“Education, Desire and Grit” –Witch’s Brew or Academic Voice?

Year: 2019

Author: Roy, Reshmi

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper, I use an autoethnographical lens to explore educational desire as a source of trouble for ethnic, migrant women academics within the Australian higher education sector. As methodology, critical and evocative autoethnography (Tedlock 2013) provides scope to unpack what it means to negotiate an academic identity as a casual academic on an everyday basis while looking to an uncertain future. Crimmins (2015) stresses the need for creation of a space for the acknowledgement of women casual academics and a place for their voice” (p.55) As one of the 38, 190 women casual academics currently employed within the Australian university sector, I draw on this idea to focus predominantly on the casual woman academic's lived experience of being neither here nor there and constantly navigating “in-between zones” (Min Ha 1991) within academia, a sense of being in exile, yet paradoxically necessary and physically present.

Desire has been viewed as trouble (Sartre 1956) in its capacity to bring submerged issues to the fore which may result in clouding of perspectives; yet its innate fluidity encapsulates its dynamic and transformative characteristics (Sartre 1956, Gorton 2008). Designating such desire combined with a search for academic voice as ‘witch’s brew’, I draw on Mirza (2009)’s wish for cognizance of the female and raced collective desire for education to reclaim its meaning within a postcolonial space through a theoretical framework of emotional reflexivity (Holmes 2010, 2015)

Badley (2016) exhorts qualitative inquirers, especially those constructing their own academic identities as principled personal projects (Clegg 2008), to tell stories which matter; creating a better world and speaking across differences. Given the ongoing shifts in academic life, this research looks to those engaged with academic development and the university sector to create ‘spaces of disruption’ (Quinn 2012, p.10) where academics can begin to interrogate their self-perception and their doing.

I propose to use the above notions to understand whether grit (Duckworth 2016) combined with educational desire is enough to combat the demon of casualisation faced by numerous women ethnic academics within the current neo-liberalised and managerialised (Ball 2003) Australian tertiary sector. To comprehend the impact of grit, context and lived experiences of these academics need consideration. Building on my current doctoral research, I particularly question what does the precarity of occupation mean for a migrant academic woman of colour, as opposed to others within the current conditions of neoliberalism?