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Casual conversations: A critical autoethnography of the casualised academic experience within the Neoliberal University

Murphy, Jennifer Joy (2021) Casual conversations: A critical autoethnography of the casualised academic experience within the Neoliberal University. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Universities have been increasing their reliance on casualised academics to perform teaching and research tasks. While this represents a significant cost saving to the university, there is a personal-professional cost to the casualised individuals and a broader cost to the university community. While my research started pre-COVID-19, the challenges of this unprecedented world crisis have served to accentuate the fissures of the contemporary Neoliberal University in Australia. The pandemic has provided a catalyst to reform universities around a set of narrowly conceived utilitarian and instrumentalist values that impact the nature of academic labour, particularly how casualised academics are mis/treated.

This investigation uses critical autoethnography to explore how casual academic staff understand, process, and respond to the ‘lived experience’ of casualisation within the contemporary Neoliberal University. Drawing on the theoretical ideas of precarity, subjectivity, performativity and resistance/agency, a reflective narrative approach explores the personal-professional experiences and ramifications of casualisation.

Casualisation of labour, especially within the Neoliberal University, can alter the personal and professional perception of an individual’s abilities, further influencing their employment opportunities and sense of self-worth. There appears to be a disconnect between university requirements and expectations, employment conditions and remuneration, and professional expertise. Additionally, there is a discrepancy in the treatment and respect provided to casualised academics, enacted through organisational culture, communication, and general regard. The stories and experiences of casualised academics are often unheard, as this marginalised and transient cohort exist outside the formal university structure. This research represents my own autobiographical experience of being a casualised academic through the explanatory lens of power/control, precarity, subjectivity and agency/resistance in the Neoliberal University, and what can be done about it.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
Supervisor(s): Down, Barry, Price, Anne and Chapman, Sian
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