Fugivity and Fighting Back: Resisting and (Re) OCCUPYING THE ACADEMY

At first glance, the neoliberalisation of academia appears to have taken root as ‘common sense’. However, in the spaces between the publication targets, income generation and appraisals, one can find disagreement and discontent with the current state of affairs as academics express their fears, anger and anxieties.

Loveday (2014) describes the way in which working-class academics feel ‘fugitive’ in the ‘middle class’ space of the academy, rather than expressing ‘indebtedness’ or gratitude for being ‘allowed’ to sit at the middle-class table of the ‘real’ academics. This concept offers us a useful tool to consider our own (differently) ‘marginalised’ positions in the university. It allows us to think through how, while we might feel pressured by the current systems to ‘conform’, we can simultaneously think, feel and act alternatively.

There is an interesting rhetorical move that happens in these discussions of academic fear and fugivity. Such anger and resistance is often prefaced or followed by a disclaimer about academia as a privileged space (‘at least I have a job’ and a professional career at that). Academic work ‘is’ often stimulating, rewarding, varied and interesting, and offers some level of autonomy (you get to do research, and write, and manage your own time to some degree). The image of the academic as engaged in deep thought, alone, is something many of us enjoy—losing ourselves in ideas, our own and others’ ‘light-bulb moments’. However, we have found that it is often in spaces of ‘collective’ work that we feel these pleasures most deeply: the feeling of critically battling with ideas ‘with others’, of being around people who share our passions and inspire us.

Although we consider ourselves ‘outsiders within’ (and ‘captive’), this does not mean that we cannot contest and push the boundaries of the current agenda. We contend that it is these very pleasurable attachments and collective moments that enable us to occupy space differently within the neoliberal academy, working together to push back and ‘irritate’ the system. Next we identify some of the spaces we have purposefully created, sustained or been invited to participate in, and discuss their potential as sites of collective support and resistance.

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