Ambivalent optimism: Women's and gender studies in Australian universities

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    Abstract

    This article describes the place of Women's and Gender Studies programmes in Australian universities as a way of thinking about the place of feminism in the academy. It begins with a story of one such small programme at a time of stress and locates this story in an account of change in Australian universities over the last 20-plus years. The narrative traces a contradictory domain in which women, feminist scholarship and Women's and Gender Studies are enmeshed. The article draws on feminist literature about Australian universities to argue that while neo-liberal university environments are clearly places where masculinist values prevail, the flows of power around individual Women's and Gender Studies programmes cannot be simply predicted. Women's and Gender Studies programmes are thriving in some universities (on a small scale). As well as institutional imperatives Women's and Gender Studies programmes are engaged by specific intellectual challenges and some of these are sketched with reference to the Australian context. Asserting the need for dedicated research and teaching that focuses on gender, the article concludes that Women's and Gender Studies programmes in Australian universities are energetic places for this to occur. It proposes an ambivalent optimism to describe its assessment of these programmes and their viability as future places of work for feminist scholars.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)111-126
    Number of pages16
    JournalFeminist Review
    Volume95
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010

    Keywords

    • Australia
    • feminism
    • gender studies
    • universities
    • women's studies

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