and that she, like I, was probably ‘a thug’ in the eyes of the establishment.
Her questions formed an opening far removed from others who have asked me subsequently to describe this new world I wish to see, as if we already have the answer. Joyce refused to occupy this fatalistic position and instead saw that we must be indignant about and refuse injustice, and in the moment of refusal, we must also prefigure and then ask questions about how we reproduce our world. In my own thinking and practice, Joyce’s invocation to think prefiguratively has been transformative, and rooted in years of struggle against the same white, male, heterosexual, ableist voices that have brought us to the brink. Joyce helped to open my heart to the violence of silencing, and in the process to the range of voices and experiences that empower our collective search for alternatives.
Joyce amplified my engagement with alternatives from the margins, howsoever these are described, through a rich description, analysis and connection with narratives of dispossession, rooted in the material of our individual and collective identities. As she fell ill, I had the great pleasure of being able to help her prepare her chapter for our edited collection on mass intellectuality and democratising higher education. She was writing about the educational experiences of the Brazilian landless movement, from her first-hand engagement. She was writing about the problems of interpretation and meaning between the marginalised (in this case in the global South) and those with power (those seeking to reinvent life experienced from the global North). She was writing about new forms of critical engagement between people and their material existence, in order to generate knowledge that could challenge and abolish power.
It was a joy to be able to help her finish this chapter, and to be acknowledged in its notes. It was only later that I made the humane connection between our engagement on this writing and why I felt drawn to visiting Joyce as her cancer took hold of her body. It was in several visits to her home and her time in the hospice that I realised what a gift our relationship was to me. This may have developed had she not been ill, or had we met earlier. However, I am not left with the regret of this as a missed opportunity because of the visceral sense of solidarity and justice that flowed between us. This was the sense of being held in a relationship and of being heard. She told me that whilst we had not known each other very long she felt that she knew me; for me this is rooted in the dignity of listening, and the empathy and compassion that emerges where there are tendrils of separate existences that share certain characteristics. It had solidarity at its core. Those visits to see Joyce felt like seminars, as we discussed the crisis of higher education, the alienation of academic labour, and the spaces for critical hope. They felt like moments of breaking bread with a friend, as we discussed family, love and life.
Even whilst she was in the hospice, Joyce was fighting to understand the opportunities for a cooperative existence, which were only ever amplified for me in witnessing the number of people who wanted to sit with her and her family at this time. The last time I saw her in the hospice, she spent the first hour sleep as I tried to understand what it means for us to sit with each other at every stage of our lives; for us to understand our mortality. After she awoke, we spent two hours together and I cannot remember for the life of me what we discussed. What we discussed is irrelevant – the only thing that matters was the relationship, and the connections through that relationship that continue to sustain me. The other relationships, which in-part through Joyce, continue to sustain me. As I reached the door of the ward at the hospice something in my soul overtook me and it became very important to turn and tell her “I love you”.
Over the months that I came to understand Joyce a little more fully, I came to see a cussed, argumentative, wilful, courageous, faithful, anti-fascist seeker of justice, who was so devoted to her family and friends. She struck me as someone who was full of humane contradiction; a woman who reminded me how flawed we all are, and how beautifully human that very fact is. Always challenging in her indignation, she was also a reminder of the possibility for dignity.
This interrelationship between indignation and dignity, played out across society and with those closest to us, never simply emerges from a single life, rather it flows between lives as moments of love and solidarity. Joyce’s funeral demonstrated this fact. The humanist celebration of her life, led by her family, was an absolute joy to attend. A celebration in word and with song; a celebration of memory and adversity and hope; a celebration of cartoons in Chicago; a celebration of “fuck Banner Theatre”; a celebration of climbing hills; a celebration of demonstrations and protests; a celebration of being a partner, an out-law, a grandmother, a friend.
It felt so important that her natural burial was undertaken by those who loved her. That we could each take turns in laying her to rest. The sound of the Earth hitting her coffin as her family and friends sang and shovelled was heartbreaking just as it was energising. The ownership that we took of her body, and the deeply spiritual nature of the moment, mirrored the deep interconnection that her life had with so many others. It was a beautiful moment of dignity, respect, justice and peace. I cannot imagine holding and caring for someone you love in any other way. I cannot imagine being more in touch with one’s own soul, whilst holding those of others, as we collectively suture our broken hearts in the act of both burying and releasing our love. I thank her family for this – the demonstration of their strength, perseverance, love and care was natural and normal and every day. To witness this, and to be accepted as a part of it, was such a gift.
It feels important to me to write this not only to honour Joyce and our relationship. It feels important to write this because her work and her practice brought me to share a very spiritual place with several people who have also been inspirational in my own life and work. Mike, Sarah, Gordon, Joel, Elio and Alpesh have each and collectively been with me in the struggle for a better world, and in prefiguring more humane ways to engage in education. It was a privilege to share Sunday with them, and to be reminded of our shared humanity.
On Monday I found out that my monograph on academic alienation had been published. I like to think that Joyce would have wanted to read it, and to challenge me about my own position and preconceptions, and to call me out about my interpretation of power and privilege and what to do about it. And I would have told her to fuck off because I don’t know. And then we would have discussed it. I know that she would have done this from a position of care, faith and love, and so would I. Because relationships are complicated, but there is always critical hope.
In reflecting on the intersections in time of Joyce’s funeral and the publication of my book (happenstance, I know), I have been forced to consider my own sense of self and self-identity. My friend Michael asked me whether I was pleased with my book, and wanted to use it to help change the world. I rather scornfully said that the book was written for me, so that I could be heard, and that I didn’t care if it was read because the world is fucked and what could I do? I’ve been talking about this stuff for years, protesting for years, doing voluntary work for years, and the world is still borked. Moreover, after a decade in therapy I am tired of fighting. So all I can do is be a good man on an everyday level, and mourn the fact that my writing won’t change anything because collectively we lack the will.
But this isn’t the case, and I apologise to my friend who pointed to the light, although I couldn’t see this until Sunday. I have been forced to consider how I accept myself in the world and how I am connected to others. I have been forced to consider whether this is a closing of sorts – of old and unhelpful ways of thinking about myself rooted in an unkind past – a past in which I was unkind to myself. I have been forced to consider whether this is an opening of sorts – of recovering what I want to keep about myself, and reflecting on the kind of person I want to be, flaws and all. I have been forced to consider how we might believe that another world is possible, and to prefigure it.
Perhaps this is what the commune of the living and the dead teaches us.
Postscript: my friend Gordon noted that I always have a soundtrack for things, and he is right.
There is a collaborative Spotify playist here.
My initial soundtrack for all of this is as follows.
King Creosote: Bats in the Attic
Sufjan Stevens: There is No Shade in the Shadow of The Cross
LUMP: Late to the Flight
Mogwai: Ratts of the Capital
Bon Iver: 33 “God”
Bon Iver: Calgary
Bon Iver: re:stacks
Jon Hopkins: Everything Connected
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds: Jubilee Street
Let’s Eat Grandma: Falling Into Me
Everything Everything: Ivory Tower
Floating Points: Peroration Six
The Future Sound of London: Plazmatical
Underworld: Two Months Off
James Blake: I Need a Forest Fire
Massive Attack: Unfinished Sympathy
PJ Harvey: The Whores Hustle and The Hustlers Whore
Pulp: I love life
Queens of the Stone Age: … Like Clockwork
Sharon Van Etten: Afraid of Nothing
Alison Kraus: Down to the River to Pray
A recording of my jibber-jabber will be made available at some point via the conference website. However, there is a recording of a similar presentation at Greenwich from last November here.
I have posted some key links and resources that help me analyse or deconstruct or dismantle my approach to the curriculum below. Herewith I have posted some of the fundamental points that I was trying to explore during my talk.
ONE. As Sara Ahmed notes (following Angela Davis) in Living a Feminist Life, acknowledging those who have helped to carry the fire of your argument is important. Whilst I begin from an attempt to understand the reproduction of the world through the application of absolute negativity, or negative dialectics, my focus on rebuilding my understanding as something more productive demands an engagement with the narratives, stories and analyses of those who have been made marginalised. It is impossible for me to believe that those voices which led us into multiple crises of sociability, or social reproduction, are those we should listen to for solutions. They all must go.
TWO. One outcome of this is an attempted dialogue with those who would decolonise or dismantle the alienating contexts in which we are forced to work.
THREE. One such alienating context is the University, which is increasingly toxic. In order to hold on to what I need, I attempt to remember (and sometimes it is very difficult) the words of bell hooks describing learning as a process, rooted in the shared intellectual and spiritual growth of students and teachers, which emerges from conditions of care. Thinking about this in relation to Sara Ahmed’s description of what it means to live a feminist life gives us a starting point for discussing a more humane approach to the curriculum, which is the site of our critical engagement with each other. Ahmed’s description acts as a heuristic, enabling us to test our assumptions about ideals, norms, justice, legitimacy, marginalisation, mobility and so on inside our curricula.
FOUR. I ask whether it is possible for us to go into occupation of a curriculum that has been repurposed as a thing, reinforced by data and underscored by money? Is it possible for us to reclaim the curriculum as a process of becoming and of being, against a hegemonic view of the curriculum as a positional good both for students and institutions? Can we think about the ongoing process of creating social wealth through the curriculum, rather than reducing it to exchange-value and individual positionality?
FIVE. This is such a difficult thing to do, in the face of a policy narrative that shapes higher education for human capital; in the face of a policy narrative that increasingly proletarianises and diminishes academic labour; in the face of the policy narrative that forces us to internalise performativity, at the individual, subject and institutional-level; in the face of policy narrative that demands anxiety as a motive energy. Here we might reflect on our own cognitive dissonance as we are forced to internalise a particular subjectivity or mode of attention in our relationship to power. We might also reflect on the risks it takes to be wilful, or wilfully dissident.
SIX. The consultation for the Office for Students hints at the joy of learning for its own sake, and the public value of higher education. However, this is quickly subsumed under: the imperative to subsume higher education under the dictates of competition in the market; the imperative to justify this subsumption in terms of value-for-money and consumer protection; the need to commodify the processes of higher education, including the curriculum and staff/student relationships, so that better performance data is available for that market; the belief that it is only through competition that curriculum enhancement can be achieved; and, the reduction of trust-based classroom relationships to risk management, rather than acts of care.
SEVEN. I remember that Engels railed against competition because it separated us and set us against each other; that it forces us to deny the existence or subjectivity of others; that it forces us to objectify others; that it is used as a means of control and to impose more work; and our way out of this living death is cooperative and by authentic association with each other.
EIGHT. I am interested in the curriculum as a process of being and becoming. I am interested in how we engage with this process to reveal the layers of alienation that exist inside the University, in order to reveal those layers beyond. This includes recognising issues of ill-being, precarity and depression, and seeing their relationships to performance management and governance, rooted in the need to drive money and surplus as an apparent form of social wealth. However, it is important to analyse these in terms of separation: of student from staff; of student from content; of student from the start and end points of the curriculum; of the student’s life experience from her experience in the classroom; of staff from the ownership of the means of producing the curriculum; and so on. It is important to analyse these in terms of who governs and controls the labour-power inside the classroom. Our experience inside the classroom is mediated for us. We do not mediate our own experience with each other or with the world.
NINE. We have a lot to be pissed off about. I am indignant. I am searching for dignity. If you are not pissed off, then you are not paying attention.
TEN. We might then use our indignation to analyse a commodified curriculum that is stripped back to reveal flows of alienation at the intersections of: self/subject and other/object reflected in it; gender, race, (dis)ability, class reproduced through it; adaptations to socio-environmental crises ignored in it; disciplinary separations demanded by it. The curriculum as a process of being unbecoming that is an ongoing form of social wealth and a process of struggle over our social reproduction. We might ask, what is to be done?
ELEVEN. One moment of dialogue for developing an analysis is an engagement with ideas around dismantling or decolonising the curriculum, starting from an anti-oppressive position grounded in the experiences of those students and staff who have been othered. This enables us to reveal: underlying logics of truth or legitimacy in relation to curriculum design, delivery and assessment; ongoing colonisation in terms of the commodity dumping of open education resources into the global South and the extraction of human capital from those spaces into the global North; the possibilities that are implicit in a curriculum that is opened-out to a range of contributions and a range of starting points, and which is rooted in voice.
TWELVE. This is incredibly hard work, and demands the care for our collective intellectual and spiritual growth, of which bell hooks spoke. It demands that we consider our positions in relation to courage, fidelity, restraint, generosity, tolerance, and forgiveness. These are not unconditional, and they forces to confront issues of whiteness ¦ lack of support ¦ indirect racism ¦ permanence of race ¦ Eurocentric curriculum ¦ false/double consciousness ¦ exceptionalism.
THIRTEEN. Is it possible to develop the wealth of our real connections through the curriculum, and thereby to liberate ourselves? What does this mean for the ways in which we produce and consume the world? Pace Marx, the curriculum can only form a starting point for this where we enable individuals to create their own social interconnections, in order to gain mastery over them, and to develop their conscious knowing, their being and becoming. An alienating, reified or fetishised curriculum ruled by money does not enable the individual to become herself, or to know herself truly in the world beyond her value in a competitive market. It simply objectifies.
FOURTEEN. Such a moment of becoming then enables us to work against the ways in which our experiences are mediated by the market, the division of labour, commodity-exchange, in order to recognise how our collective, social skills, capabilities and knowledge have been stolen from us and sold back to us as knowledge transfer, impact, start-up activity, entrepreneurship and so on. It might then be possible for us to recognise our mass intellectuality, or our common ability to do. Without such recognition, we will only ever outsource the possibility of solutions to crises to the bureaucrats or scientists or technologists. We will not see that the solution lies inside ourselves.
FIFTEEN. We have so many examples of resistance and struggle and indignation, and of collective being and becoming, which emerge from inside and outside of the University. At issue are the ways in which we remove the false binary between inside and outside, in order to dismantle the University or to dissolve the institution into the fabric of society. At issue are the ways in which we use critical pedagogy to abolish the University, so that praxis, knowledge production, useful knowledge emerge at the level of society, rather than inside a fetishised institution.
SIXTEEN. How can we be wilfully engaged? How can we use the classroom as a weapon for wilful engagement, rooted in love? How do we become inter-generationally ungovernable?
SEVENTEEN. Do not fetishise the University. Do not fetishise the curriculum.
Ian Clark has been maintaining useful notes on the conference here.
Ahmed, S. (2017). Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke University Press.
Ahmed, S.(2012). On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham: Duke University Press.
Ciccariello-Maher, G. 2017. Decolonizing Dialectics. Durham: Duke University Press.
Davis, A.Y. (2016). Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement. London: Haymarket Books.
Dinerstein, A (2015). The Politics of Autonomy in Latin America: The Art of Organising Hope. London: Palgrave Macmillan
Dismantling the Master’s House (2015). Dismantling the Master’s House, Available at: http://www.dtmh.ucl.ac.uk/
Hall, R. (2017). The rise of academic ill-health. http://www.richard-hall.org/2017/09/06/the-rise-of-academic-ill-health/
Hall, R., and Smyth, K. (2016). Dismantling the Curriculum in Higher Education. Open Library of the Humanities. 2(1), p.e11. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/olh.66
Hall, R., and Bowles, K. (2016). Re-engineering higher education: the subsumption of academic labour and the exploitation of anxiety. Workplace: A Journal of Academic Labour, 28, 30-47. http://hdl.handle.net/2086/12709
Hall, R. (2014). On the abolition of academic labour: the relationship between intellectual workers and mass intellectuality. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, 12 (2), 822-37. http://hdl.handle.net/2086/10816
hooks, bell . (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. London: Routledge
Lorde, A. (1988). A Burst of Light: Essays. Ithaca, NY: Firebrand.
McGettigan, A (2014). Financialising the University. Arena Magazine, Available at: http://arena.org.au/financialising-the-university/
McGettigan, A (2015). The Treasury View of HE: Variable Human Capital Investment. Political Economy Research Centre. Papers Series 6. Available at: http://bit.ly/2mkH7sK
Mirza, H. (2015). Decolonising Higher Education: Black Feminism and the Intersectionality of Race and Gender, Journal of Feminist Scholarship, 7-8: 1-12.
Neary, M. (2017). A pedagogy of hate. Policy Futures in Education, 15 (5). pp. 555-563. Available at: http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/26793/
Neary, M (2011).Student as Producer: A Pedagogy for the Avant-Garde; Or, How Do Revolutionary Teachers Teach? Learning Exchange 1(1) Available at: http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/4186/
Rhodes Must Fall (n.d.). Rhodes Must Fall. Available at: http://rhodesmustfall.co.za/
The Social Science Centre (n.d.). Available at: http://socialsciencecentre.org.uk/
Taylor, K-Y. (2016). From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. London: Haymarket Books
The University of Utopia (n.d.). Anti-Curricula: A Course of Action, Available at: http://www.universityofutopia.org/sharing
‘Why is my Curriculum White?’ collective (2015). 8 Reasons the Curriculum is White, Available at: http://wire.novaramedia.com/2015/03/8-reasons-the-curriculum-is-white/
Winn, J (2015). Academic Labour and the Capitalist University: A Critique of HE Through the Law of Value, PhD thesis. University of Lincoln. Available at: http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/17330/