What is Para-academia?

Para-academia is a term coined by Bruce Macfarlane in 2011 to describe the uberisation of higher education. (Macfarlane, 2011).

Para-academia was, independently, used by Eileen Joy and Nicola Masciandaro at the ‘The Para-Academic Series’ organised by The Public School, New York in 2012.

The term ‘para-academic’ captures the multivalent sense of something that fulfils and/or frustrates the academic from a position of intimate exteriority. Para-academia is that which is beside academia, a place whose logic encompasses many reasons and no reason at all (para-, ‘alongside, beyond, altered, contrary,’ from Greek para-, ‘beside, near, from, against, contrary to,’ cognate with Sanskrit para ‘beyond’).

While Macfarlane, Joy and Masciandaro were focusing on different phenomena within higher education - Macfarlane on support services such Edinburgh's Institute for Academic Development, Joy and Masciandaro on academia's 'marginalia' - they were equally concerned with something that enjoys/suffers a parasitical relationship with academe. This is the recurring theme of The Para-Academic Handbook: A Toolkit for Making-Learning-Creating-Acting Bristol, England, HammerOn Press. Edited by: Alex Wardrop and Deborah Withers (2014) http://hammeronpress.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/PHA_Final.pdf

There is a name for those under-and precariously employed, but actively working, academics in today’s society: the para-academic.

Wardrop and Withers' book is an invaluable insight into the genesis and lived experience of the para-academic written by para-academics. Please download the Open Access version and read.

I'd also highly recommend that you visit and browse #Alt-Academy http://mediacommons.org/alt-ac/

#alt-academy: Alternative Academic Careers

Para-academia makes it difficult to distinguish the boundaries of academia. It also makes it difficult to distinguish learners from teachers by inventing a hybrid of both - the prosumer or the paragogue. For a fuller account of Para-Academia, please read my book chapter:

Mulholland N. (2019) Para-Academic. In: Re-imagining the Art School. Creativity, Education and the Arts. Palgrave Pivot, Cham.

For a succinct theory of para-academia, I'd highly recommend reading this

Boshears, P. (2013). "Open Access and Para-Academic Practice." tripleC 11((2)): 614-619. DOI: 10.31269/vol11iss2pp614-619