Fractography as assemblage

Connecting para-academic pathways in the ruined university

This creatively-critical collaboration confronts issues of precarious employment in contemporary universities. As three early career academics currently employed on casual or fixed-term contracts in Australian universities, we have produced a writing-based fractography — a study of cracks — in order to show the effects of what Bill Readings has called ‘the ruined university’ on the bodies, minds, and lives of academic workers. To produce this work, each of us penned an individual narrative employing cracks as a metaphor for our lived experiences of working in academia. We then spliced the three separate accounts into fragments and combined them into a single text, interwoven with quotations from published sources. The quoted materials set the personal against the political, showing how our individual and particular experiences reflect specific but non-isolated instances of a much bigger, shared problem. Our polyvocal collaboration thus forms an instance of what Drager Meurtant describes in terms of ‘artistic assemblage’. In line with Cathryn Perazzo and Patrick West, we engage this approach in order to affect ‘non-didactic didacticism’ in our critique of the socio-political problems rife throughout academia today. 

Keywords: precarious work; para-academia; the ruined university; collaboration; assemblage