Reflections on Work and Activism in the 'University of Excellence.'


  • Charles R. Menzies University of British Columbia


post-secondary education, anthropology of work, engaged anthropology


This paper is a critical reflection on the possibilities for activism and the conditions of work within the contemporary university of excellence. I draw upon my experience as a student, and then as a faculty member, in North American universities of excellence (a la Bill Reading: The University in Ruin). Unlike the earlier university of 'culture' in which what one said had a potential impact, the measure of success in the contemporary university of 'excellence' is more focused upon how much one might say (in print in the 'right' journal). "Reflections on work and activism" presents three linked, but autonomous stories that offer counsel to our audience on the ways in which engaged progressive political action might intersect with the realities of everyday work and life in the contemporary university of excellence.

Author Biography

Charles R. Menzies, University of British Columbia

My primary research interests are the production of anthropological films, natural resource management (primarily fisheries related), political economy, contemporary First Nations' issues, and maritime anthropology. I have conducted field research in, and have produced films concerning, north coastal BC, Canada; Brittany, France; and Donegal, Ireland. Key projects include founding and directing the Ethnographic Film Unit at UBC, authoring a weblog in support of public education, establishing an online journal, New Proposals, and acting as the coordinator of an ecological anthropology research group at UBC, Forests and Oceans for the Future.