On the Thresholds of Legitimacy: A Collaborative Exploration of Being and Becoming Academic

  • Susanne Gannon
  • Sarah Powell
  • Clare Power
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education book series (GED)


This chapter uses a collective biography methodology to explore threshold moments of academic legitimacy. They demonstrate the precarious processes and liminal spaces of being and becoming ‘academic’. We examine how the well-documented practices that characterise the corporate/managerial/enterprise university frame the experiences of women aspiring to work in the sector and the affective and embodied ramifications of such practices as casualisation, contractualism, and competition between intellectual workers. Informed by work on academic subjectivities in contemporary universities (e.g. Bansel, Studies in Higher Education, 36(5), 543–556, 2011; Mewburn, Studies in Continuing Education, 33(3), 321–332, 2011; Petersen and Davies, Learning and Teaching, 3(2), 92–109, 2010; Petersen, Studies in Higher Education, 32(4), 475–487, 2007; Petersen, Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40(3), 394–406, 2008), and specifically on analyses of women’s experiences (e.g. Clegg, Privilege, agency and affect: Understanding the production and effects of action. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013; David, Feminism, gender and universities: Politics, passion and pedagogies. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014; Leathwood and Read, Gender and the changing face of higher education: A feminized future? Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press, 2009; Wilson et al., Gender and Education, 22(5), 535–545, 2010), we explore ambivalence, desire, disappointment, and at times joy in our experiences of securing PhDs and seeking work in universities. We argue that for early career and aspiring academics, becoming ‘academic’ is a precarious, contingent process where legitimacy is always provisional and reliant on conferral from those who are powerfully positioned in and beyond the institution of the academy.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne Gannon
    • 1
  • Sarah Powell
    • 1
  • Clare Power
    • 1
  1. 1.Western Sydney UniversitySydneyAustralia

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