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When & Where
Wed, November 6, 2019 - 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Berkeley Way West

The Critical University Studies (CUS) working group convenes and cultivates a critical scholarly community that contends with issues of power, race, and gender in higher education. Our goals are to: 1) deepen our theoretical inquiry related to critical studies of higher education through existing scholarship and in particular, develop theoretical and empirical links with scholarship from critical studies of race, gender, and class. We draw inspiration from the black radical tradition and black feminism in particular, indigenous studies, and decolonial theory. Through this goal, we hope to further theoretical frameworks relevant to race and gender and to university studies.

Next, we seek to 2) strengthen our methodological approaches on how to conduct ethical and rigorous research in university settings and with communities that shape and are influenced by institutions of higher education. To this extent, we engage in reflection of our own positionalities and on how our research might mitigate or reinforce existing power structures. As such, we seek to explore non-traditional modes of knowledge production and participatory approaches to data collection. We aspire to 3) cultivate community that supports graduate students through milestones and beyond degree completion, but also to further this community beyond Berkeley such as by engaging with faculty and other students at conferences and through an event featuring a guest speaker.

Contemporary issues of concern to our group’s research include but are not limited to the following:

  • Neoliberalism and academic free speech
  • Politics of redemption, carcerality, and the pipeline from prisons to postsecondary education
  • Political economy of surveillance, discipline, and exploitation in collegiate sports
  • Youth and student movements, democratization of higher education
  • Decolonization and “globalization” of higher education
  • The reproduction of antiblackness in the inclusion of black students, staff, and faculty 

The CUS working group is proposed amidst a recent rise of Critical University Studies. Newfield (2016) and others have brought necessary attention, for example, to the consequences of privatizing and limiting access to universities and to a broader “crisis” of higher education. While several scholars have dedicated attention to race in universities (see Williamson-Lott 2018, Mustaffa 2017), rarely have scholars have dedicated explicit attention to both race and gender within university studies, with a few notable exceptions that have begun to map the emergent CUS field (Boggs & Mitchell 2018). Several group members have been working on intersectional approaches, but the opportunity to do so within critical university studies is novel. Our renovation of critical university studies therefore intervenes in this gap, placing race, gender as well as class and generation at the center of analyses.

CUS is positioned to build from, but also expand the work of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education (GSE) and the Center for Studies of Higher Education (CSHE) which focus on k-12 Critical University Studies | Center for Race & Gender 3 education and policy, respectively. By focusing on power, violence, and the experiences, needs, and agency of historically marginalized groups, we also hope to demonstrate a pathway for departments and centers to deepen their respective engagement with critical university studies. A CRG grant would enable us to develop work that could be of interest to Critical Theory, Ethnic Studies, African American Studies, or Gender & Women’s Studies, for example. The scholarship from which we draw is primarily from the U.S. but also looks to work in global contexts such as Brazil and South Africa.

CUS met regularly through Spring 2019 (without funding) and developed priorities to formalize and advance our research. Proposed activities for 2019-2020 include:

  • Regular meetings. During our regular meetings, we will alternate with discussions of (1) extant research that informs our respective interests and (2) workshopping of one another’s academic work in progress. By doing so, we will not only support one another in expanding and deepening our comprehension of relevant research for our studies of higher education but also offer feedback appropriate to our theoretical scholarly traditions.
  • Speaker series. Few faculty at UC Berkeley are empirically and theoretically focused on the study of higher education. We aim to host 2-3 speakers each semester (depending on grant amount and distance/ availability). In the next year, we will primarily focus on recruiting seasoned and recent faculty within the state of California as guest speakers and will disseminate across campus. We have already begun reaching out to students and faculty at several neighboring institutions in the UC system (Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, San Diego), and will share events and promote collaboration with them.
  • Professional development via resource sharing. In the short-term, this group will circulate announcements about grants, fellowships, recent publications, and other relevant developments for critical studies of higher education. In the long-term, we hope to compile a more formal database and/or resource guide to aid a broader audience toward critical university studies. This might exist as a bibliography or literature review publication for those interested in learning more about this blooming scholarly community.
  • Developing conference proposals. We will share information about upcoming conference opportunities and submit proposals together. Beginning with a submission to the American Educational Research Association (AERA). We also look forward to offering the space to incoming students in multiple departments. 

After this initial period, we hope to renew and/or apply for a Project Grant.

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Not Applicable

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