"My pedagogy is where so much of my feminism happens": The Social Organization of Feminist Educators' Work in the Corporatizing Academy

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Marjorie L. DeVault

Subject Categories

Sociology | Women's Studies


Feminist educators in higher education perform feminist politics through their teaching practices. Among other goals, their pedagogies often seek to critically examine and transgress relations of power and domination associated with ruling systems (e.g., white supremacy, capitalism, heteropatriarchy), and to "create participatory spaces" (hooks 1994:15) for productive dialogue, resistance, and change. At the same time, postsecondary institutions are becoming more corporate and entrepreneurial in their orientation and structure--a trend that is mostly inconsistent with feminist educators' political interests, work, and vision of the academy.

Using institutional ethnography and referencing in-depth interviews with feminist educators and administrators from five postsecondary institutions in North America, I explore the teaching practices and professional work lives of feminist educators and examine the ways in which their work is shaped by the broader context of higher education. The following research questions guided this project: How do feminist educators understand and describe their teaching work in the academy? How are the teaching practices of feminist educators shaped by the institutional contexts in which they work? That is, what institutional and textual processes organize their decisions about teaching strategies, curriculum, and the allocation of time and energy? In particular, I examine the syllabus and regimes of assessment, evaluation, and accountability as they relate to and shape feminist educators' professional work lives.

This analysis explores some of the ways that corporatization and the textually mediated social relations of the academy influence and restrict aspects of feminist educators' teaching work. Additionally, this analysis explores some of the strategies that feminist educators use to promote the discourse of feminism in the face of institutionalized pressures to silence, curtail, or weaken their efforts. In making feminist educators' work lives visible and revealing how feminist educators' work lives are organized by a text-based ruling apparatus, my hope is that readers gain a better awareness and understanding of the work that feminist educators do and how power operates in higher education. With this knowledge, we can develop effective strategies for addressing the concerns of feminists and other social justice educators on campus, and engage in productive dialogue about how educators' pedagogical practices can be used to challenge the neoliberal, corporate trends taking place in academia.

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