Souter, K. (2017). Death and learning: A twenty-first century perspective. Organisational and Social Dynamics,17(2), 267-277. United Kingdom: Karnac Books.
The twenty-first century university was recently characterised as "a thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change" (Bokor, 2012). This is not a matter of individual universities needing to change, as they may well do, but of the whole sector being reshaped. There is death in the air at many universities as they try to manage multiple, and apparently endless, catastrophic changes. In this paper, my methodology is literary, cultural, and psychoanalytic. I discuss the twenty-first century university in the shadow of multiple wars and change. Through the writings of W. R. Bion and several literary works, including Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, and Herta Müller, I consider the way the violence of the social works through the individual and the organisation. I finish with a consideration of some aspects of the indigenous Australian management of catastrophic change: a combination of flexibility, courage under fire, and a sense of the absurd, where the tragic and the comic can come together.
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