Chilean Universities, Crisis Ordinariness, and Respatializing Knowledge

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:24 PM
Room: 301
Oral Presentation
Susan TALBURT , Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
University competition for international excellence centers faculty research productivity (measured by indexed publications, research citations, etc.), global rankings, and international recognition. This presentation analyzes internationalization and research development in Chilean universities as a spatial reorientation of faculty work, knowledge, and subjectivity. Since Pinochet’s dictatorship, Chile’s neoliberalization has intensified everyday competition in a free market and declining welfare state. Following the regime’s political repression, universities’ knowledge alignment with popular subjects changed to creating practical, neutral knowledge through technocrats. More recently, Chilean university policy conforms to World Bank and OECD logics to increase research productivity and rankings.

I theorize globalization as a “spatial rationality” that attributes causal powers to space to create efficiency, utility, and normative ideas of “the good” that catalyze particular actions and subjectivities.  Rhetorics of globalization’s economic demands create “crisis ordinariness,” naturalizing globally competitive preparedness for national, institutional, and individual well-being. Technologies of visibilization (e.g., rankings) and cosmopolitanism incite faculty to compete as entrepreneurs, a spatial reorientation that secures theory, methods, and research networks of the Global North as norms for knowledge production for faculty from “peripheral nations.”

I present themes from interviews with twenty faculty across fields at two top Chilean universities: (1) Faculty describe becoming self-managers, securing grants, publishing in ISI journals, and participating in international networks, creating new privileges and hierarchies; (2) As faculty “become productive,” some describe losses:  research regulation through funding agency and journal standards, abandoning local projects of social change, and diminishing space to participate in national debates; (3) These constraints produce alternative knowledge projects, such as using grant funds to create digital platforms for public exchange or indexing long-existing Chilean journals to legitimize “expressions that expand our social imaginary.”

This is not a simple narrative of research homogenization, domination, or resistance, but of how crisis ordinariness creates new spaces, subjectivities, and knowledges.