The plurality of academic activism: heterogeneous expression for opening up alternative futures
AffiliationUniversity of Chester; University of Glasgow; Roehampton University; Copenhagen Business School; Northumbria University; University College Copenhagen
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AbstractBeing and becoming an academic in the neoliberal business school has become a complex and hyper-political space fraught with competing performative agendas (Wall and Perrin, 2015; Bristow et al, 2017; Cunliffe, 2018), with a precarious landscape “[b]ringing in its wake the worrying manifestations of racism, xenophobia and anti-intellectualism” (Bristow and Robinson, 2018: 636). When set against a backdrop of global challenges, for instance social inequalities and climate change, such circumstances reignite critique and criticism around the role and responsibility of business schools and their academics (Shrivastava, 2010; Wall et al 2019). Here, some academics have responded by attempting to confront, challenge, resist, and pre/re-configure (Rhodes et al, 2018) in ways which intentionally move towards alternative futures which re-position people-profit-planet and the dominant sub-categories embedded within (Wall et al, 2019). Such responses not only move beyond writing a supposedly disruptive ‘journal article’ (Wall, 2016; Parker and Parker, 2017), but are heterogeneous and can include acts which politely ‘light a candle’ to spark action in others, and even take public social action to ‘burn The State’. Indeed, the acts themselves can be open and emotionally rich site for expression and exploration towards an alternative future. The heterogeneity of academic activism in the business school can be traced in the extant literature and can include (1) academics designing pedagogical structures inspired by pro-social action from the 1960s and 1970s such as service learning (Griffin et al 2015; Wall et al 2019), (2) academic re-visioning of business school organisational structures which prompt integrated forms of personality development oriented towards ethics and sustainability (Akrivou and Bradbury-Huang, 2015), (3) academics openly critiquing and challenging the practices of business schools and universities (Callahan, 2018; Parker, 2018), (4) academics engaging in social action in public spaces (Reinecke, 2018); and (5) academics taking moments to express resistance throughout their career but at the everyday level (Bristow et al, 2017; Wall, 2016). At the same time, the heterogeneity of the expression of academic activism in business schools has not yet been documented, mapped, or conceptualised. Therefore, this paper/session offers a tentative conceptualisation/characterisation in relation to (1) the target of change for the acts of academic activism (e.g. micro, meso, macro), and (2) the focus of that change (e.g. inequality of women leaders in higher education), (3) the individual-collective nature of those acts, and (3) the open/closed/ambiguous intentionality of those acts. It is intended that this initial conceptualisation will not only act as an initial device to prompt further exploration and theorisation of the heterogeneity of academic activism in business schools, but a device to prompt our own reflection into the forms of expression an academic may want to explore (as an academic activist). With a spirit of academic activism, this participatory session invites and welcomes a wide range of participants to both enrich and destabilise our attempt to capture the heterogeneity of academic activism in business schools.
CitationWall, T., Robinson, S., Elliott, C., Blasco, M., Kjærgaard, A., Callahan, J., ... Bergmann, R. (2019). The Plurality of Academic Activism: Heterogeneous Expression for Opening up Alternative Futures. In 11th International Critical Management Studies Conference “Precarious Presents, Open Futures” (pp. 317-319). Milton Keynes: The Open University.
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