Nottingham Trent University
50 Shakespeare Street
I will be hosting the stream ‘Addressing the Underbellies of Neoliberal Academia’ as a part of the 1st annual Midlands Conference in Critical Thought 2024 (Nottingham Trent University, UK, 5-6 April 2024). This is the inaugural MCCT which is an offshoot of the London Conference in Critical Thought (LCCT – https://www.londoncritical.co.uk/). The conference is, fortunately, free for all to attend and there are no plenaries. The deadline for abstract submission is 6 December 2023. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words and should be sent as a Word file to: firstname.lastname@example.org (please note that I do not have access to this e-mail address, however email@example.com is the address for abstract submission). If you have any questions regarding my stream, contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have come up with this stream in order to carve out at least some space in academia for criticising academia – if this is (or could be!) your thing as well, then please do submit your abstract and join me and others at this conference. Please feel free to share this call for papers widely.
Please also find below the outline of my stream as well as a .pdf call for papers (with additional information on the MCCT, including other streams) attached to this email.
Addressing the Underbellies of Neoliberal Academia
Dr Matko Krce-Ivančić (Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Zagreb, Croatia)
In Dawn & Decline, Horkheimer (1978, 218) noted that, when it comes to universities, ‘they admit no one that refuses to shut up and be quiet. There is such thing as a pre-established harmony between the fate of universities and the course of history.’ Bearing this in mind, with the aim of arriving at a more precise understanding of what academia is today, the stream opens up a space for addressing the underbellies of neoliberal academia.
One of academia’s underbellies is related to the ways in which academia exploits our hopes. Making herself ever more competitive, the neoliberal subject takes an active role and such a subject is, in Foucault’s (2008, 226) words, ‘an entrepreneur of himself’. It is in this context that we also witness the birth of the neoliberal scholar, anxiously engaged in a wide array of activities – networking workshops, publishing, conferences, consulting gigs, etc. – that promise at least a bit of progress in terms of her competitiveness. As she piously puts hope in reaching a decent life in the future while burning out at work, thereby fuelling the excessiveness of neoliberal academia, the neoliberal scholar is a hopeful subject. Addressing this underbelly of neoliberal academia enacts us to realise that, as Tokumitsu (2015, 59) underscores, ‘hope labor isn’t merely normalized, it’s institutionalized’ and that academia thrives on our – mostly unfulfilled – hopes of making it at some point in our academic future.
The fact that many academic positions have been rigged reflects yet another of academia’s underbellies. If we fail to recognise that a good number of advertised academic positions are not genuinely open but have a predetermined outcome, we might mistakenly conclude that all of those who have eventually secured permanent academic positions are the most competitive and diligent scholars out there. However, when it is acknowledged that the rigging of academic positions is a neoliberal systematic reversal of neoliberal emphasis on building our self-entrepreneurial capacities through competition, it becomes more obvious that corruption is a part of – and not a deviation from – neoliberalism. Addressing this underbelly of neoliberal academia makes us question and understand what sort of knowledge gets excluded from academia by the practice of rigging academic positions.
The aforementioned are just two of many academia’s underbellies which, if addressed in a critical fashion, enable us to offer a window into the performativity of neoliberal academia. The stream welcomes proposals that engage with a critical analysis of contemporary academia and its underbellies. In view of a range of issues that invite a critical perspective on the underbellies of neoliberal academia, the following list of possible themes is by no means exclusive:
- Anxiety and depression in academia
- Function(s) of hope in academia
- Corruption in academia
- Ideology of funding bodies
- Academic inbreeding
- Academia and its constitutive outside(s)
- Dread and despair in academia
- Academia and the Enlightenment ideology
- Underbellies of critical theory
- Rigged academia
Thanks for reading and best wishes,
Dr Matko Krce-Ivančić
The Midlands Conference in Critical Thought Collective is the conference organiser. If you have any questions about the conference in general, please contact the MCCT Collective via email@example.com.