Welcome to Academography!

There’s more and more great ethnography of higher education, but so much of it is hard to find.

The point of this project is to bring this set of work together. We think that both newcomers and established researchers could use help keeping track of everything that’s happening in the field.

It’s an extremely diverse set of research. It comes from people in all sorts of fields, from many different continents, from many different political perspectives, from different institutional positions. It overlaps with what’s lately been called “Critical University Studies,” but also includes work in science education, policy studies, critical sociology, educational anthropology, higher ed research, anthropology of knowledge, history and sociology of science, laboratory studies, reflexive cultural studies, and no doubt others.

The project is sponsored by the Committee on Postsecondary Education at the Council on Anthropology of Education, but anyone is free to get involved. We’d love to hear from anyone working in the field or just starting out. Especially let us know when you come across new research we should write about.

We can be reached at academography@gmail.com. You might also want to sign up to be notified when we publish new content.

Goodman, “Acts of Negotiation”

I’ve been interested lately in a stream of new work coming out on language politics in global higher education. Yesterday I came across a new paper on English language instruction in Ukraine: Bridget Goodman’s “Acts of Negotiation: Governmentality and Medium of Instruction in an Eastern Ukrainian University,” just published in Anthropology & Education Quarterly. It’s a fine-grained ethnographic analysis of what’s at stake in teaching in multilingual situations.

Continue reading Goodman, “Acts of Negotiation”

On campus ethnography: the Columbia “Sex Study”

Today’s Chronicle of Higher Education had an unusually detailed article on the Columbia self study of student sexual behavior.  For those with access to the Chronicle, see https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Sex-Study-That-Could-Alter/242484.  Various attempts to attach this here as a pdf failed. Sorry.

Aside from the politics of research which are fraught, the study is interesting both in content and also for the contrast and comments made by Elizabeth Armstrong, whose work I greatly admire.  After reading this and thinking for a moment, I am amazed that anyone is surprised at what is happening. We herd together 18-21 year olds without parental supervision and with some spending money in intimate environment in which liquor and drugs are easily available and then say we are surprised when, in addition to liquor and drugs, they do “that”.  Are we as foolish as we seem to be?  Are we willing to change campuses to the point necessary to change this social environment? I doubt it.

 

The wreckage

For those who have not seen it, this piece from Inside Higher Education on the personal and professional consequences of “precarious” is unflinching in showing the costs of the neoliberal university in both personal and professional terms.  https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/02/13/historians-quit-lit-essay-rejects-notion-leaving-higher-ed-equals-personal-failure

I particularly like the call for those who made it to tenure to reflect on this.  My own career, despite all the hard work, was significantly built on chronological luck of entering the professoriate when it was a possible vocation and not a fee-for-service job overseen by armies of non-academics.  What obligations do the tenured now have to the “wreckage”? If there is an obligation, how is it to be met?

Davydd

Joshua Sperber, “Making the Grade – Rating Professors”

I was delighted to come across Joshua Sperber’s new research project about Rate My Professors. In Making the Grade – Rating Professors, published in CUNY’s New Labor Forum, Sperber studies what happens when students can “rate their professors” on the web. The project was based on an online survey of 41 students and 47 adjunct professors, which seems to have elicited a wealth of rich qualitative data. Continue reading Joshua Sperber, “Making the Grade – Rating Professors”

The Academy and Freedom to Dissent

Cris Shore, a well-known anthropologist of higher education whose work we’ve discussed before, sends in a critical commentary on current threats to academic freedom.

I recently participated in a roundtable debate on higher education at the AAA meeting in Washington (DC) on the subject of ‘The Academy and the Future of Freedom to Dissent’, which raised some interesting thoughts for me on what constitutes the greatest threat to academic freedom in universities.

Continue reading The Academy and Freedom to Dissent

George Marcus on academic capitalism in the humanities

I’ve been reading some of the academic capitalism literature lately, since I’m writing about French images of capitalism in higher education. It turns out that, a few years ago, George Marcus offered an intriguing auto-ethnographic anecdote about the way that academic capitalism becomes standard even in seemingly very “critical” corners of the American humanities.

Continue reading George Marcus on academic capitalism in the humanities

Practicing academic anthropology in the USA

Cris Shore is mentioned in an article in Inside Higher Education on a session of the AAA meetings on teaching anthropology in a “red state” in the US. Hardly surprising that a pro-evolution, anti-racist, anti-sexist field would attract the ire of many.  I wonder if others in this group were present and have any reflections to share about this session or if Cris wants to elaborate?

Students as course evaluators

Chronicle of higher education on student roles in course evaluation

This Chronicle of Higher Education story is both welcome and disturbing. It is welcome because it credits students being intelligent enough to evaluate constructively what and how they are learning in classes.  So far so good.  But the rather breathless tone of this essay ignores the fact that the Tayloristic premises of higher education institutions as organizations has primarily created students as passive consumers of “education” rather than active partners in a process.  This reveals the native Fordist model that dominates and its associated “banking model”.

Continue reading Students as course evaluators

A Response from Davydd Greenwood

Davydd Greenwood sends in a second response to Eli Thorkelson’s recent comments on Creating a New Public University and Reviving Democracy.

We are grateful for a review that invites a dialogue and we hope these topics will be discussed more broadly and from additional perspectives. Eli has been an important partner in this work ever since his undergraduate years and will continue to be long after we are gone.

Continue reading A Response from Davydd Greenwood

A Response from Morten Levin

Morten Levin writes with a response to Eli Thorkelson’s recent comments on Creating a New Public University and Reviving Democracy.

Thank you for the review of our book. This is what we need for our own professional development. Our challenge is to be open and responsive for comments or judgement of the book but still stick to our major arguments/ideas underpinning the book’s major point. I am glad that you seem to appreciate the “simple “language we are using. Simple language is not the same as simple ideas. We have learned a lot from this German, Australian and Norwegian based researcher Philip Herbst.

Continue reading A Response from Morten Levin