22 SES 04 E JS, Leadership in Higher Education
Paper Session Joint Session NW 22 with NW 26
The contribution will critically interrogate a powerful ‘myth’ that has emerged in HE reforms in divergent cultural and geopolitical national contexts. The managerialist discourse suggests that the essential ingredient in successful organisational transformation is that of leadership. In fact, leadership has replaced management in post-neo-liberal HE change discourses and has been applied as a social and organisational technology in support of the re-orientation of the public services towards the consumer-citizen.
- What kind of subjectivities, values, behaviours, dispositions and characteristics does the ideology of ‘leaderism’ promote?
- How this discourse actively constitutes gender?
To articulate some responses to those questions, we will consider two different HE policy systems: the UK system that since the 1980s has undergone rapid and radical changes that introduced market-oriented reforms profoundly influenced by the managerialist discourse in the form of New Public Management; the Italian system that still remains rooted in the bureaucratic and professional discourses despite some timid attempts to import the ‘managerial recipes’. In particular, we will acknowledge that different policy discourses produce site-specific representations and self-representations of gender and leadership, which may reveal forms of subjectification as well as spaces of resistance to hegemonic discourses.
The questions involve the following specific objectives:
1) To discuss the policy discourses that circulate in those two national contexts highlighting the ‘hybrid’ processes of re-interpretation and translation of the global policies discourses at the local level.
2) To analyse the located forms of representation and self-representation of gender and leadership that are produced in specific contexts of practice, through the recollection of narratives produced by women as middle managers inboth contexts.
3) To highlight differences and similarities that emerged through these context-specific processes in order to understand the extent to which different discoursive ‘configurations’ perform the power to subjectivate women leaders.
To create a theoretical toolbox, firstly, we conceptualise policies as discourses. The utility of this concept is that it enables to conceptualize and comprehend the relations between individual policy text and the wider relations of the social structure and political system (Olssen et al. 2004). Secondly, we take into account the opportunity of the analytical encounter of Foucault’s notion of technologies of the self (Foucault 1988) and de Lauretis conceptualisation of gender as both representation and self-representation (de Lauretis 1987), as technologies of gender. If for Foucault, the technologies of the self reveal the mechanisms through which human beings ‘act upon themselves’ at the very time of their objectification (Foucault 1988, 18), gender can be interpreted as a form of representation that is constructed by various social technologies, discourses, epistemologies, as well as everyday practices and absorbed subjectively by each individual whom those technologies addresses (self-representation) (de Lauretis 1987). Adopting those propositions, women’s practices of self-narration can be theorized as technologies of autobiography: in the same line that gender is a representation, it can be argued that the narratable subject is a representation, and its representation is a construction produced not by experience but by auto-narration itself (Gilmore 1994, 25). Finally, we will try to anchor leadership practices to the social division of labour and to power relationships (Gronn, 2009), by recognising both the complexities of the social and political arena within which leadership is embedded and its dissolution within a network of practices. A processual interpretation of leadership will offer the interpretative tools to recognise and disveal the nature of power and the role it perform in shaping subjectivities (Serpieri et al. 2009).
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