Fejes’s research interests on adult education and lifelong learning grew out of his political engagement, as a president of student union, a city counsellor and as a member of the school board in his municipality. Most of the political discussion, both within his party and the city council was experienced by Fejes as “focused on ‘what works’ and what ‘produces good polls’, rather than on critical discussion”. His research was then concerned with political discussion: “on exploring the taken for granted knowledge that is mobilised and the effects of this, in relation to decisions made in relation to adult education and lifelong learning”. A similar problem, Fejes argues, is found across the European Union in relation to much of the policy driven research in education and lifelong learning.
Thus, it was both as a political and academic research project that Fejes started his PhD in Adult Learning in 2002. This initiated a critical engagement with questions over the knowledge constitutive practices of adult education and learning, which continues today. During which time he focused historically on how the learning adult was shaped through Swedish, and to some extent European, policies for adult education over the last Century. His PhD thesis was entitled, Constructing the Adult Learner: A Governmentality Analysis.
After completing his PhD, Fejes began employment as senior lecturer at Linköping University, located at a Department with one of the largest concentrations of researchers and university teachers in adult education and learning in the world, holding a research grant from the Swedish research council (€350.000) and a career contract from the Rector of Linköping University (€600.000). Here Fejes had the support to build a research trajectory which critically examines policies and practices of adult education and learning in relational terms. Drawing on post-structural theorisations, mainly inspired by Michel Foucault, he has focused on this topic in various ways and in differing educational and lifelong learning practices. For example, through an exploration of in-service training in elderly care he has been concerned to understand how the learning adult is shaped, and, currently, in explorations of citizenship ideas and practices, he has been focusing on how the adult citizen is shaped through adult and popular education and more widely.
Despite his relative youth and short time in academia, Fejes gained promotion to Associate Professorship in 2008 in recognition of his contribution to research at his institution. He has to date; an impressive publishing track record, with more than 100 publications, including six books – three in Swedish: The Value of Knowledge; Handbook in Qualitative Analysis; and Employability: Perspectives from Education and Work. Besides his PhD thesis, two of his books are published in English.
In 2008, Routledge published the co-edited book with Katherine Nicoll (University of Stirling) Foucault and Lifelong Learning: Governing the Subject, gathering contributions from key international authors to theorise how the adult learning subject is governed in Western societies today through dominant ideas and practices of lifelong learning.
More recently, Fejes has published with Routledge a book co-authored with Magnus Dahlstedt (Linköping University): The Confessing Society: Foucault, Confession and Practices of Lifelong Learning. Here, the focus is on identifying and treating as problematic the increasing ‘will’ of people to verbalise and expose themselves to others in contemporary times; through, for example, reality TV-shows, conversations with educational counsellors and with colleagues, and in the appraisals or reflective sessions that people have with themselves. Fejes and his colleague illustrate how this ‘will’ operates through a technology of confession and as the knowledge constitutive practices through which people come to know who they are and shape and govern themselves and others. This timely and important focus is being further developed in a book edited by Fejes and Katherine Nicoll, bringing the work of key international theorists together to focus on the practices and effects of this will in contemporary Western societies and considering the social consequences and potential alternatives.
More information about Andreas Fejes can be found here: www.ibl.liu.se/medarbetare/fejes-andreas