Jana Bacevic

Internal conversation, eternal emigration

 I am a sociologist pursuing a PhD at the University of Cambridge. This is my personal web site.

I have a deep fascination with how humans, as individuals and societies, acquire, organize, classify, and process knowledge – both about their surroundings and about themselves. I believe these questions are essential to understanding who we are, as well as what we (can) do – in other words, they have social and political implications. Since these implications can be both good and bad – given knowledge is inherently neither – my work is concerned with showing how specific practices of knowledge production and configurations of power lead to specific outcomes for different individuals and groups, and how we can ensure this happens in the least oppressive way possible. This means I am deeply committed to fighting inequality and injustice, especially in ways enabled/made possible in and through systems and institutions of knowledge production, including universities.

My background is in social anthropology (PhD, University of Belgrade, 2008). I have held  academic positions (permanent and visiting) at departments of education, politics and public policy, and media and communications, at the University of Aarhus (Denmark), Central European University (Budapest, Hungary), University of Bristol (UK), University of Auckland (New Zealand), and Singidunum University (Belgrade). This has given me  an insight into the worlds of higher education and research in the UK/Anglophone, Central European/post-socialist, Scandinavian, as well as EU (international and cross-disciplinary) contexts.

My main interests and areas of expertise are:

[1] Social theory, epistemology and methodology – I am interested in social theory as a meta-language for making sense of social reality; this also means I am interested in how claims in this language are formulated and regulated. This particularly pertains to frameworks or ‘schools of thought’ that seek to develop an understanding of social processes that has implications for politics and practice (commonly known as ‘critical’), including Marxism, Critical Theory, feminism, critical realism, and Bourdieu’s theory of practice.

My work in the domain of theory primarily consists of the clarification of meaning, use, and ontological status of concepts (sometimes referred to as social ontology), in particular those that exist on the boundaries between ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ (such as the concept of critique). This ties in with a long-standing interest in the history and philosophy of science, and the relationship between reality and the knowledge claims we (can) make about it, which led me to…

[2] Sociology of knowledge, as the study of the relationship between social processes and knowledge; as well as the related fields of sociology of education, as the study of systems, ideologies and practices of knowledge production and distribution, and sociology of intellectuals, as the particular study of those who produce knowledge.

My current research deals with the relationship between neoliberalism – understood both as ideology and a set of particular policy measures – and ways in which academics as knowledge producers understand, interpret, and criticise these processes. Prior to this, my research has focused on the links between (post)socialism and processes of knowledge production, including the transformation of class and other forms of political subjectivity in and through education policies [1, 2, 3]. In both cases, I look at how particular structures – relatively stable relations between objects, political discourses and forms of governance – interact with human agency, that is, come to mobilise particular forms of reflexivity and political subjectivity in contexts of social change.

[3] This relates to politics – more precisely, political sociology and political philosophy. My 2014 monograph, From Class to Identity: Politics of Education Reforms in Former Yugoslavia is an historical and sociological analysis of how political processes, including education reforms, interact with broader social transformation including regime change, war, and in the process frame and re-shape the subject(s) of politics. In my current research, I deal with the intersection between sociology of knowledge and political economy – what could be termed the political economy of knowledge production – that focuses on the social and political processes that influence how knowledge is created, valued and exchanged. This includes the relationship between policies and mechanisms of funding and measuring the production of knowledge (such as impact, REF and TEF) and the social and political role of universities, as well as broader issues of public access to, and use of, information – open access, intellectual property, and ‘Big Data’.

Some of my recent work in this domain includes an analysis of the moral economy and political ontology of Open Access  (with Chris Muellerleile, in European Journal of Social Theory); relationship between culture and agency in the critical cultural political economy of education (forthcoming in Cultural Political Economy of Education: Theories, Concepts, Methodologies, Robertson, Dale, and Komljenovic, eds); and forms of political agency in the neoliberal university (forthcoming in The Global University, Barnett and Peters, eds). I have also written on student movements and the implications of supranational governance and the shifting boundaries of nation-states for universities in Europe.

[4] Last, but not least, I have a lasting interest in human relationships and the social framing of relationality. My first PhD was on the concept of ‘romantic relationship’ in a post-socialist environment. This has in the meanwhile extended to encompass relational sociology and even relational ontology.