Making visible collegiality of a different kind: using arts-informed practice to challenge the politics of academic 'performance'.

Year: 2017

Author: Selkrig, Mark, Saddler, Kirsten, Manathunga, Catherine, Keamy, Ron

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Neoliberal ways of operating have come to dominate the political landscape of higher education. In an era of supercomplexity (Barnett, 2000), universities are scrambling to 'manage' and control the work academics perform. The concepts of 'contestability, uncertainty, challengeability and unpredictability' are now common features of university work (Barnett 2000, pp. 415-416). Barcan (2013, p. 69) describes universities as a 'fractured and palimpsestic work world' where three different types of institutions simultaneously coexist: 'a scholarly community, a bureaucracy and a corporation'. Each of these institutions has its own demands, values, rhythms, senses of time and purpose, producing deep emotional insecurity among academics.

One of the significant ways academics have always dealt with the politics of university work is to invest time, commitment and emotion in 'collegiality'. Collegiality is a slippery term with many connotations. Collegiality can refer to a governance and decision-making structure; an allegiance to disciplinary knowledge communities; or a behavioural norm (Kligyte & Barrie 2014). Reference to collegiality can be based on a 'golden era' (that may or may not have existed) through to the appropriation of collegiality into neoliberal/new public management nomenclature (Bacon 2014), where it is no surprise that the concept of 'contrived collegiality' has emerged (Datnow 2011).

In this paper, we explore the competing discourses framing the notion of collegiality. We want to offer ways to enact a collegiality that buffers the current era of emotional insecurity, while also speaking back to the powerful impersonal university machine. We will discuss the ways we have employed arts-informed methodologies (Butler-Kisber 2010; Leavy 2015) to engage 'colleagues' to reflect not only on the cognitive domain, but also the affective, emotional energy that have become regular features of our work. Our design of collective modes of enquiry, where we and our peers played with ideas through text and images, resonated with Greene's notions of 'wide-awakeness' (1978) and critical pedagogy which: 'demands the capacity to unveil and disclose. It demands the exercise of imagination, enlivened by works of art, by situations of speaking and making' (Greene 1986, p. 441). It is through this speaking and making that we concur with Duncombe's (2002 p. 8) argument that cultural resistance involves creating 'a "free space" ideologically ... creat[ing] new language, meanings and visions of the future [and] materially ... to build community [and] networks' to see through the cracks of neoliberal universities, speak back and make visible collegiality of a different kind.