Slow Academia – Wonder, Wandering, Generosity & Presence in the University

PaTHES Thematic Webinar Series, Fall 2022

Chaired by Rikke Toft Nørgård, Aarhus University (Denmark)

This season of PaTHES webinars explores slow academia. Typically defined in the negative – something other than frenetic, competitive, metricised, anxiety-promoting academia – its advocates are most visible in academic self-help such as Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber’s (2016) The slow professor, and its critics on social media including The Thesis Whisperer blog (Slow academia is for the privileged) and The Post-Pandemic University (Four reasons slow scholarship will not change academia). We are delighted to host several scholars who have engaged critically with the idea of slowness – as a topic or as a mode of doing academic work – to explore possibilities for inhabiting the university differently.

Webinar 1

Surviving the years of plague – Two feminist academics review Raewyn Connell’s The good university: What universities actually do and why it’s time for radical change

Date: Thursday 8th September

Time: 10.30-12.00pm CEST (DK time), 8.30-10.00pm (NZ), 6.30-8.00 (Sydney), 9.30-11.00am (London)

Speakers: Agnes Bosanquet (Macquarie University, Australia) & Barbara Grant (University of Auckland/Waipapa Taumata Rau, Aotearoa New Zealand) with Sean Sturm (University of Auckland/Waipapa Taumata Rau, Aotearoa New Zealand)

Materials and recordings from the webinar are available here

Abstract: In late 2019, Agnes and Barbara agreed to write a collaborative review of Raewyn Connell’s The Good University. Our plan was to converse slowly via exchanging emails because there were already plagues (persistent afflictions causing worry and distress). For one of us, especially, work-life was marred by radical university restructuring and out-of-control bushfires. But, in those first weeks, we never imagined the new plague that would arrive in early 2020 to complicate our civic, work and home lives and dramatically (further) reduce our capacity for scholarly work. Our conversation became even more intermittent, stretching from November 2019 into the present. Over those months that became years, we found that living with these plagues also cast the possibility of the good university into profound uncertainty. Connell’s The Good University became a point of return – a companion text – for two feminist academics during plague times. This webinar will offer an edited version of a conversation that proceeds slowly, in its ‘own’ time, and that shows on the ground ‘what [some] universities actually do and why it’s time for radical change,’ as Connell’s subtitle has it.

Bios: Agnes is an academic developer and higher education researcher from Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Her work focuses on critical university studies and changing academic work and identities, exploring questions of power, knowledge and subjectivity in higher education. Barbara is an academic in the School of Critical Studies in Education at the University of Auckland/Waipapa Taumata Rau, and, like Agnes, has an enduring interest in exploring from different theoretical perspectives what it means to work – as a researcher, supervisor, teacher, writer – in contemporary higher education. Sean is an academic developer and higher education researcher in the School of Critical Studies in Education at the University of Auckland/Waipapa Taumata Rau. Their work operates at the intersection of the philosophy of higher education, indigenous studies and writing studies.

Webinar 2

Wandering and wondering in the university

Date: Thursday 29th September

Time: 9.00-10.30am CEST (DK time), 8.00-9.30pm (NZ), 5.00-6.30pm (Sydney), 8.00-9.30am (London)

Speakers: Frances Kelly (University of Auckland/Waipapa Taumata Rau, Aotearoa New Zealand) & Finn Thorbjørn Hansen (University of Aalborg, Denmark)

Materials and Recordings from this Webinar are available here

Abstract: Frances Kelly and Finn Thorbjørn Hansen have both written about wandering and wondering in the university. In this webinar they will give the following presentations.

Guess what I found in the archive today! The wonder of research work

I knelt in the caves at Redcliff and dusted the earth for glimmers of fishbone, swam at Pounawea with the class of ‘39 and walked barefoot through its history. I scraped up roadkill, labeled and boxed it and sent it to the ornithologist courting the ethnologist. I peered at parkside river reeds and thought of the Lady of Shalott and cursed my eurocentric brain and tried instead to think of how Māori once knew the river as a nurturing unconstrained force that flowed through the plains and made them rich. I thought of moa – their bones in the soil, caught, trapped, running, still. Their bones made to stand thigh to thigh with the bare-chested men who wrote school bulletins, thumbing their unprofessional noses at Owen and Haast – here we stand half naked with our moa, no academic gowns for us! Here our bodies touch the earth and the water we draw the bones from. I breathed their dust. Hunted them down. Made connections. I barely scraped the surface and came away so changed.

Whilst grounded and researching in local archives 2020-21, I glimpsed historical teaching practices that aimed to connect children with place and things – experiments that seemed to recognise that humans are not separate agents, almost inviting a Deleuzean way of approaching the world, drawing on the senses to think in different ways (Rautio, 2013). Here, I explore how these archival encounters reoriented my own research and use this as a point from which to explore ways that research work can kindle unexpected ontological and epistemological reorientations. (FK)

It takes time and a ‘higher caring’ to truly get into deep wonder

As the marine biologist, writer and environmental activist, Rachel Carlson, said back in 1956 (Carson, 1956), the sense of wonder is key to cultivate a care and responsibility for our planet earth and for our kinship with ‘other-than-human’ life forms. A university and a university teaching that are not led by a hope and striving to slow down in order to get in resonance (Rosa, 2020) with the voices of these other-than-human life forms and the “Song of the Earth” (Bate, 2001) is not a responsible university of our age. To create spaces for and to be caught by a deep sense of wonder should be paramount when reflecting upon what good education and teaching is in a university today.

            However, it is not the scientific method-based and explaining-seeking wonder that may give us the sense of wonder that Carson calls for. Nor is it a psychological (psycho-centric) way of understanding wonder as a social and innovative ‘state of mind’ (Glaveanu, 2021). I follow the Dutch educational philosopher, Anders Schinkel, when in Wonder and Education: On the Educational Importance of Contemplative Wonder (Schinkel, 2021) he defends contemplative wonder as primary to inquisitive wonder. Even so, I think he and other analytical philosophers of wonder (eg. Petersen, 2019) are too narrow in their conception of the phenomenon of wonder when they define wonder as an ‘epistemic emotion’. It is far more.

            The sense of wonder is a sense for the meta-psychical and metaphysical experiences or ‘living mysteries’ (Marcel, 1950; Buber, 2013) of the world that ground human perception and understanding of our world and our self. American phenomenologist, Steen Halling, writes: “Phenomenologists are people in no hurry.” It is indeed an art to be so slow and quiet that one can hear the phenomenon speak back.

            In this webinar professor Finn Th. Hansen will show how he – inspired by philosophers like Heidegger (1958), Marion (2002), Buber (2013) and Kierkegaard (1997) – works with what he calls ‘the Wonder Lab’ and ‘the Wonder Compass’, which are now used on Danish and Dutch universities (Hansen, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2019, 2022; Visse, Hansen & Leget, 2019; Hansen & Jørgensen, 2021; Hansen, Eide & Leget, 2022). Here the participants are invited on a journey that takes them to the four corners of ‘wonder land’: West being the phenomenological approach, North being the hermeneutic approach, East being the Socratic and existential approach, and South being the spiritual and contemplative approach.

Bios: Frances (Fran) Kelly is a senior lecturer in Critical Studies in Education at Waipapa Taumata Rau / University of Auckland, with an interest in higher education and the history of education. Recent publications have explored place in the university context; currently she is writing about mid-twentieth century attempts to connect children to and foster responsibility for local (built / natural) environments. Finn Thorbjørn Hansen is a full professor in philosophy at the Department of Communication at University of Aalborg. He owns a PhD in philosophy of education, and he is the founder of The Danish Society of Philosophical Practice and is a well-known trainer in philosophical counselling and Socratic Dialogue Groups. His research is specialized in the phenomenology of wonder and dialogue philosophy, and he has developed ‘phenomenological and Socratic action research approach’, where Wonder Labs and the Wonder Compass as dialogue models have been used on universities, design schools, hospitals, hospices, and innovative organizations (Hansen, 2015, Hansen & Jørgensen, 2021). He has written several books and articles on wonder, existential learning and innovation, and how wonder-based dialogues relate to different professions and educations. For more info, please see:

Webinar 3

Generosity and presence in the university: Working for change

Date: Friday 7th October

Time: 9.00-10.30am CEST (DK time), 8.00-9.30pm (NZ), 6.00-7.30pm (Sydney), 8.00-9.30am (London)

Speakers: Maha Bali (The American University in Cairo) and Alison Phipps (University of Glasgow, UK)

Materials and Recordings from this Webinar are available here


In a presentation called The Forming and Forms: Bureaucratic Activism and the Boring Bits of Generosity and Change, Alison will reflect on the unglamorous and critical elements involved in change-making and transformation and the backstage work behind the front stage performances and success. She will reflect on critical insights and moments of change including: 1) the need at critical junctures to withhold comment rather than speaking out 2) The place of voiced disappointment 3) the absolute power of entanglement and web making

In her presentation, Acting Fast for Slow Transformation: Openness, Equity and Care, Maha will reflect on openness as a worldview that has generosity as one of its principles, while critically recognizing that we are not all equally privileged to be open and generous without risks of exploitation, and that gift-giving will not necessarily promote social justice – we need to work at the intersections of equity and care. She will also talk about acting fast while learning and building community slowly, expanding on the notion of Intentionally Equitable Hospitality developed within the hybrid movement Virtually Connecting and expanded further in the practices of the Mid-Year Festival (MYFest), the slowest “conference-like” virtual learning experience in 2022, a way of promoting cumulative transformative learning rather than epochal transformative learning. The key here is in all the slow work of community building and reflection that happens within us and among us in open and private third places that develop in between the visible “moments” of learning.

Bios: Maha is a Professor of Practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo. She writes and speaks frequently about social justice, critical pedagogy, and open and online education; she also blogs regularly at She is co-founder of (a grassroots movement that challenges academic gatekeeping at conferences) and co-facilitator of Equity Unbound (an equity-focused, open, connected intercultural learning curriculum), which developed community-building resources and MYFest22 (Mid-Year Festival).

Alison is UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts at the University of Glasgow and Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies. She has held several distinguished visiting professorships in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. As well as being an academic and educator, she is Ambassador for the Scottish Refugee Council, and an activist and published poet.

Slow Academia – Concluding roundtable

Date: Monday 14th November

Time: 09.00-10.30 am (DK time), 08.00-09.30 am (UK time), 09.00-10.30 pm (NZ time), 07.00-8.30 pm (AUS time)

Registration before Thursday 10th November

Sign up here:

(zoom link and calendar invitation will be sent Friday 11th November to all who have registered)


Alison Phipps, Professor at University of Glasgow

Barbara Grant, Associate Professor at University of Auckland

Finn Thorbjørn Hansen, Professor at Aalborg University

Frances Kelly, Senior Lecturer at University of Auckland

Rikke Toft Nørgård, Associate Professor at Aarhus University

Sean Sturm, Senior Lecturer at University of Auckland


This concluding roundtable will bring together speakers from each of the webinars in the PaTHES Thematic Webinar Series on ‘Slow Academia’.

The roundtable will, together with the participants, explore the themes of the different webinars: Slowness, Goodness, Wonder, Wandering, Generosity and Presence.

By posing a string of productively provocative questions to the roundtable and participants we will try to move forward ….slowly

…as well as share their favorite ways of taking it slow in academic thought, practice and life.

In the last part of the roundtable we will together try to glimpse PaTHESways for future adventures in both slow academia and the philosophy and theory of higher education.

Please find below our collective reflections (click on the arrows on the bottom left to see all the pages).


Related writings by webinar presenters

Bali, M., Caines, A., Hogue, R. J., DeWaard, H. J., & Friedrich, C. (2019). Intentionally Equitable Hospitality in Hybrid Video Dialogue: The Context of Virtually Connecting. eLearning Mag (special issue). Retrieved from:

Bali, M., Cronin, C., & Jhangiani, R.S. (2020). Framing Open Educational Practices from a Social Justice Perspective. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. 2020 (1), p.10. DOI:

Bali, M., & Zamora, M. (2022). The Equity-Care Matrix: Theory and Practice. Italian Journal of Educational Technology (special issue, invited).

Bosanquet, A. The Slow Academic (blogging since 2016).

Bosanquet, A. (2021). Details optional: An account of academic promotion relative to opportunity. Life Writing, 18(3), 429–442.

Grant, B.M. (2019). The future is now: A thousand tiny universities. Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education, 1(3), 9–28. (Special issue on ‘Imagining the Future University’.)

Grant, B. M. (2018). “Going to see”: An academic woman researching her own kind. In A. L. Black & S. Garvis (Eds.), Lived experiences of women in academia: Metaphors, manifestos and memoir (pp. 45–54). Routledge.

Hansen, F.T. (20 Learning to innovate in higher education through deep wonder. Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education, 1(3), 51–74. (Special issue on ‘Imagining the Future University’.)

Hansen, F.T. (2011). The phenomenology of wonder in higher education. In M. Brinkmann, Erziehung: Phänomenologische perspektiven. Würzburg.

Imperiale, M.G. & Phipps, A. (2022) Cuts destroy, hurt, kill: A critical metaphor analysis of the response of UK academics to the UK overseas aid budget funding cuts, Journal of Multicultural Discourses, 17(1), 61-77, 10.1080/17447143.2021.2024838

Imperiale, M.G., Phipps, A. & Fassetta, G. (2021). On Online Practices of Hospitality in Higher Education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 40,629–648.

Kelly, F. (2020). ‘Hurry up please, it’s time!’ A psychogeography of a decommissioned university campus. Teaching in Higher Education, 25(6), 722–735.

Kelly, F. (2018). The lecturer’s new clothes: An academic life, in textiles. In A. L. Black & S. Garvis (Eds.), Lived experiences of women in academia: Metaphors, manifestos and memoir (pp. 23–31). Routledge.

Kelly, F. (2015). A day in the life (and death) of a public university. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(6), 1153–1163.

Longley, A., Sturm, S., & Yoon, C. (2021). Kindness as water in the university. Knowledge Cultures, 9(3), 184–205.

Phipps, A. & Sitole, T. (2022) Interrupting the cognitive empire: Keynote drama as cultural justice. Language and Intercultural Communication,

Phipps, A. (2007). The sound of higher education: Sensuous epistemologies and the mess of knowing. London Review of Education, 5, 1–13.

Sturm, S. R., & Turner, S. (2020). Life and death and the university. Critical Education, 11(13).

Turner, S., Boswell, A., Harré, N., Sturm, S., Locke, K., & da Souza Correa, D. (2017). The playable university. Ephemera, 17(3), 673–690.

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