Medieval Feminists at Work: Negotiating Complicated Workspaces (A Roundtable)
Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship, 50th Medieval Congress, Kalamazoo, MI, May 14-17, 2015
The academic community creates a fraught and challenging workplace, with the overlapping of working, social, and personal relationships whose boundaries are not always clear, consistent, or mutually acknowledged. Expectations for undergraduates, graduate students, adjuncts, junior and senior faculty, and administrators vary by institutional culture and across the academic lifecycle. The inherent power dynamics of the academic system--wherein faculty train students, tenured faculty evaluate and determine the fate of untenured colleagues, administrators control funds and access, and undergraduate complaints compromise adjunct careers—create a perfect environment for bullying, harassment (sexual or otherwise), and abuse, particularly when complicating factors such as race, sex, disability, and age are involved. Anecdotally in personal communication, persistently in the forums of The Chronicle of Higher Education, in the #YesAllWomen Twitter movement, and in many other places, academic women identify themselves as vulnerable to gross manipulations of power within these dynamics. Yet, despite the increase in institutional mechanisms to deal with abuse, many female academics find it impractical, even career suicide, to complain formally about these problems. Medievalists, moreover, are often the only premodern specialist in their department, or even on campus, and so lack the community support of other fields.
This session comes out of the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship’s Political/Social Issues subcommittee. We anticipate that the roundtable will examine complications medievalist women have encountered in the academic workplace as well as feminist methods for addressing issues and creating a safe, healthy, and functioning workspace. Thus, we seek panelists willing to share personal experiences as well as those able to speak about practical solutions and strategies. Panelists will prepare very short (5-7 minute) formal remarks, so the focus of the session can be informal discussion.
Please send a one-page (circa 300 word) description of potential talking points and a completed Congress Participant Information Form (http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/submissions/index.html#PIF)
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