Who studies the university?
February 25, 2009 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Are there any academics who specialize in criticizing/studying academia? What are their names?

I'm not necessarily looking for left- or right-wing crackpots who have a beef, or academics who vent about academic issues on the side, but rather social scientists who focus on academic issues like affirmative action, job markets, academic freedom, publishing practices, theory/practice, academic politics and so on in their research. In other words, social scientists who do research about academia. Thanks.
posted by Dr. Send to Education (27 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I used to read a lot of stories about academics studying the behavior of other academics and/or academic institutions when I subscribed to the email edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. That may be a good place to start.
posted by limeonaire at 2:20 PM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Michele Lamont focuses on judgment and boundary-maintenance, not academics. But she does have a book on judgment in academic that you should probably have a look at: How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgement.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:32 PM on February 25, 2009

The study of teaching is pedagogy.
posted by theora55 at 2:36 PM on February 25, 2009

Homo Academicus by french sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is good.
posted by pseudonick at 2:39 PM on February 25, 2009

Sociologists of science?
posted by The Toad at 2:46 PM on February 25, 2009

You want social scientists or theorists?
posted by barnone at 2:51 PM on February 25, 2009

Michael Berube does a fair amount of this, especially as it relates to English departments. He has a blog, I'm pretty sure.
posted by Neofelis at 3:01 PM on February 25, 2009

Response by poster: You want social scientists or theorists?

I want everyone!

Erin O'Connor (Critical Mass) is another blogger along the lines of Berube.

Sociologists of science would be great, if you know any good ones.

Pedagogy is not so much what I'm interested in.
posted by Dr. Send at 3:19 PM on February 25, 2009

Timothy Caboni

Professor Caboni's research is grounded theoretically in both sociology and communication theory, and focuses on social control and stratification within higher education, and the relationships between postsecondary education institutions and their external publics. He is specifically concerned with the self-regulation of the fund raising profession; the existence of accumulative advantage in voluntary support of higher education; the influence of capital campaign materials on the perceptions of donor publics; the relationship between practitioner perception and crisis planning in colleges and universities; and the function of organizational identification as a mediating variable between donor characteristics and giving.
posted by turbodog at 3:29 PM on February 25, 2009

Stanley Fish would probably place himself in the way you described. NY Times blog is linked, he has some books on the topic too. Allan Bloom also made his name on the subject, in The Closing of the American Mind, but wasn't his primary focus.

**I offer no support/judgement on the work of either of these authors.
posted by quodlibet at 3:44 PM on February 25, 2009

Sociology of Science? Bruno Latour. WIKI
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:46 PM on February 25, 2009

there's an ambiguity here:

the question is whether you want to question the production of academic knowledge, and the problems that that kind of knowledge entails. I would begin with sociology of science (latour is but one starting point of a vast field) but also within the disciplines, certain scholars criticize their histories (in anthropology, where i'm at, michel rolph-trouillot in "the savage slot" and the bruce kapferer are immediate names in a field which is almost *dominated* by eating one's predecesors and indicting them in colonialism, etc). i would also consult derrida and other deconstructionists on how discourses and disciplines work and survive...

if, however, you're interested in the production of academia itself, institutionally, i would refer you to bourdieu's work on the academy, pletch, fish as quodlibet mentioned, etc...

[shit, sorry for all the bolds, eh?]
posted by yonation at 3:55 PM on February 25, 2009

also, don't forget blogs!! whether its savageminds, brian leiter (whom i dont agree with, but is quite relevant), berube, etc, blogs are often fora where criticism of academia can survive publically...
posted by yonation at 3:56 PM on February 25, 2009

This might not be the best fit with what you're looking for, but Robert Boice has done research on professors' work habits and how that correlates with their productivity and ability to get tenure. One of his books.
posted by betterton at 4:38 PM on February 25, 2009

In anthro, there's the whole Writing Culture lineage (James Clifford, etc)--which also tends to bring Geertz to mind, for me. Sahlins comes to mind as well--Culture and Practical Reason, but also Islands of History and "Historical Metaphors and Mythical Realities" given the mention of Trouillot.

But I'm not sure how useful these are going to be to someone not interested in anthropology's struggles with the emic/etic or anxiety over its interaction with power in producing knowledge.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:45 PM on February 25, 2009

Sociologists (I am one!) are a good resource for you. You can find information on sociology of education, sociology of teaching, and sociology of pedagogy, for example.
posted by Piscean at 4:48 PM on February 25, 2009

Philip Mirowski does some pretty hard-core science studies, focused in part on the development of economics as a discipline but also at the history of the sciences in general. He's not really right-wing or left-wing, and has a massive beef with both of 'em. He's a real character.
posted by valkyryn at 5:24 PM on February 25, 2009

The rhetoric of science is an entire sub-discipline that you will find meets your needs. Critical pedagogy is another one. Feminist studies, queer theory, and other identity-within-the-institution disciplines also have large bodies of literature dealing with academia.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:43 PM on February 25, 2009

Russell Jacoby wrote The Last Intellectuals, which deals with declining public intellectualism in light of increasing institutional intellectualism, the academe. It's a bit old (1987), but according to his site on UCLA's page, his research interests include "American intellectual history," so his recent work probably deals with the same general things. Possibly telling: his site also says he's the honorary lifetime vice president of the American Pessimist Society.

I personally didn't find The Last Intellectuals particularly convincing, but I know he's written more recently on how technology may affect his argument.
posted by kochenta at 6:36 PM on February 25, 2009

Some philosophy / history of science stuff does this, but you'll see it in the context of a larger point, or in support of some other theory. In my experience people who do this tend to purposely distance themselves from sociologists, and tend not to 'name names' or study particular things in depth, but they have a pretty good pulse on general trends and attitudes towards research and the role of the university in science. At least another direction to go down.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:47 PM on February 25, 2009

Jeanette Colyvas at Northwestern is a new faculty member doing this (studying trends in invention, patents, and promotion).

Also, don't miss Phillip Roth's The Human Stain.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:47 PM on February 25, 2009

You might be interested in "Notes from Tashkent: An Ethnographic Study of Uzbek Scholarly Life," an article in the current New Left Review.
posted by Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutesonekh at 9:50 PM on February 25, 2009

John Guillory's work on canon formation in literature departments has been enormously influential.

Cary Nelson and Stanley Aronowitz have also contributed much to the academic labor debates.

And here's the link to much-mentioned Michael Berube's blog.
posted by taramosalata at 4:25 AM on February 26, 2009

Related thread
posted by lukemeister at 5:53 AM on February 26, 2009

From their website: The Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) promotes collaboration among its members and others engaged in the study of higher education through research, conferences, and publications, including its highly regarded journal, The Review of Higher Education. ASHE values rigorous scholarly approaches to the study of higher education and practical applications of systemic inquiry.
ASHE is a scholarly society with about 2,000 members dedicated to higher education as a field of study.
posted by eaglehound at 7:29 AM on February 26, 2009

It's an intimidating read (which I haven't completed yet), but I think Collins's The Sociology of Philosophies is a great long-term look at academia, and is noteworthy for its coverage of historical Western and Eastern academia. I first read about it in Agre's Networking on the Network, which is or at least used to be a classic advice document for those new to academia.
posted by Jorus at 8:44 AM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: Awesome, thank you everyone.
posted by Dr. Send at 10:54 AM on February 26, 2009

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