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Academic freedom and activism for e/quality: reconfigurations of identity, politics and knowledge in higher education

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Over the past 5-10 years, proliferation of social justice-oriented student (and staff) mobilisation in among other the USA, the UK and Denmark has re-directed debates on the quality of public higher education towards questions of equality, diversity and decolonisation. Inspired by post-colonial, feminist, queer and anti-capitalist theories, a growing number of students are protesting the reproduction of hierarchies of knowledge within HE, based on e.g. gender, race, nationality, and research traditions. Their actions and critiques have sparked great debate over how, and to what extent, ideals of free speech and academic freedom are to relate to the promotion of inclusion, safety and diversity in HE. Some critics argue that these students are ‘snowflakes’ who promote unhealthy forms of identity politics within universities. Proponents, in contrast, argue that all knowledge production is political and that it is high time to challenge the unequal and continuous marginalisation of certain bodies and knowledges within university education. We recently embarked on a comparative ethnographic research project, which focuses on these debates and developments in the USA, the UK and Denmark. In this paper, we discuss the diverse ways the relation between academic freedom/free speech and diversity/inclusion has been debated in the media and by students, staff and leaders in relation to selected public universities in the USA, UK and Denmark. We explore how the institutions and regional/national policymakers engage with and respond to the students’ actions and arguments in different ways, and show how these developments are leading to a reconfiguration of the relation between (academic) identity, politics and knowledge in higher education.

StatusUdgivet - 2021
BegivenhedInternational Conference on Academic Identities and Higher Education: The Meaningful University - Roskilde University, Roskilde, Danmark
Varighed: 10 jun. 202111 jun. 2021


KonferenceInternational Conference on Academic Identities and Higher Education: The Meaningful University
LokationRoskilde University

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