Fragments of ‘At the Margins of the University: Scholarship and practice of higher education transformation and disruption in contexts of post/ conflict, inequality and oppression’

This audio recording, with selected stills of the event and powerpoint, documents the introduction by Dr Dina Zoe Belluigi of the seminar ‘At the Margins of the University: Scholarship and practice of higher education transformation and disruption in contexts of post/ conflict, inequality and oppression’ on 20 September 2019 at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland.

At this event, as part of School of Social Science, Education and Social Work’s research focus on Peace in Societies, reflections on three intentional interventions (a roundtable; a cross-institutional academic development programme; a network) were presented by those concerned with social justice in and of the academy:

  1. Building solidarity through comparative experiences of post/conflict academia: Reflections on two days of dialogue – Tom Parkinson (University of Kent)
  2. A capacity development model for women in higher education institutions in East Africa – Naomi Lumutenga (HERS-EA)
  3. Reflecting on ‘Emancipatory Imaginations: Advancing Critical University Studies’ Event – Jenny Boźena du Preez (Nelson Mandela University), Dina Belluigi (QUB), and Tony Gallagher (QUB)

Due to the nature of this frank reflexive conversation, the contributors of the first two sessions have not provided permission for those digital artefacts to be reproduced here. The audio recording below documents the third reflective discussion.

Reflecting on ‘Emancipatory Imaginations: Advancing Critical University Studies’ Event – Jenny Boźena du Preez (Nelson Mandela University), Dina Belluigi (QUB), and Tony Gallagher (QUB)

Between the 15th and 20th of August 2019, over 40 invited scholars and practitioners with an interest in the critical study of higher education from Ghana, India, Kenya, Ireland, South Africa, Uganda, the UK, Europe, Canada and other countries, gathered for the GCRF-funded Emancipatory Imaginations: Advancing Critical University Studies Winter School at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa. As part of the collaboration between Dr Dina Zoe Belluigi (SSESW, Queen’s University Belfast) and Prof André Keet (Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation, Nelson Mandela University), the aim was to challenge and ‘denaturalize the dominant higher education imaginary’ (Stein 2018, p.1) and consider the prospect of ‘other’ ways to study universities that are meaningfully different from the various strands of conventional higher education studies. In doing so, the School also intended to explore a flexible configuration of a Critical University Studies programme that is capable of thinking plural forms of emancipatory higher education imaginations and futures.

The Emancipatory Imaginations Winter School, in bringing together scholars from multiple locations to Africa, has explicitly situated itself at the nexus of the various intellectual, intergenerational and geopolitical tensions in this emerging field, in the hopes of responding to the already extant traditions of Critical University Studies, unpacking its tensions and co-creating new ethico-political possibilities for social justice and solidarity in this field. This seminar will bring together three of the attendees of the Winter School – Dr Jenny Boźena du Preez (Nelson Mandela University), Prof Tony Gallagher (QUB and Dr Dina Belluigi (QUB) – to reflect on the processes and outcomes of the School, including emerging themes, contestations and possibilities for collaboration.

Below are links to the videos from the Winter School event. The report can be accessed here.

Jenny Boźena du Preez is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET) at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. She is currently working on the critical and transformative potential of literature and Literary Studies and what it might have to offer Critical University Studies. Jenny was instrumental in organising the Emancipatory Imaginations: Advancing Critical University Studies Winter School, and leading the CRISHET team through the event. She holds a PhD in Literary Studies in English focusing on representations of gender and sexuality within literature by African women. She has published an article entitled “Liminality and Alternative Femininity in Sol T. Plaatje’s Mhudi” in English in Africa and an interview with South African writer, Makhosazana Xaba, in Tydskrif vir Letterkunde. She has taught a range of courses in Literary Studies in English and Media, Communications and Culture at Nelson Mandela University.

Tony Gallagher is currently Professor of Education at Queen’s University Belfast. He has held various leadership posts in Queen’s including Head of the School of Education, Pro Vice Chancellor and Acting Faculty Dean of Research for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. His primary research interest lies in the role of education in divided societies, especially as this relates to work on social cohesion and equality. In addition, he works with the Council of Europe and an international consortium on the civic and democratic role of higher education. (Twitter: @tgeducation)

Dina Zoe Belluigi is an academic in Higher Education Studies at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast (Northern Ireland), prior to which, she was a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) at Rhodes University in South Africa. Her scholarship and practitioner work has circulated around how those with responsibility for representation, at first artists and then academics, bear witness to the problematics and im-possibility of such representation and such responsibility, and moreover how such agents are constructed, enabled and/or ‘schooled’ as agents of social change and critical consciousness. Dina organised this seminar, and is honoured to bring these speakers to Belfast. (Twitter: @DZBelluigi)

Funding for the event was provided by SSESW’s Contested Societies research group (Queen’s University Belfast) and the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF)..

Conversation with Dr Christopher Knaus about hope and oppression in higher education

Chris and I met very briefly at a conference on Diversity and Inclusion in higher education in Paisley (Scotland), presenting during the same slot. He challenged me at the time, and what followed were a number of email exchange between us, which has gradually opened into my being humbled and learning from his rich work in and about the borderlands of higher education. He describes the encounter and his work in his own words below:

I did interrupt you after hearing your lovely South African accent, and then as life would have it, we were actually on the same panel. I was also at that conference with two recently graduated doctoral students who are both higher education practitioners, and so my investment in them is what enabled us to connect in the first place, and your accent I might add was the second interlude.

As to my work, I am continually struggling with how to foster and support community resistance to the global onslaught against women of color, communities of color, and particularly how to do such from within higher education institutions designed to colonise. A decolonial approach seems necessary but insufficient to create and sustain new systems, and so I am increasingly focusing my work in collaboration with those who are not rooted within higher education systems.

The recording above was made during an online conversation in early April 2019. Chris shares insights into his personal motivations for engaging in issues of race, oppression and hope in higher education; and where he sees value for continuing engagement.

chris 2

For more about Chris’ work see his institutional profile.  Follow Chris on twitter at @cbkvoice