The Academy: Refuge or Business-as-Usual in a Neoliberal America?

Rose Dwyer
UC San Diego

I came to academia seeking refuge from a hierarchical and profit-minded corporate workplace. But has academia been a refuge or more-of-the-same? Amid an adjunctification crisis and roiling tensions between academic workers and universities across the country, the claim that academia is an egalitarian space removed from concerns of industry feels hard to sustain. In my piece for UCHRI’s Work & Refuge program, I explore this tension between the promise of academia as a refuge from corporate work, and the greater encroachment of private industry and capitalism on all elements of the academy under neoliberalism. To what extent does the profit motive and the need for cheap labor destabilize academia’s promise as a space of learning for learning’s sake? How does the adjunctification and precarity of the workforce impact graduate student’s ability to take refuge in research and teaching during their time in school? My Foundry piece pushes boundaries of scholarship by bringing first-person anecdotes of working in private and academic contexts into dialogue with critical literature on the neoliberal university, a hotly debated issue in the humanities right now. In Foundry’s spirit of experimentation, I explore how I might incorporate field recordings and original music into my article.