‘That Things are Status Quo is the Catastrophe’: Administrating the Arts of Exclusion in an Inclusive Age

  • Carina Venter


This article takes seriously the imperative of decolonisation, not merely as an exercise in the radical transformation of  institutionalised music studies, but as a first step towards understanding the power relations and bureaucratic principles by which the neoliberal university operates. The work that will be done as part of this initial step is for the largest part historical. Thus, in the first section, I ask about the history of the present of the university, specifically with a view on understanding the managerial turn by which many universities now operate. Taking a lead from Bill Readings’s (1997) work, the section commences with a consideration of Kant’s university of reason, the Humboldtian (cultural) university of the nineteenth century and the present-day techno-bureaucratic university, coupled with a cursory glance at the development of the idea of the university in South Africa. Extending the work of Readings into the domain of postcolonial critique, I argue in a  subsequent section that (contra Readings) culture and bureaucracy developed simultaneously in the  nineteenth  century as imperial rule forged technologies through which to wield power at a distance  (bureaucracy) and, through culture, rendered ‘ethical’ the physical and structural violence of colonial and imperial dispossession. In the closing section, I ask what lessons might be drawn from this history for the present-day university and music departments in particular, especially with a view on deep structural  transformation.


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eISSN: 0258-509X