1. Exploring the problem of authorship and authority in academia
What is the meaning of art? And how does it relate to creativity, agency and authority? Should the author or the critic guide our relationship to a text?
Varying approaches to the critique and interpretation of artefacts have been debated since the very beginnings of philosophy. In my doctoral study, I chose not to engage with those intractable, well-tilled debates. Rather, I sought insights into unchartered terrain – how approaches to intepretation play out during the precarious and uncertain development of art students’ practice, metacognitive skills and identity as artists. What emerged was a problematic – of fragile (but sometimes surprisingly resilient) desire for growth, and powerful traditions of communal academic authority.
I have extended this concern with authorship and authority, to explore how systems of judgement and assessment in higher education interact with individuals’ intentions, because I believe it provides important insights into their significance for our ability to exercise agency. One research trajectory explores the relationships between how academic staff are evaluated, and how such assessments as to what is valued impact on transformation and equity. Another trajectory seeks to chart the ways in which staff members’ agency, to implement educational change in their professional practice in higher education, is impacted by their vastly different geographic and socio-economic contexts, cultures and structures. As you will note in my blog postings, I keep wrestling with how situating the author may work towards challenging authority. And so, I attempt to create a space for such authoring centrally within my teaching programmes.
I’m interested in how such insights can inform productive shifts to the larger mechanisms of power in higher education institutions, in the hopes of enhancing the possibilities of the academic project.
2. PROJECT TITLE: A Higher Education Studies Arts Archive
From the outside peering it, the world of academia is often represented as shrouded in myth and nostalgia. For many, though, it is experienced as an outdated relic carrying a massive price tag. Within its walls, large cracks are becoming increasingly impossible to ignore – between street smarts and conventions of authority, between private profit and societal good. Most poignantly, the promise of fortune and freedom in the ways higher education is sold to the public, rubs salt in the wounds of both those baring the cost of exclusion from such dreams, and those squeezing themselves into the tight moulds set for students and academics to succeed. Snippets of this discontent arise frequently in the media and are often shamelessly abused by politicians across the world to get young voters’ attention. But because the dispassionate, rational and disembodied are the most valued characteristics of objective study, the insider perspectives of participants of higher education are largely dismissed by those in the academy as anecdotal.
This online archive places such lived experience centre stage, by drawing insights from international music, visual arts, plays, books, memoires, blogs and films across various contexts, perspectives and times, which touch on the messiness of life in higher education. Through excerpts of stories, splices of scenes and exhibition walkabouts, alongside interviews with participants of higher education, we’ll explore how these creative artefacts offer us rich counter-narratives to challenge the taken-for-granted myths of educational systems, in nuanced and provocative ways. Whether the university features as backdrop, a protagonist or a space of possibility, these artefacts provide openings for us to journey, alongside students and staff, as they tell us their stories of negotiating the demands and diversity of personal and professional relationships, while they meander through the unexpected mazes of curiosity and learning.
You are invited to peruse and to contribute to this archive – either by suggesting titles or events to me (Dina Belluigi via firstname.lastname@example.org) or by sending your own brief take on those texts you’ve engaged with. Any language or format. Let me know how you’d like me to cite you, and if you’d me to hyperlink to you directly – to create further openings for engagement by those interested.
Link to archive here: H.E. Studies Arts Archive