The haunted university: academic subjectivity in the time of communicative capitalism

Thomas, Catherine Elizabeth (2015) The haunted university: academic subjectivity in the time of communicative capitalism. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

In the last thirty years there have been significant changes in the governmentality and culture of higher education in the UK; concurrently, day-to-day practice has been transformed by networked computers. This political and technical double-act may be understood as a specific articulation of what Jodi Dean has termed communicative capitalism (2010, p.2-9).

This thesis investigates how such political and technocultural changes condition the subjectivity of academic staff across a range of academic activities and contexts. The theoretical model I develop draws notably on a combination of the psychoanalytic theory of Freud and Lacan, using Freud’s conception of the ‘uncanny’ (1919) and Althusser’s theory of ideology (1970), to consider how the academic subject of technoculture is constituted by the particular domain of communicative capitalism I term the Haunted University.

To develop this argument the thesis firstly establishes the ‘nature’ of the contemporary university – distinguishing it from earlier models and earlier moments of reform. This is developed using cultural history sources and theoretical work from social, cultural and critical higher education studies. Secondly, I use a series of cultural studies methods to identify and explore elements of the new university formation. These include the selection and analysis of relevant digital materials (e.g. academic homepages and blogs) and small qualitative surveys of academic staff. Thirdly, the broadly Lacanian thrust of my argument is developed through leveraging theoretical work from the fields of cultural studies, philosophy, critical labour studies and higher education policy.

I conclude that the series of developments and changes enacted by communicative capitalism has tended to transform academic subjectivity, bringing about what may be a permanent change in the ontology and epistemology of the academy. However, despite neoliberalism’s attempt to foreclose discursive dissent, there are resistances to its project.

My original contribution to knowledge is to theorise how and why the shift in academic subjectivity is being enacted, demonstrating how the technocultural, neoliberal university is beginning to haunt the academy not only from the outside, but from the inside, too.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher education > LB2326.4 Institutions of higher education
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2015 10:49
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2015 10:49
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/57756

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