Thinking (now) out of place? Methodologies of dissent inside the corporatised university

Wearied by the ringing noise of corporatisation that currently pervades the academy, this ethnodrama-influenced presentation engages us in speculative silence and speaking back. Using performative and contemplative methods, we react to the increasing corporate incursions into institutions of higher learning – the over-valuing of money, measures and metrics – which encroach upon our freedom to think. This neo-liberalisation of our scholarly practices (which demands we pay attention to rankings, performance and comparison) is reducing time for knowledge work focused on the public good. Rather than courageously working for long-term sustainability and social justice, our scholarship is limited to narrowed, short-term and fundable agendas – our care, desire, creativity and blue-sky, novel pursuits subsequently compromised.

To carve out spaces for thinking and resisting, we have found ourselves dissenting, acting up and against the declared corporatised purposes for our work. To ‘resist zombiedom’ (Whelan, Walker, & Moore, 2013) and to ‘arouse consciousness from its slumber’ (Appelbaum, 1995), our writing-thinking collective has commenced a range of disruptive interruptions, peaceful protests and contemplative experiments. Our collective endeavour is aimed at troubling the deepening ‘habitual inattentiveness’ (Appelbaum, 1995) that corporatisation demands. Inspired by Spicer’s (2017) ‘pop-up philosophy’ experiment focused on ‘sitting and thinking in public’, and Harre, Grant, Locke and Sturm’s (2017) call for ‘Slow Tiny Acts of Resistance’ (STARs) to trouble the playing of ‘finite games’, we have embarked on a series of ‘public thinking’ and ‘resistance’ projects at our university workplace. Reaching for STARs, we discuss the ’infinite game’ as we sing, write poetry, and explore the work of others during Friday Seminars held on Thursdays. For our ‘public thinking’ we set up deck chairs between the cafe and the university library (and we will set up two at the conference). A sign invites others to join – to stop, sit and think. These intentional and subversive acts interrupt our and others’ relentless working practices and invite us, and others, to consider the personal and public effects/affects of neo-liberal environments, and contemplative and resistance methodologies.