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Resilience, apps and reluctant individualism: technologies of self in the neoliberal academy
This paper is concerned with the deep crisis affecting universities, as large scale institutional and structural transformations produce a psychosocial and somatic catastrophe amongst academics (and other university workers) that manifests in experiences of chronic stress, anxiety, exhaustion, insomnia and spiralling rates of physical and mental illness. Elsewhere these have been discussed as the ‘hidden injuries of the neoliberal university’ (Gill, 2010), highlighting the ways in which such experiences are simultaneously acknowledged and recognised by university staff, yet silenced and exorcised from formal spaces of the contemporary academy and without ‘proper channels’ of expression – being the subject of conference coffee breaks but not keynotes, of after seminar drinks but not departmental meetings, committee minutes or Senate or Council documentation. For future historians seeking to understand through such official records something about the texture of experience of current academic life, the archives will offer no insights.
However, in the last few years, this paper suggests, such injuries have moved from being almost completely silenced within universities to becoming the subject of a variety of new spaces and services designed with ‘academics in crisis’ at their heart. These include the rolling out of ‘well-being’ services within universities of programmes for stress management, mindfulness and resilience, the development of new ‘apps’ designed for busy or overworked people, and the rapidly expanding blogosphere which has become a key site for ‘naming’ and sharing such experiences of distress/injury. The paper looks critically at these three sites. It argues that whilst they recognise at least some aspects of the subjective experience of contemporary academic labouring, they remain locked into a profoundly individualist framework that turns away from systemic or collective politics to offer instead a set of individualised tools by which to ‘cope’ with the strains of the neoliberal academy.
Publication titleWomen's Studies International Forum
Department/SchoolSchool of Humanities
PublisherPergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd
Place of publicationThe Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Ox5 1Gb
Rights statementCopyright 2015 Published by Elsevier Ltd.