Reclaiming eroticism in the academy

Bell, Emma and Sinclair, Amanda (2014). Reclaiming eroticism in the academy. Organization, 21(2) pp. 268–280.



In this article we address the question ‘what are we to do with ourselves?’ by arguing for the reclamation of the erotic in higher education. By defining the erotic in a way which encompasses the pursuit of pleasure and love, we seek to re-differentiate the collapsed categories of sex and eros. Universities have always been environments where a love of learning and pleasure in pedagogy is possible. Yet a range of cultural and societal factors have rendered academic life on the one hand disembodied, and on the other, commodified and sexualized, especially for women. Our suggestion is that these effects strip out the opportunities to love and enjoy academic life. We therefore pursue the possibility of reclaiming eroticism and the erotic in ways which refuse commodified sexualized norms. Drawing on the work of feminist theorists, we make three proposals for reclaiming eros in the academy: by exploring the relationship between bodies and knowledge; recognizing love in learning and wisdom; and cultivating the pleasure and nurturance that arise in collegial and pedagogic relations. Our view is that exploring broader notions of eros and eroticism in the university will invite a more meaningful understanding of academic work as embodied practice, involving pleasure and love.

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