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The Experience of Neoliberal Education

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Volume 4

Higher Education in Critical Perspective: Practices and Policies

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The Experience of Neoliberal Education

Edited by Bonnie Urciuoli

252 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-863-2 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (May 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78533-864-9 eBook

Hb   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“[An] excellent and very significant volume….a remarkably interesting, well-argued, ethnographically rich book of real weight and consequence...A highlight is the combination of more ethnographic, analytical chapters by faculty scholars and quite telling and affecting reflections by undergraduates (or recent graduates).” · Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz


The college experience is increasingly positioned to demonstrate its value as a worthwhile return on investment. Specific, definable activities, such as research experience, first-year experience, and experiential learning, are marketed as delivering precise skill sets in the form of an individual educational package.

Through ethnography-based analysis, the contributors to this volume explore how these commodified "experiences" have turned students into consumers and given them the illusion that they are in control of their investment. They further reveal how the pressure to plan every move with a constant eye on a demonstrable return has supplanted traditional approaches to classroom education and profoundly altered the student experience.

Bonnie Urciuoli is Leonard C. Ferguson Professor of Anthropology Emerita at Hamilton College. She has published extensively on linguistic and cultural anthropology, specializing in public discourses of race, class, and language and particularly the discursive construction of "diversity" in U.S. higher education.

Subject: Educational Studies Anthropology (General)
Area: North America


List of illustrations

Introduction: Neoliberalizing Undergraduate Experience
Bonnie Urciuoli

Chapter 1. John Dewey’s Philosophy of Education in the Neoliberal Age
Pauline Turner Strong

Chapter 2. Undergraduate Research in Veblen’s Vision: Idle Curiosity, Bureaucratic Accountancy and Pecuniary Emulation in Contemporary Higher Education
Richard Handler

Chapter 3. Empathy as Industry: An Undergraduate Perspective on Neoliberalism and Community Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania
Jack LaViolette

Chapter 4. Dirty Work: The Carnival of Service
John J. Bodinger de Uriarte and Shari Jacobson

Chapter 5. No Good Deed Goes Uncounted: A Reflection on College Volunteerism
Sarah Bergbauer

Chapter 6. From Service Learning to Social Innovation: The Development of the Neoliberal in Experiential Learning
Chaise LaDousa

Chapter 7. High Hopes and Low Impact: Obstacles in Student Research
Anastassia Baldrige

Chapter 8. The Experience Experts
Bonnie Urciuoli

Chapter 9. Moral Entanglements in Service-Learning
Christopher Cai and Usnish Majumdar

Chapter 10. Engineering Success: Performing Neoliberal Subjectivity through Pouring a Bottle of Water
Alex Posecznick

Chapter 11. Caught Between Commodification and Audit: Concluding Thoughts on the Contradictions in U.S. Higher Education  
Wesley Shumar


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