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Reclaiming Critical Space in the Academy

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Feminist Geographies Specialty Group, Queer and Trans Geographies Specialty Group, Careers and Professional Development
Organizers: Beth Bee, Kelsey Hanrahan, Emily Billo


Last year at the AAG in Washington, DC, we convened a open-discussion style panel session to share concerns and discuss strategies to overcome, co-exist, resist, and reclaim critical spaces within the context of the shifting and unstable terrain of institutions of higher education in the current neoliberal moment. During our conversation, several of us emphasized the need for an ongoing or at least recurring forum for maintaining this discussion.

This session takes as its central focus strategies for carefully and critically building space within our institutions. As educators, researchers, activists, scholars, we experience a variety of pressures from institutional politics shaped by neoliberalism. For example, we highlight suppression of certain types of research, teaching, and activism, departmental restructuring that isolates faculty, as well as cancellation of classes with critical pedagogies in favor of ‘service’ classes. Simultaneously, we emphasize the overextension of our bodies into roles such as counselors and administrators. While we are expected to engage in labor of caring for students, we also want to engage in critical work in the classroom to collectively disrupt the system that works to exploit all of us.

This year, we are interested in expanding our discussion to focus on embodied strategies and responses to structural limitations, foregrounded in scholarship by several participants in last year’s session. While these strategies respond to institutional pressures by taking up neglected spaces and responsibilities, they also draw on feminist anti-racist epistemologies and feminist ethics of care towards collective disruption of those institutional shortcomings. Gilliam and Swanson (2019) emphasize mentoring relationships that might safeguard the well-being of students experiencing emotional pain and trauma in research, while Faria and colleagues (2019) demonstrate how the creation of feminist collectives can offer the opportunity for radical mentoring to challenge the whiteness of the academy. Finally, Bono and her colleagues (2019) offer embodied, caring strategies for working within the masculine discipline of geography, demonstrating how embodiedness remains a threat to the neoliberal university.


Bennett, Sheila K. 1982. Student perceptions of and expectations for male and female instructors: Evidence relating to the question of gender bias in teaching evaluation. Journal of Educational Psychology 74(2), 170.

Bono, Federica, Valerie De Craene and Anneleen Kenis. 2019. My best geographer’s dress: bodies, emotions and care in early-career academia. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 101(1), 21-32.

Faria, Caroline, Bisola Falola, Jane Henderson and Rebecca Maria Torres. 2019. A long way to go: Collective paths to racial justice in Geography. The Professional Geographer 71(2), 364-376.

Gilliam, Shea Ellen and Kate Swanson. 2019. A cautionary tale: Trauma, ethics and mentorship in research in the USA. Gender, Place and Culture.

Longhurst, Robyn 1995. The body and geography, Gender, Place and Culture, 2, 97–105.

Longhurst, Robyn. 2001. Geography and gender: looking back, looking forward, Progress in Human Geography 2,: 641–648.

Longhurst, Robyn. 1997. (Dis)embodied geographies. Progress in Human Geography 4(21), 486–501.

Longhurst, Robyn, and Linda Johnston. 2014. Bodies, gender, place and culture: 21 years on. Gender, Place & Culture 21(3), 267–278


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Kelsey Hanrahan 7
Panelist Emily Billo Goucher College 7
Panelist Beth Bee East Carolina University 7
Panelist Chris McMorran National University of Singapore 9
Panelist Melissa Rock SUNY New Paltz 9
Panelist Heidi Hausermann Colorado State University 9
Panelist Robin Lovell Manhattan College 9
Panelist Karen Falconer Al-Hindi University of Nebraska Omaha 9
Discussant Roberta Hawkins University of Guelph 9

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