Prefiguring a feminist academia: a multi-vocal autoethnography on the creation of a feminist space in a neoliberal university
journal contributionposted on 27.08.2020, 11:22 by Claire Jin Deschner, Léa Dorion, Lidia Salvatori
Purpose: This paper is a reflective piece on a PhD workshop on “feminist organising” organised in November 2017 by the three authors of this paper. Calls to resist the neoliberalisation of academia through academic activism are gaining momentum. The authors’ take on academic activism builds on feminist thought and practice, a tradition that remains overlooked in contributions on resisting neoliberalisation in academia. Feminism has been long committed to highlighting the epistemic inequalities endured by women and marginalised people in academia. This study aims to draw on radical feminist perspectives and on the notion of prefigurative organising to rethink the topic of academic activism. How can feminist academic activism resist the neoliberal academia?
Design/methodology/approach: This study explores this question through a multi-vocal autoethnographic account of the event-organising process.
Findings: The production of feminist space within academia was shaped through material and epistemic tensions. The study critically reflects on the extent to which the event can be read as prefigurative feminist self-organising and as neoliberal academic career-focused self-organising. The study concludes that by creating a space for sisterhood and learning, the empowering potential of feminist organising is experienced.
Originality/value: The study shows both the difficulties and potentials for feminist organising within the university. The concept of “prefiguration” provides a theoretical framework enabling us to grasp the ongoing efforts on which feminist organising relies. It escapes a dichotomy between success and failure that fosters radical pessimism or optimism potentially hindering political action.