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Positioning Prem Sikka’s academic activism in the third space

Grant Samkin (Department of Financial Accounting, College of Accounting Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 24 June 2022

Issue publication date: 27 March 2023

314

Abstract

Purpose

This paper applies Bhabha’s concept of the third space to frame an understanding of Prem Sikka’s use of digital media to bridge the academic–activist binary. In doing this, the paper makes two contributions. First, it conceptualises Sikka’s engagement, and second, through the lens of the third space, it analyses it to establish whether, in the era of the neoliberal corporatised university, public intervention has the potential to generate new perspectives and new knowledge.

Design/methodology/approach

Sikka’s articles and blogs for the period 20 February 2002 to 15 April 2020 were analysed using Leximancer, a textual analysis software programme that displays the output visually. A discriminant analysis was used to identify where each year of the study is situated in the overall semantic analysis. Netnography, the examination of archived published texts, was then used to analyse the responses by members of the public, academics, accountants and auditors, tax experts, policy makers and regulators to Sikka’s digital media engagement.

Findings

As a third space practitioner, Sikka has overcome some of the shortcomings associated with academic research to challenge the activities of professional accounting firms, regulatory bodies and multinational corporations. Through extending the boundaries of accounting and accountability, he has facilitated new radical alliances aiming to create a just and equitable society. The paper also finds that by opening up a third space of engagement, academic activists’ work can play an essential part in social transformation and emancipatory change framed in terms of social justice and equity.

Originality/value

This is one of the few papers to provide an in-depth examination of the activities of an accounting activist over twenty years.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

James Guthrie is thanked for the support provided during the development of this paper. The reviewers and comments received on a very early draft of this paper delivered at the 2016 Asia–Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference (APIRA) conference held in Melbourne are acknowledged. Prem Sikka is also thanked for the discussant comments made at the conference. Additionally, the detailed comments on the nature of the third space in the context of academic activism that were provided by an anonymous reviewer to an earlier version of the paper must be acknowledged.

Citation

Samkin, G. (2023), "Positioning Prem Sikka’s academic activism in the third space", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 520-560. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-04-2022-5749

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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