CfP: GOVERNING ACADEMIC LIFE Conference at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the British Library

Deadline March 15, 2014. Visit the event's website for more information.

The impetus for this event is the set of changes currently sweeping across UK higher education, which include cuts in direct public funding, new financing arrangements that are calculated to bring private equity into the sector and foster competition between providers, the likely emergence of new corporate structures for HEI’s which will open the sector to commercial providers, the separation of elite from mass higher education and the globalization of ‘trade’ in HE services; but also (and relatedly) the continuing development of instruments for rendering student-teacher interactions visible and comparable, and for calculating and governing the impact, influence and value of academic research.

Governmentality research is featuring strongly in the debates around some of this. Yet though largely ‘diagnostic’ in nature, it is increasingly being enlisted as groundwork for the radical critiques and alternatives offered by autonomist Marxist theorists of cognitive capitalism and immaterial labour. Meanwhile, critical theorists who idealise a public sphere of rational-critical debate (with ‘the idea of the university’ at its heart) are struggling to re-define what makes the university (a) public and to re-think the terms of its engagement with the wider economy and society in less radical ways – often without problematising the forms of (Foucaultian) government, or of complicity with capitalism’s logic of accumulation, that are necessarily involved with these reconstructions.  This conference aims to bring together leading contemporary scholars and activists who draw on one or more of these traditions for a series of mutually challenging discussions.

In general, the conference will be oriented by the concern to think critically about the conditions of possibility of the academy today – where ‘conditions of possibility’ could mean governmental assemblages of one kind or another, capitalist production relations, the forces defining how different capitals (economic, social, cultural, symbolic) register within the academic field, or quasi-transcendental presuppositions of communication. Participants will ideally aim to explore how we might think across these usually distinct ways of both conceiving what the university is and contesting what it has become.

Specific foci of debate may include:

  • The idea of the university: ruined or redeemable? Social criticism in the age of the normalized academic

  • Beyond public v. private? Dimensions of corporatisation

  • The role(s) of (contract, competition, corporate, financial, intellectual property) law in constructing the market university

  • The government of academic freedom: constituting competition as a way of life

  • Markets, measurement and managerialism: rankings and ratings, rights and royalties, accounting and audit, metrics … and alt.metrics?

  • Academic career-ism and casualization; discipline and de-professionalisation

  • The conditions for the persistence in the university sector of relations of domination organised in particular around gender and ethnicity

  • Critical political economy and varieties of communicative capitalism

  • Entrepreneurial universities and enterprising academic subjects: personal branding as ‘technology of the self’?

  • What is an author, now? The future of academic authorship and the academic book

  • The potentials and pitfalls of ‘openness’ and ‘commons-ism’ in scholarly communication

  • The ‘technicity’ of academic forms of life: the potentials and pathologies of living with/in digitised work environments

  • The student as consumer – or as producer?

  • The rise of para-academic ‘outstitutions’ beyond the university’s (pay)walls

  • Other strategies for resisting the neoliberal academy

  • Envisioning and enacting alternative futures for the university 

Additional ideas for panels and themes are welcome.


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