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.
A note from an Australian colleague just reminded me that we still need to flesh out our collection of teaching materials in Critical University Studies and critical ethnography of higher education. I do have a few things I can contribute from my own teaching practice. I’ll start here with a reading list that I wrote in 2013 for a class on the politics of universities in the Global North. It is mainly about the United States, with a bit of comparative work from other places, particularly France.
For our continuing collection of syllabi, here is the syllabus for an undergraduate seminar that I taught in 2016 during my postdoc at Whittier College (a small liberal arts college in Southern California). Its mission was to put critical ethnography of higher education into dialogue with critical philosophies of education (from Plato to Freire, essentially).
Gina Hunter is an anthropologist teaching at Illinois State University, in the Midwestern United States, and a longstanding participant in the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI). The EUI, which we’ve written about before, is an institutional initiative housed at the University of Illinois which aims to support reflexive student research projects about higher education. The project has been around since 2002, and Hunter was its co-director from 2006–2014. She generously took the time to answer a number of questions about the project, its politics and context. The interview, if I may say so, is particularly relevant for teachers thinking about the politics of students doing critical research on their own educational institutions.
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”.
Davydd Greenwood kindly shared his syllabus for an Anthropology of the University course. I believe he taught this course for about ten years at Cornell University, so it presumably went through many iterations. Here’s the description: