I wanted to share one last syllabus that I’ve taught myself: this one was from when I taught last year at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. The prescribed title was “Public Anthropology,” but it was really a critical survey of student movements since the 1960s, seen in global perspective with a focus on South Africa.
Maximillian Alvarez kindly offered to let us repost his short bibliography of Resources for Resistance, which affords a great, broad introduction to recent critical writing on higher education. (Much of it is U.S.-oriented; it also includes reflections from Canada, Britain, Australia, Mexico, and some more transnational cases.)
We’re borrowing the list from the end of Alvarez’s manifesto last year in The Baffler, Contingent No More. The manifesto is well worth reading for its general reminder that organizing against precarity should also be about organizing against the academic star system and against the dominant structures of academic knowledge.
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.
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.
Susan D. Blum reviews Cathy N. Davidson’s new book, The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux.
Out with the Old! What Students Need Now
Cathy N. Davidson has been writing about her experiments in education for years (for example here and here and here). She brings to her new book deep understanding of the context, history, successes, and shortcomings of the dominant forms of higher education—college—and highlights several dozen approaches that are more successful. These are more appropriate, she argues, than the conventional forms, which have not changed in more than a hundred years, because they respect students’ abilities, teach them to employ the affordances of not only technology but also other people, and anticipate that the content of whatever they do in college will have only limited relevance in the future—so they need to focus on learning to learn. Conventional colleges have outlived their initial purposes, which were to train managers in a newly industrializing and urbanizing society, when books were scarce and simply ingesting information was challenging enough. They selected only top students and churned them through a disciplinary mill, certified by authorities.
That’s not what we need now.
Ian Lowrie writes about Olena Aydarova’s recent work on Russian teacher education:
It is probably impossible to write about postsocialism without coming to terms with nostalgia and the legacy of the past. It is a particularly sticky past, which lingers in memories, texts, and institutions. Research on post-Soviet education has been preoccupied with this weight, and rightly so: Soviet history and its recollections inevitably color the everyday practices of learning and teaching in Russian schools and universities; triumphant recapitulations of the achievements of the Soviet educational system are often written into the very documents announcing neoliberal reforms designed to sweep away the institutional legacies of that system. However, the tendency in much of this literature has been to treat the past as, well, past: a dead weight bearing down on a lively present. Olena Aydarova’s recent and refreshing article, however — “Glories of the Soviet Past or Dim Visions of the Future: Russian Teacher Education as the Site of Historical Becoming” — certainly tarries with the past, but in an ultimately more productive vein than many of its contemporaries.
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. If you’re just getting started, our developing pedagogy section might be especially helpful.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You might also want to sign up to be notified when we publish new content.