“Hiding within the Glass Cage”: Performance Management as Surveillance—A Case of Academic Spaces as Resistance Spaces
Hiding Within The Glass Cage
Keywords:performance management; academia; university; power; resistance; space; panopticon; glass cage
Universities have become toxic sites characterised by anxiety, depression and humiliation. Following new managerialism, leadership and management in universities have been driven by the mandate of achieving efficiency, which has led to the implementation of stringent performance management systems, increasing accountability and authoritarianism. While performance management is justified as an accountability tool that drives efficiency and effectiveness, its demand for absolute transparency has created “panopticons” and “glass cages”. These have produced a stifling atmosphere in academic spaces, often characterised by competing demands for high research outputs and quality teaching, thus placing academics in subjected positions where their agency is threatened. In view of academics silently constructing uncontrolled and uncontrollable spaces to avoid increasing surveillance, I argue that academics are resisting universities’ demand for the invading transparency of performance management. Through a critical social constructionist case study of academics and heads of departments, this article explores the paradoxical position of performing academics—those functioning within the “performative culture” while undermining neoliberal performative inscriptions. Framed by the notion of power and resistance and drawing on critical geography and workplace resistance literature, the study reveals that academics’ acts are going against the controlled daily grind of systematised practices that are often meaningless in relation to quality education. They are reimagining and reconstructing lecture halls, stairs, offices and conference spaces as “invisible” free spaces outside direct managerial control.
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