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Title: Making sustainable higher education : a critique of scholarly responsibilities, professionalisation and praxis
Author: Müller, Susanne
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 4366
Awarding Body: University of Bath
Current Institution: University of Bath
Date of Award: 2013
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Since the late 20th century, Western society has been permeated by a pervasive, yet fundamentally contested sense of ecological crisis. While diagnoses abound, shifts in critical forms of Western science and the so-called ‘postmodern condition’, raise a recurring issue for debate: the positioning and qualities of scholarship in relation to societal transformation. Reflexively, if not normatively, academia is challenged to reflect on the implications of the ‘storying’ and ‘re-storying’ of scholarship vis-à-vis the socio-ecological, such that both scholarly processes and ‘ends-in-view’ foster an intellectual field of inquiry and engagement that is more relevant to - if not responsible for - a ‘deeply’ democratic, ecologically sensitized social order. Providing a major line of response regarding this broader background, ‘sustainable higher education’ currently emerges as a highly complex phenomenon that takes shape across a range of sites and contexts in relation to a variety of local and specific academic practices. It may thus be variously understood as a strategy for addressing the environmental and sustainability crises identified at the Rio Earth Summit, as a matter of academic concern and field of intellectual inquiry, and as a regulative ideal for policy, professionalism and practice in the ‘greening’ of higher education. The present study documents the associated politics of (knowledge) change, by taking a broader interest in how sustainable higher education, as a social and discursive practice, is currently constituted and reconstituted across differently positioned academics from a range of academic sites and contexts, namely universities in England, Austria and Germany. Focusing on the academic knowledge practices in relation to the emergence of sustainable higher education, the study proceeds to analyse these through an integrated lens of academic subjectivity; i.e. with this not being conceptualised as a clearly ‘bounded’ or ‘fixed’ entity, but rather an entangled, relational and practical matter of culturally (re-)productive self-production. Working with empirical material generated from episodic interviews and via a set of heuristic tools developed from poststructuralist and critical hermeneutic theories, the study thus illustrates the contemporary constitution of subjectivities in/of sustainable higher education, illuminating how a historico-cultural reading of subject configurations and activities is suggestive of a wider structural shift. Working across diverse configurations of the policies and politics of the field, this shift is often expected, if not inferred, to be catalytic in transforming increasingly abstracted forms of knowledge/cultural production towards ‘re-responsibilitisation’. The study further exemplifies how this can be associated with the broader conditions of an ‘eco-politics of unsustainability’, which seems so hard to overcome precisely because it is made manifest at more practical levels through the quite mundane ways in which academics go about their daily business. Yet, a counter reading is possible too: this points to the perhaps ‘wild(er)’ aspects of these always-also affective practices through which new relationalities can emerge. Taken together, the study’s increasingly integrated readings thus work towards the exploration of how academic subjectivities might be re-made if positioned at the intersections of social inquiry and practical philosophy in the lives of ‘everyday sustainable higher education makers’.
Supervisor: Reid, Alan ; Porter, Jill Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: sustainable higher education ; social praxis ; academic knowledge production ; subjectivity ; reflexivity