Why confessions, why worried, and why teaching?
I see ‘confession’ in two senses. In the contemporary moment of neoliberalisms in higher education, we are all called upon to ‘account’ for ourselves. I explore the toxic nature of this in the Broken Academic page of this blog. Within this mode of governance of academic labour and knowledge production, we are called upon, through systems of audit and measurement and reporting, to confess our achievements and all too often our failures – according to the contorted logic of both the status economy of higher education and the economisation of knowledge. Confession also refers to the need, as a counter to this reality, to clearly convey what is really going on, what the corporeal and affective impacts are of these apparently mundane administrative systems. This is based on the observation that normative higher education studies, as produced by the westernised university, is often empty of actual bodies. I am informed here, clearly by theories of embodiment and gesture that necessitate the articulation of gendered, classed, sexualised, raced, and body-normative manifestations of a lived higher education.
Worry, here, also has a dual meaning. It refers to the anguish, concern, doubt and distress caused by the neoliberal and westernised university. More importantly, it indexes the need to worry the consensus – to harry, to create unease, to torment the taken for granted, to trouble, to perturb, to upset the status quo. this also means upsetting ourselves, our presumptions. And in particular, to bring to bear, in the fashion of critical race theory, for instance, witness upon the internal struggles of legitimacy and validity and authenticity in the westernised academe, and to think higher education otherwise.
This project seeks to go beyond the normative mode of higher education and university studies by critiquing the bases upon which Westernised higher education is studied and articulated. By Westernised higher education I refer to the way modern understandings of higher education emerged alongside and in service of initially European imperial and colonial projects, and later as part of securing Anglo-American and European global dominance of the production, validation, dissemination, and circulation of knowledge. As a critical scholar WITHIN the Westernised university, I seek to open up for critical inquiry the normative epistemological and ontological presumptions of higher education studies.
And teaching? University pedagogy is a primary professional focus for me. But, believing that our students are our first public, centering the idea of teaching in our academic practice means we need to take seriously how we engage students as creators of knowledge, of this creative process as enabling the potential for an orientation to the world that breaks open the presuppositions and assumptions and makes feasible the constitution of new troubling (liberating) subjectivities.