A few years ago there was a special issue of LATISS about a noteworthy initiative at the University of Illinois, the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI), which aims to support courses based on student research about their own university. Its virtue is precisely that it is not a traditional ethnographic research project, but a collective project that supports student ethnographic research. The special issue (from 2013) is a little older than most of what I write about here, but I wanted to post some quick excerpts from the issues, in guise of an introduction to the project, and an appreciation of the admirable reflexive research that it fostered. I might also note here that this project has also yielded an important ethnographic monograph, the late Nancy Abelmann’s The Intimate University: Korean American Students and the Problems of Segregation (which I previously reviewed in LATISS).
One thing I’ve been keeping an eye on for a while is the slow institutionalization of a subfield of “Critical University Studies” (call it CUS). For those who may not have come across it, CUS is a sort of compromise category that brings together a diverse set of interdisciplinary research and criticism on higher education. Jeffrey Williams began publicizing the field qua field in a 2012 piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, where he noted, as I recall, that the name was modeled on “Critical Legal Studies.” CUS, by contrast, still lacks its own Wikipedia article (I leave that as an exercise to the reader), but I’ll just note for now that CUS brings together some very different political views about higher education, ranging from social democrats like Davydd Greenwood to revolutionaries like the Undercommoning project.
Anyway, I realized today that there are actually three book series in CUS, which seems like a clear barometer of institutionalization. It may be useful for new people to the field to see them all assembled in one place:
- Berghahn Books (New York, USA/Oxford, UK) publishes Higher Education in Critical Perspective: Practices and Policies, edited by Susan Wright and Penny Welch. It started in 2015 and has thus far published a monograph and a pair of edited volumes. It’s also closely associated with the journal LATISS: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences, by the same editors.
- Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, USA) publishes a Critical University Studies series, edited by Jeffrey Williams and Christopher Newfield. (Series announcement.) It’s published two monographs so far, both in 2016.
- Palgrave (London, UK) also publishes a Palgrave Critical University Studies Series, which is edited by John Smyth (from University of Huddersfield, UK). It began publishing in 2016 and has already produced eleven volumes.