Between the discourse of ‘resilience’ and death by committee – Reclaiming collective spaces for academic resistance

A BSA Early Career Forum Event

22 February 2018
Newcastle University, UK - PROGRAMME

We invite early-career academics, mid-career researchers and teachers, postgraduate students, and academic activists from across UK for a day of discussions and zine-making on strategies for collective academic resistance.

The motivation for this generative one-day workshop comes from an observation of two parallel phenomena. The first is the explosion in critiques of the neoliberal university, which are accompanied by a comparative dearth of sustained resistance or structural change from within the institution. The second is the proliferation of discourses around ‘resilience’, a concept that valorises exemplars who ‘beat the odds’, without acknowledging the structural inequalities that sustain the status quo. These discourses are mirrored in academia, observable for example in a ‘self-help’ industry targeted at early career academics.

The BSA Early Career Forum event Between the discourse of ‘resilience’ and death by committee – Reclaiming collective spaces for academic resistance is premised on the idea that there are everyday collective spaces to be carved out or reclaimed, located between the individual and the institution. The event seeks to springboard from identifying the conditions of neoliberal academia into a consideration of the resources and approaches we collectively possess on hand to effect change.

Drawing on examples of recent resistance, such as Newcastle University’s successful pushback against an outcomes-based performance management programme (Morrish and The Analogue University Writing Collective, 2017), Aberdeen University’s Reclaiming our University campaign (2017), workplace solidarity at SOAS (Unison, 2017) and alternative modes of publishing (e.g. SocArXiv Open Archive of the Social Sciences), we aim to radically imagine what academics can creatively, practically or ordinarily do together to enact collective and intersectional resistance, revitalise collegial governance mechanisms, and effect structural changes from the ground up.

We anticipate a collaborative workbook/zine of actions and tools arising out the day’s thinking and making, co-authored by all event participants. This workbook, which will be made publically accessible, will provide imaginative strategies to confront dominant discourses on academic employability and careers, and birth alternative means to engage with work.

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