Occupying a space in-between conventional scholarship and imaginative storytelling, The University in Crumbs: A Register of Things Seen and Heard is an experimental work that dramatizes the everyday life of the academy. Consisting primarily of a series of five first-person reports, Robert Porter, Kerry-Ann Porter and Iain Mackenzie provide the reader with a number of stories that attempt to capture some of their everyday experiences of academic life in the UK, roughly between 2017 and 2022.
Self-consciously written in a subjective and conversational register, and often in dialogical form, The University in Crumbs is an accessible series of interrelated narratives that allow us to develop a concrete sense of the grain, texture and feel for what it might be like to work in the academy at a specific point in time. These stories, first-person reports, dialogues, come alive, acquire their meaning, force and pragmatic effect by way of a rather unique circumlocutory form. There is a directedness to the everyday talk engaged in by Robert, Kerry-Ann and Iain that nonetheless, simultaneously, indirectly loops in and out of a kind of technical academic talk that provides the book its light and shade.
University in Crumbs is an experimental work that implicitly and explicitly animates philosophy, social, cultural and political theory through first-person experiences and, in so doing, breathes new life into what can often otherwise remain rather conventional and technical academic language-games. More than that, this book dramatizes ideas and concepts in ways perhaps less burdened by the weight of canonical tradition, and encourages those readers with the talent to portray their social world differently to be more licentious and less bashful in putting such talents to work.
Robert Porter is research director in communication, media and cultural Studies at Ulster University, UK.
Kerry-Ann Porter is lecturer in communication at Ulster University, UK.
Iain Mackenzie is reader in politics at University of Kent, UK.
A note on the in-text footnotes
Part One – The ‘other R.D. Laing’
Part Two – Waiting for Gadu
Part Three – Academic World and the Office Clear-Out
Part Four – The Class on ‘Space Traders’
Part Five – The Conference paper on ‘Universities and Critique in a Neo-liberal Age’
About the Authors
How can academics think about the limits of the academy without reproducing academia? The authors of this experimental, exploratory and sometimes angry book use autofiction and imagined dialogues to express their experiences of the “edu-factory", seeking to breach the routine registers of academic talk, and to provoke awareness of how we apprehend (or don’t) what is going on around us. The department meeting, conference and classroom will never feel the same again.
There are many books which stridently claim that the university is dead, but few that show what it is like to stumble around inside the corpse. This beautifully written and clever volume will provoke laughter and despair in equal measure, and perhaps make readers wonder how smart people end up doing such stupid things.
It is easy to be wise after the event, in 2033. The University in Crumbs is both banal phenomenology of everyday academic life and provocative auto-ethnographic dramaturgy by critically trained pedants and textualists, more and/or less hoodwinked and impotent. If your University has a ‘forward together’ strategy at the basis of its ‘divisional restructuring’, this is the book for you.