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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Academic public intellectuals’ lives : negotiating the borderlines Ashenafi, Aboye Alemu


This study presents the life stories of four selected Ethiopian public intellectuals among the diaspora. The overall study is presented in a form of fictionalized narrative based on the entire life experiences of the intellectuals. It is framed using the political economy of Ethiopian higher education as its context. Using fictionalized narratives in educational research is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the larger debate of the fact-fiction distinction (Brockmeier, 2013), the notion of panfictionality suggests that it is hardly possible to draw a hard and fast dividing line between representations that are labeled as fact and fiction (Brockmeier, 2013). This allows for the possibility of presenting real-life stories in a form of fiction. The intellectuals in this study are selected because they had worked in the academy in Ethiopia, are currently employed in a tenure-track position in North America, and are engaged in addressing the public both as an academic as well as public figure. They were asked to participate in the life story interviews which are informed by the notions of public intellectuals and Jakobson’s (2012) symmetric-criticality framework. Interview transcripts were sent back to the participants for accuracy and validity. The author’s subjectivity, positionality, and other ethical issues are addressed to meet institutional requirements. The fictionalized characters narrate stories related to academic freedom, public intellectualism, and speech and silence. They narrate vibrant stories. They tell their stories and speak out about issues that matter to them.

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