Writing Yourself In? The Price of Playing the (Feminist) Game in the Neoliberal University

  • Sarah Burton
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education book series (GED)


This chapter draws on ethnographic fieldwork with women sociologists working in UK academia and questions the extent to which feminist positions are able to ‘become’, ‘arrive’, or assert themselves as legitimate within the academy. Orienting itself around specific accounts of how these women negotiate the demands of the Research Excellence Framework, the chapter focuses on narratives of writing practices and how these relate to the production of knowledge understood as legitimate within the discipline. Participants’ accounts show how feminist positions work in paradoxical and contradictory ways—as supportive, generative, and creative, but also demanding of onerous and time-consuming emotional labour, thus arguably disadvantaging the feminist academic. Through attentiveness to the institutional and affective conditions of the writing lives of participants, the chapter raises the provocative question of how far it is really possible to ‘write oneself in’—to what extent is it feasible for a feminist position to be a legitimate(d) position?



This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council grant number B106424E. I would like to thank all participants who generously gave their time to the research.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Burton
    • 1
  1. 1.Durham UniversityDurhamUK

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