Confronting the Institutional, Interpersonal and Internalized Challenges of Performing Critical Public Scholarship
Universities are increasingly becoming self-referential, reflective of neoliberal values and are abandoning commitments to the public interest. In response, there have been efforts to assert a “public scholarship” that can contribute to the progressive transformation of society for social justice and sustainability. Yet, the performance of public scholarship within the neoliberal and elitist university is ambiguous, fraught and contested. I engage with Judith Butler’s work to examine academic professionalization as performativity and unpack the disciplinary systems that shape the possibilities to perform public scholarship. I present an autoethnographic script to critically analyze the contradictions, tensions and challenges of pursuing transformative research paradigm within the professional academy. My analysis discusses three relational mediums of performativity: Internal(ized) (selves), Interpersonal (relationships) and Institutional (institutions). Each medium reflects citations of pre-existing discourse manifested in materials, customs, texts, disciplinary procedures and habits. The professional academy holds disciplinary power through these three mediums molding extractive, elitist and ultimately unjust performativity. Performativity is iterative and thus these mediums are not fixed but constituted through their performance and there are always possibilities for disruption, subversion and thus transformation. These three mediums, and their intersections, are sites for critical self- and collective reflexivity and action.
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