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Abstract

Over the course of the past few decades, scholars and theorists have engaged in a dynamic and concerted effort to interpret, make sense of, and resist a variety of social phenomena often categorized under the concept of “postmodernism.” This project has also been taken up by educators of various stripes, especially those who identify their work as belonging in a “critical” tradition such as critical theory or critical pedagogy. In this paper, I aim to join the discussion of critical education scholars through an analysis of Albert Camus’s work on the concept of the absurd. In particular, I interpret the absurd as it relates to the identity and work of critical academics in the postmodern university. After providing an orienting perspective of the key elements of postmodernity and critical pedagogy that are relevant to my project, I move into a discussion of the connections between Camus’s concept of the absurd and postmodernism. Working from this basis, I then suggest the relevance and value of the absurd to critical academics within two general constellations of challenges: critical thought/identity and moving from theory to practice, especially in the absence of any forthcoming consensus or unity of intellectual or ethical systems. I conclude by recapitulating my main arguments and gesturing toward potential for further development. Ultimately, the essay ends by raising the question of the value of raising a question.

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