22 SES 10 B, Feminist Ways of Being, Knowing and Teaching in the Academy: A Double Symposium
This paper is based upon a longitudinal study comprising one biographical interview and two semi-structured interviews (with a third planned) with ten early career women (ECAs) in the social sciences and humanities over a period of up to five years. The paper uses the work of Margaret Archer (2003, 2008) to explore the interaction between structure and agency, in the decision making processes of these women who have entered academia in a context of rapid marketization in the UK. We consider the extent to which the women’s choices, decisions and actions appear to be underpinned by feminist principles. The participants were working as lecturers in two British universities at the start of the project, with some moving on to different universities as the project progressed. In describing their education, their research, and their teaching, most are or have been, deeply engrossed in gendered analysis and in exploring feminist ideas. In relaying their gendered lives and decisions, their dialogue is cross-cut with references to the gendered aspects of their lives and they reveal how this has intersected with class, ethnic, and national identities. However, the women mostly do not frame their thoughts and actions as feminist. This raises interesting questions about whether a feminist sensibility or activism can be seen as implicitly driving or informing their decisions and actions. The literature on implicit feminism describes the way that feminist activists might attempt to interact effectively with non-feminist organisations (Katzenstein, 1999; Giffort, 2011). They discard or disguise activist or analytical language to avoid hostility and the better to achieve feminist goals. From one perspective the ECAs may be adjusting to a context where the language of feminism is implicitly discouraged and where overtly feminist agencies have been pushed to the periphery (Leathwood and Read, 2009; Minnich, 2005). Alternatively, the participants may be seen as consciously or unconsciously dissociating the analysis of feminism from feminist action. The participants can also be classified as third wave feminists in terms of their being mostly in their twenties and thirties\or from the time at which they went to university (Harnois, 2008). Third wave feminists have been subject to criticisms regarding their lack of coherent collective action (Gillis et al, 2004). While it is not possible to reach definitive conclusions, the analysis and the debates raise important questions regarding feminist values and actions which can be pursued in the third round of interviews.
Archer, M. (2003) Structure, Agency and the Internal Conversation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Archer, M. (2008), Making Our Way Through the World: Human Reflexivity and Social Mobility, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Giffort, D.M. (2011) Show or Tell? Feminist Dilemmas and Implicit Feminism at Girls’ Rock Camp, Gender and Society, Vol. 25 No. 5, October 2011 569-588. Gillis, S., Howe, G. and Munford, R. (eds) (2004) Introduction. In Third Wave Feminism: a critical exploration, New York: Palgrave Brown. Harnois, C. (2008) Re-presenting Feminisms, Past, Present and Future, NWSA Journal, Vol. 20 No. 1, Spring 2008 120-145. Katzenstein, (1999) Faithful and Fearless: Moving Feminist Protest inside the Church and the Military, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Leathwood, C. and Read, B. (2009) Gender and the changing face of higher education. A feminised future? Maidenhead: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.
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