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Critical Independence and the Interaction with Practice: Redefining Collegiality when working with Living Practitioners

Pace, I. ORCID: 0000-0002-0047-9379 (2024). Critical Independence and the Interaction with Practice: Redefining Collegiality when working with Living Practitioners. Paper presented at the Understanding Offence: Delimiting the (Un)sayable, 21-23 Mar 2024, Durham, UK.


In the context of higher education, a range of disciplines involve a combination of independent academic study of the subject and some practical training, especially for more vocationally-oriented disciplines or courses. At best these activities complement and enhance each other, but there is equally a good deal of potential for conflicts of interest and method. In this paper, I will outline the areas for conflict in terms of academic independence and freedom in such a context, drawing upon knowledge of the field of music as a case study. I will give a brief overview of the development of the music HE sector in the United Kingdom since 1945 in terms of the relationship between academic study and practice, since in this country a dissolving of the boundaries between the two is arguably more advanced than almost anywhere else in the developed world.

From this perspective, I identify some of the major issues informing questions of critical independence and academic freedom for scholars collaborating with or working alongside living practitioners, and also for those (including myself) who inhabit both roles, which I maintain are distinct in their requirements and should not be confused. In particular, I identify the difficulties of causing offence when working alongside practitioners but wishing to do more than simply replicate their own priorities and assumptions. The growth of realms of academic activity such as practice-research (most common in the UK), artistic research (more common in continental Europe) and autoethnography of practice can all be viewed as responses to these complications, but equally as means for ensuring the research credentials of certain types of practitioner in ways which deserve greater scrutiny.

For specific examples of these issues, I will discuss my own work with composer Michael Finnissy, as both regular performer/collaborator but also the most prolific writer in his output, and also my attempts at autoethnographic reflection on my own practice as a pianist. I will also cite a few counter-examples, in particular involving ethnographic work, in which I believe critical thinking is compromised. In particular, I argue that certain rhetoric relating to heteroglossia can too easily result in the padding out of scholarly work with unmediated quotations as a substitute for genuine critical interpretation.

Publication Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Paper for Understanding Offence Conference.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of Slides for Presentation for Understanding Offence.pdf]
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