Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Disentangling power and discourse: the case of master and "servant" in Serbian higher education reform  


Jana Bacevic (Petnica Science Center, Valjevo, Serbia)

Paper short abstract:

The presentation offers an in-depth analysis of a 2006 incident in Serbian higher education, to illustrate the ways in which different actors in the educational arena appropriate discourses such as "neo-liberalization" and "globalization" and use them in their political struggles.

Paper long abstract:

An incident arose in 2006 concerning the question of whether students who had graduated from Serbian universities should, in accordance with the European Credit Transfer System, be awarded the title of Masters, since their previous education matched the master requirements. This argument encountered a decisive opposition from higher education bodies, whose representatives feared that granting graduates the title of master would turn them away from pursuing MA degrees, which would represent a great loss of money for higher education institutions. Months of fierce debates and public protests by student bodies ensued, while the media and students themselves increasingly sought to portray their struggle for the recognition of titles as the struggle against neo-liberalization and globalization of education. The debates came to abrupt end in December 2006, just prior to elections, when the Republic Parliament - to much surprise and opposition from public education institutions - passed a bill stating that students can be awarded the title of Masters.

My analysis concentrates on "disentangling" this incident and pointing to "vested" interests in the field of educational reform in Serbia. I claim that, despite the seemingly empowering discourse of the students, their voices were actually appropriated by a number of Serbian political parties and used as an asset in the electoral struggle. The key lesson to be drawn from this example is that anthropologists should strive for precise understanding of the cultural context and social forces that shape the field, in order to fully apprehend the reproduction of power structures in higher education.

Panel W034
Anthropologies of university reform: restructuring of higher education - anthropological perspectives