Between and Betwixt: Experiences of Academic Precarity and Resistance During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Sedgwick, Claire and Tsitsou, Lito 2021. Between and Betwixt: Experiences of Academic Precarity and Resistance During COVID-19 Pandemic. Associazione per scuola democratica.
AuthorsSedgwick, Claire and Tsitsou, Lito
Abstract

This paper reflects on our joint gendered experience of precarity in
UK Higher Education; a conversation that started during the pandemic as a
means of negotiating a joint sense of liminality and disorientation during this
period. Academic precariousness impacts women specifically (Zhang, 2018),
and through an auto-ethnographic exploration, we argue that we find ourselves
constantly betwixt and between in terms of working conditions, career
development and research, and this has been exacerbated during the pandemic.
Our experiences of liminality are inextricably linked to time, the nature of which
shifted during the health crisis. For precarious academics, time is always in short
supply. The increased pressure to publish and to develop means that even
though research takes time, the desire to take this time is often in direct
competition with the 'publish or perish' conditions of neoliberal universities
(Mountz et al., 2015). Furthermore, precarious academics often experience time
running away from them, with a constant feeling that they are running out of
time. This is especially so as precarity is often long lasting rather than short
term, and a source of anxiety for most early career academics. The pandemic
has further intensified this experience of liminality and anxiety for us. Moreover,
there has been the imperative that the pandemic, and especially the lockdown,
should be seen as a fertile time for research, or for catching up whilst for many
academics on fixed term contracts it has also been a time of great uncertainty.
Our analysis, therefore, focuses on our experiences of being between and
betwixt as women academics, our positionality in the academic field, our
strategies, our moments of failure and resistance as well as the strategies have
developed against precariousness during the pandemic. It is our view that in
order to build effective strategies to support precarious academics we need to
understand the impact that the timeframes imposed by academia have. We,
therefore, view precarity as a liminal space in which exploitation and resistance
coexist. In the context of COVID-19 we will discuss how increasing acceptance
of remote working has led to increased networks of support and accessibility.
Finally, we place our discussion of precarity in academia within the wider
phenomena of precariousness within capitalist societies and the rise of the
'attention economy' (Odell, 2020), where, as in academia, time is linked to
productive activity.

KeywordsPrecarity; Higher Education; COVID-19; Feminism; Creative Industries
Year2021
PublisherAssociazione per scuola democratica
Web address (URL)http://hdl.handle.net/10545/626163
hdl:10545/626163
ISBN9788894488883
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Open
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Publication datesNov 2021
Publication process dates
Deposited13 Dec 2021, 15:19
AcceptedJun 2021
ContributorsUniversity of Derby and University of Glasgow
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