The challenges of social justice in and of higher education

Offered in the form of a public address in Kolkata in January 2020 [1], this paper offers a number of reflections on the challenges that face higher education when it comes to social justice. Explicit within the title is the assertion that social justice is both to do with the content and form of the university – extending from the enactment and scholarship of its purposes and processes, through to the nature of the participation of its persons. To situate the discussion within the context and time of its oral presentation, the introduction posits that the constitutional commitments of so called post-colonial countries such as India and South Africa offer moral compasses for ‘social justice’ which require radical commitments. A number of provocative questions are posed to frame the discussion, namely (i) ‘Can systemic change be regulated within higher education?’; (ii) ‘How may the agential, the cultural and the structural be bridged, when the goal is change?’; (iii) ‘In the larger inter/national goals of social justice and large scale geopolitical change, in what ways is higher education a ‘special case’’?  A number of the challenges for higher education are outlined, before touching on the ‘openings’ which are present in the current moment, leading to a call to readers to ask, ‘‘How does one study the university, for social justice transformations?’  Throughout the paper are entangled the author’s reflections, positionality and concerns, drawn from her insights, expertise, networks and experiences as a researcher in Critical Higher Education Studies in the margins.  

[1] This paper was first presented by Dina Zoe Belluigi on the 27th of January 2020 at a public talk at Jadavpur University, hosted by the School of Women’s Studies. The talk coincided with a visiting lectureship funded by RUSA. A publication of it is in process. As such please use this reference:

Belluigi, D. Z. 2020. Recording of public talk ‘The challenges of social justice in and of higher education’ at Jadavpur University. Published on Broken Vessel.