Report to the academy: power and ethics in humanities research

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    This article discusses a case study to explore notions of academic freedom and freedom of speech in the post-apartheid South African university. The focus is on the ‘managerial turn’ in university management and in particular its utilisation of ethical regulation in humanities research. I argue that, in the case in question, managerial power mechanisms co-opted ethics into processes of censure and censorship. Ethical regulation in the humanities has been on the increase in South Africa and internationally in recent decades; I posit here that ethical regulation can be used as a managerial power mechanism in the control of research output. This has significant implications especially in the context of post-apartheid transformation of South African universities. I further posit that emergent and risk-taking research open up new spaces for exploration and investigation, and that the benefits of this kind of research must be balanced against possible ethical complexities.