Quirky T s

What people do on campus – a blog experiment #2

One of the topics we considered for blog entries is fashion and campus style. T-shirts are a cultural phenomenon – a language with many dialects. We don’t have to look far to find some fantastic T-shirts on campus. In our own group, David, pictured here, had the most interesting one.

A good read

T-shirts are an everyday basic – winter and summer – for students on campus at UQ.  Because the student population is so diverse we see an amazing variety of t-shirts.

Academic staff sometimes wear them too. Less these days, given the increasing corporatization of academic life, but in some departments/disciplines the collar-less t-shirt can still be seen. Usually it signals creative knowledge and determined non-conformity (in spite of the T-shirt being ubiquitous). Professional staff – no matter how creative – are unlikely to wear T-shirts on campus. When academic staff do, the casualness is related indirectly to their administrative and teaching load (high t-shirt count – low teaching/admin responsibilities – as with some postgraduates and some research fellows). The casual look belies the pressured realities of academic life.

Erica McWilliam published a terrific article (Social Alternatives, 1997, Vol 16 Issue 1) – Performing Academic Authority: the enfant terrible as a body of knowledge. She details some of the ways in which academic authority is embodied and performed, and offers a very apt profile of a particular kind of academic performer – the ‘enfant terrible’. Usually a male (or in some cases – an androgenous looking female), the ‘enfant terrible’ has particular behaviour patterns (arrives late to other conference presenters’ papers, but dominates question time), and a particular style (against the trend – if short hair is in, he wears his long) and dress : a studied casual and crumpled style that is meant to look effortless. The quirky t-shirt is his staple (McWilliams gives an example of a Felix the Cat t-shirt).

Derrida T-shirt
Copyleft T-shirt : A favorite amongst those of us interested in Creative Commons

The article referred to is Erica McWilliam, (1997) Performing academic authority: the ‘enfant terrible’ as a body of knowledge

Social Alternatives, Jan 1997, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p41.


In the article, the author presents her opinion on the working style of performing academic authority and presents some unwritten rules for them from her experience of working in the academy. According to the author, academic authorities work like mischievous children as a body of knowledge. She insists that all academic writers and teachers must claim some sort of authority, even those who seek to disrupt modernist mechanisms of authorial or pedagogical power.


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