Friday, 18 May 2018

Which side are we on? Feminist studies in the time of neoliberalism or neoliberal feminist studies?☆

Volume 54, January–February 2016, Pages 111-118 Women's Studies International Forum Author links open overlay panelAggelikiSifaki Graduate Gender Programme, Utrecht University, Room 0.10, Muntstraat 2A, 3512 EV Utrecht, The Netherlands Get rights and content Synopsis This article explores some implications of new managerial ‘reforms’ for academic culture. More specifically, it explores the effect of neoliberal academic structure on the life of academic scholars by drawing on the working hypothesis that neoliberal practices resemble religious Christian rituals and evoke feelings of guilt and indebtedness. The author cites and analyzes excerpts from academics' narratives found in feminist literature in order to demonstrate how these new ‘moral ethics’ have been internalized by feminist academics and with what sort of consequences. She concludes by reflecting on the current state of affairs in universities and by posing questions for further investigation as a collective way of resistance. Previous article in issue Next article in issue For we have to ask ourselves, here and now, do we wish to join that procession, or don't we? On what terms shall we join that procession? Above all, where is it leading us, the procession of educated men? –VIRGINA WOOLF, Three Guineas1 For several years now, much ink has been spilled over the understanding and the interpretation of advanced capitalism's mechanisms – in their different misleading guises – whether these operate in the field of health care, work conditions or educational policies. When it comes to academia, under the prevalence of a neoliberal regime, we have been witnessing lengthy discussions about the profoundly harmful effects on universities, relating to their structural transformations. Furthermore, apart from their ‘institutional reforms’ and ‘cost rationalizations’, universities have to cope with new moral ethics exacerbated by new managerial politics (Lynch, 2010: 54). For instance, terms like efficiency, accountability, and transparency have been parasitized in order to maintain moral connotations. Within this prevailing political and economic capitalist paradigm, feminist academics find themselves facing insurmountable challenges, new paradoxes and intense ambivalences, as they have to teach gender issues “in a male-dominated and monodisciplinary academic context which is currently being structured by neoliberal economics” (Alvanoudi, 2009: 37). Adopting a feminist perspective, in this paper I try to analyze how the university's neoliberalization has materially and emotionally affected academics and the reasons for which it has brought them, at least for the time being, in a state of uneasiness. First, I attempt to clarify the connection between present day academia and neoliberalism. Second, I argue that neoliberal practices resemble religious Christian rituals. As such, they establish feelings of indebtedness and guilt that, through a variety of mechanisms, have been internalized by academic scholars and have resulted in their gradual acceptance of the new managerial politics. To support the aforementioned interconnection between religion, debt and guilt in modern academia, I draw on Walter Benjamin's short essay “Capitalism as Religion” (1921/2005). Third, corresponding to Braidotti's incitement to “look at the internal forms of thought that privilege processes rather than essences” (Braidotti, 2011: 10), and in order to ground Benjamin's undifferentiated theory I explore the work of ethics in corporatized university, paying specific attention to feminist studies by analyzing academic scholars' everyday discourses as micropolitical events in an attempt to connect them with macropolitics. I conclude by providing some reflective remarks on the current state of affairs in academia and by posing a series of questions that could be explored as collective ways of resistance. Setting the scene For over 30 years or so, the concept of ‘neoliberalism’ has been at the heart of many political, economic and academic debates. Depending on one's location, spatio–temporal context and vantage point, neoliberalism seems to mean very different things. As a set of certain profit-oriented beliefs, the neoliberal paradigm “involves a specific and consequential organization of the social, the subject and the state” (Brown, 2006: 693). Under the neoliberal regime, the distinction between the social, the economic and the political is collapsing in what constitutes the marketization of the state, meaning that no longer does the state regulate the markets but instead subjects itself to their laws. The direct corollary of this is that economic criteria are applied in spheres of life that themselves are not of economic nature, while social relationships are rendered unthinkable out of the market economy to such an extent that the constant pursuit of profit in every aspect of human activity is being gradually naturalized (Evans, 2010: 16). In the process of neoliberalization, though, most striking has been the ‘invention’ of crisis and the subsequent measures of austerity imposed. The state, from its previous form during the Keynesian era as a distant planner, has been gradually transformed into a “crisis state” (Gill & Pratt, 2008: 7). The concept of crisis, understood as the economic and political dimensions of specific economic problems' causes demanding social reforms, constitutes and represents in fact a violent struggle over the control of society. More specifically, it has generated a rapid income increase of elite and privileged groups while it has severely reduced wages earned by disadvantaged and marginalized groups (Oxfam International, 2014). In this sense, austerity programs, under the name of ‘structural adjustments’, have been decisive interventions in the fiscal crisis of the state but are based on specific class, health, race and gender features. Practically, this has meant the transformation of welfare states into market-dominated ones, which promote and support the requisite ‘structural adjustments’. This change has resulted in the deregulation of economy, the hitherto public assets' privatization and commodification, severe budget cuts in welfare expenditures, disempowerment of trade unions and their bargaining power, flexible labor markets and the consequent established sense of precariousness, in terms both of declining job quality and worsening working conditions. As a result, contrary to neoliberal claims about the state's reduction in the economic and social spheres, technically the state's sovereignty and control over social life has been intensified (Ross, 2008: 44). Another aspect of the state's submission to the demands of the market has been the rearrangement of the relationships between governing and governed subjects (Ong, 2006). Devising and inserting certain auditing techniques and means, which have been turned into operational and quantifiable practical policies (Lynch, 2010: 55), the task of government has been on the one hand to increase competition among the governed in order to achieve their ultimate functional optimization and efficiency. On the other hand, individuals have been urged to take command of their own lives and bear full responsibility of their freely made decisions. In this sense, the citizen has been gradually transformed into an entrepreneur, responsible for one's own survival. Following this line of thought, neoliberal principles and mechanisms, despite first appearing as serving an ostensible new economic paradigm, were proved in the process to be biopolitical, in the sense that they functioned as a new way of living, acting, desiring, in a few words, as a new way of ‘being’. Within this framework, universities as institutions, which hold a dialectical relationship to economy and participate in production relations (Alvanoudi, 2009: 38), have been severely affected in different ways by the process of neoliberalization and their role has been inevitably redefined. Supported to a great extent by state and taxpayers' money, universities had to align with, adopt and follow the new neoliberal agenda. This agenda, inspired by a form of “coercive realism” (Evans, 2010: 15), contends that universities should provide evidence of their contribution to national economies, especially in times of crisis. Therefore, ‘entrepreneurship’ has to inspire their pursuits and a new relationship of government and knowledge has been established “through which governing activities are recast as non-political and non-ideological problems that need technical solutions” (Ong, 2006: 3). Accordingly, the fundamental right to education and the societal relevance that universities used to hold has been turned into business-oriented commodities, aligned with new managerial control practices. A series of management techniques have been introduced in order to rank institutions in terms of their services' quality to customers. From this perspective, students have been turned into consumers whose purchasing power defines the product that will be produced by corporatized institutions. The process of universities' engineering, during which any pedagogical idea and practice that does not culminate in fiscal efficiency has become illegitimate, has resulted into narrow training, instrumentalism, and transmission of decontextualized skills (Amsler, 2012a: 9). At this point, it is worth mentioning the example of Greece in order to illustrate how the neoliberalization of higher education institutions has taken place in practice. At first, mass media in close cooperation with governmental politicians propagated a tarnished image of the Greek professors and students. Then, by subtly hiding the apparent detrimental effects of state underfunding of education and research, they addressed their deep concerns about the poor quality and underperformance of Greek universities. On the basis of low-ranking evaluations by purposefully unnamed international organizations, ‘institutional reforms’ and ‘cost rationalizations’ had to be applied in order for the universities to survive, be more competitive on a global scale and financially stronger in the future. Consequently, a plan for the universities' reform was designed and approved by the Greek parliament in 2013 under the name “Athena”,2 the name of the Greek goddess of wisdom and knowledge. According to the “Athena Plan”, education cannot be freely available anymore and students are charged with fees; faculties and departments3 have either to be merged or close down; the Minister of Education is entitled to decide on academic issues and spending cuts without the need for parliamentary approval and private corporations are allowed to intervene in the institutions' matters provided that they grant funding to universities. In this way, academic freedom has shrunk, the state budgets for higher education have evaporated while an increasing number of people occupying teaching positions remains unpaid for long periods of time. Having considered the shifting character of higher education institutions in general, it is also of great significance to look at the ways academic professionals have been affected. The steep budget reductions have created an established sense of precariousness, particularly — but not exclusively — for younger or early career staff. The systematic casualization of the workforce has engendered a new kind of flexible, insecure intellectual labor, the transnational ‘scientific proletariat’, namely the untenured faculty staff who has to move around the world to find work, experiencing the most unstable and precarious contracts of employment. Simultaneously, as the value of academics is measured and proved by their ranking in a variation of league tables (e.g. publications, citations, teaching quality, administrative tasks, grant applications etc.), a tense competitive atmosphere is being cultivated among academic colleagues, constituting the peculiarly “toxic conditions” (Gill, 2009: 239) of modern academia. Inevitably, the universities' reorganization driven by a free-market economy has provided the stage for transformation in established notions of gender relations. Meshing with pre-existing gender and class academic hierarchies, which perpetuate disparities between men and women in terms of pay and status (Probert, 2005), the standards of corporatized universities have a disproportionate impact on female academics. Due to the multiplication of their duties and responsibilities, female academics are, on the one hand, rendered particularly vulnerable to the present day economic exploitation while, on the other hand, their career and personal life are affected since they are either less likely to have children or to be recommended for rapid promotion when childcare is added to their academic labor (Gill, 2009: 234). Under these circumstances, policies and practices, based on a purely ‘meritocratic’ system and disinterested in class and gender issues, simply reinforce gender inequities by requiring women to behave and act like men (Probert, 2005: 53). Until now I have tried to discuss varied characteristics of the process of neoliberalization and to specifically draw attention to the issue of corporatization and commodification of higher education institutions and the ensuing repercussions for academic professionals. However, what is of major interest is that there is a notable lack of resistance against the neoliberal regime from academic communities. Therefore, in the section that follows, after having located my-self4 briefly, corresponding to the urgent need of our era for accountability as speaking subjects, I will argue that in the neoliberal academia there is an insidious mechanism at work. This mechanism has its roots in the common pursuits of capitalism and religion, which silences accounts and exchanges of personal harrowing experiences and the heavy costs deriving from the new degrading work conditions. When the ‘luxurious zones’ of academia met the ‘original sin’ Following Adrienne Rich's insight, our starting point as speaking subjects corresponds to the questions of “when, where, and under what conditions” our claims can be relevant (Rich, 1986: 214). In alignment with other feminist scholars, as a researcher and doctoral student I try both to contribute to knowledge production and to critically question and intervene in existing modes of academic knowledge (Pereira, 2012: 284). This procedure often demands spatial displacements, especially when the conditions seem unfavorable for critical reflection. For me, this meant that, in order to complete my thesis on Greek lesbian teachers' agency in the time of crisis, I had to leave Greece and move to the Netherlands. The financial crisis in Greece, accompanied by a sharp societal turn towards conservatism, could not provide a fertile and safe ground for feminist work. Therefore, what I am writing about the neoliberal situation does not only constitute an act of political involvement with feminist theory but it also mirrors the kind of feminist subject I am in the process of becoming within this situation. At the beginning of my time in the Netherlands, what I observed after a professional meeting with my colleagues was that, although many of us experienced daily considerable stress stemming from the large amount of academic duties, we were reluctant to speak out. I could not explain the reason behind this silence: whether we did not feel comfortable to share these anxieties with each other or whether we expressed them in the shape of ‘corridor talk’, meaning “the unsaid, but frequently said anyway (though not to everyone)” (Downey et al., as cited in Pereira, 2012: 286). Consulting the literature on the matter, I came across Rosalind Gill's inspiring article, written in 2009, “Secrecy, silence, toxic shame and the hidden injuries of the neoliberal university”. In said article, Gill argues about the secrets of academic life, meaning the intolerable, burden-ridden mechanisms that are at work in the neoliberal academic landscape. Having conducted a kind of ‘informal’ research on daily, even intimate, exchanges between colleagues about the contemporary exhausting rhythms of academic life, she notes, from a psychosocial perspective, the degradation of pay and working conditions for academics as well as the personal costs and difficult challenges that these situations entail but remain unvoiced and she goes on to provide some possible explanations for the silence surrounding serious matters of concern to professors and students. In accordance with Gill's stated intention to inaugurate a conversation around the secrets and silences of academic life, I will try to provide my own interpretation on the issue, by developing a different approach based on the critical work of Walter Benjamin. In his famous unfinished fragment “Capitalism as Religion”, Walter Benjamin attributes certain characteristics to capitalism. Benjamin's ([1921] 2005: 259) first point is that “capitalism is a pure religious cult, perhaps the most extreme there ever was”. Religion, as “a network of sacred sites and ritual spaces” (Friedland, 2002: 383), represents and expresses our faith in the idea of God's omnipresence and omnipotence. Furthermore, as Simmel (2004: 237), “the essence of the notion of God is that all diversities and contradictions in the world achieve a unity in him”. Thus defined, the notion of God stands as the convergence point on which the most distant and diverse elements seem to be equated in order to fulfill the ultimate stated purpose of the Bible, that of the promise of a future paradise. Religious systems, as institutional and social practices, traditionally used to constitute the carrier of group identities whose collective representations were based on common interests, more specifically and mainly, that of human reproduction. Today, like God, the market seems to be omnipresent and omnipotent. Being the direct expression of market economy, money is “an invisible numeric network of promises, pure abstraction” (Friedland, 2002: 406) whose value and its privileged position rest respectively on the faith in a future ideal life and money's quality to act as the common denominator of a broad variety of diverse objects. Market economy, like God, eliminates all differences and aligns them with a universal equivalent notion, money. Money appears as the god of our era. If capitalism is the religion of our era and money exchanges are its praxis, then the financial managers stand as the new priests. The intertwinement of the two concepts, capitalism and religion, is best illustrated in commercials. Some of them are explicitly linked to religious representations, while others use more implicit ways. Some typical examples are: Síminn 3G Mobiles Phones “The Last Supper”, featuring Jesus Christ to talk with Judas on mobile phones, Mercedes Benz “INRI”, during which an excavator discovers a piece of Christ's cross, Pepsi “Way of the Kung Fu”, which takes place in a holy place, HDTV in Israel with the advertising slogan “HDTV is against the Bible”, iPod “Dancing Priest” with the advertising slogan “iConfess” etc.5 By glancing over the TV commercials produced by the world's most famous brands is sufficient to realize that the world of the market is full of religious images and implications and, indeed, the more multinational a corporation is, the more frequent appeals to religious symbols it seems to make. Gradually, desire for consumer goods has been related to constructs of ‘human nature’ so often that it is now presented as natural (Evans, 2010: 16). By consuming, the individual is capable of participating in a broader community, in the one that each brand is modeling. Consumption seems to be the modern form of a ritual, which attributes to its worshippers a common identity. The larger the brand, the more is spent on the marketing effort for the consumers' common identity to be realized and strengthened. In alignment with this line of thought, in another fragment Benjamin indicates that “[m]ethodologically, one should begin by investigating the links between myth and money throughout the course of history, to the point where money had drawn so many elements from Christianity that it could establish its own myth” (1921: 290, as cited in Keith, 2003: 421).6 According to the definitions of the word “money”, explanations such as “medium of exchange”, “a measure of value”, “a means of payment” can be found (Rehder, 1996: 68). However, if we examine the American bank notes,7 we find both the official motto “In God We Trust”8 and the stamped phrase “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private”. Although not mentioned in the definitions, the use of the word “debt” instead of, for instance, “transaction”, “purchase” or something similar, is stunning. Therefore, what does the phrase stamped on the American banknotes mean? And what does private debt stand for? In our advanced capitalist societies, individuals are no longer enclosed but in debt (Deleuze, 1992: 6), while economic and social relations do not rest upon the exchange paradigm, which presupposes and implies equal relations, but upon that of debt. Debt represents an economic relationship between two parts with power differential: the one of the creditor, a person to whom money is owed, and the other of the debtor, a person that owes the money. The relationship between the creditor and the debtor entails not only specific power relations, but also “specific form of production and control of subjectivity — a particular form of homo economicus, the ‘indebted man’” (Lazzarato, 2012: 30, emphasis in original) whose debt, because of the circulation of money,9 is rendered infinite (Deleuze & Guattari, 1983: 197). However, rendering debt infinite is not enough. As Deleuze and Guattari (1983: 217) argue, it has “to be internalized and spiritualized as an infinite debt (Christianity10 and what follows)”. The infinite debt apparently produces infinite debtors whose debt becomes “a debt of existence, a debt of the existence of the subjects themselves” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1983: 197, emphasis in original). The subjectivity of the debtor is constructed as emerging out of individual, historical, political and financial context and, as “ethics and economics function conjointly” (Lazzarato, 2012: 11), debt becomes an individual's own responsibility. Depicted as deficit, debt is transformed into the outcome of the individual's lack and, hence, one's morality is called into question. At this point Benjamin's second point is inserted: “this [capitalism] is a cult that engenders blame. Capitalism is presumably the first case of a blaming, rather than a repenting cult” ([1921] 2005: 259). For explaining his thesis, Benjamin uses the German word “Schuld”, meaning either “blame”, “guilt” or “debt”. Nietzsche had long before Benjamin grasped the connection between “Schuld” (= guilt), a concept central to morality, and “Schulden” (= debts) (Lazzarato, 2012: 30). This connection leads to the debtor's encounter with punishment, “the terrible equation of debt: injury done = pain to be suffered” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1983: 191). This is the reason why “when it comes to talking about debt, the media, politicians, and economists have only one message to communicate: ‘You are at fault’, ‘You are guilty’” (Lazzarato, 2012: 31). Consequently, debt functions not only as an effective control device for sustaining relations determined by power differentials but also it operates as a stigmatizing mechanism, which provokes feelings of guilt and shame and legitimates punishment. Accordingly, the debt crisis, the consequent spending cuts and ‘institutional reforms’ have been gradually turned into a theological narrative. For instance, the EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger named the indebted countries “deficit sinner” countries and urged them to fly “the flags at half mast in front of EU buildings” (“Germany's EU Commissioner Oettinger: ‘Deficit Sinners’ Flags Should Fly at Half-Mast, 2011”). His explanation was that “[i]t would just be a symbol, but would still be a big deterrent”. To put it simply, the indebted countries have committed a severe sin. They have actually engaged in blasphemy against some divine economic principles, for which they have to suffer public penance. And they have to be punished in such a significant way that every future possible offender will be discouraged to act in a similar way. In the era of neoliberalism, where the alleged spending cut rationalizations are promoted as social imperatives, politics, instead of distancing itself from religious mythical elements, actually complies with them to such an extent that religious myths are established as social reality. Having described the way that religion, debt, and guilt intertwine in the neoliberal era by giving specific examples of commercials and political discourse, I shall now try to investigate what kind of work ethics have been instilled in the academic profession by the above nexus, and with what sort of repercussions, drawing specific attention to the field of feminist studies. The work ethics of corporatized universities and its consequences “Capitalism is the celebration of the cult sans trêve et sans merci. Here there is no ‘weekday’, no day that would not be a holiday in the awful sense of exhibiting all sacred pomp-the extreme exertion of worship” is Benjamin's third point, concerning the relationship between capitalism and religion ([1921] 2005: 259, emphasis in original). At this point, in order to demonstrate the way that neoliberal practices function as constant religious Christian rituals, I would like to draw on excerpts from academic narratives: “I mean, if I didn't have to sleep it would be fine” (Acker & Armenti, 2004: 3); “Well, I write […] at ten at night till three in the morning” (Acker & Armenti, 2004: 3); “Work is piling up and I'm just drowning […] I literally never have a second” (Gill, 2009: 228); “I had 115 e-mails yesterday and they all needed answering. I'm doing 16 hour days just trying to keep on top of it” (Gill, 2009: 228). Working selflessly and long hours become synonyms of martyrdom and religious suffering. In the same context, recently The Guardian website published an article under the title “There is a culture of acceptance around mental health issues in academia” (The Guardian, 2014) that spelled doom for PhD students. Circulated widely in the social media, the article argues that the enormous pressure on both the PhD students and younger academics may result in depression, sleep issues, eating disorders, alcoholism, self-harming, and suicide attempts. The situation becomes even worse for students who experience financial instability or are forced to make uncomfortable changes in their lives in order to financially accommodate their studies. These are some blatant examples of the everyday life in corporatized universities. A punishing intensification and extensification of work has become an endemic feature of academic life (Gill, 2009: 234). An increase in examinations, timetables, meetings, rules, requirements, demands, to mention but a few, constitute the disciplinary technologies of corporatized universities. The social and psychological effects of these technologies on institutions and individuals should not be underestimated. Management techniques and practices abound with performance indicators, which measure the productivity and conduct of individuals across a wide range of different academic disciplines and have a strong negative impact on academic lives: high levels of stress, chronic anxiety, insecurity, exhaustion, insomnia are some serious examples. Structural problems are reduced into economic or moral dimensions and hence remain unvoiced. More specifically, in the present changing academic landscape of the neoliberal era, in which professional value is measured in terms of productivity, fundraising, economic efficiency and high ranking in league tables of international excellence, the new academic subject is constantly monitored and evaluated by external policing managerial practices which, like God, are omnipresent and have instilled new norms of conduct and behavior into the academic communities. These practices of governance promoted by corporate models of management have produced a new flexible academic workforce that does not need to be under surveillance. On the contrary, under the cover of individual freedom, academics are capable of exercising control over themselves through the exercise of calculation, introspection and judgment (Shore, 2008: 284). Encouraged to act as entrepreneurs, responsible for their survival and conduct, neoliberal academic subjects have internalized the aforementioned managerial practices. Through technologies of the self, as Foucault (1977) has called them, the ‘good’ academic exercises control over herself/himself in accordance with institutional regulations (Acker & Armenti, 2004: 4). The process of internalization has taken place in an era during which another parallel process has been put in place: the conceptual transformation of work or “what is counted as work” (Alvanoudi, 2009: 38, emphasis in original). Work from a ‘necessary evil’ and a way to survive has been converted into a way to achieve success and thereby it provides evidence of one's salvation (Amable, 2011: 13). Mediated by the idea of individualism understood as independence and self-reliance, the couple “effort-reward” as ideology of work (Lazzarato, 2012: 30) takes specific shape in modern academia: provided that corporatized university is profit-driven, an academic is considered successful when s/he is able to bring in large amounts of money. Work achievements, in the sense of economic quantifiable outputs, amounts to and proves one's commitment to her/his institution and is rewarded; and vice versa, failure to secure substantial funding is interpreted as unprofessionalism and lack of commitment and one's morality is called into question. The combination of the two aforementioned procedures – internalization and conceptual transformation of work – leads to the heart of the problem: the structural problems of present day academia are reduced to their economic or moral dimension and managers are recruited in order to impose their economic and moral imperatives. In this framework, the term transparency, for example, is used as a policing evaluation mechanism for employees' performance but not for managers'; terms like accountability, meaning “being responsible and giving account of one's action”, has been parasitized into “presenting auditable accounts of one's activities” (Lorenz, 2012: 618) or “proving economic efficiency” (Shore, 2008: 281). By the same token, the academic curriculum vitae has been turned from a professional document into a call to account for the kind of self that one is. When a committee reads our curricula vitae, in fact, they read our autobiographies, our selves-stories. We are judged for our gaps, silences, absences. If accepted, we have proved our faith and are regarded as the ‘chosen’. If rejected, as failure is the core concept of sin, we have committed a sin and we bear full responsibility for our failure. In these moments of refusal and rejection and under perpetual threats of devaluation, exclusion and redundancy, the crucial question into corporatized university then becomes: “how does it feel to be a bad investment?” (Amsler, 2012b: 1). The answer is provided once again by academics' descriptions: “Shame. Guilt” (Gilbert, 2008: 203); “Why I feel guilty all the time?” (Gilbert, 2008: 203); “There's guilt when you don't work on a Saturday. I would find myself in my office for 12 hours during the regular school year…” (Acker & Armenti, 2004: 15); “Deep breath: I say ‘no, sorry, I can't do it’. I am immediately flooded with guilt, I feel a bit shabby, a little bit less than the human being I want to be” (Gill, 2009: 237); “I wonder if I'm cut out for this game. How can I survive in it? Do I want to do this? Do I want to be part of this? Am I really any good?” (Sparkes, 2007: 542). These feelings, “these affective embodied experiences” (Gill, 2009: 229), once experienced as personal failures and professional inefficiency, bring a sense of deep shame. In the current landscape of competition-enhancing managerial decisions, this feeling of shame cultivates avoidance of connections, as a process of economic survival of the best. Subsequently, the structural problem of universities' corporatization and the resulting excessive work load are not openly addressed and challenged and, hence function as a silencing mechanism in the public space of academia. However, apart from the evident alarming aspects of the exhausting working conditions, there are still some others, more insidious and well-hidden ones that impact disproportionately on women and reveal that autobiographies of guilt and shame have a specific gendered background. More precisely, the imaginary academic body has been traditionally constructed, represented and understood as abstract and neutral. However, gender theorists have eloquently argued that the body is both physical and heavily signified, primarily marked by sex and, by no means, genderless (Davies, Browne, Gannon, Honan, & Somerville, 2005· Sinclair, 2005). I cite once again experiences expressed by female academics: “With me I feel like I'm constantly stealing time from the kids too — I'll go off to check messages in the middle of a game of Monopoly or something” (Gill, 2009: 228); “My quest for time began when I first told colleagues of my pregnancy and learned that the college had no formal maternity leave policy” (Gilbert, 2008: 204). The idea of disembodied academic individual whose competency is not limited by or reduced to their bodies is deeply rooted in the notion of masculinity and particularly in that of white male body (Davies et al., 2005: 350). Consequently, under the neoliberal regime, women's bodies are treated as problems and obstacles for an institution's financial development – objects of sexual harassment, requiring maternity leave, exhibiting premenstrual tension (Sinclair, 2005: 95) – resulting in women's degradation, sidelining and career stagnation. Having considered women's status in neoliberal academia, it is also sensible to look at the status of feminist studies. In theory, the new managerial practices appear as genderless and meritocratic. However, in practice, it seems that a new form of patriarchal structure has become endemic to academia. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when we are informed that: “I am reminded of the faculty member at one institution who was not awarded tenure because her work was feminist” (Cannella & Salazar-Perez, 2012: 280). The deeply gendered and class character (Gill, 2009: 240) of neoliberal ideological and political principles is clearly reflected on the above example and its analysis is of profound importance in order to conceptualize the backlash against feminist studies and these studies' representation of women's interests. Here I can only wonder how many feminist scholars feel familiar with refusals or rejections, which despite not being always explicitly expressed, are both due to their commitment to feminism and to the anti-feminist character of neoliberal principles through which masculine domination is celebrated and normalized. Masculine ideologies are reproduced under the misleading guise of competition, the “macho celebration of ‘more stress’ and ‘increased pressure’” (Shore, 2008: 284), while certain forms of femininity and non-hegemonic masculinity are treated as bad investments and professional problems (Amsler, 2012b: 2). The above examples fully expose the problem of violence that neoliberal practices entail — not to mention, rest upon. In the closing section, I shall now propose some alternative options as collective ways of resistance. Building a new ‘consciousness of crisis’—concluding reflections In this paper I have looked at some of the dimensions that the transformation of universities into corporations entails. After setting the scene of universities' corporatization and discussing some critical key-concepts, I have specifically focused on women in order to clarify how the higher education's marketization is saturated with gender and class biases. Then, in order to provide a possible explanation for the lack of resistance from academics to the new neoliberal regime, I have argued that many of the new managerial mechanisms resemble Christian rituals and, as such, they establish feelings of indebtedness and guilt. Last, I have presented how the aforementioned mechanisms are materially experienced by the academics and with what kind of consequences, drawing specific attention to women and feminist studies. Contrary to some leftist explanatory schemes of thought, which see advanced capitalism's crisis whether as an interregnum during which “the old is dying and the new cannot be born” (Gramsci, 1971: 276), or as a time-lag, a rupture “in which the extant legal frame of social order loses its grip and can no longer hold it” (Bauman, 2012: 49), or as “a state of exception”, namely the lacuna not within the law but the law's relation to reality where a zone is created “in which application is suspended, but that law [la legge], as such, remains in force” (Agamben, 2005: 31), leading to the limit figure of “homo sacer” (Agamben, 1998), my approach has followed a different path. Far from discourses about the crisis, as the ones mentioned above, which function as new theological master codes, pinning the subjects firmly within specific subject positions without leaving room for negotiations or without offering radical alternatives, I have tried to uncover the religious connotations of the advanced capitalism's mechanisms by focusing on modern academia and the neoliberal subjects constructed in the academic spaces whose biographies undeniably carry specific gendered and class characteristics and, therefore, “produce very different degrees of ‘entitlement’” (Gill, 2009: 240). Faced with the issues elaborated on in this paper, since we are still located into corporatized institutions, is there anything left that can be done? First of all, we have to acknowledge that some academics clearly benefit from the new managerial regimes. To those who are willing to remain silent or suppressed, new opportunities for rapid promotion are provided. Moreover, there is another paradox, inherent in the political economy of our era, to be noted here: since the outburst of the crisis, a number of academics has been building their careers as experts in the various fields of the neoliberal situation, following a double bind11 kind of operation. On the one hand, they lash out at the mechanisms adopted by the neoliberal regime and its devotees while, on the other, by publishing continuously they comply with the orders they allegedly fight against, increasing the value of their shares in the market economy of knowledge production.12 At the same time, as I am writing this paper, I find my-self trapped in the same double bind and I cannot help but wonder about the subject position I hold and defend while I am deploying my arguments. Furthermore, since, like God, the market seems to be omnipotent and omnipresent, we all know or suspect that severe penalties and considerable costs will be incurred in the case where individuals, or individual institutions, try to challenge or disobey the new managerial policies. On the other hand, perspectives and visions, including leftist understandings, which remain embedded within capitalist patriarchy and dismiss the intellectual capital of feminism cannot envision or construct alternatives (Cannella & Salazar-Perez, 2012: 285· Posman, 2013). Consequently, in alignment with other feminist scholars, “it is perhaps more useful to engage with the neoliberal present, theorize it, and learn to strategize rather than simply worry” (Osuri, 2007: 145). In the neoliberal era, “at stake in control over surplus is precisely the limit or capacity of the social to produce alternative forms of relation and organization, that is, to do politics” (Kaufman, 2012: 824). From this perspective, what also turns out to be at stake is the issue of our collective political engagement and, more specifically, what the terms of this collective engagement might be. On the basis of this collective, political engagement, some possible questions could be: how could we share and get involved in future sustainable imaginaries without fake optimism and without reproducing the long-standing exclusions even, and mainly, within the studies of feminism? In which way could we participate in an attempt to transform our own negative feelings, without marginalizing them or pretending that they do not exist, into new, more inclusive stances, which will be empowering? This debate needs to be the object of a cooperative enterprise, in a “genuine engagement with a community” and in ways that promote rather than exploit it (Kaufman, 2012: 824), and cannot be defined by a single individual or by tenured professors only. At a time when feminist studies and scholars confront complicated problems and encounter major obstacles (e.g. budget cuts, casual staff on short-term contracts etc.), we have to be open, sincere and generous with each other, “to work collaboratively to face the forces that seek to muzzle us” (Spongberg, 2010: 108). Or, to put it in Virginia Woolf's words ([1938] 1963: 62): “Think we must. Let us think in offices; in omnibuses; while we are standing in the crowd […] Let us never cease from thinking”. Acknowledgments As feminism remains a collective project for me, I cannot but acknowledge many women's contribution in multiple ways. First of all, I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude to the two WSIF anonymous reviewers for their extremely valuable comments as well as the editors of this special issue, Sabine Grenz and Mia Liinason, for their encouragement during the procedure. Furthermore, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the members of the GenderAct network for funding my participation in the 3rd AtGender Spring Conference (26–28 April 2013) in Gothenburg. Without their support my attendance would have been extremely difficult. Secondly, I am grateful to the PhD Reading/Writing Seminar Group of the Graduate Gender Programme of Utrecht University for all the fruitful and insightful discussions and, more specifically, to Professors Rosemarie Buikema and Berteke Waaldijk for providing me with their positive feedback and my colleagues Phoebe Kisubi Mbasalaki, Arla Gruda, Shu-Yi Huang, Wei Gui, Krizia Nardini and Heather Hermant for their sincere involvement with each other's work. Moreover, I would like to express my deep sense of gratitude to my intimate other for our endless conversations on my paper and for pointing out to me my “blind spots” and to my trusted colleague Myriam Fotou for her critical engagement with my text. I am also deeply indebted to my supervisors, Dr. Iris van der Tuin and Dr. Kathrin Thiele, for always being supportive, for encouraging my thoughts and for their highly critical and detailed comments on an earlier draft. Last but for sure not the least, my very special appreciation goes to Professor Rosi Braidotti for sharing her wit and wisdom about academic life, for generating insightful conversations and for having paved the way for feminist affirmative politics. References Acker and Armenti, 2004 S. Acker, C. Armenti Sleepless in Academia Gender and Education, 16 (1) (2004), pp. 3-24 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Agamben, 1998 G. Agamben Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.) Stanford: Stanford University Press (1998) Agamben, 2005 G. Agamben State of Exception (K. Attell, Trans.) The University of Chicago Press, Chicago (2005) Alvanoudi, 2009 A. Alvanoudi Teaching gender in the neoliberal university D. Gronold, B. Hipfl, L. Lund Pedersen (Eds.), Teaching with the Third Wave: New Feminists' Explorations of Teaching and Institutional Contexts, University of Utrecht and Centre for Gender Studies, Stockholm University: ATHENA3 Advanced Thematic Network in Women's Studies in Europe (2009), pp. 37-50 View Record in Scopus Amable, 2011 B. Amable Morals and politics in the ideology of neo-liberalism Socio-Economic Review, 9 (2011), pp. 3-30 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Amsler, 2012a S. Amsler For Feminist Consciousness in the Academy Retrieved from (2012) Amsler, 2012b S. Amsler Learning at the Edge: Troublesome Knowledge, Public Pedagogies and Critical Research Retrieved from (2012) Bateson et al., 1956 G. Bateson, D.D. Jackson, J. Haley, J.H. Weakland Toward a theory of schizophrenia Behavioral Science, 1 (1956), pp. 251-264 View Record in Scopus Bauman, 2012 Z. Bauman Times of interregnum Ethics and Global Politics, 5 (1) (2012), pp. 49-56 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Benjamin, 1979 W. Benjamin One-Way Street and Other Writings (E. Jephcott & K. Shorter, Trans.) Verso, London (1979) (Original work published 1926) Benjamin, 2005 W. Benjamin Capitalism as religion (fragment 74) E. Mendieta (Ed.), The Frankfurt School on Religion: Key Writings by the Major Figures (C. Kautzer, Trans.), Routledge, Great Britain (2005), pp. 259-262 (Original work published 1921) View Record in Scopus Braidotti, 2011 R. Braidotti Nomadic subjects: Embodiment and sexual difference in contemporary feminist theory Columbia University Press, New York (2011) Brown, 2006 W. Brown American nightmare: Neoliberalism, neoconservatism and De-democratization Political Theory, 34 (6) (2006), pp. 690-714 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Cannella and Salazar-Perez, 2012 G.S. Cannella, M. Salazar-Perez Emboldened patriarchy in higher education: Feminist readings of capitalism, violence, and power Cultural Studies ⬄ Critical Methodologies, 12 (4) (2012), pp. 279-286 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Davies et al., 2005 B. Davies, J. Browne, S. Gannon, E. Honan, M. Somerville Embodied women at work in neoliberal times and places Gender, Work and Organization, 12 (4) (2005), pp. 343-362 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Deleuze, 1992 G. Deleuze Postscript on the societies of control October, 59 (1992), pp. 3-7 View Record in Scopus Deleuze and Guattari, 1983 G. Deleuze, F. Guattari Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (R. Hurley, M. Seem and H. R. Lane, Trans.) University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis (1983) Evans, 2010 M. Evans The universities and the challenge of realism Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 9 (1) (2010), pp. 13-21 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Foucault, 1977 M. Foucault Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison Penguin, Harmondsworth (1977) Friedland, 2002 R. Friedland Money, sex, and God: The erotic logic of religious nationalism Sociological Theory, 20 (3) (2002), pp. 381-425 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Germany's EU Commissioner Oettinger: ‘Deficit Sinners’ Flags Should Fly at Half-Mast, 2011, September 9 Germany's EU Commissioner Oettinger: ‘Deficit Sinners’ Flags Should Fly at Half-Mast Spiegel online international Retrieved from (2011, September 9) Gilbert, 2008 J. Gilbert Why I feel guilty all the time: Performing academic motherhood Women's Studies in Communication, 31 (2) (2008), pp. 203-208 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Gill, 2009 R. Gill Secrecy, silence, toxic, shame and the hidden injuries of the neoliberal university R.C. Gill, R. Ryan-Flood (Eds.), Secrecy and silence in the research process: Feminist reflections, Routledge, London (2009), pp. 228-244 View Record in Scopus Gill and Pratt, 2008 R. Gill, A. Pratt In the social factory? Immaterial labour, precariousness and cultural work Theory, Culture and Society, 25 (7–8) (2008), pp. 1-30 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Gramsci, 1971 A. Gramsci Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. Edited and transcribed by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith Lawrence & Wishart, London (1971) Kaufman, 2012 M. Kaufman A politics of encounter: Knowledge and organizing in common American Quarterly, 64 (4) (2012), pp. 823-826 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Keith, 2003 M. Keith Walter Benjamin, urban studies and the narratives of city life G. Bridge, S. Watson (Eds.), A Companion to the City, Blackwell Publishers Ltd., USA (2003), pp. 410-429 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Lazzarato, 2012 M. Lazzarato The making of the indebted man: An essay on the neoliberal condition (J. D. Jordan, trans.) Semiotext(e), Los Angeles (2012) Lorenz, 2012 C. Lorenz If you're so smart, why are you under surveillance? Universities, neoliberalism, and new public management Critical Inquiry, 38 (3) (2012), pp. 599-629 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Lynch, 2010 K. Lynch Carelessness: A hidden doxa of higher education Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 9 (1) (2010), pp. 54-67 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Ong, 2006 A. Ong Neoliberalism as exception: Mutations in citizenship and sovereignty Duke University Press, Durham and London (2006) Osuri, 2007 G. Osuri How to stop worrying about the neoliberal present and start engaging with it Australian Feminist Studies, 22 (52) (2007), pp. 145-147 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Oxfam International, 2014 Oxfam International Working for the few: Political capture and economic inequality Retrieved from (2014) Pereira, 2012 M.D.M. Pereira ‘Feminist theory is proper knowledge, but…’: The status of feminist scholarship in the academy Feminist Theology, 13 (3) (2012), pp. 283-303 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Posman, 2013 S. Posman Transitzone: Conversation with Rosi Braidotti on contemporary feminism and Amor fati. nY Retrieved from (2013) Probert, 2005 B. Probert ‘I just couldn't fit it in’: Gender and unequal outcomes in academic careers Gender, Work and Organization, 12 (1) (2005), pp. 50-72 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Rehder, 1996 D.W. Rehder A descriptive analysis of bank notes Agni, 44 (1996), pp. 59-73 View Record in Scopus Rich, 1986 A. Rich Blood, bread, and poetry: Selected prose, 1979–1985 W. W. Norton & Company, New York (1986) Ross, 2008 A. Ross The new geography of work: Power to the precarious? Theory Culture and Society, 25 (7–8) (2008), pp. 31-49 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Shepherd, 1966 J. Shepherd In God we trust, all others pay cash Doubleday, New York (1966) Shore, 2008 C. Shore Audit culture and illiberal governance Anthropological Theory, 8 (3) (2008), pp. 278-298 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Simmel, 2004 G. Simmel The philosophy of money Routledge, London (2004) Sinclair, 2005 A. Sinclair Body and management pedagogy Gender, Work and Organization, 12 (1) (2005), pp. 89-104 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Sparkes, 2007 A.C. Sparkes Embodiment, academics and the audit culture: A story seeking consideration Qualitative Research, 7 (4) (2007), pp. 521-550 CrossRefView Record in Scopus Spongberg, 2010 M. Spongberg Feminist publishing in a cold climate? “Australian feminist studies” and the new ERA of research Feminist Review, 95 (2010), pp. 99-110 CrossRefView Record in Scopus The Guardian, 2014, March 1 The Guardian There is a culture of acceptance around mental health issues in academia Retrieved from (2014, March 1) Woolf, 1963 V. Woolf Three Guineas Harvest Books, London (1963) (Original work published 1938) ☆ This is an elaborated version of a paper delivered at the 3rd AtGender 1 Spring Conference, held 26–28 April 2013 in Gothenburg, as part of the panel “Academic Feminism at Corporatized Universities in Europe”. 1 Woolf (1938/1963). Three Guineas. London: Harvest Books, p. 62. 2 Further investigation and critical analysis of the name choices and meaning distortions is needed here. The Greek government makes use of names that refer to ancient Goddesses and Gods whenever they want to enact a law that violates the Greek constitution and the international human rights conventions, e.g. the Operation Xenios Zeus, the God of hospitality, for sweeps and detentions of immigrants and refugees. Τhis has recently turned out to be a common practice in other European countries as well. 3 It comes as no surprise that the “Athena Plan” mainly strikes the Humanities' students and staff by reducing their number. 4 In this paper, I make use of the hyphen (-) when I am talking about “self”, e.g. my-self, our-selves etc. In this way, I want to show that one's self does not constitute a unified entity, a wholeness but, instead, following Braidotti's perception of subjectivity, the self is “a socially mediated process of relations with multiple others” (2011: 4), a collective enterprise, deeply involved in multilayered social structures. It seems to me that hyphen represents a connection-making symbol which brings to mind the Deleuzian becomings (e.g. becoming-woman, becoming-other, becoming-minoritarian etc.). 5 The TV commercials mentioned in the text can be found via the following links: Síminn 3G Mobiles Phones “The Last Supper” (, Mercedes Benz “INRI” (, Pepsi “Way of the Kung Fu” (, HDTV in Israel with the advertising slogan “HDTV is against the Bible” (, iPod “Dancing Priest” with the advertising slogan “iConfess” ( 6 Elsewhere Benjamin writes: “A descriptive analysis of bank notes is needed. The unlimited satirical force of such a book would be equaled only by its objectivity. For nowhere more naively than in these documents does capitalism display itself with so much earnest. The innocent cupids frolicking about numbers, the goddesses holding tablets of the law, the stalwart heroes sheathing their swords before monetary units, are a world of their own: ornamenting the façade of hell” (Benjamin, 1979: 4). 7 It would be of great interest if the above argumentation could be supplemented with an analysis of the reasons why men still outnumber women on banknotes (Rehder, 1996: 64) and of how neoliberalism is connected to masculinity, two relevant points which are beyond the scope of this paper. 8 Jean Shepherd's book (1966) of short stories entitled In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash handily satirized the above motto. 9 According to Lazzarato (2012: 77), the transition from primitive societies to both the great empires and monotheistic religions meant the end of finite debt and the beginning of infinite. 10 Christianity “stuck us with the infinite”, as we are part of a social system in which “indebtedness is for life” (Lazzarato, 2012: 77). 11 Double bind is a term used by Bateson, Jackson, Haley, and Weakland (1956: 253) to describe the transmission of two contradictory messages by a person at the same time. The two messages are mutually exclusive but the double bind consists precisely in the demand to act according to both. According to Deleuze and Guattari (1983: 78), this phenomenon for Bateson constitutes a schizophrenizing situation. However, for Deleuze and Guattari the double bind, this “double impasse”, as they call it, “is instead a common situation, bedipalizing par excellence” and “is none other than the whole of Oedipus” (Deleuze & Guattari, 1983: 79). Instead, following a Nietzschean approach, they explore creative responses provided by science (“representations”), art (“chaosmos”) and philosophy (“concept”), overcoming the double bind's, non-win, structure, i.e. either/or (Deleuze & Guattari, 1983). 12 Here I stand in convergence with Braidotti's line of argument, speaking of “the thinkers located at the center of past or present empires who are actively deconstructing the power of the center” (2011: 9) but nevertheless without having the will to withdraw their privileges. View Abstract Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.