On the thresholds of legitimacy: a collaborative exploration of being and becoming academic

Susanne Gannon*, Sarah Powell, Clare Power

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFeeling academic in the neoliberal university
Subtitle of host publicationfeminist flights, fights and failures
EditorsYvette Taylor, Kinneret Lahad
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783319642246
ISBN (Print)9783319642239
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Gender and Education
ISSN (Print)2524-6445
ISSN (Electronic)2524-6453

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'On the thresholds of legitimacy: a collaborative exploration of being and becoming academic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this