The Birth of Critical University Studies

| February 20, 2012

In The Chronicle of Higher Education this week, Jeffrey J. Williams offers a tantalizing glimpse into what he calls an emerging field: critical university studies. In his article “Deconstructing Academe: The Birth of Critical University Studies,” Williams argues that the work of scholars across disciplines over the last twenty years has reached the point that it can be considered its own field, one that is interdisciplinary, contentious, and, among other things, critically opposed to universities acting like corporations. Whether one agrees with the views presented in critical university studies or not, Williams points out that it cannot be denied as a field in itself. To name something is to recognize its existence, or, as Williams writes:

To give it a name recognizes that it has attained significant mass and signals a gathering place for those considering similar work. “Critical” indicates the new work’s oppositional stance, similar to approaches like critical legal studies, critical race studies, critical development studies, critical food studies, and so on, that focuses on the ways in which current practices serve power or wealth and contribute to injustice or inequality rather than social hope. “Studies” picks up its cross-disciplinary character, focused on a particular issue and drawing on research from any relevant area to approach the problem. “University” outlines its field of reference, which includes the discourse of “the idea of the university” as well as the actual practices and diverse institutions of contemporary higher education.

For a college focused on education like Teachers College, as for any institution of higher education, this is an article and a field that cannot be overlooked.