Too Tired to Think: On (Not) Producing Knowledge in the Hyper-Productive University

Wednesday 14 February 2018, 4.00PM to 5.00pm

Speaker: Maria do Mar Pereira (University of Warwick)

Over the past decades we have witnessed significant transformations of the models of organisation and evaluation of academic work in the UK and elsewhere. These transformations have included processes of extensification, elasticisation and casualisation of academic labour, as well as an expanding institutionalisation of what have been described as academic cultures of ‘performativity’ (Ball, 2003), supported and enacted by complex apparatuses of metricisation and auditing (Burrows, 2012). These interacting trends are having significant impacts not only on the nature of academic knowledge production, but also on academics' bodies, minds and relationships. In this paper, I draw on an ethnographic study of Portuguese academia, and on debates about the “toxic” (Gill, 2010) and “careless” (Lynch, 2010) nature of performative academic cultures, to analyse embodied experiences of feminist knowledge production in contemporary neoliberal universities. I show that performative academic cultures do produce (conditional) openings for (productive) feminist individuals and teams. However, several individual and collective epistemic activities are becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to sustain in the performative university due to intensifying workloads, escalating productivity expectations and a generalised feeling of exhaustion, depression and alienation. I theorise those ‘public feelings’ (Cvetkovich, 2012) as a ‘mood’ and argue that analysing this mood raises difficult but urgent questions about the present and future of feminist knowledge production, and about academics’ fraught relationship with, and ambivalent investments in, academic work.


Maria do Mar Pereira is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, and the Deputy Director of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of Women and Gender. Her first book – Doing Gender in the Playground: the Negotiation of Gender and Sexuality in Schools – was published in 2012 and received the ICQI Award for Best Qualitative Book in Spanish or Portuguese (2010-2014). Her second book – Power, Knowledge and Feminist Scholarship: an Ethnography of Academia – was published in 2017 by Routledge.Her work has also appeared in several journals, including Feminist Theory, Sociology, European Journal of Women’s Studies, and Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. She is an Editor of the journal Feminist Theory

Location: Wentworth College W/222

Admission: FREE Eventbrite Ticket


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