- Introduction:Institutional Feelings: Practicing Women’s Studies in the Corporate University
The term corporate university—and a host of other terms that have developed to describe this institutional moment, including neoliberal university and academic-industrial complex—fails to do justice to what Kathleen Stewart (2007, 4) describes as the “situation we find ourselves in.” The articles in this special issue explore how the corporate university and its attendant formations, including adjunctification, debt, precarity, graduate certificate programs, study abroad programs, or the MA factory, feel, and how they make themselves felt in myriad quotidian ways. This special issue, then, is oriented toward an ethic of specificity and marked by an investment in considering how the contemporary university feels, and how it feels differently for the various bodies that inhabit it.
Our starting point is an investment in women’s studies as an (inter) discipline with a distinctive and fraught relationship to institutionalization’s pleasures, pains, pulls, and perils. We are concerned with how the conditions that mark the contemporary university make themselves known and felt in particular ways in women’s studies’ institutional spaces: the classroom, the faculty meeting, the program or department mission statement, the rigorous pursuit of departmental status, and the feminist scholarly journal. This special issue, “Institutional Feelings: Practicing Women’s Studies in the Corporate University,” invites women’s studies practitioners—graduate students, tenure-track and tenured faculty, contract faculty, and administrators—to act as ethnographers analyzing, documenting, and theorizing this moment in women’s studies’ history—one that might be described as being between precarity and legitimacy. Even as some women’s studies programs and departments gain institutional traction, others fight not only for legitimacy and recognition, but for the necessary resources to stay afloat. Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Evelynn Hammonds (2008, 161) remind us that “women’s studies is still institutionally fragile, in the sense that most women’s studies programs are without their own faculty lines and have inadequate budgets and very little control over their curricula because they [End Page vii] depend on departmental courses or joint appointments.” Our special issue is interested in the varieties of ways that women’s studies inhabits this in-between space inside and outside of institutional legitimacy. Given our own investment in specificity, the articles in this issue carefully trace how that in-between-ness is felt differently in different institutional spaces (for example, the research university, the small liberal arts college, the regional college, the community college); by practitioners who occupy different institutional spaces (for example, the undergraduate student, the graduate student, the program or departmental administrator, the adjunct lecturer, the tenure-track faculty member, the tenured faculty member); and shaped by gender, race, class, sexuality, nation, disability, and other categories of difference.
To be clear, this issue is not meant to be only an exploration of oppression, violence, and subordination or a triumphant account of feminist resistance to the institutional demands of corporatization. This is the case even as the articles included in this issue are written against the backdrop of academic violence of various kinds—from the physical brutality inflicted on Ersula Ore at Arizona State University to the production of violence masked by neologisms like “unhiring,” as in the case of Steven Salaita. Rather, we are drawn to feminist feelings that are ambivalent, contradictory, and fraught, including our continued attachment to the university even as it is an agent of violence, our pursuits of institutionalization alongside our rigorous critiques of the university, and our pleasures in the interdisciplinary and institutional “travels” of women’s studies’ key analytics like intersectionality and transnationalism. We are interested in questions like: What are the pleasures—feminist pleasures—that attach to the very positions and locations that we incessantly describe as constraining us? How do we understand our attachments to our universities, and to the university itself as a structure? How do we see these pleasures manifested when we become gatekeepers who perform that role zealously, whether as PhD admissions committee members or job-search committee members? What are the hierarchies that we come to enforce and invest in, and how do we understand our investment in hierarchy alongside our teaching strategies...