Neoliberalisation of academia across different political contexts (17 May, 16.15 EET)

This event will take place on Zoom on Monday, 17 May (16.15 EET)

(Meeting ID: 687 3794 3225, passcode: 404201).

Chairs: Iuliia Gataulina and Mikko Poutanen (Tampere University)


Pinar E. Dönmez (DeMontfort University)

Anil Duman (Central European University)

Isaac Kamola (Trinity College)

Event information

The seminar will first include presentations by our guest speakers (two presentations, 30 mins each). The talks will be followed by the Q&A with the audience moderated by the chairs.

1. Dr. Pinar E. Dönmez and Dr. Anil Duman: “Academic labour and academic freedom in Hungary and Turkey: Neoliberal restructuring, governmental repression, and bottom-up struggles”

The governmental attacks against higher education institutions and communities in the contexts of Hungary and Turkey have attracted considerable public and media attention since 2016. In this presentation we would like to unpack and interrogate hegemonic conceptions of academic freedom that have been adopted in the mainstream analyses of these attacks while at the same time challenge the orientalist formulations that single out these contexts as exceptionally authoritarian. We propose to bring central attention to academic labour and knowledge production dynamics in order to re-think and reflect on academic freedom critically. After briefly reviewing the key events in each country case (attacks against the Academics for Peace initiative in Turkey and Central European University in Hungary) we shall introduce the onset of capitalist restructuring of higher education systems in both countries within a longer temporal frame that underpin the dynamics of governmental attacks from the mid-2010s onwards. We will conclude with critical reflections on manifestations of bottom-up struggles as well as possibilities and limits of future resistance more broadly.

The presentation is based on a joint article “Marketisation of Academia and Authoritarian Governments”

Dr. Pinar E. Dönmez is Lecturer in International Relations at De Montfort University, Leicester (UK). Her work involves a critique of political economy and critical theory, theories of the state, processes of precarisation, exploitation and resistance, dynamics of depoliticisation and repoliticisation, and many more.

Dr. Anil Duman is Associate Professor at Central European University in Budapest. She has received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her broad research interests include political economy, industrial relations, welfare state policies, and redistribution.

2. Dr. Isaac Kamola: “Making the World Global: The World Bank, Human Capital, and Construction of the Neoliberal Academy”

Drawing on material from Making the World Global: U.S. Universities and the Production of the Global Imaginary (Duke 2019), this presentation examines how relationships between universities and the World Bank radically transformed the social function of higher education and the construction of neoliberal capitalism. Prior to the 1980s the World Bank understood higher education as central to national development, and therefore a social good deserving public investment. However, under A.W. Clausen the World Bank drew upon ideas of human capital developed at the University of Chicago to reimagine higher education as a private commodity. The subsequent policies of structural adjustment and rate of return calculation, adopted to address the debt crisis, treated higher education as simply a commodity bought and sold on a “global” market. This reimagining of higher education justified the radical defunding of higher education across the Third World, and especially Africa, imposed as a necessary step in reestablishing equilibrium within a global financial market. This fundamental reimagining of education as human capital, understood as a private investment, has become the foundational imaginary used to calculate and conceptualize the value of higher education. Challenging the neoliberal academy requires reimagining the value of higher education in terms other than human capital.

Dr. Isaac Kamola is Assistant Professor at Department of Political Science, Trinity College, Hartford (US). His teaching and research interest focus on the political economy of higher education, African anticolonial theory, and critical globalization studies. He has recently published a book entitled Making the World Global: U.S. Universities and the Production of the Global Imaginary (Duke University Press, 2019). The book analyzes the relationship between American universities, the state, and the shaping of knowledge in the global world.

In case of questions about the workshop, please, contact Anna Rajala (

The full program of the Postcape workshop series can be found here.