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Saying No!: Profligacy versus austerity, or metaphor against model in justifying the Arts and Humanities in the contemporary university

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Demonstrating an analysis of two musicals that both disclose and seek imaginatively to resolve political and economic conflict, an analysis that was the product of the radical interdisciplinary ‘studies’ movements of the culture wars in the late twentieth century university, this article seeks to examine what modes of defence are available to the critical projects in the Arts and Humanities, developed in that moment, when now faced with the culture of austerity. Under the twin rationalizations of audit culture with the accountable excellence and the new model that defines the Arts and Humanities as ‘profligate’ expenses in an age of financial rationing based on economic necessity and required technological orientation, there is a temptation to fall back on nostalgia for an imagined period of academic freedom identified, problematically but not untruthfully, with struggles for democracy through and in education. Based on Hannah Arendt’s defence of thinking via a reading by Judith Butler, and with Gayatri Spivak’s notions of teaching to read as a necessary route to the creation of a planetary community, the article seeks to go beyond the historically compromised defences of self-determining academic freedom, themselves shown to be founded in nationalist and imperialist agendas of the past.

Keywords: Hannah Arendt on education and thinking; audit culture; cultural studies; planetary community; ‘profligacy’ of Arts and Humanities; ‘studies’ movement

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Leeds

Publication date: November 16, 2012

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  • The Journal of European Popular Culture investigates the creative cultures of Europe, present and past. Exploring European popular imagery, media, new media, film, music, art and design, architecture, drama and dance, fine art, literature and the writing arts, and more, the journal is also of interest to those considering the influence of European creativity and European creative artefacts worldwide.
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