resistance to blogging to save the new precariat

Last week I posted about the absurdity of blogging to save the new (academic) precariat. The next day Agnes Bosanquet (the slow academic) quoted some writing/thinking by sociologist Barbara Grant:

Collective political resistance to [research audit regimes] has not been a feature of the academic landscape … In [our] interviews, there was largely an absence of the emotions of anger, fear and frustration usually associated with collective resistance … Unlike fear, anxiety seems a weak basis for political action …

Yet other forms of resistance were present … individually and collectively. Individuals were deliberately maintaining their research interests in defiance of perceived [audit]-rewarded tends; departments were actively pursuing collegial rather than competitive practices …

I find Bosanquet’s thinking (and in this case her admiration and citation of Barbara Grant) inspiring and far more positive than just admitting defeat to the accelerated academy.

humans and collaborating

Elizabeth Kolbert’s article in the New Yorker is a striking piece of writing about how it might be that winning arguments has more value than reason.

So well do we collaborate … that we can hardly tell where our own understanding ends and others’ begins.

I particularly like this quote because it is a clear reminder of how absurd ownership is in any creative activity.

blogging to save the new precariat

Contemporary academic life is precarious; it’s fast, mean and lean. Our public aim is to build community around the practices and concerns associated with doctoral writing, but, in addition, we have come to recognise that, privately, we each depend on this space as a haven from the relentless demands of the rest of our academic lives. Since we began blogging, we have witnessed organisational restructures resulting in the need for many academics to reconstruct themselves. As more academics join the ‘new precariat’, it’s likely our primary places of identity construction and maintenance will become untied from a single institution. Blogging in this context lets us inhabit an independent, global space for personal and professional development and for building community.[1]

I find the idea of blogging as some kind of saviour for stressed academics (and academia) to be absurd. The authors seem to imply that: a) there’s no point in resisting the increasingly precarious nature of contemporary academic life; and b) academia must be ‘fast, mean and lean’.

It is a strange message: “resistance is futile, blogging will save us”.

Their suggestion seems to trivialise the effects of neoliberalism on academic life and lives.

I prefer the thinking and counsel of Maggie Berg and Barbara Karolina in the The Slow Professor:

Slowing down is about asserting the importance of contemplation, connectedness, fruition, and complexity. It gives meaning to letting research take the time it needs to ripen and makes it easier to resist the pressure to be faster. It gives meaning to thinking about scholarship as a community, not a competition. It gives meaning to periods of rest, an understanding that re- search does not run like a mechanism; there are rhythms, which include pauses and periods that may seem unproductive.[2]

  1. Claire Aitchison, Susan Carter, and Cally Guerin,  ↩
  2. Berg, Maggie, and Barbara Karolina Seeber. 2016. The Slow Professor. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p.57.  ↩