- Ruth Barcan, University of Sydney, Australia
What does it mean to be an academic today? What kinds of experiences do students have, and how are they affected by what they learn? Why do so many students and their teachers feel like frauds? Can we learn to teach and research in ways that foster hope and deflate pretension? Academic Life and Labour in the New University: Hope and Other Choices addresses these big questions, discussing the challenges of teaching and researching in the contemporary university, the purpose of research and its fundamental value, and the role of the academy against the background of major changes to nature of the university itself.
Drawing on a range of international media sources, political discourse and many years’ professional experience, this volume explores approaches to teaching and research, with special emphasis on the importance of collegiality, intellectual honesty and courage. With attention to the intersection of large-scale institutional changes and intellectual shifts such as the rise of transdisciplinarity and the development of a pluralist curriculum, this book proposes the pursuit of more ethical, compassionate and critical forms of teaching and research. As such, it will be of interest not only to scholars of cultural studies and education, but to all those who care about the fate of the university as an institution, including young scholars seeking to join the academy.
Contents: Introduction: private feelings, public contexts; The big shifts: massification, marketization and their consequences; The wellbeing of academics in the palimpsestic university; Pluralism and its discontents: teaching critical theory and the politics of hope; The idleness of academics: hopeful reflections on the usefulness of cultural studies; Feeling like a fraud: or, the upside of knowing you can never be good enough; Conclusion; Bibliography; Appendix; Index.
About the Author: Ruth Barcan is a senior lecturer in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. She is the author of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Bodies, Therapies, Senses (2011), and Nudity: A Cultural Anatomy (2004). She is also co-editor of Imagining Australian Space: Cultural Studies and Spatial Inquiry (1999), and Planet Diana: Cultural Studies and Global Mourning (1997).
Reviews: ‘A deeply affecting book that will speak to the experiences of all precarious, time-pressured and surveilled academics who have found that working in the Academy is not what they expected. Ruth Barcan offers us both a powerful critique of life in the contemporary University, and a politics of hope that other, better ways are possible.’
Rosalind Gill, King's College London, UK
‘Finally a book with the patience and perspective to explain the reality of work in the university today. Against the current regime of myopic productivity, Ruth Barcan offers her colleagues a vision of humility and hope. It is a vitalism that emerges when academics focus on the place that still matters and promises most: the classroom.’
Melissa Gregg, University of California, Irvine, USA
‘Balanced, lucid and scrupulously enquiring, this is the best book I have read about the forces shaping everyday life in the new university and the dilemmas confronting teachers, researchers and students. Firmly based in the experience of work, Barcan’s case for an ethics that does not leave us stranded between despair and resignation gives those of us who still value academic life good grounds for hope indeed.’
Meaghan Morris, University of Sydney, Australia
Ruth Barcan is plainly an academic with guts. Showing an honesty and resolution not often to be found in the profession at the present time - despite all the rumbling discontent everywhere audible on campuses - she has set herself to report on the moral health and intellectual fitness of our home institution. … my word, I’m glad to see her.
Times Higher Education
'Academic Life and Labour in the New University is an honest, deep and critical enquiry into the realities of academic work in Australia that provides the reader with hope and choices for a brighter working future in the new university. … Barcan’s account of the academic profession in Australia is remarkably comprehensive. She does have the courage not only to reflect critically on the changes of academic work through marketisation and massification, but also to remind us of the serious impact these changes have on the wellbeing of the scholar and the whole university education. In addition, the book gives hope by offering various new choices and concepts to deal with the current employment condition while it also encourages academics to unite in order to protect the profession and the university education.'
Australian Universities Review
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