Stars

Two things that have me thinking this morning: First, the thread from Timothy Burke beginning here:

And second, the thread from low end theory beginning here:

Putting these things together: The academic star system into which my corner of the humanities fell at some point a few decades back has not only done inordinate institutional damage through the kinds of privilege it has created and upheld, and thus the kinds of labor that it has allowed to roll off of some shoulders and to land on others. It has not only done grievous political damage both within our institutions and to the relationship between the university and the public by undermining the solidarity that we should have been working toward and replacing it with a destructive form of competition. It has done both of these things, and it has done substantial intellectual damage to our fields, concentrating resources on established and rising stars and so preventing others — and most especially, those who as a result of that concentration of resources could not find secure work within our institutions and thus were squeezed off of the platforms that might have given them voice — from producing the work that might have led all of us in new directions.

The particular situation that prompts these thoughts, whatever it may in actuality be (and I do not at all think I have a picture that is either complete or accurate), is symptomatic of something fundamentally broken at the heart of our institutional structures. Changing that is going to require entirely new ways of understanding who and why we are together, and what it is our institutions of higher education are for.

Right now, they are in very large part for the creation and maintenance of stars. And that orientation, if we do not change it, could well be the end of us.

112 thoughts on “Stars

  1. The last 20 years for me has been fascinating in regard to this. Coming from NYU and that culture, working at a local/regional college where the humanities are devalued, in a marriage to someone who is not a star but who certainly knows pretty much everyone at top of her field 1/

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