CARE is delighted to share our upcoming inaugural collaboration with activist-in-residence Dr. Sue Bradford at Massey University. She will collaborate with CARE on re-imagining academic-activist linkages and co-produce a white paper with Prof. Mohan Dutta during her residency.
Dr. Bradford has a lifelong background in street and community activism, and is a mother of five. Much of her work has been in unemployed workers’ and beneficiaries’ organisations. She was a Green Member of Parliament for ten years (1999-2009) before going on to undertake a PhD in public policy with Marilyn Waring at AUT, graduating in 2014.
During her time with CARE, as an activist she will deliver a public talk, conduct a workshop on a method of social change communication, and collaborate with the CARE team on developing a white paper.
Dr. Bradford has a particular interest in the interface between radical community development, activism and the role of academics and universities. She is always searching for ways in which these spaces can be more productively navigated than is often the case.
She currently works for Kotare Research and Education for Social Change in Aotearoa Trust as well as picking up various speaking and writing engagements.
For more media articles on Sue Bradford click on the url link
For more event details follow us on
The colonial roots of the modernist framework of free speech is embedded in hegemonic constructions of civility.
Inherent historically in the idea of free speech is the marking of communicative space, shaped in the ambits of colonial power.
Free speech and colonialism are co-constitutive.
The freedom to speak historically belonged to the White colonial master, even as the colonized were systematically and often violently erased from the spaces and sites of articulation. Marked as the “other” of civility, the colonized belonged outside the public sphere, outside the domains of civil society.
White colonial societies reproduced the image of the primitive savage to erase colonized voices even as they celebrated emancipatory ideas of free speech.
The freedom of speech thus was a privilege of White colonialists while colonized savages, the other of modernity, were systematically erased from spaces of participation. As colonized voices started emerging in resistance, the colonialists reproduced laws of sedition that marked the colonized as terrorist, as threat to the security of the colonial occupation. This communicative inversion is fundamental to the modernist production of free speech.
The White colonial history of free speech continues to play out in contemporary contexts of settler colonialism and indigenous resistance to settler colonialism.
While indigenous resistance that fundamentally resists ongoing forms of colonial occupation continue to be marked as criminal, White colonialists deploy the trope of free speech to denigrate indigenous culture, language, and ways of life. Inherent in the deployment of free speech is the play of power.
This interplay of free speech and White settler colonialism is in display in the recent unfolding of the free speech debate at Massey University.
When the Massey University Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas cancelled a speaking event by the opposition politician Don Brash citing concerns over security, the University came under attack for the apparent violation of the principle of free speech.
In her response, Professor Thomas reiterated the security concerns for the University, and also noted:
“Mr Brash’s leadership of Hobson’s Pledge and views he and its supporters espoused in relation to Māori wards on councils was clearly of concern to many staff, particularly Māori staff…In my opinion, the views expressed by members of Hobson’s Pledge come dangerously close to hate speech. They are certainly not conducive with the university’s strategy of recognising the values of a Tiriti o Waitangi-led organisation.”
Subsequently, internal emails secured through the Official Information Act by blogger David Farrar seem to suggest that Thomas didn’t want “a Te Tiriti led university be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours.”
Social media responses in the White mainstream reiterate the free speech rhetoric to demand the resignation of the Vice Chancellor.
Many academics, once again mostly White, and ensconced in White colonial privilege, are upset about this violation of free speech.
Essential to this culture of White colonial performance of free speech is the erasure of questions of power and colonialism.
That the freedom of White colonialists to reproduce settler colonial depictions of indigenous people as backward is fundamentally a form of violence that violates the basic right to dignity of colonized peoples offers a very different anchor to the free speech conversation.
The privilege to speak freely is precisely the trope through which White settler colonialists continue to assert their racist power of erasure.
As inequalities have grown globally, global elites (the 1%) and their academic mouthpieces respond to the growing public anger about inequalities by issuing calls for societal transformation.
They inform us, inequalities are rising and that’s a problem (just as they profit from these inequalities).
The urgent need for transformation in the individual mindset is the call of the hour.
They appeal to our consience, suggesting a much needed transformation in our beliefs and attitudes is needed to address global inequality.
Appeals for addressing inequality are rife with narratives of kindness, heartfulness, caring, and compassion.
Elite media are rife with stories of inequality, often hidden behind a paywall. They document different aspects of inequalities and then present expert voices pontificating on the trends in inequalities.
Elites urge “greater attention needs to be paid to inequality.”
Now that elites have declared inequality is a trend for concern, academic mouthpieces jump onto the bandwagon. New talks, discussion forums, exhibitions, and closed door meetings are organized on solving the problem of inequality. Academics looking for funding are given a new problem to work on.
The sort of transformation urged by these elites however is very much a perpetuation of the neoliberal status quo, urging for greater empathy toward the underserved segments of society. It is the responsibility of the individual to feel empathy, to develop a heart, and to rise up to the challenges of giving to the needy.
The solution to inequality therefore is the cultivation of heart among the bourgeoisie and the power elite.
Elite audiences are urged to respond with feelings.
The often-used missionary rhetoric of “lifting the burden of the soul” is scripted into the empathy narrative.
Images, stories, voices are catalyzed by the elite to generate empathy.
An entire array of market-based tools then are promoted by the inequality industry in solving the problem of inequality, all directed toward cultivating individual empathy.
As a “communicative inversion” (Dutta, 2016), the seduction of empathy keeps intact the neoliberal status quo while at the same time offering a narrative of transformation.
While individual behaviors are targeted, the overarching structures are kept intact. This is the fundamental paradox of the inequality industry.
The feel good talk perpetuated by the industry calling for urgent societal response leaves intact the fundamental inequalities in distribution of power, opportunities for impacting policy, voice, and material distribution of resources.
That the vast concentration of resources in the hands of the power elite is the fundamental problem underlying global inequalities is inverted, instead presenting the 1% as the panacea to the problem of inequality.
CARE is delighted to share our upcoming collaborations with activists-in-residence.
In the month of October, we will be welcoming two activists who will collaborate with the Center on re-imagining academic-activist linkages and the fake news challenge to democracy.
During their time with CARE, the activists-in-residence will deliver a public talk, conduct a workshop on a method of social change communication, and collaborate with the CARE team on developing a white paper.
The activist-in-residence program at CARE brings in an activist to spend a few months (between 1 and 6 months) in conversation with a specific project or a series of projects at CARE, resulting in publications of white papers, policy briefs, media interventions, and advocacy strategies. In addition, the activist-in-residence offers workshops and interaction sessions on communication strategies for creating social justice anchors. The community of activists-in-residence return for dialogues on sustainable strategies for structural transformation, methods of community organizing, and tactics of communication interventions that resist structures.
Drawing on CARE projects across Asia-Pacific and the US, the activist-in-residence program seeks to create an infrastructure for global networks of transformative politics.
Please watch this space for more information and further updates.
In the land where the regime dictates what academics will read, what they will write, and where they will write, bureaucrats in universities serve as gatekeepers of the regime.
With their bureaucratic tools, often decorated in neoliberal logics of risk management and performance optimization, managers define the boundaries of thought for academics, defining the limits and terrains of thought, legitimizing state control in managerial logics.
Bureaucrats ask questions such as: How are these books relevant to your research? How do the books contribute to your research program?
The definition of the research program of an academic based on bureaucratic rationality becomes the basis for identifying the relevance of reading lists to research programs. Once the appropriate reading list to be read from is defined, the regime can then exert its control on the academic for deviating from the reading list. The tools of the manager are also the tools of the regime.
Consider for instance the above reading list that offers important anchors for how I am currently thinking about how the CCA is evolving, particuarly in its work with subaltern communities in their struggles for communicative spaces for articulating voice. When a scholar working on the CCA, which was initially articulated in the context of health, is asked the question: Why are you reading these books, the implication is that the reading of Marxist texts is irrelevant, wasteful, subversive, and even seditious.
Once these labels have been imposed, university and state regimes can then work toward marking the scholar, initiating disciplinary processes, subjecting the scholar to police harassment, and even jailing the scholar.
As we have seen with the recent police harassment of scholars in India by marking them as Naxalites, the targeting of reading lists was a key element of the strategies of harassment. To own a copy of Marx or Mao is enough to invite violent forms of state control, harassment, and repression.
In this backdrop, academics have key roles to play globally in protecting our reading lists, in our research programs, in our classrooms, and in our homes. We need to be actively engaged in organizing our universities as spaces of knowledge creation that are free from bureaucratic diktats and state interventions. That bureaucrats and mandarins of authoritarian regimes have no business interrogating our reading lists is a key anchor to transnational academic politics.
Metricide, death by metrics, is catalyzed by an accelerated culture of irrationality that parades itself under the guise of reason.
I think of the epidemic of metricide each time that I speak with a junior colleague, each time that I write a promotion and tenure letter, and each time that I sit on a review committee. Mentoring assistant professors is an everyday reminder of this death by metrics.
The burden of metrics is borne by the most junior academics, subjecting them to a continual state of anxiety.
The suicidal anxieties produced in academics by the race for metrics has deleterious health effects, in many instances resulting in poor mental health outcomes among academics; and in some instances, resulting in death (recall the stories of a colleague dying of a heart attack in the office next door).
Beyond killing academics, metrics kill academia. They take the creativity, joy, and freedom of academia, and turn these positive emotions into an accelerated chase for numbers. The number frenzy makes numbers the end goal of academic work, obfuscating the fundamental spirit of inquiry.
Underneath its veneer of rationality (that numbers would offer a standard for quality), the metrics game is entirely irrational. The irrationality of the metrics game becomes apparent once we consider the various ironies in how metrics are determined and implemented.
One of the striking ironies of the culture of metrics is the mass implementation of numbers, carried out often by academic-managers with mediocre academic track records and a whole lot of ambition. That the managers implementing the metrics are mostly mediocre or failed academics that don’t really understand the research process creates and reproduces the condition for metricide.
You have a Head who had never published in a top tier journal telling junior academics that “without a solo-authored publication in a top tier journal, you would not even have tenure track job.” You have a Dean with an h-index of 3 telling an Associate Professor that an h-index of 17 is nothing to be proud of, “the University is looking for excellence these days.” You have a Vice President of Research with 12 publications in sub-standard journals telling an Associate Professor that her productivity, with 5 publications in the last three years, has been low recently.
Without a deep understanding of what guides numbers, a new number, number of total citations, h-index, i-10, field weighted citation index, takes center stage. The ever-accelerating rush for new metrics also works to maintain the opacity of the metric epidemic.
This is the second irony of the metric culture. The propaganda of rationality and drive toward standards obfuscates the opaque processes through which decisions are made regarding what metrics to apply, and the very absence of agreed upon metrics. Once the ideology that metrics are ever-evolving and in a continual state of being calibrated in the search for excellence is accepted, it becomes the basis for tyrannical and prejudiced decisions made by management, all under the veneer of searching for excellence. A colleague with 18 peer reviewed publications and an h-index of 9 does not make it to associate professor, the management states “She did not measure up to the continually evolving standards of excellence.” Another colleague with 7 articles and an h-index of 5 gets promoted and tenure, management argues “excellence is in the quality of the work.” Excellence itself becomes a trope that justifies the prejudice built into academic systems of evaluation.
In the meanwhile, hearing the story of the colleague with 18 publications not making tenure, assistant professors push themselves to 25-30 publications, believing this is what would earn then tenure. The eternal perpetuation of anxiety is the underpinning principle of the game of metrics.
I have often argued that metrics kill creativity. I have also often written about the ways in which metrics, articulated in narrow frameworks of evaluation, constrain and limit the possibilities of new thought. Narrowly driven by how much to produce, where to produce, and how to generate citations, scholars are driven to kill all that which is creative within.
In this blog entry, I will further argue that the veneer of rationality of metrics works ideologically to cover over a fundamentally irrational process driven by the tyranny of mediocre academic management. Whereas metric-mania is meant to portray a drive toward excellence, what it actually does is write over an array of political practices and practices of power play that are inherently unequal. Whereas metrics are projected as instruments for calibrating the drive toward excellence, junior academics would do well to recognize the irrationality and prejudice that are built into how metrics are implemented and reduced.
For academia to retain its culture of creativity and for academics to fight the onslaught on their wellbeing by a culture of metrics, academics ought to consider the ways in which they can build networks of solidarity and collective claims-making. Unions and academic labour collectives have key roles to play in challenging the epidemic of metrics.
CARE Series on Sexual Violence
Drawing upon the fieldwork carried out by the research team, and based on our academic-activist collaboration with Braema Mathi, CARE is releasing a series of White papers. The first White paper is positioned as an advocacy brief for social change communication addressing sexual violence on University campuses globally. The paper outlines communicative practices for addressing sexual violence on University campuses as well as communicative strategies for advocacy directed at bringing about change.