Fashioning an academic self : a study of managing and making do

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This study investigates how academics are managing and being managed by the demands of their everyday work. Specifically, it sets out to examine how a small cohort of academics located in a former college of advanced education (CAE), now integrated as a Faculty in a traditional Australian university, negotiate the dominant discourses and power relations in this setting. It considers the role played by government policy directives in shaping this particular workplace and its inhabitants. It also explores the tactics and strategies academics employ to manoeuvre the complexities of their day-today work life, and how these practices of the everyday fashion academics in this setting. To date, few studies have explored the changing nature and intensification of contemporary academic work from the perspective of academics working in a former CAE. In taking up this focus, observing the historical and cultural legacy of the institution, the study provides a situated perspective about academic work: one located in a particular workplace, at a particular point in its history. It illustrates how the academic self is fashioned through and within the disciplinary technologies and power relations operating within the workplace setting: how different types of academic performances are taken up and/or valued in this context, and how these performances are then implicated in the production of academic subjects. The research data comprised historical and institutional documentation, as well as semi-structured conversations with academics. A range of related theoretical ideas and positions are used to analyse three specific perspectives about being an academic: work(ing) policies, work(ing) narratives, work(ing) practices. Personal writing about experiences as an insider/outsider in this research study further informs the discussion, with insights about doing academic work in this (and other) workplace settings, and the role of the doctoral process in the subjectification of the academic self highlighted. The thesis puts forward the argument that managing everyday work is a complex and (self) productive process: one situated in, and shaped by, the institutional spaces – textual, discursive and operational – within which work performances are enacted. It depicts how academics take up, negotiate and/or self-regulate their work practices within these institutional spaces. The process of managing academic work is thus represented as an interactive yet bounded practice, subject to and subjectified through the specificities of the workplace setting and its inhabitants, and the power relations and disciplinary forces operating on and within the institution. The thesis also demonstrates the fashioning of the academic self involves a set of practices of managing and making do. These practices of the self, which are shaped by the aspirations and positioning (personally, professionally and institutionally) of academics, and the past and current circumstances of the workplace setting, highlight the mutually constitutive nature of discipline and desire in shaping academic work in an institutional context.
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