Tor Halvorsen from the University of Bergen (under the MISR/Bergen NORHED project) will be giving a seminar on Wednesday, January 16, 2019, starting at 2:15 PM in MISR Seminar Room 1.
In the paper to be presented, the question is; who has defining power over the relevance of academic knowledge, and how does this power affect the academic profession whose identity depends on its ability to make itself relevant? Our hypothesis is that despite the transformation of modern society toward so-called knowledge society, the ability the academic profession has to define, pursue and shape what this profession see as relevant knowledge has diminished as the neoliberal regime has grown in influence. The last decades of neoliberal political hegemony spreading throughout the world has gradually absorbed the academic institutions into “the economy”. This has also put a pressure on the academic professionals to become like economic actors producing what neoliberals call “human capital” (Becker 1964, 1976). Only knowledge for the so-called innovation society is taken to be “relevant”. This is a development spreading globally. As neoliberal policies transforms society to the economy, democracy is threatened. As the academic profession, to secure control of own work, relies on democratic values like free speech, right of expression, institutional autonomy, the neoliberal threat to democracy is also a threat to the academic profession.
A study of a case, like in Uganda, would be a test of how this global trend shapes different societies in the periphery of the global capitalist centers.
The case of Makerere University is discussed in some detail. The representatives at this campus have seemingly a strong professional identification linked to values like academic freedom, truth-telling and independent control of the job they do. These values have over the years become harder to defend; also at Makerere. “Homo acadmicus” and “homo oeconomicus” appear as conflicting identities between which the academic profession constantly has to negotiate within a university gradually transformed into an economic actor fighting for “visibility” in a growing market for educational services.