Conceptualising Doctoral Writing as an Affective-Political Practice

By Burford, James | International Journal of Doctoral Studies, Annual 2017 | Go to article overview

Conceptualising Doctoral Writing as an Affective-Political Practice


Burford, James, International Journal of Doctoral Studies


ABSTRACT

Aim/Purpose    This article offers a conceptual summary and critique
               of existing literature on doctoral writing and
               emotion. The article seeks to intervene in current
               debates about doctoral writing by re-positioning it
               as an affective-political practice
Background     Over recent decades public interest in the doctorate
               has expanded as it has become re-framed as a key
               component of national success in the global knowledge
               economy. It is within this context that the practice
               of doctoral writing has crystallised as an object of
               interest. While researchers have examined the increased
               regulation, surveillance, and intensification of
               doctoral writing, often this work is motivated to
               develop pedagogies that support students to meet these
               new expectations. At this point, there has been limited
               attention to what broad changes to the meanings and
               practices of doctoral writing feel like for students.
Methodology    The paper offers a conceptual review that examines the
               ways in which doctoral writing tends to be understood.
               A review of literature in the areas of doctoral writing,
               doctoral emotion, and critical studies of academic
               labour was undertaken in order to produce a more
               comprehensive understanding of the political and
               emotional dynamics of doctoral writing.
Contribution   It is intended that this conceptual research paper help
               researchers attend to the emotional context of doctoral
               writing in the current university context. Critical
               studies of academic work and life are identified as a
               possible platform for the development of future doctoral
               education research, and the conceptual tool of
               "affective-politics" is advanced as a novel frame for
               approaching doctoral writing research.
Keywords       affect, affective-politics, doctoral writing, doctoral
               education, emotion, neoliberalism

INTRODUCTION

It is the purpose of this article to re-frame doctoral writing as an affective-political practice. By talking about 'doctoral writing' I am referring to the production of a broad number of texts - from dissertations to funding applications and annual progress reports. Rather than adding to the body of empirical knowledge about doctoral education, this article pursues a different goal. It seeks to offer conceptual tools that can assist researchers to think about the practice of doctoral writing in alternative ways. The article extends an expanding body of research on the social practice of doctoral writing (Barnacle & Dall'Alba, 2014; Bosanquet & Cahir, 2015; Hopwood & Paulson, 2012; Kamler, 2008; Kamler & Thomson, 2006, 2008, 2014; A. Lee & Aitchison, 2009, Starke-Meyemng, 2011), as well as studies that have taken doctoral education as an emotionally and politically implicated phenomenon (Burford, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c, 2015a, 2016a; Devine & Hunter, 2016; Nutov & Hassan, 2011). While a group of researchers (myself included) have been advancing conversations about neoliberal change to universities and its impact on doctoral emotions, to date there has been no conceptual review published which critically analyses relevant literature, nor has there been any term available to group together this body of work. It is into this gap that this article enters by offering a review of relevant literature and advancing the framework of affective-politics.

This article begins by characterising recent transformations to higher education and the impacts these have had on doctoral students and doctoral writing. Following this analysis, it is positioned in relation to two key debates in the postgraduate writing literature. …

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