In 1968, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and his colleagues at the University of Nairobi called for the abolition of the English department. They attacked an enduring colonial legacy and envisioned an intellectual renaissance in Africa. Conversely, in recent years, many departments have found themselves “abolished” for another reason: the neoliberal rhetoric of financial sustainability and austerity, despite the seeming financial health of such institutions. Indeed, we have two types of institutional intervention both framed under the rhetoric of “abolition”: the first driven by the desire to liberate education from epistemological and pedagogical domination; the second, it might be claimed, by the neoliberal business model. This special edition seeks to consider the chequered history of the westernised university, to diagnose its embattled present, and to imagine its future.
In recent months, academics, non-academic staff, students and their allies across the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, Albania, Finland, Colombia, Mexico and elsewhere, have staged protests against neoliberal reform of universities. Wendy Brown argues that the evolution of neoliberalism from a set of economic policies into mode of reason imperils not just liberal institutions but democracy itself. Education across the board is jeopardised by the corporate university model. The liberal arts face multidirectional threats, of extinction and irrelevance. Yet as Gayatri Spivak suggests, if the humanities is the ethical healthcare of society, what resources can we summon to reform, destroy, transform, or re-create the university? Or less innocently, as Bill Readings suggests, simply foster a space where academics (and students) can “work without alibis” in acknowledgement that radical possibilities are constrained by the societies in which universities are situated.
This special edition calls for a cross-disciplinary response, from the humanities and social sciences to all critical, creative and deviant positionalities. Diverse submissions are encouraged from policy reform to short stories. In particular, the edition reaches out to those who traditionally or purposefully find themselves outside the ivory towers: those not included and unassimilated.
Contributions will be considered around (but not limited to) these themes:
- The western / imperial history of the university
- Literary / creative representations of the university
- Epistemologies / pedagogies of possibility
- Western imperial humanism and the humanities
- The co-option of postcolonial / Black / queer studies and ‘minority’ / transnational / diasporic literatures
- Education in an age of neoliberalism / neo-colonialism
- New models for higher education, including cooperatives, free schools etc.
- The pedagogy of debt
- The ‘Student As Producer’
- Accelerationism and competition in the university
- Activism: Strike / Occupy / Transform (In / Against / Beyond)
- Resistance through radical poetics / humanisms
The special collection, edited by Lou Dear (University of Glasgow, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Martin Eve (Birkbeck, University of London, email@example.com), is to be published in the Open Library of Humanities (ISSN 2056-6700). The OLH is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded open-access journal with a strong emphasis on quality peer review and a prestigious academic steering board. Unlike some open-access publications, the OLH has no author-facing charges and is instead financially supported by an international consortium of libraries.
Submissions should be made online at: https://submit.openlibhums.org/ in accordance with the author guidelines and clearly marking the entry as [“The Abolition of the University,” SPECIAL COLLECTION]. Innovative submissions that do not clearly fit the submission guidelines are welcome and we encourage authors to contact the editors to discuss this. Submissions will then undergo a double-blind peer-review process. Authors will be notified of the outcome as soon as reports are received.