Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Assembling ourselves differently: Contesting the dominant imaginary of doctoral supervision (#118)

Barbara M. Grant 1
  1. The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

This paper reports on preliminary data from a postcritical ethnography (Noblit, 2004) of doctoral supervision in the arts, humanities and soft social sciences (AHsSS) in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ). This study, for which I am the principal investigator, is running from 2013 until 2017 and involves 12 women supervisors (‘ key informants’) from several AHsSS fields and universities. The data (images and texts) come from an early-stage workshop in which 10 key informants (including two researchers) presented objects connected with their doctoral supervision work and talked about them in relation to their practices, thoughts and feelings.

Drawing on Rose (1996), I venture an exploration of the ‘doctoral supervisor’ as an assemblage – a human self-in-connection-with certain objects, practices, spaces, forces, affects. In particular, I will show how a human person, in becoming a supervisor, is tethered to objects. Some are ‘chosen’, although not necessarily freely; some are imposed but may still be helpful resources. I will also show how supervisors are impressed by forces, such as institutional regulations and training, and impelled into new practices, some of which are welcome while others are not.


Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

The intent of this paper is to contribute to wider debates about the changing conditions of academic life as well as to normative discussions about doctoral supervision in particular. I want this interpretation of what it means to be an AHsSS doctoral supervisor to inspire us to think more critically about our own practice in a context of considerable uncertainty and be an impetus for navigating our way into new forms of productive resistance to the excesses of contemporary academic culture.

  1. Noblit, G. W. (2004). Reinscribing critique in educational ethnography: Critical and postcritical ethnography. In K. B. deMarrais, & S. D. Lapan (Eds.), Foundations for research: Methods of enquiry in education and the social sciences (pp. 181–201). London: Routledge.
  2. Rose, N. (1996). Inventing our selves: Psychology, power and personhood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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