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Article
Publication date: 5 August 2020

Claire Jin Deschner, Léa Dorion and Lidia Salvatori

This paper is a reflective piece on a PhD workshop on “feminist organising” organised in November 2017 by the three authors of this paper. Calls to resist the…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper is a reflective piece on a PhD workshop on “feminist organising” organised in November 2017 by the three authors of this paper. Calls to resist the neoliberalisation of academia through academic activism are gaining momentum. The authors’ take on academic activism builds on feminist thought and practice, a tradition that remains overlooked in contributions on resisting neoliberalisation in academia. Feminism has been long committed to highlighting the epistemic inequalities endured by women and marginalised people in academia. This study aims to draw on radical feminist perspectives and on the notion of prefigurative organising to rethink the topic of academic activism. How can feminist academic activism resist the neoliberal academia?

Design/methodology/approach

This study explores this question through a multi-vocal autoethnographic account of the event-organising process.

Findings

The production of feminist space within academia was shaped through material and epistemic tensions. The study critically reflects on the extent to which the event can be read as prefigurative feminist self-organising and as neoliberal academic career-focused self-organising. The study concludes that by creating a space for sisterhood and learning, the empowering potential of feminist organising is experienced.

Originality/value

The study shows both the difficulties and potentials for feminist organising within the university. The concept of “prefiguration” provides a theoretical framework enabling us to grasp the ongoing efforts on which feminist organising relies. It escapes a dichotomy between success and failure that fosters radical pessimism or optimism potentially hindering political action.

Article
Publication date: 29 January 2020

Claire Jin Deschner and Léa Dorion

The purpose of this paper is to question the idea of “passing a test” within activist ethnography. Activist ethnography is an ethnographic engagement with social movement…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to question the idea of “passing a test” within activist ethnography. Activist ethnography is an ethnographic engagement with social movement organizations as anti-authoritarian, anarchist, feminist and/or anti-racist collectives. It is based on the personal situating of the researcher within the field to avoid a replication of colonialist research dynamics. Addressing these concerns, we explore activist ethnography through feminist standpoint epistemologies and decolonial perspectives.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper draws on our two activist ethnographies conducted as PhD research in two distinct European cities with two different starting points. While Léa entered the field through her PhD research, Claire partly withdrew and re-entered as academic.

Findings

Even when activist researchers share the political positioning of the social movement they want to study, they still experience tests regarding their research methodology. As activists, they are accountable to their movement and experience – as most other activist – a constant threat of exclusion. In addition, activist networks are fractured along political lines, the test is therefore ongoing.

Originality/value

Our contribution is threefold. First, the understanding of tests within activist ethnography helps decolonizing ethnography. Being both the knower and the known, activist ethnographers reflect on the colonial and heterosexist history of ethnography which offers potentials to use ethnography in non-exploitative ways. Second, we conceive of activist ethnography as a prefigurative methodology, i.e. as an embedded activist practice, that should therefore answer to the same tests as any other practice of prefigurative movements: it should aim to enact here and now the type of society the movement reaches for. Finally, we argue that activist ethnography relies on and contribute to developing consciousness about the researcher’s political subjectivity.

Details

Journal of Organizational Ethnography, vol. 9 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2046-6749

Keywords

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