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Mothers, scholars and feminists: inside and outside the Australian academic system
chapterposted on 2018-04-01, 00:00 authored by Kim ToffolettiKim Toffoletti, P Bueskens
This chapter takes the form of two feminist academics’ stories – an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’ – exploring the different tensions and strains that have produced their identities. This collaboration is based on a sustained friendship and ongoing dialogue over 10 years, about the struggles and silence around mothering inside and outside the neo-liberal university. While policy initiatives and cultural rhetoric champion work-life balance in Australian universities, our own experiences demonstrate the profound limitations of a market-centred higher education model based on accountability, flexibility and mobility to mothers in academia. We have both come unstuck, albeit in different ways, under a system that proffers ‘flexibility’ but mandates the prioritisation of institutional goals at the expense of mothering. Our writing offers insights into the relationship between our own anxieties with regard to succeeding in academia and the structural inequalities that frame the kinds of ‘choices’ that we have made as mothers who are differently located in terms of social circumstances and institutional investments. Despite our different situations, it is through our shared feminist critique and practice that we put forth alternative ways of conceptualising academia and feminist scholarship – using our memoir and insights as a way of voicing, hence making visible, the connection between personal experiences and wider relations of power shaping women’s encounters with academic life.