22 SES 11 C, Adapting to Circumstances and Changing With the Times? Is this the Dawn of a New Academic Professionalism in Europe?
Research into academic life and work employs a wide range of theoretical and conceptual resources in its efforts to understand the experiences of those working in higher education: studies draw, inter alia, on the work of Bourdieu (Deem and Lucas 2005), Bernstein (Middleton 2008), Foucault (Kolsaker 2008), and Lave and Wenger (Jawitz 2008). This paper considers how our understanding of academics’ professional experiences, and in particular our understanding of how individual academics as agents respond to the constraints and enablements present in their operating contexts, might be enriched through the use of Archer’s social realist conceptualisations of the interplay between structure and agency (Archer 1995, 2000) and of the reflexive formation of personal and social identities (Archer 2000, 2003, 2007) as a theoretical lens. It presents a number of Archer’s core concepts and discusses the insights generated by the application of these concepts to life history data collected from sixteen Irish lecturers as part of a study that sought to understand both the dynamic formation of academic professional identities in the Institute of Technology sector of Irish higher education and the manner in which structure and agency interact and impact on the working lives of academics operating in this context.
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