There are strong claims that it is becoming harder for individuals trying to build an academic career to maintain a unitary academic identity for themselves. Explanations for this include the marketisation of higher education and the plethora of job roles, demanding 'flexibility' in working patterns. I use the opportunity to present an individual paper and take the audience through stages in conceptual analysis to explain how the ground for the fragmentary identity goes deeper, down to our understanding of academic practice as a concept. Standard moves in response to the problem of definition can reveal only so much. I look to theories about artistic and scientific practice to allow us to attain more enlightenment about trying to define academic practice and also to supply the ground for autonomy for practitioners, as freedom competently to direct their own work
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