Uneven Relationalities, Collective Biography and Sisterly Affect in Neoliberal Universities

Susanne Gannon, Giedre Kligte, Jan MacLean, Maud Perrier, Elaine Swan, Ilaria Vanni, Honni van Rijswijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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This article deploys a collective biographical methodology as a political and epistemological intervention in order to explore the emotional and affective politics of academic work for women in neoliberal universities. The managerial practices of contemporary universities tend to elevate disembodied reason over emotion; to repress, commodify, or co-opt emotional and affective labor; to increase individualization and competition among academic workers; and to disregard the relational work that the article suggests is essential for well-being at work. The apparent marginalization of feminist and feminine ways of being, thinking, and feeling in academia is examined through close readings of three narrative vignettes, which are based on memories of the everyday academic spaces of meetings, workshops, and mentoring. These stories explore moments of the breaking of ties among women and between men and women, as well as document how feminist relationalities can bind and exclude. The article suggests that academic ties are both part of the problem and the solution to countering neoliberal policies, and that academic relationships, especially with other women, are often experienced as unrealized spaces of hope. Building on feminist scholarship about race and diversity, the article reflects on how relational practices like collective biography create both inclusions and exclusions. Nevertheless, it suggests that the methodology of collective biography might engender more sustainable and ethical
ways of being in academic workplaces because it provides the resources to begin to create a new collective imaginary of academia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-216
Number of pages28
JournalFeminist Formations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • affect
  • collective biography
  • emotion
  • feminism
  • neoliberalism
  • relationality
  • university


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