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Book Launch: Culture and the University

Book cover

A matter that has dared not speak its name.

What is culture? And what is or might be the relationship between the university and culture? Can we anymore speak of ‘culture and the university’ in the same breath?

Culture and the University: Education, Ecology, Design (Bloomsbury, 2022), a new book by Ronald Barnett, Søren S.E. Bengtsen and Rikke Toft Nørgård, observes that the phrase ‘culture and the university’ is nowadays absent from the debate about higher education. Bill Readings noticed this phenomenon too, a quarter of a century ago, in his acclaimed book on The University in Ruins: for him, the university is a ‘post-cultural’ institution, now separated from any explicit sense of its having positive cultural functions. This new book, however, declines to accept such a defeatist position and searches for ways in which those two concepts – ‘culture’ and ‘university’ – can be reimagined and rejoined and, indeed, can be given substance.

The book goes about its task in a novel way. It consists of four sections. In each of the first three sections, the three authors in turn spells out their own vision as to how culture and the university can make sense today. The final section consists of ‘dialogic imaginings’, with each of the three authors examining the offerings of the other two. Unashamedly, each of the authors argue that the university can and should be a major institution of culture, not only in itself but in advancing culture in the wider society. The different ways in which each argues their case adds considerable strength to this suggestion.

The book is available for purchase at Bloomsbury Publishing.

From the publisher:

"The authors argue that the university should be and can be an institution of culture, of great cultural significance in the digital age, and exercise cultural leadership in society. This wide-ranging and polemic text addresses a range of subjects including environmentalism, citizenship, post-truth, the ethical implications of technology and feminist philosophy. The authors build on the work of key philosophers of the university from Aristotle, Nietzsche and Heidegger to Donna Haraway, Terry Eagleton and Martha C. Nussbaum to conceive of an entirely modern vision of the university. This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the future of higher education and the university." - Bloomsbury Publishing