Meet the phallic lecturer: Early career research in a neoliberal imaginary

Year: 2016

Author: McKnight, Lucinda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

How can thinking with gender-linked concepts help us transform education research? This paper introduces the concept of the phallic lecturer, a spectral figure negotiated in the early stages of a research career in education, when the relative freedom of doctoral study morphs into compliance with institutional demands. Awareness of the dominance of the phallic in education emerges from reading curriculum theorist Madeleine Grumet, feminist philosopher Judith Butler and academic Judith Baxter, whose feminist poststructuralist discourse analysis offers ways to engage with the addresses and imperatives of phallicism that move beyond traditional, masculinist discourse analysis.The paper draws on a doctoral study completed in 2014, and expands the key themes of the paper receiving the Australian Association for Research in Education’s Early Career Researcher Award in 2015: Meet the phallic teacher: designing curriculum and identity in a neoliberal imaginary. The initial study looked to how secondary teachers both comply with and subvert national and local requirements, in complex performances of gendered identity against the backdrop of the Australian national curriculum. In this further work, the focus shifts to the pedagogical addresses of university learning management systems, as they call gendered subjectivities into being, interpellating junior academics as shining lights or failed subjects, in a cruelly performative binary. Sensitive to the uneasy ironies of critiquing the addresses of the neoliberal university, while simultaneously obeying them, the paper articulates the oxymoronic nature of this work and the personal conflicts therein; the methodological approaches invoked here allow for complexity and lived experience rather than adopting the distant, rational tone of much textual discourse analysis. Instead, this study deploys feminist insight and humour to inspire other educators speaking back to the common sense demands of neoliberalism that prosthetically structure our work.