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War on universities? Knowledge production, neoliberalism, and critique

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Past decades have been marked by profound changes in the relationship between universities and the state, including the introduction of tuition fees, performance-based research funding (such as the REF ), and reduction of employment security. Critics have described these trends as an all-out attack or ‘war’ on the university; a flurry of recent or relatively recent publications and other intellectual interventions, in the UK as well as, to a lesser degree, in the US, talks about the end or death of, or at the very least need to mount a defense of, the public university.

This talk presents a sociological reading of the relationship between the transformation of the conditions of knowledge production and this genre of critique. Rather than assuming that critique stands ‘outside’ society or is immune to the very conditions it sets out to describe, it draws on sociology of knowledge and political economy to discuss some of the tensions inherent in the relationship between epistemic positioning and modes of knowledge production in late liberalism.

Jana Bacevic is a sociologist and an anthropologist. She works on social theory, sociology of knowledge, and politics of knowledge production; she has published widely on politics of knowledge, in particular in relation to regimes such as late socialism or transition to capitalism. Prior to coming to Cambridge, Jana was a Research associate at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, and Lecturer at the Central European University in Hungary. She also has experience in policy advising for a range of governmental and non-governmental organisations.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Education Society series.

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