II Affect and Identities: Negotiating Tensions in the Early Career

Academic, Woman, Mother: Negotiating Multiple Subjectivities During Early Career

Agnes Bosanquet

The dominant definition of “early career” in academia is a normative one. Typically five years post-PhD, the early career academic (ECA) moves from post-doctoral, tenure track or Level A to Assistant Professor, Level B, Reader and onwards.1 This assumes steady employment and continuous research and professional development, and does not reflect the lived experience of many ECAs. Academic work, especially during the career development phase, is excessive and frequently performed outside work hours. For women, intensifiers include unacknowledged work or academic “housework,” high teaching and administrative loads, and underrepresentation at senior levels (Grant and Knowles 2000; Probert 2005). When motherhood and early career intersect, the challenges of research and career development are further intensified.

This chapter explores ECA motherhood in two ways. First, it presents an authoethnographic account of mothering an ill child during PhD, and coping with secondary infertility and ectopic pregnancy as an ECA. Second, it examines survey data from Australian women ECAs with caring responsibility for children. This combination of data provides a rich descriptive account supported by broader cross-sectional findings. Underpinning this

A. Bosanquet (H)

Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia © The Author(s) 2017

R. Thwaites, A. Pressland (eds.), Being an Early Career Feminist Academic, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-54325-7_4

chapter is a critical feminist perspective on the multiplicity of subjectivity which holds that selfhood changes in relation to others and the world. For feminist poststructuralist theorists such as Kristeva, Irigaray, and Cixous, subjectivity is gendered and enmeshed in complex and unequal structures of discourse and power (Irigaray 1985; Kristeva 1986; Cixous 1991). The term “subjectivity” rather than the more straightforward “self” recognises this understanding of individual identity as part of broader social, cultural and political systems.

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