Doing the Ideal Academic - Gender, Excellence and Changing Academia
School of Business | Doctoral thesis (monograph) | Defence date: 2015-08-20
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Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 98/2015
AbstractAcademia is changing worldwide, shaped by capitalism and neoliberalism. Along with this comes notions of what constitutes good academic work and the valuable academic. Taking junior female academics embodied experiences as methodological point of entry the thesis aims to understand the construction of the "ideal academic" from this standpoint. More specifically, to investigate how the gendered social relations organise practices that make the ideal academic within changing academia actionable. The thesis draws on and develops Dorothy Smith's Institutional Ethnography to understand how local everyday practices are shaped within larger translocal relations and macro processes, such as capitalism, neoliberalism, the drive for participation in "inevitable" globalisation and higher educational reforms. The thesis is based on qualitative empirical research. The empirical location of the research is changing higher education in Finland and the empirical materials - consisting of observations, interviews and textual gathering – are the result of three years of fieldwork at one Finnish University. Drawing on these, the thesis explores how texts, discourses and ideologies, mediated through standardised notions of quality and evaluation practices, make up an image of "the ideal academic" and shape local practice and experience. The thesis reveals the gendered social organisation of competence and potentiality as it is constructed in and around the institutional intentions of becoming "world class", the textually legitimised practice of boasting, and the relationship between quality standards and discourses of love. Each chapter unpacks a layer of how gender inequality is produced and reproduced in academia through textual coordination of everyday practices. The thesis highlights how eligibility to engage in these practices, activate these discourses and approximate the prevalent ideal involves doing gender. More particularly, it shows how doing a particular form of global masculinity involving geocentrism, careerism and informalism, has entered into the social relations of academic work. Moreover, it, demonstrates how these operate parallel to and interconnect in complex ways with doing Finnishness, compulsory optimism, the individualised responsibilised self and willingness to be "taken away from home". Indeed, the thesis illuminates a social organisation of academic work that increases the polarisation between those who succeed and those who do not on the standardised quality criteria. In doing so the thesis shows how dominant, so-called neutral and objective, textually mediated standards of quality contribute to the (re)production of inequality between both men and women, and indeed, women and women within changing academia.
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Thesis advisorTienari, Janne, Prof., Aalto University, Department of Management Studies, Finland
Gendered social relations, gender in academia, junior female academics, quality of academic work, the social organisation of academic work, neoliberalism and academia, Finland, Institutional ethnography, feminist theory.