‘Bothy culture’: towards a new ethics for the university

Anne Pirrie*, Nini Fang, Elizabeth Mary O'Brien

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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This form of this contribution foregrounds the ethical relations amongst its co-authors, troubling the boundaries between students and academics, global and local perspectives, established and emerging scholars. Drawing upon a short film called The University Listening Project, the authors question taken-for-granted identities and unities (students on one side of an invisible line, academics on the other). They consider academic life as a form of human flourishing that unfolds in the moment and is nourished by community, conversation and the richness of differences. The things of the world are interwoven with conceptual resources from a variety of disciplines to advance a more affirmative vision of life and work in the university. Taking their cues from Mothlight (1963), an experimental film by Stan Brakhage, the authors embrace lessons from urbanism (Sennett, Gehl) – specifically the distinctions between building and dwelling, ville and cité – and dwell in shadows and light. Freed from the traditional academic conventions of representation, they opt for a candid and conversational style that highlights differences and celebrates improvisation. The term ‘bothy culture’ encapsulates a coming-together of strangers in a place of refuge (usually in a remote landscape). Here it is used figuratively to gesture towards a new ethics for the university.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Promise of the University
Subtitle of host publicationReclaiming Humanity, Humility, and Hope
EditorsÁine Mahon
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer Singapore
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9789811652776
ISBN (Print)9789811652769, 9789811652790
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameDebating Higher Education: Philosophical Perspectives
ISSN (Print)2366-2573
ISSN (Electronic)2366-2581


  • higher education
  • philosophy of education
  • academic life
  • ethical relations
  • urbanism
  • bothy culture


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