Power, Knowledge and Feminist Scholarship: An Ethnography of Academia, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Power, Knowledge and Feminist Scholarship

An Ethnography of Academia, 1st Edition

By Maria do Mar Pereira


248 pages | 2 B/W Illus.

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*Open Access content has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) license

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Paperback: 9780367233761
pub: 2019-06-05
Hardback: 9781138911499
pub: 2017-03-13

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Feminist scholarship is sometimes dismissed as not quite ‘proper’ knowledge – it’s too political or subjective, many argue. But what are the boundaries of ‘proper’ knowledge? Who defines them, and how are they changing? How do feminists negotiate them? And how does this boundary-work affect women’s and gender studies, and its scholars’ and students’ lives?

These are the questions tackled by this ground-breaking ethnography of academia inspired by feminist epistemology, Foucault, and science and technology studies. Drawing on data collected over a decade in Portugal and the UK, US and Scandinavia, this title explores different spaces of academic work and sociability, considering both official discourse and ‘corridor talk’. It links epistemic negotiations to the shifting political economy of academic labour, and situates the smallest (but fiercest) departmental negotiations within global relations of unequal academic exchange. Through these links, this timely volume also raises urgent questions about the current state and status of gender studies and the mood of contemporary academia. Indeed, its sobering, yet uplifting, discussion of that mood offers fresh insight into what it means to produce feminist work within neoliberal cultures of academic performativity, demanding increasing productivity.

As the first book to analyse how academics talk (publicly or in off-the-record humour) about feminist scholarship, Power, Knowledge and Feminist Scholarship is essential reading for scholars and students in gender studies, LGBTQ studies, post-colonial studies, STS, sociology and education.

Winner of the FWSA 2018 Book Prize competition


Maria do Mar Pereira's work is a compelling and timely feminist ethnography of academic life that explores processes of academic valuation—how do academics determine what constitutes "proper" knowledge? Pereira turns particular attention to women's, gender, and feminist studies' scholarship and asks how work produced in the field gets imagined as proper knowledge—or as improper knowledge—and how this status is shaped by the institutionalization of the field, the corporatization of the university, the increased precarity of the academic job market, and the dictates of the "performative university" which promises scholars in the field recognition and legibility so long as they comply with the demands of productivity and hierarchy that mark the new university. Pereira's book is essential reading for feminist scholars invested in understanding the place of the field in the university, and interested in exploring how the university and its dictates and demands has shaped feminist knowledge production.

Jennifer Christine Nash is Associate Professor of African American Studies and Gender & Sexuality Studies at Northwestern University, USA

This is a brilliant and original book, brimming with ideas, insights and integrity. Maria do Mar Pereira has given us both a nuanced engagement with contemporary Women's, Gender and Feminist Studies, and a compelling ethnography of academia as it becomes disfigured by brutal regimes of performativity. Her intelligence and intellectual generosity shine through on every page. A hugely important contribution.

Rosalind Gill is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at City University London, UK

The book describes a fascinating, longitudinal, ethnographic study rich in detail about feminist scholars' perceptions, work tensions and feelings, as well as accurately describing the complex and contradictory values and epistemic conditions in which contemporary gender studies exists in the academy. The discussion about the extent to which 21st century academics work in circumstances that both legitimate long hours and over-production of outputs will be of great interest to anyone trying to understand how modern universities operate. This eminently accessible and important study should also be compulsory reading for all university senior managers.

Professor Rosemary Deem, OBE, PhD, AcSocSci, FSRHE, VP Education, Royal Holloway University of London, UK

The book is an important contribution to the literature on knowledge production, pulling into sharp focus the ways in which "challenging questions about power, inequality, and the production of legitimate knowledge" occur simultaneously and cooperatively through the local and the global, the everyday and the abstract, and the institutional and the disciplinary. Eloquently written and deftly argued, Pereira's book is essential reading on the comparative and global contexts of contemporary university scholarship - and the impact of power and inequality not only on the types of knowledge claims which can be made, but on the emotional and physical wellbeing of the scholars in these institutions.

Dr Sarah Burton, Durham University, BSA Network, Issue 128, Spring 2018

Power, Knowledge and Feminist Scholarship is a valuable contribution to the growing body of literature on how to stand up against the performative university. This book distinguishes itself from the typical laments and diagnostics by asking brave—and even uncomfortable—questions about the consequences of our own actions and inactions as WGFS scholars.

Mona Mannevuo (2018) Power, Knowledge and Feminist Scholarship: An Ethnography of Academia, NORA – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 26:3, 244-247, DOI: 10.1080/08038740.2018.1497703

Maria do Mar Pereira's brilliant new book provides a novel vantage point from which to consider the epistemological dimensions of such everyday scenes in the life of a feminist academic.

Rachel O'Neill, University of York

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Abbreviations Acknowledgements Notes on the Presentation of Material Introduction Chapter 1. An Outsider Within? The Position and Status of WGFS in Academia Chapter 2. Pushing and Pulling the Boundaries of Knowledge: a Feminist Theory of Epistemic Status Chapter 3. WGFS in the Performative University (Part I): The Epistemic Status of WGFS in Times of Paradoxical Change Chapter 4. WGFS is Proper Knowledge, But…: The Splitting of Feminist Scholarship Chapter 5. Putting WGFS on the Map(s): The Boundary-Work of WGFS Scholars Chapter 6. The Importance of Being Foreign and Modern: The Geopolitics of the Epistemic Status of WGFS Chapter 7. WGFS in the Performative University (Part II): The Mood of Academia and its Impact on our Knowledge and our Lives Conclusion: Negotiating the Boundaries of Proper Knowledge and of Work in the (Not Quite Fully) Performative University

About the Author

Maria do Mar Pereira is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Warwick (UK) and Deputy Director of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of Women and Gender.

About the Series


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General