Care as symbolic exile
The diversity work of Slovak gender studies scholars
Keywords:gender studies, diversity work, care, PhD studies, early career researchers
In recent years, science has become a battlefield where the lines of the gendered world order are being negotiated. This negotiation cannot be understood without examining the epistemic communities of gender studies – their members, practices, conditions, and the power relations within which they operate. This study aims to enrich the research on gender and feminist scholarship from the perspective of a country with a weak degree of institutionalisation of gender studies. It focuses on the experiences of PhD candidates and early career scholars of social sciences in Slovakia, as narrated in two focus group discussions. We argue that the combination of fragmentation in gender-oriented epistemic communities and the competitiveness of neoliberalised academia pushes junior gender studies scholars to experience isolation, a self-imposed or forced symbolic exile within their institutions and academic communities. However, while the symbolic exile is a space of exclusion, it also is a space of care – for oneself, for others, for one’s institution. The study conceptualises these practices of care as ‘diversity work’ and examines them as both initiatives of individual scholars and invisible everyday labour that maintains the presence of gender-oriented scholarship in an academic environment marked by limited institutionalisation of gender studies.
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