POWES as a heterotopia: looking askance at the neoliberal academy

Bowes-Catton, Helen (2023). POWES as a heterotopia: looking askance at the neoliberal academy. In: Psychology of Women and Equalities Section Annual Conference 2023, 05-07 Jul 2023, Windsor, Berkshire, UK.


Recent work in critical university studies suggests that conferences function as liminal spaces from within which we can 'look askance' at the neoliberal academy. In this paper, I consider what we might learn by both 'looking askance' at the university from within the heterotopic space of POWES, and 'looking askance' at POWES itself. What kind of 'conference moments' take place at POWES, and what do they tell us about the ways in which POWES both re-imagines and re-produces the contemporary academy? The paper closes with an invitation to participants to consider their own POWES 'conference moments' and to collaborate in a proposed collective critical auto-ethnography of POWES.

Plain Language Summary

Academic conferences happen outside of the everyday working lives of academics, although they are not completely separate. When academics spend time at conferences, they have a chance to think about their working lives from a different perspective. It's also useful to think about how conferences themselves work. One way of doing this is to identify significant moments of our experience at conferences such as POWES. By reflecting on these moment we can learn about the ways in which the POWES conference is similar to, and different from, our everyday working lives. I ask participants to think about the ways in which being at POWES encourages us to change university life for the better, and the ways in which it encourages us to leave things the same. I suggest that we might work together to think and write about these issues.

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