Challenging Injustice and the Neoliberal Academy from within: Ethical Considerations for the Every-day Work of Scholars

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Geographic Perspectives on Women Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Socialist and Critical Geography Specialty Group, Careers and Professional Development
Poster #:
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Wilson A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Organizers: Justin Mullikin, Heidi Hausermann
Chairs: Justin Mullikin


“There is a political imperative to restate the kind of academy in which we want to work,” (Pain, Kesby, and Askins 2011, 187). Considering increasing interest in, and alarm over, the “neoliberalization of the academy,” what would unfold if more academics applied the same ethics and critical approaches used in research and analysis to professional praxis, departmental governance, student interaction and activism? What does it mean to “recognize our own subjection... within potent configurations of habit and desire” (Gibson-Graham 2006, 3) within institutions while taking concrete steps to confront the structures, norms, and mundane practices that reproduce exploitation and marginalization within our profession? Under what conditions might sites, codes and relations -- classrooms, “community” engagement, fieldwork, bylaws and so on -- operate differently?

While feminist geographers have long contributed insight on such topics (e.g. Kobayashi 1994; England 1994; Sharp & Dowler 2011; Smith 2014) including calls for “slow scholarship” (Mountz et al. 2015), these questions have been less central to political ecology (Lave 2012, Sundberg 2014 are exceptions, among others), which has focused more on knowledge production in research and less on its impacts within the academy. Applying the same deconstruction of human/nature dualisms to the political and social conditions present in the act of research (Smith 1999) provides an important opening for political ecology. Those conditions extend into the academy itself and must be critically interrogated. Recognizing the potential discomfort in self-reflection and engagement on this topic, we seek to create a non-judgmental space to advance dialogue between feminist geography and political ecology, and encourage papers interrogating all facets of “contemporary practice” of knowledge production (Mott and Cockayne 2017), including conceptual, empirical, pedagogical pieces as well as those based on institutional and activism experience.

For instance, we encourage submissions grappling with the following questions:
• Considering institutional constraints and inertia, how might decision-making power be creatively and practically
democratized within departments to address underrepresentation and other injustices?

• Does a conversation between feminist geography and political ecology produce a framework for confronting
universities’ roles in perpetuating unjust economic structures, contributing to climate change, and redressing
local historical injustices (such as land appropriation).

• What do political ecology’s theorizing of power and the neoliberalization of nature have to contribute to
understanding complacency toward, and complicity with, unjust academic structures and spaces?

• What are best pedagogical techniques for privileging ontological multiplicity and decolonizing spaces of
learning, fostering subjectivities of being in common?

• How can differentials of power and privilege within the academy be constructively confronted?

If you are interested in participating in this session, please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words, along with your name and affiliation, to by October 15th. We will reply to all submissions by October 22st, at which point we will ask for AAG abstract numbers.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Jessica Hayes-Conroy*, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Attending to Neoliberalism in the Classroom: A Feminist Political Ecology of Anxiety in Higher Education 20 5:00 PM
Presenter Leah Horowitz*, Nelson Institute, TribalCrit and the Tenure Clock: Conflicting pressures surrounding academic research with Native and other vulnerable communities. 20 5:20 PM
Presenter Ingrid L Nelson*, University of Vermont, Decolonizing the Bioblitz: A Pedagogical, Feminist Political Ecology Perspective 20 5:40 PM
Introduction Justin Mullikin Rutgers University 20 6:00 PM

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