Neoliberalism in Thai and Indonesian Universities: Using Photo-Elicitation Methods to Picture Space for Possibility

  • James BurfordEmail author
  • Teguh Wijaya Mulya
Part of the Palgrave Critical University Studies book series (PCU)


Over recent years higher education researchers have been grappling with the impacts of sustained neoliberal change to the meanings and practices of higher education. Scholars have tracked the impacts of associated processes such as corporatisation, managerialism and audit culture, and attended to the ways these phenomena are shaping academic life and work. This chapter responds to the need for accounts of the movement and contestation of neoliberal ideas through higher education institutions of the Global South. It focuses on two case studies set in Southeast Asia, namely Thailand and Indonesia. While universities in both countries are increasingly subjected to neoliberal discourse and values, each presents a multifaceted case to consider. Previous studies have tracked the arrival of neoliberal ideas in Indonesian and Thai universities, and have considered reforms enacted following the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s and ensuing international assistance. However, at this point there are very few studies that have explored the possibilities for contesting and re-working neoliberal discourse in Thailand and Indonesia. Building on Connell’s Southern theory thinking, we propose that the “cracks” those of us working in the Global South search for might be found by careful attendance to local contexts and knowledge projects, rather than the dutiful application of Northern theories. In order to bring “cracks” into view the methodology we use is itself visual. We take up photographic methods in order to search for resistant spaces that might be visible in our own academic lives and institutions.


Thailand universities Indonesian universities Neoliberalism Photo-elicitation Social good Self-care 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Learning Sciences and EducationThammasat UniversityBangkokThailand
  2. 2.Research Education and DevelopmentLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of PsychologyUniversity of SurabayaSurabayaIndonesia

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