Critically interrogating the fragmentation and weak institutionalization of ‘Communication Studies’ in Europe: Epistemological (im)possibilities and the play of power in the neoliberal university

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This paper will critically interrogate the marginalization of communication studies in the European research and education landscape. Drawing on a discourse theoretical approach (eg Jørgensen and Phillips 2002), it will analyse the marginalization of communication studies in the context of current conditions for knowledge production in the “neo-liberal university” and discuss the implications with respect to epistemological and political (im)possibilities and the play of power. The paper will first discuss the marginalization of ‘media and communication studies’ before concentrating on the marginalization of ‘communication studies’. There is a long-standing, periodically recurring, discussion in media and communication studies about its fragmentation and about whether it is appropriate to call media and communication studies a ‘field’, given its fragmented condition. Very recently, this discussion has surfaced in the “Crosscurrents” debate section of Media Culture and Society (Corner 2013, Couldry 2013, Gray & Lotz, 2013). Building on this debate, the paper will argue that questions of fragmentation and marginalization can fruitfully be understood in relation to current conditions for academic knowledge production which are saturated with neoliberal discourse, encouraging competition in the name of “excellence” and “outputs” serving the needs of the knowledge economy. Tackling marginalization entails engaging in academic politics in a power struggle with other fields in the neoliberal competition for recognition as an academic field and for institutional and financial support. The question is how to how to play the competitive game (and, for instance, secure funding) while insisting on collaborative, critical modes of research which conflict with neoliberal knowledge regimes (Olssen and Peters 2005: 1). Communication studies (as opposed to ‘media and communication studies’) is more marginalized institutionally in Europe than in the US. With respect to higher education, this leads to an orientation within communication studies towards North American communication theory. I will argue for the importance of providing a conceptual map of the different traditions of communication theory (building eg on Craig 1999) in order for students to grasp the performativity of different conceptualisations of communication and gain a foundation for working across, and combining, the traditions in an informed, critical and reflexive way. A key point will be that furthering a critical-reflexive approach to communication studies that foregrounds communication theories is a necessary political move in challenging the knowledge regime of the neoliberal university and the spread of theory-thin, strategic, and uncritical approaches to communication (research and) practice. References Corner, J. (2013) ”Is there a ‘field’ of media research? The ‘fragmentation’ issue revisited”, Media Culture & Society, 35(8): 1011-1018. Craig, R.T. (1999) ”Communication theory as a field”. Communication Theory, 9(2): 119-161. Gray, J. & Lotz, A. (2013). ”A robust and dynamic field”, Media Culture & Society, 35(8): 1019-1022. Jørgensen, M. and Phillips, L. (2002). Discourse Analysis as Theory and Method. London: Sage. Olssen, M. and Peters, M. 2005. ‘Neoliberalism, higher education and the knowledge economy: from the free market to knowledge capitalism’, Journal of Education Policy 20,3: 313–345.
Antal sider2
StatusUdgivet - 2014
BegivenhedECREA 2014 - Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias , Lisboa, Portugal
Varighed: 12 nov. 201415 nov. 2014


KonferenceECREA 2014
LokationUniversidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias

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