22 SES 03 D, Learning and Development: Author- and Editorships
This paper tells the story of the author’s arrival (my arrival) to the city of Bloemfontein, South Africa, on being awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at a university in this city. It is driven by two discussions: on one hand, it uses the author’s life story as a method to analyze the global conditions of production of early career academic authors; secondly, it explores possibilities of using autoethnographic accounts as “technologies of the self” (Gannon 2018, Foucault 1988) that assist writers to intervene and operate on their own processes of becoming academic authors.
Current research on higher education shows that the academic profession is in crisis globally, with a deterioration of salaries, reduction of tenure positions and an increasing privatisation of the sector. At the same time, it is argued that the production of young academics is of special relevance for the development of the field due to its current expansion and the expectation that large proportions of academics will retire in the upcoming years (Altbacht 2015). In this context, questions are posed on the the constitution of the identities of young faculty , their working conditions and the construction of academic success in the current global field of higher education. This paper looks at my trajectory as an early career academic, sketching the relationships within the global and local fields of higher education that subject him and mobilize his pathways and detours, that move from the UK, to Argentina and finally South Africa.
Using Michel Foucault's notion of the "author-function", the paper sets out to identify elements of the discoursive formations that enable the emergence of "Del Monte, P.", the academic author. It understands that becoming an author entails embodying a specific function within a field of knowledge production, “a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses” (Foucault, 1984, p. 119).The functional principle of authorship operates through self, body, and the set of relationships that enable the circulation of the texts attached to a name.
Although my working conditions and career are also an object of this study - since they are deeply intertwined with the emergence of myself as author - the main story of this chapter is that of becoming published in academic circuits of knowledge production. The reasons for this are, firstly, because becoming a published academic is considered to have been the main factor for the migration to South Africa. Secondly, because publishing tells about the particular positions that I occupy and move through within the academic field, currently working within a post-doctoral fellowship that prioritizes knowledge production rather than other academic jobs such as teaching. Thirdly, because my status as an academic author has been a permanent concern and discomfort in my trajectory, particularly in my relationship with the participants of my research projects. As a result, the study looks closely at the materiality of authorship, the working conditions that enable it, the funding sources, the social and cultural capital deployed to sustain such activity. It also looks at the contingency and precariousness of these conditions. And, ultimately, how these conditions constitute me as a subject.
The chapter will exercise principles of autoethnography from a poststructuralist lens, drawing on critical autoethnography (Gannon 2018) and Michel Foucault’s work on ethics of the self (Foucault 1988). This production will attempt to trouble the set of relationships that are constituting me as the author of the text, by using a personal diary and the writing of this very paper as devices for critical thinking. These have also been shared with friends, relatives and colleagues as a form of “care of the self” (idem), to critically understand my own positionality. The research will, then, use autoethnography as a methodology for the study of power relations, which is not pursued solely by an individual but which is collective, and furthermore, in which knowledge can be used as a tool to attempt displacements of the writer's subjectivity. Initially, the method was thought as the use of a personal diary that would be accompanied by conversations with family, friends, colleagues, who could help me rethink myself. However, the diary was to a great extent taken over by the writing of the paper. WhileI wrote the diary I found it difficult not to imagine the audience of the paper, which drove my diary-writing to one that was very similar to my chapter-writing. The boundaries between the two became blurred. Finally, the chapter-writing became the main space for thinking about myself, my story, my positionality, my mobilities. So, it is important to state that this account of myself is to a great extent shaped by the academic audience of the text. It is, then, written within and against (Lather 1992) the author-function. In terms of the conversations, what I had first thought of as systematic conversations finally turned into spontaneous conversations that emerged from my very concern about giving a personal account. I had conversations with five colleagues doing postdoctoral studies in my same university, two senior academics based in the global South, an early career researcher based in the global South, an early career researcher based in the global North, my wife, relatives and friends.
As I have mentioned before, the object of reflection is the author-function, which is necessarily related to myself as the subject that embodies it. I understand ethics as a practice on the subject, which involves a practice on the conditions of its emergence, that is, in the relationships that constitute it as such (Butler 2005). On this basis, the concluding thoughts of this paper attempt to work on the conditions of possibility of myself as academic author, even if only by exposing the effects of power and generating some kind of discomfort. Firstly, a plot that emerged from my story is that of pursuing and being formed in an international, if not global, circuit in academia, which at the same time separates me from other national or local academic communities. This involves not only a distance, but a conflict, an embodiment of the interplay of exclusions of these fields (Marginson 2015). This is somehow visibilized in my failures to return and work as an academic in Argentina, in spite of actually moving and living there. Furthermore, in my move away from Argentina, pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship. Secondly, being highly mobile within an international academic field has also been detrimental to building long-lasting relationships with local organizations and individuals in my field of research. I find Michael Burawoy’s organic public sociologist appealing, a “sociologist [who] works in close connection with a visible, thick, active, local and often counterpublic (…) a labor movement, neighborhood associations, communities of faith, immigrant rights groups, human rights organizations.” (2005:8). However, the conditions of authorship in which I have worked so far have been detrimental to building such local networks. On this basis, I attempt to think of possibilities to become an international public sociologist and what this would entail.
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