Reflections on the Academic Milieu of Media Studies

Bob Hanke


This essay draws on one of Foucault’s lectures to discuss his concept of the "milieu" in order to transport this concept into an analysis of the academic milieu of media studies. By linking the milieu as a problem of circulation to his analysis of the neoliberal concept of “human capital,” I import a Foucaultian perspective on governmentality into liberal arts education, communication studies, and the knowledge economy. From this perspective, power operates within the conduct of academic conduct by normalizing and maximizing the production and dissemination of knowledge that can be "transferred" or "mobilized." Drawing on a series of examples from universities in Toronto, my analysis shows how events and elements of media studies have become complicit in neoliberal discourse. Given the harmonization of the network university’s internal research priorities and the external government funding priorities for public/private research networks and academic/government/industry internetworking, I conclude that the academic milieu is being regulated so that academic career time in communication studies becomes formative of “human capital.” Our curricular control and the academic freedom to do critical media studies is conditional upon the academic milieu which bears upon all who work within it.

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