ERG SES H 10, Ethnographic Approaches in Education
The aim of the study is to analyze the internal dynamics of academic life and the forms of relationality in academia within the framework of precarious labor forms. Along the study, the macro-level question is ‘How are the implications of neoliberal politics and precarity forms practiced within the everyday life of academicians in the higher education institutions?’. Thus, there are two main concepts shaping the basis of the problem; neoliberalism and precarity. In his book A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005) David Harvey describes neoliberalism as: “A theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade” (p. 2). In Turkey, the precariazation of work relations is deeply rooted in “the post‐1980 adjustment path” facilitated by the military coup and “started with an orthodox stabilization policy that incorporated the first structural steps toward a market‐based mode of regulation” (Boratav & Yelden, 2006, p.4). In addition, adopting “January 24 structural adjustment program” which was being supported by foreign capital, World Bank and IMF was another major intervention for shaping the labor market in Turkey (Topal, 2002). Consequently, after the September 12, 1980 coup the actions of the labor unions in Turkey are paralyzed, a new form with unsecured conditions, precariousness and flexibility, privatization, and subcontracting is internalized (Durak, 2011, p. 26). One of the most important aspects of these historical events is the integration of higher education institutions into a neoliberal market agenda in accordance with the new Higher Education Act in Turkey (Birler, 2012). In sum, with the increasing number of private and public universities, the higher education system has also been affected in terms of working conditions and quality (Emil, 2017).
In Turkey, currently there are 65 foundation universities, while there are 112 public universities; when compared with the number of universities in 2002, 42 foundation universities and 55 public universities have been founded (YÖK, 2017). The increase in the number of universities and the economic circumstances that expand the concept of flexible working arrangements have been reshaping the working conditions of the academicians as well. In particular, the increase in foundation universities increased the number of non-tenured and part-time academicians, besides it resulted in job insecurity and espousing the low wages. Therefore, precarious labor becomes a central concept in the reorganization of working conditions. Precariat is defined as the combination of the words “precarious” and “proletariat” and it constitutes not only having insecure employment, being in jobs of limited duration or having minimal job protection but also being in status that has no sense of career, few or no secure occupational identity or entitlements to the state and enterprise benefits (Standing, 2011, p.24). These changes in economy and working conditions in the world and consequently at the universities within the neoliberal structure reshaped the working conditions of the academicians especially working at private universities with short term contracts or as part-time instructors. For instance, the precarity and vagueness of the working conditions became total idealism exploitation nurtured by myths that prevailed the academic sector such as “spiritual satisfaction” discourse and the “volunteer ascetism” expected from the academicians (Vatansever & Yalçın, 2015, p.20). Under these circumstances, the precariat academicians are expected to affect the internal dynamics and the relations within the workplaces, reshape the culture of the organization.
In sum, this study aims to describe the reorganization of academic culture within a private university through an ethnographic, conversation-based account of academicians and trace the interaction between macro-level power dynamics and micro-institutional practices.
This study is designed as an institutional ethnography since the research question requires an in-depth understanding of the institution’s cultural substructure within the framework of labor and production processes. The reason for choosing institutional ethnography is that; the researcher requires to have a standpoint in order to capture the major power relations within the local setting, thus the institutional ethnography became the most appropriate method in order to answer the main research question. Institutional ethnography is described by Mills, Eurepos, and Wiebe (2010) as the representation of the macro-level power relations at the micro-level. In other words, the institutional ethnography is designed in order to answer the question “how larger power relations shape local experience” (p.461). Another purpose of institutional ethnography is to prepare the ground of required data before taking an action for a struggle. That is; this kind of research is expected to reveal how things work, how they’re put together so that the practices of the struggle would follow a lightened road rather than a dark pathway (Smith, 2005). The researcher is a participant observer beside being an individual working in the institution, throughout the data collection process. That means the researcher is not only the observer but also the participant as being a part of that local experience. The research setting is one of the private university in Turkey. In the course of the fieldwork, field notes of six months of observation and semi-structured interviews are used as part of data collection procedure. According to Hammersley and Atkinson (2007), the purpose of systematic data collection procedures is to ensure a full and representative range of coverage as possible, not just to identify and single out the superficially ‘interesting’ events. The research, so far, consisted of participant observation and 18 semi-structured interviews with academicians who are selected based on their academic title, age, responsibilities within the institution, and gender. Each interview lasts approximately 45 minutes and so far 4 full-professors, 3 associate professors, 4 tenure-track faculty member, and 7 research assistants were interviewed; 7 of them are male and 11 of them are female. The semi-structured questions constitute mainly the scientific and other forms of production processes, multiple forms of relations within the institution and everyday life practices of the participants.
The research process is still in progress.
Birler Ö. (2012) Neoliberalization and Foundation Universities in Turkey. In: İnal K., Akkaymak G. (eds) Neoliberal Transformation of Education in Turkey. Palgrave Macmillan’s Postcolonial Studies in Education. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. Boratav, K. & Yeldan, E. (2006). Turkey, 1980–2000: Financial Liberalization, Macroeconomic (In)Stability, and Patterns of Distribution. In External Liberalization in Asia Post-Socialist Europe and Brazil. Retrieved from http://repository.bilkent.edu.tr/bitstream/handle/11693/37821/bilkent-research-paper.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y Durak, Y. (2011). Emeğin Tevekkülü, Konya'da İşçi-İşveren İlişkileri ve Dindarlık. İstanbul: İletişim Yayınları. Emil, S. (2017). Qualitative Sacrifice for Quantitative Increase: The Case of Turkish Higher Education System. In S. Georgios, K.M. Joshi, S. Paivandi (Eds.), Quality Assurance in Higher Education: Turkey, (pp.183-201). New Delhi, India: Studera Press. Hammersley, M., Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography: Principles in practice. New York: Routledge. Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Mills, A. J., Durepos, G., Wiebe, E. (2010). Encyclopedia Of Case Study Research. New Delhi: Sage Publication. Smith, D. E. (2005). Institutional ethnography: A sociology for people. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: AltaMira Press. Topal, A. (2002). Küreselleşme Sürecindeki Türkiye'yi Anlamaya Yarayan Bir Anahtar: Yeni Sağ. Praksis, (7), 63-84. Vatansever, A. (2013). Prekarya Geceleri. 21. Yüzyıl Dünyasında Geleceği Olmayan Beyaz Yakalıların Rüyası, EUL Journal of Social Sciences , 4(2),1-20. Vatansever, A., Yalçın M. G. (2015). Ne ders Olsa Veririz : Akademisyenin vasıfsız işçiye dönüşümü. İstanbul : İletişim. YÖK, (2017). Yükseköğretim Bilgi Yönetim Sistemi: Yükseköğretim İstatistikleri. Retrived from https://istatistik.yok.gov.tr/
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
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Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
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