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Para-Academic Publication as Public-Making

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Para-Academic Publication as Public-Making 
Paul Boshears with The Public School New York 
Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 1pm at 155 Freeman

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Brief Description: 
An afternoon conversation focused on three forces at work within the contemporary U.S. academic markets [Open Access publishing, the adjunct army, and massive open online classes (MOOCs)] that are stimulating para-academic activities. 

Format: a 30-40 minute presentation meant to provide information, context, and criticism, followed by questions and discussion. Short readings circulated in advance.

Introductory Statement: 
Currently 1 million of the 1.5 million people teaching in U.S. colleges and universities are contingent, adjunct faculty.[1] The University must produce cheap, precarious labor for itself so that it can continue to manufacture its products for the greater good of society. Today it’s a question: whether or not the University will be able to continue in the face of neoliberal ideological onslaught.[2] One wonders if the University is doing itself in by gorging on the labor of adjuncts while simultaneously lowering the value of the work their professors do by giving it away for free.[3] What the rise of the MOOCs (massive open online courses) suggests is that the University is shifting from producing educated human bodies to producing accredited human bodies.

            To distinguish between those that toil in these contingent, adjunct conditions at Universities, we employ Nicola Masciandaro's term, para-academic. The para-academic coexists with the University. At times the relationship might appear parasitic (perhaps both entities wondering which is the host), at other times their relationship will be characterized as complementary—para-, meaning alongside. The para-academic, regardless of the relationship to the University at a particular point, will be characterized by their practices for novelty generation. Both para-academia and the University are imagined communities. However, the University is an institution that accredits, controls, and stamps the passports of those that would enter its territory. It is a striated space as opposed to para-academia’s fluid space. The Open Access movement and the sprouting of para-academic activities are not only about broadly distributing the ability to publish as a democratic gesture. As an editor of an Open Access, Creative Commons-licensed journal, continent., I believe we are making a distinction between publishing and publication: publishing is about making stuff knowable, publication is about public-making.

Suggested Readings:

Michael Warner, “Publics and Counterpublics” Public Culture 14.1 (2002): 49–90.           
            Note—the book of the same title is available on Aaaarg

Bill Readings, “The University and the Idea of Culture” in The University in Ruins (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999): 62–69. 
           Note—the book is available on Aaaarg

Christopher Newfield, “The Structure and the Silence of the Cognitariat” Multitudes 39 (2010).  
           available from eurozine

 [1]   Michael Bérubé. “Among the Majority.” Inside Higher Ed. February 1, 2012.

[2]    Marc Parry. “Could Many Universities Follow Borders Bookstores Into Oblivion?” The Chronicle of Higher Education. March 7, 2012.

[3]    Steven Leckart. “The Stanford Education Experiment Could Change Higher Learning Forever.” Wired Science. March 20, 2012.


Paul Boshears
Sunday, February 24, 2013 - 13:00
155 Freeman, 155 Freeman, 11222 more
Attending (11)
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Hi Everyone!

(I'm posting this also in the comments to the main page as well)

Thanks, Kamomi, for pushing along this opportunity. I'm very much looking forward to meeting each of you and having this conversation.

I've just flown in from Atlanta and I'll be presenting a bit of a monologue about these matters at the Postman Graduate Conference at NYU on Friday morning.

On the flight up here I was revisiting Jean-Luc Nancy's essay "Being Singular Plural" (available on aarg), and it occurred to me that this could be a relevant text for our conversation. Here he talks about circulation in all directions as the Eternal Return and as a foundation for "first philosophy."

Another place to look might be Derrida's essay "Economimesis" (available on Scribd and elsewhere through a search engine). In this essay Derrida presents a close reading of Kant's Critique of Aesthetic Judgement and this seems germane to a conversation that is at its core about knowledge generation.

Do any of you have particular subjects you'd like to have addressed?
Other questions?


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