This article analyzes the case of Avital Ronell, Amy Hungerford's response to striking Yale graduate students, and higher education funding to argue that such instances illustrate the precise features of rampant professionalization—its pressures, demands, and imperatives—in the midst of the radical transformation of the material conditions that first produced its practices. Despite the increasingly limited ability for faculty to determine how their fields intersect with and are conditioned by forces beyond the confines of their carefully delimited communities, particularly those of the capitalist market economy, collectively the professoriate acts otherwise. As a whole, faculty continue to churn out academic progeny through a long period of apprentissage for positions that, taken in aggregate, no longer exist. Intensified discourses and anxieties around professionalization emerge to fill this gap, both registering the latent crisis and suggesting a means for its overcoming. Building on these examples, the authors suggest that professionalization remains a tactic through which academic laborers self-discipline but that today such self-disciplining tends to operate through the contradictory entwinement of (worker) reproduction and (institutional) reputation. The article closes with a new figure: that of the “unprofessional,” suggesting that our task is to shift the expectations set by professionalization that our own reproduction can only be ensured through its congealment in the commodity of reputation.

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