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‘Resistant to change?’: using critical reflection to analyse positionality within a neoliberal academic environment
journal contributionposted on 2021-01-01, 00:00 authored by Kim RobinsonKim Robinson, Selma MacfarlaneSelma Macfarlane
A growing body of literature has outlined the deleterious impacts of neoliberalism on higher education in the Western world. These critiques are far-ranging and include effects on students, curriculum, educators and the purpose of higher education itself. Some of this literature has focused specifically on social work education, highlighting ways in which neoliberal agendas run counter to the profession’s focus on social justice and a critical approach to education. In this article, as social work academics based in Australia, we use a structured process of critical reflection to deconstruct and reconstruct a challenging incident that embodies and reflects key tenets of neoliberal discourse. The authors draw on a combination of theories that inform critical social work, such as feminism, critical theory and postmodern thinking. We argue that critical reflection can enable us to name and unpack the discourses and power dynamics at play within academic and other settings in order to more clearly and consciously resist managerial processes and to generate alternative discourses based on social work values. The endeavour is aimed not at prescribing practices of resistance, but rather at considering possibilities for creative responses in subtle spaces.