What are we gonna do now?: Academic-ing in the ongoing catastrophe

Pamela ThurschwellMMUf

This roundtable brings together people who have taught and researched, at Sussex in order to talk about how we are responding locally in our academic lives to global crises including climate change, upsurges of racism and xenophobia, and the other ongoing and deepening crises of whatever-stage-we-are-at Capitalism. These crises affect our teaching/mentoring/research every day, just as they affect our students’ and colleagues’ lives and expectations for their futures. We hope this panel will allow us to consider where we are, and strategize about how we might work together. The goal is to try and connect the dots between different experiences of labour in an English Department such as Sussex (the impact agenda, precarious labour, mental health crises, what we can do via Widening Participation, etc) in ways that are personal but also relevant both internally and externally. We aim to bring our fears off Twitter feeds and out of hallway conversations into the Shared Futures space to talk about what we can do, and what we are doing, as people involved in Higher Education in critical times.

Dr. Tom Bamford-Blake is a poet, postdoctoral researcher, and creative writing tutor based at Sussex. Speaking as a casualised early career academic and Widening Participation worker, Tom is interested in a dialogue between those excluded from the academy and those struggling to transform it from within. How can we share academic intellectual resources in a way that places them in their social and experiential contexts rather than simply reinscribing their value as cultural capital?

Dr. Hope Wolf is a Senior Lecturer in Modernism at Sussex. Taking as a starting point her recent curatorial work with regional galleries and museums, she will talk about the uncomfortable experience of coming up against neoliberal pressures to use the arts to brand and monetise places (and, conversely, to use places to sell the arts). She will reflect on the market-led binds that are is pushing and pulling around both the work of the 'cultural industries' and also of academics through 'impact' projects (which, partly due to funding calls and government agendas, have very often focussed on place). She will ask whether research on place will inevitably be reactionary or place sites in a competitive relationship with others. What could a more resistant and progressive relationship between regionalism and the arts look like? Should the 'regional' frame be abandoned all together?

Dr. Annabel Haynes is an Early Career Academic working on work, late modernism, and utopian/ dystopian writing. She has worked as teaching fellow at Sussex and is also training in psychodynamic counselling skills. She will talk about the work life and feelings of an early career researcher, and her experience of confronting emotions and using counselling skills in the university classroom.

Dr Jennifer Cooke is Senior Lecturer in English at Loughborough University who did her BA, MA and Phd at Sussex. She will address how out of step the very idea of assessment is with the transformative conversations that can take place in the seminar room. What would happen if we advocated for abandoning the concept of assigning grades to student work? Successful US universities (Brown, Sarah Lawrence College) use a blended system, or allow students to opt out of grading entirely. What might UK university education look like if we abandoned grades?

Dr. Pam Thurschwell is a Reader in English who has taught at Sussex since 2007. Her talk will focus on the challenge of teaching and writing in the midst of what seems like permanent upheaval. Do we try and keep our own fears about capitalism, climate change, fascism, economic precarity, out of the classroom? If the answer is no (and I think it is usually no) then what do we think should be happening in classrooms now?

Chair: Dr Sam Solomon (Senior Lecturer in English and co-director of the Sussex Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence)

Fri 3:30 pm - 4:45 pm