A specter haunted EASA2018—the specter of precarity. Like a “frightful hobgoblin” (that, one could argue, is a more suitable, if inaccurate, translation of Marx’s Gespenst), it appeared in some instances as an explicit, publicly acknowledged political program (on some panels and the ending plenary) and, at other times, stashed away in the interstitches of the conference program (on #HOWtalk and #PrecAnthro lunchtime discussions, or the myriad of corridor chats that could be overheard during the conference).
Something smells of bullshit. It has for a long time. Caught in the spectacular entanglements of the neoliberal university, academic work is being actively “bullshitized.” Audit cultures, the intensification of administrative duties, the politics of intellectual egos and academic “assholery,” hierarchical academic freedoms, an exploitative publishing industry, and an increase in zero-hour contracts means the precariat of academia are subject to the combination of some very particular horrors. So, something does indeed smell of bullshit. It will, no doubt, linger long in the gloaming of too many precarious academic careers. These inequalities and exploitative practices are the buttresses upon which some contemporary successful academic careers are built, at the expense of others, gadflies turned horses. The key to the ivory tower has been hidden away—with only academic “elites” and senior university management remaining inside—all others must wade knee-deep through work-practice bullshit, deprived of labor dignity, equality, and solidarity.
With the constant, confusing, and often misinformed media noise around Russia, you would be forgiven for believing a number of unhelpfully distorting half-truths: that Russia has been a pariah state for a while (connected to sanctions after the occupation of Crimea and intervention in East Ukraine); that Russia is on a kind of lockdown with no outlet for protests and careful management of dissent by the state; or that Putin is so popular that protests are pointless or restricted to a small educated minority. Lastly, you might get the impression that oil money continues to keep the Russians reasonably quiescent—after all, the government spent heavily on social programs before and after the initial shocks associated with the global financial crisis.