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THE BOOK AVAILABLE AT htt:!!h"##$%&'%$((.'$t!")$1*.ht#
Para-academic Publishing as Public-Making
Paul Boshears
What I'm writing here began as a conversation in preparation for the Aesthetics in the 21
conference hosted by the University of Basel in wit!erland" #here we$ the editors of continent. and the editors
of the %ournal$ Speculations$
convened a panel discussion entitled the &'esthetics of Para-academic Practices"(
)ur panel discussion came during the middle of the second day of convening$ that potentially grey$ bleak !one in
a multi-day conference when no one wants to return from lunch and suddenly the crowd has become half the si!e
it was at the commencement" But$ it was good timing for that panel discussion because it did something
interesting to the usual stage directions that choreograph most of the conferences we academics attend* we were
discussing the gripes and the grouses that are usually only articulated in the halls$ between sessions at the coffee
station$ or over beers at the end of the day"
#he backstage talk about how our daily academic practices+that
grind that we live$ not the polished pearls that we publish or broadcast+that was suddenly front and centre in the
conference" I'm not claiming that we mobili!ed our collective frustrations into some tectonic shift, but we cannot
deny that some &real talk( helps shape the contours of how we will behave in the future" 't a minimum when we
are in the presence of those with whom we've had that &real talk( we are likely to behave in a different manner$
that is the promise of collegiality and more broadly of sociality"
#hese moments might be microscopic in the face of increasing precarity for the ma%ority of faculty
working in U"" universities -that is$ ad%unct faculty.
and the global cognitariat,
I defer to a local leader of the
/reek 0ation -the indigenous people of the 'tlanta area$ where I have lived for many years.$ #om Bluewolf$ who
told me$ &0o raindrop wants to be responsible for the flood"( 'nd so I offer this pittance$ this single tear wept for
all my fellow graduate students$ and all those ad%uncts that make a college or university education possible in the
United tates -where I am currently based. and across the globe" 1our work transforms lives beyond your own"
Mine is one of them"
We are witnessing the changing nature of academic practice" My thinking about para-academia and the
macro-level forces that are helping forge the para-academic proposition is primarily informed by and concerned
with how the para-academic could be practiced in the United tates" 'lthough I have also worked in universities
in both wit!erland and 2apan I am currently based in the U"" and write from this perspective" #his change in
practice is being spurred-on by the dramatic shift in the technologies through which knowledge work is done"
#he para-academic proposition is both a response to and a detour away from the conditions that accompany the
changes occurring in the 'cademy" #he para-academic is not a fully-formed idea$ it is a proposition and it has
multiple valences" Bruce Macfarlane emphasi!es the para-academic as support role$ as in &para-professional"(
#he Ph3 holder that acts as counselor to the cohorts$ rather than as the traditional mentor$ say" )r some other
administrative function that frees-up the professor to either teach or conduct research" 4e describes the &rise of
the para-academic( as a result of shifting e5pectations within international universities toward a more
&#aylori!ed( model of operating so as to achieve the optimal efficiency in delivering educated people" In order
to achieve these efficiencies$ the role of the scholar has become what he terms &unbundled"(
If the university
can find it's greatest return on investment through the kinds of knowledge generation that happen in research
labs$ then the university should be hiring those professors that are best able to ac6uire research dollars and
manage that funding stream" Meanwhile the historical vision of the professor as one who professes to their
students and society at-large has been relegated to an army of ad%unct laborers" #o be fair$ there is no shortage of
reporting about the current academic crisis" But to whom are these notices directed7 #he disconnect between
those working in universities and colleges and seemingly everyone else in the U"" is perhaps best e5emplified
by 8ice President 2oe Biden's statement last year 2anuary* that the rising costs of higher education in this country
is due to rising professor salaries" It was not emphasi!ed this significant loss of funding from individual states"
/urrently the trend in higher education is to celebrate openness"
9or e5ample$ )pen 'ccess is bandied
about as an antidote to the skyrocketing e5penses of subscriptions to academic %ournals" But as I have discussed
elsewhere$ what is meant by )pen 'ccess is not clear"
)pen software initiatives like those being developed at
the Public :nowledge Pro%ect -their )2 platform is the WordPress of academic publishing. continues to be
adopted and developed by younger academics as they go about their work" We initiated continent. with aims that
include developing the )2 platform to integrate the variety of media that are now available for the
contemporary academic to mediate their labor -e"g" static and moving images$ code-based practices$ audio$ etc".
;ike our friends at Punctum Books we are )pen 'ccess publishers utili!ing /reative /ommons licenses$ the so-
called &3iamond )pen 'ccess( model of publishing"
We do so in an effort to emphasi!e the fun of creating
both a material ob%ect called a publication but also to emphasi!e that the process of publication is the process of
public-making" 1es$ many of us involved in these pro%ects share precarious positions relative to the universities
we draw incomes or other resources from$ we may also share a certain gallows humor about the sad state of
funding for our beloved 'cademy" But$ when 4arvard University$ with one of the richest endowments in the
world at its disposal$ announces they can't afford %ournals$
the tectonic change that comes with widespread
adoption of )pen 'ccess policies isn't about a disruptive technology that finally breaks a monopoly" )pen
'ccess and M))/'s are not disrptive technologies$ they're labor models"
Under the so-called <old )pen
'ccess model$ 'cademics already do a large amount of work for these publishers$ and pay for that opportunity
-or access to this work is paid for by the ta5 payers."
#oday$ the value of lecturers approaches !ero" #heir talent at communicating their knowledge is given
away freely through vehicles like ed=$ /oursera$ Udacity$ or 'cademia"edu" #oday the academic must
demonstrate that their work has impact" 's the />) of 'cademia"edu$ ?ichard Price$ stated it$ &' core problem
for researchers is how to build their brand @A"B #o make yourself established in a field$ the core way you do that
is to share your work"(
#his isn't liberating academics$ this is neoliberali!ing academia" We are the brand$ the
dotcom update to Mar5's comment about the proletariat$ doubly free$ &as a free individual he can dispose of his
labour-power as his own commodity$ and that @A we areB free of all the ob%ects needed for the reali!ation of
@ourB labour-power"(
#he premium paid has instead been placed on the bureaucracy necessary to achieve and
maintain accreditation" imilar to the dynamic established by overseas campuses -such as 'ustralia's Monash
Indonesian campus$ or the 0ational University of ingapore and 1ale.$ what we are seeing is the triumph of
University branding" tudents around the world want to attend Ivy ;eague schools because those schools have
the veneer of e5cellence$ not because the programs themselves are the best+in fact$ these Ivy ;eague schools
are fre6uently outperformed by publicCstate schools in many areas" 1es$ anyone will be able to take classes from
4arvard$ but that wonDt matter unless they also purchase the accreditation" When it is impossible for any one
person to distinguish signal from noise$ reliable signal markers are necessary and this is$ arguably what
accreditation does"
#he University will continue to become Mc3onaldi!ed" 2ust like the chair on the airplane looks like the
chair in the rental car looks like the chair in the faculty lounge$ looks like the chair your department head holds$
so will oneDs education become a packaged &e5perience"( #he student-consumer will e5pect certain events and
interactions while away at their University"
9or those paying for accreditation$ this education e5perience will
be delivered on a spectrum* the flavor of timeshares for the poorer community college students$ and more like
emester at ea+or some other e5pensive study abroad program+for the affluent"
Perhaps there will even develop a 4ooters-style e5perience$ student-consumers can en%oy their education
as its delivered by 'bercrombie E 9itch model-like ad%uncts$ the University finally capitali!ing on the chilli-
pepper grade system used by ?ate My Professor" ?egardless of their appearances$ the academic workers at those
Universities will be e5pected to deliver the education e5perience efficiently$ reliably$ and in the most uniform
manner possible"
If you think that I am too wildly speculating$ consider this somber report* the top two
growing sources of escorts -primarily young women to service men. are universities"
9aced with student loan
debt that has grown by orders of magnitude$ the future demands that those seeking an education be$ creative"
But what does para-academic afford us7 Why this term that so clearly adheres to &academia$( a
conservative$ discipline-insistent$ change-averse social institution7
It was from 0icola Masciandaro that I first learned the term &para-academic"(
9or >ileen 2oy and
Masciandaro the phrase*
&captures the multivalent sense of something that fulfills andCor frustrates the academic from a position
of intimate e5teriority @""""B #he para-academic embodies an unofficial e5cess or e 5 t e n s i o n o f t h e
academic that helps$ threatens$ supports$ mocks -par-ody.$ perfects andCor calls it into 6uestion simply
by e5isting ne5t to it"(
#o their description I would like to add the concept$ parabole" ' term within rhetoric$ parabole operates in a
manner not dissimilar from analogy* a transaction that enables two incommensurable items to become somehow
representative of a truth" ;ike a promise$ what is offered is perhaps never able to be delivered$ and yet there are
ample e5amples in our daily lives that we can turn toward and identify moments where the incommensurable
promises are somehow not reduced to simply payback or tit-for-tat$ but something e5cessive$ generative" #he
consummate performance of communal living$ what I believe the para-academic proposition aspires toward$ is a
generative activity in the creation of further e5changes" #hese further e5changes are the creation of further public
goods" ;et us maintain an openness toward the para-academic as a parabolic figure$ concerned with the
generation of knowledge" #he para-academic$ regardless of the relationship to the University at any particular
point$ will be characteri!ed by their practices for novelty generation as a mode of educational working"
In >nglish we arrived at the term &education( by conflating two ;atin words* educare and educere"
With educare there is a concern with training$ like a vine, a process of installing an incremental amount of
knowledge into the student with the ends already presupposed" 't the end of the educare process there will be
the skills-trained student$ an ideal consumer$ empower with the knowledge to do what is known in advance"
Educere$ on the other hand as ?oger 'mes and 3avid 4all state$ &suggests that one Fe5tendsD oneDs inner
tendencies through a mode of self-cultivation that is$ in fact$ self-creation"(
Educere is a drawing-out$
aesthetic re-understanding$ it is knowledge that has appreciated through e5perience that enables one to generate
novelty" #his is the difference between the academic as a parergon -a supplemental worker or ad hoc byproduct.
and being a paragon -an e5emplary person of what it means to cultivate and generate in the face of what we don't
yet know." We vacillate between these polar modes of being and in these hesitations between moments of
decision making knowledge is generated"
Because the practice of knowledge-making that marks our knowledge economies circulates so much
te5t" 9rom the advent of publishing the para-academic has haunted public life" I've previously argued that
publication is the process of public-making$
but I am arguing that para-academia meets the Michael Warner's
characteri!ation of counterpublics$ &spaces of circulation in which it is hoped that the poesis of scene making
will be transformative$ not merely replicative"(
#he generation of counterpublics occurs when the dominant
modes of public address make it such that the individual can pay attention to the fact that there is this public
address$ but that public addressing doesn't allow the individual to participate" #his isn't to say that para-
academics are limited in their relations to academics through antagonisms$ a loser's club that generates its own
cool by being defined only by the membership's inability to be brought into the academic public" 'lthough it can
be that* a crowd of disaffected bright$ committed$ well-read folks that heard the promise of education as a
panacea against the social ills of our times" 'nd of the times before us$ to go not too far back we could thank the
Marie /urie for her sacrifice$ or we could go way$ way back and ask Plato if his pharmacological betrayal of
was a promise or a curse to future generations"
Indeed$ the 6uestion still hangs in the air* how do we collectively make sure that promises are kept7
3uring the early modern era this was achieved through conversation as commerce" &/onversation( was ?ichard
>den's word for commerce in his Decades of the Newe Worlde -GHHH.
$ and referred to e6ual e5change among
strangers+the sine 6ua non of public life" 'bbI 3u Bos in GJGK defined &public( as those that have gained
enlightenment either through reading or through life in society @le commerce du mondeB"
#hese are calls to
isegoria$ the promise of e6ual access to the agora as both point of social assembly -or ing.
and the place for
e5changing material goods" Indeed$ the very concept of democracy as a social relationship is impossible without
the 'ncient <reeks' simultaneous churning over of what isonomia could possibly mean during their years of
colonial e5pansion"
In short$ the development of economic crises has fueled the development of our thinking
about what 6ualities an educated person ought to have to make living in society bearable" Isn't this at the heart of
4esiod's Wor!s and Days7 &4ey$ brother$ don't be a %erk" ;earn how to plough" 4ere's how you ought to be
comporting yourself going forward$( is among the earliest messages to be transmitted to us from the Big Bang of
literary practice"
' public is the result of the circulation te5ts$ a te5t being understood in the broadest way
possible to encompass reading as a techni6ue for consuming manifold media" But this circulation of te5ts is not
only the mechanism by which sub%ects are interpellated$ it is also the mechanism by which the common good is
Please allow me a moment of autobiography as I try to make sense of both how I came to be involved in
the para-academic conversation as well as something I said at my first &official( para-academic event" I had
accepted an invitation from >ileen 2oy to %oin a panel discussion at the Public chool 0ew 1ork that included
people from Cabinet$ from e6uence Press$ >ileen$ and several others in LMGL" I'd never heard the phrase &para-
academic( before then" 3uring the panel discussion+for which I had not prepared notes$ a situation that had me
very nervous since I've been taught that a speaker should always value the audience's time and thus prepare notes
+I heard myself say at one point that continent" in many ways operates as a love letter stuffed into a bottle and
tossed into the sea" It was a bit heavy-handed and smarmy$ but it is true" When we began we didn't know to
whom these te5ts were being sent and certainly can't say what value ought be attached to our publishing what we
publish" I can't say that I know any better who our readership is$ what they want$ or why we agree to read each
other$ but the e5perience of publishing continent. has consistently demonstrated to me a lesson I first heard when
2ac6ues 3errida eulogi!ed >mmanuel ;evinas* that every gesture is always toward an )ther that is entrusted to
'nd that language is$ in its essence$ friendship"
In the 'nglo-a5on legal tradition a sub%ective promise becomes an ob%ective legal obligation when
there is the circulation of a te5t$ called a material consideration$ between two parties"
#his transformation
from$ essentially$ private words between two people into a communal concern is at the heart of what it means to
live in a society" /ommunal living$ regardless the scale$ appreciates in value when people are able to deliver on
what they say they will" #he virtue of these acts radiates across societies and creates a flourishing that is distinct
from the &safety( of order that policing demands" #he consummation of one's promise$ delivering on what one
has promised$ is an e5pression of mutual determination that affirms the communal in being in a communicating
community" Being a para-academic publisher$ is a practice that enables me to demonstrate the process of
publication as a process of public-making"
I am grateful to the comments and conversations that came from sharing early versions of this presentation at
the 0eil Postman <raduate /onference at 01U as well as at the 0ew 1ork Public chool in 9ebruary$ LMGN"
Both continent. -www"continentcontinent"cc. and Speculations -www"speculations-%ournal"org. are )pen
'ccess online %ournals established by graduate students in the late oughts of the twenty-first century"
Speculations is a member of a broader )pen 'ccess publishing initiative$ Punctum Books
-www"punctumbooks"com." We learned at the Basel conference that none of the editors of Speculations had
ever physically met one another prior to convening in wit!erland that weekend" uch is the nature of
academic collaboration in the early twenty-first century"
We at continent. also published preliminary remarks about the matter in '3iscussions Before an >ncounter'$
continent. L"L -LMGL.* GNOPGQJ"
8ideo documentation of our conversation can be viewed at http*CCvimeo"comCcontinentcontinentCpara-
academic-practice" 'ccessed N 'ugust$ LMGN"
ee the 0ew 9aculty Ma%ority 9oundation's national summit from LMGL$ '?eclaiming 'cademic 3emocracy*
9acing the /onse6uences of /ontingent >mployment in 4igher >ducation' reportage with summaries and
links to presenters available from 2ohn '" /asey$ 2r" '?eflections on the 0ew 9aculty Ma%ority ummit LMGL'$
http*CC%ohnacasey%r"comCLMGLCMGCLKCreflections-on-the-new-faculty-ma%ority-summit-LMGLC" 'ccessed N
'ugust$ LMGN"
)n the cognitariat$ see Matt 9uller's -LMMG. interview with 9ranco Berardi -Bifo." Berardi discusses the
cognitariat as a virtual class$ a class whose effect is only known by the aggregatation of knowledge workers'
micro-actions -http*CCamsterdam"nettime"orgC;ists-'rchivesCnettime-l-MGMOCmsgMMMNN"html." 'ccessed N
'ugust$ LMGN" ee also Berardi$ 9ranco -LMGM. '/ognitarian ub%ectivation'$ e"flu# $ournal LM 0ovember
-http*CCwww"e-flu5"comC%ournalCcognitarian-sub%ectivationC." 'lso see Bruno$ Isabelle and /hristopher
0ewfield's -LMGM. '/an the /ognitariat peak7'$ e"flu# $ournal March -http*CCwww"e-flu5"comC%ournalCcan-
the-cognitariat-speakC. and 0ewfield$ /hristopher -LMGM. #he tructure and ilence of /ognitariat'$
Edufactory M* GMPLO"
Macfarlane$ Bruce -LMGG. '#he Morphing of 'cademic Practice* Unbundling and the ?ise of the Para-
academic'$ %igher Education &uarterly OH"G*HKPJN"
Williams 2une$ 'udrey -LMGL. 'Professors eek to ?eframe alary 3ebate'$ 'he Chronicle of %igher
Education 'pril R$ LMGL" -https*CCchronicle"comCarticleCfaculty-salaries-barely-budge-LMGLC." 'ccessed N
'ugust$ LMGN"
ee$ for e5ample$ /arlson$ cott and <oldie Blumenstyk -LMGL. '9or Whom Is /ollege Being ?einvented7'$
'he Chronicle of %igher Education 3ecember GJ$ LMGL" -https*CCchronicle"comCarticleC#he-9alse-Promise-of-
theCGNONMHC." 'ccessed N 'ugust$ LMGN"
Boshears$ Paul -LMGN. ')pen 'ccess Publishing as a Para-'cademic Proposition* Besides )' as ;abor
?elation'$ tripleC(Communication) Capitalism * Criti+ue GG -L.* HRKPHKO"
9uchs$ /hristian and Marisol andoval -LMGN. '#he 3iamond Model of )pen 'ccess Publishing* Why Policy
Makers$ cholars$ Universities$ ;ibraries$ ;abour Unions and the Publishing World 0eed to #ake 0on-
/ommercial$ 0on-Profit )pen 'ccess erious'$ tripleC,Communication) Capitalism * Criti+ue GG -L.* QLRP
4arvard's 9aculty 'dvisory /ouncil Memorandum on 2ournal Pricing" #he 4arvard ;ibrary 'pril GJ$ LMGL"
-http*CCisites"harvard"eduCicbCicb"do7keywordSkJJKRLEtabgroupidSicb"tabgroupGQNQQR." 'ccessed N
'ugust$ LMGN"
Ian Bogost shares my point in his contribution to a round table discussion$ 'M))/s and the 9uture of the
4umanities* ' ?oundtable' between 'l 9ilreis$ /athy 0" 3avidson$ and ?ay chroeder in -os Angeles
.e/iew of 0oo!s 2une GQ$ LMGN -http*CClareviewofbooks"orgCessayCmoocs-and-the-future-of-the-humanities-a-
roundtable-part-G." 'ccessed N 'ugust$ LMGN"
/utler$ :im-Mai -LMGN. ''cademia"edu$ #he ocial 0etworking Platform 9or ?esearchers$ ?aises TGG"G
Million'$ 'echCrunch eptember LO$ LMGN" -http*CCtechcrunch"comCLMGNCMKCLOCacademia-edu-LC." 'ccessed
Mar5$ :arl -GKKM. Capital 8olume G$ Ben 9owkes @transB 0ew 1ork* Penguin /lassics" LJLPLJN"
9or a profile of what the very rich seem to e5pect from a college &e5perience( for their children see /arol
Matlack's report on the development of 4igh Point University$ &part corporate campus$ part theme park( in
'Bubble U* 4igh Point University'$ 0loomberg0usinesswee! 'pril GK$ LMGL"
-http*CCwww"businessweek"comCarticlesCLMGL-MQ-GKCbubble-u-dot-high-point-universityUpG." 'ccessed N
'ugust$ LMGN"
ome of this we see playing-out$ for better or worse$ in the trends for students graduating with student loan
debt in e5cess of UTGMM$MMM$ see Mark :antrowit! 'Who <raduates /ollege with i5-9igure tudent ;oan
3ebt7'$ -http*CCwww"finaid"orgCeducatorsCLMGLMRMGsi5figuredebt"pdf." 'ccessed N 'ugust$ LMGN"
's 3ebra Withers pointed out during the process of editing this writing$ there are significant managerial
problems with actually delivering this$ however$ due to the nature of last-minute course assignments from
department chairs and so on" I am grateful to her for this point"
3owney$ Maureen -LMGN. 9aced with tuition bills$ more <U and U<' students turning to &ugar 3addies('$
Atlanta 1ournal Constitution 2anuary GQ$ LMGN" -http*CCblogs"a%c"comCget-schooled-blogCLMGNCMGCGQCfaced-
with-tuition-bills-more-gsu-and-uga-students-turning-to-sugar-daddiesC." 'ccessed N 'ugust$ LMGN"
Masciandaro$ 0icola -LMGM. %ideous 2nosis3 0lac! 4etal 'heory Symposium 1 <lossatorCPunctum Books*
Brooklyn* LOJ"
9rom the organi!ing notes for a panel discussion on para-academic publishing at the )bservatory for the
0ew 1ork Public chool held 'pril GJ$ LMGL -http*CCthepublicschool"orgCnodeCLRKOG." 'ccessed N 'ugust$
I am primarily relying upon the 'mes and 4all discussion here and as such I am opened to the criticism that
I am forcing the point a bit" /ertainly one can make the claim that educare is %ust as much a concern with
cultivation$ perhaps more so than educere"
'mes$ ?oger #" and 4all$ 3avid ;" -LMMG. 5ocusing the 5amiliar3 A 6hilosophical 7nterpretation of the
Vhongyong -. University of 4awaiWi Press* 4onolulu* HG"
ee ;ewis E hort educo$ II"$ '"$ G"$ b" available online 'ccessed GGCLNCLMGN"
'llen$ et al -LMGL. '3iscussions Before an >ncounter'$ continent. L"L* GQJ"
Warner$ Michael -LMML. 'Publics and /ounterpublics'$ 6ublic Culture GQ"G* RR"
ee 3errida$ 2ac6ues -GKRG. 'Plato's Pharmacy'$ in 2ohnson$ Barbara @transB Dissmerinations University of
/hicago Press* /hicago"
Xuoted in Piet!$ William -LMML. 'Material /onsiderations* )n the 4istorical 9orensics of /ontract'$ 'heory)
Culture * Society GK"HCO* QG"
Xuoted in Warner$ Michael -LMML.* OJ"
ee PYlsson$ <Zsli -LMMH. ')f 'lthings['$ in ;atour$ Bruno and Weibel @edsB 4a!ing 'hings 6ublic MI# Press*
/ambridge$ M'* LHMPLHK"
&#he relevant good to be shared out was not monetary profit$ as with a %oint-stock company$ but land$
possibly pasture but more likely the limited fertile plain on which corn and vines and olives could be grown"
It would make sense to ask how the available land was going to be shared out before embarking on a
ha!ardous enterprise with strangers$ and in the absence of already established custom$ an e6ual distribution
would not only seem natural$ but would be the only basis on which outsiders would be willing to %oin"(
;ucas$ 2"?" 'Isonomia'$ 3raft available at http*CCusers"o5"ac"ukC\%rlucasClibe6sorCisonomia"pdf" 'ccessed N
'ugust$ LMGN"
&@;Bet us settle our wrangling with straight di!ai$ which are from Veus best" 9or we had already distributed
the holding -!leros.$ but you snatched and carried off many other things"""( Wor!s and Days LJ from -GKKO.
%esiod8s Wor!s and Days3 A 'ranslation and Commentary for the Social Sciences #andy$ 3avid W" and
Walter /" 0eale @transB University of /alifornia Press* Berkley$ /'" #hus the opening of the epic poem is a
6uestion of how these brothers$ Perses and 4esiod$ will split the family's lot -!leros. in the wake of their
father's death" It should be noted that !leros -lot. carries the same metaphor as in >nglish* fateCland holding"
In 4esiod's day one's home$ oi!os$ -from which we get the prefi5 eco-. was on a family !leros$ apportioned
-nomos$ from which we get the suffi5 -nomy." 4esiod's epic is concerned with oi!onomia$ the management
of one's lot in life" 9rom the inception of the written word we have struggled with our economic relations"
3errida$ 2ac6ues -GKKK. ''dieu'$ in Pascale-'nne Brault and Michael 0aas @transB Adieu to Emmanuel
-e/inas tanford University Press* tanford$ /'"
Piet!$ NO"