Monday, 31 December 2012

Higher Education as a Commons

Earlier in the year, Andreas Wittel gave a paper exploring the potential of higher education beyond both the state and the market.
In the paper, he observes that during the last decade higher education in the UK has undergone a profound transition. Universities, formerly known as public institutions, are being turned into money making corporations. This transition of higher education away from a public good and toward a private good (toward a commodity) is in full swing and close to completion. Needless to say the effects are devastating in every respect. However, he argues, it would be a grave error to bemoan this process with sentiments of nostalgia. The public university, as it is well known, has often been accused of being an elitist institution. It has been rightly criticised for stabilising and conserving existing class structures. Is there a third way? Is it possible to conceptualise higher education beyond state and market? 

Andreas used his presentation as an exercise in utopian thinking. He introduced two developments in higher education that are situated beyond state and market. The first development are large scale transnational initiatives such as the 'University of the People' and the 'Open Education Resource University'. These initiatives organise education as remote learning and through digital technologies. They are aimed at students in disadvantaged areas. While the politics of these initiatives is progressive and inclusive, the educational philosophy is contestable. It is largely based on self-education and it outsources some important parts of the educational process by making a distinction between the free access of open educational resources on the one hand and small fees that need to be paid for assessments. The second development are free university initiatives that organise higher education as a common good, e.g. the Free University of San Francisco and the Social Science Centre in Lincoln. These initiatives are very much in line with autonomous thinking and anarchist concepts of education. While they should be applauded for introducing alternative models of higher education, they are also problematic with respect to the notion of free labour. In order to analyse this problem he introduces a conceptual distinction between a knowledge commons and an education commons. Andreas also offered some general considerations on the growth and the sustainability of free universities.

Andreas Wittel, "Beyond state and market: Higher education as a Commons", For a Public University Workshop, organised by Prof. Andreas Bieler, University of Nottingham, 15 June 2012

Monday, 24 December 2012

Queer Culture and Dissidence in Turkey

Earlier this year, Cuneyt Cakirlar published an edited collection (with Serkan Delice) which explored queer culture in Turkey. 

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The book aims to challenge heteronormativity, compulsory heterosexuality and homo/transphobic violence in Turkey by investigating local historical and cultural narratives, social practices and forms of relationality in creative, dissident and queer ways. It interrogates the possibilities of an alternative critical practice that defies heteronormativity and its “partners in crime”, namely neoliberalism, nationalism, militarism and religious conservatism in contemporary Turkey. The critical agenda of this study is not only informed by a liberal human rights discourse that relies on sexual identity categories and identity politics. It is also inspired by sexual multitudes and ambiguities inherent within the local and historical cultural texture. Invoking unique possibilities of the local, this project looks at the ways in which the global travel of Western sexual identity categories and theories transform and assimilate local cultural forms of sexual subjectivity. While it questions the validity and applicability of categories and theories, this book also argues that the critical stance towards global sexual identity categories should not turn into an “authenticity fetishism”. Global sexual identity categories and Western theories can be appropriated critically and strategically, for different purposes, in different contexts. Rather than seeing the travel of global theories and categories as a hierarchical, single-dimensional imposition, this collection of essays suggests a reciprocal interaction always changing and transforming both the local and the global.

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

PhD Funding

If you are thinking of studying for a PhD in areas covered by CSICAD - or within communications, culture and media more generally - you may be interested in applying to NTU's Vice Chancellor's Bursary Scheme to fund your studies. This year's application process is now open and you can find further details of the scheme and how to apply here. The closing date for this year's bursaries is 9am on Friday 15th February. 

You can find more information about potential supervisors and their interests on this site. If you have any questions about studying for a PhD in our Centre, please email Joanne Hollows.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Communication and Pragmatic Disorders

In two recent articles, Louise Cummings explores issues about communication and pragmatic disorders.

In 'Pragmatic Disorders', she argues that, while pragmatic disorders present a considerable barrier to effective communication, their study has tended to be overshadowed by investigations of impairment in rule-based aspects of language. Moreover, such studies of pragmatic disorders as have been undertaken have typically not been theoretically motivated. The result has been a collection of clinical findings that are often poorly interrelated and provide a weak basis for intervention. In this recent article, she considers the current state of our knowledge of pragmatic disorders by examining the features of these disorders in child and adult clients. Specifically, she considers how breakdown in the pragmatics of language adversely affects the comprehension and expression of speech acts, the processing of implicatures, the use and understanding of deictic expressions and presuppositional phenomena, the utilisation of context during utterance interpretation, and the processing of nonliteral language. Impairments in pragmatic aspects of nonverbal communication are also considered. These features are discussed in the context of experimental studies as well as studies of conversation and discourse.  

In a second article, she explores the role of clinical pragmatics in establishing diagnostic criteria. The study of pragmatic disorders is of interest to speech-language pathologists who have a professional responsibility to assess and treat communication impairments. However, these disorders, she argues, have a significance beyond the clinical management of clients with communication impairments. Specifically, pragmatic disorders can now make a contribution to the diagnosis of a range of clinical conditions in which communication is adversely affected. These conditions include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the autistic spectrum disorders, schizophrenia and the dementias. Pragmatic disorders are already among the criteria used to diagnose some of these conditions (e.g. ADHD), although they are not described in these terms. In other conditions (e.g. the dementias), pragmatic disorders have potential diagnostic value in the absence of reliable biomarkers markers of these conditions and similar initial presenting symptoms. Using clinical data, and the findings of empirical studies, the case is made for the inclusion and/or greater integration of pragmatic disorders in the formal classificatory systems that are used to diagnose a range of disorders. A previously unrecognised role for pragmatic impairments in the nosology and diagnosis of clinical disorders is thereby established

Cummings, L. (2012) ‘Pragmatic disorders’, in H.-J. Schmid (ed.) Cognitive Pragmatics [Handbook of Pragmatics, Vol. 4], Berlin: De Gruyter, 291-316.

Cummings, L. (2012) ‘Establishing diagnostic criteria: The role of clinical pragmatics’, Lodz Papers in Pragmatics, 8 (1): 61-84.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Representations of Madness

Simon Cross has recently published two articles that emerge out of his on-going research on madness.
 
In 'Bedlam in Mind', published in the European Journal of Cultural Studies, he explores the mythical Bedlam of popular imaginings. London’s Bethlem Hospital was for centuries a unique institution caring for the insane and its alter ego ‘Bedlam’ influenced popular stereotypes of insanity. For instance, while the type of vagrant beggar known as a ‘Tom of Bedlam’ was said to have disappeared from English society with the Restoration, the figure of Mad Tom retained a visual and vocal presence within popular musical culture from the seventeenth century up to the present era. Using the ballad ‘Mad Tom o’ Bedlam’ as a case study, he illustrates how an early modern stereotype of madness has maintained continuity within a popular song tradition whilst undergoing cultural change. 

In 'Laughing at Lunacy', published in Social Semiotics, Simon examines what is at stake in humour about the 'mad' and 'madness'.  Jokes and humour about mental distress are said by anti-stigma campaigners to be no laughing matter. However, his article takes issue with this viewpoint arguing that this is clearly not the case since popular culture past and present has laughed at the antics of those perceived as ‘mad’. Drawing on past and present examples of the othering of insanity in jokes and humour the article incorporates a historical perspective on continuity and change in humour about madness/mental distress, which enables us to recognise that psychiatry is a funny-peculiar enterprise and its therapeutic practices in past times are deserving of funny ha-ha mockery and mirth in the present. By doing so, the article also argues that humour and mental distress illuminate how psychiatric definitions and popular representations conflict and that some psychiatric service users employ comic ambiguity to reflexively puncture their public image as ‘nuts’.


Simon Cross, (2012) Bedlam in Mind: Seeing and Reading Historical Images of Madness. European Journal of Cultural Studies. Volume 15(1) February, pp. 19-34.


Simon Cross (2012) Laughing at Lunacy: Othering and comic ambiguity in popular humour about mental distress. Social Semiotics. Currently iFirst Article.