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Nevertheless She Persisted: Women's Rhetorics of Trauma and Survival in Higher Education

Submitted by Susan.Thomas@sy... on April 10, 2019 - 20:42

Call for Contributions

Nevertheless She Persisted: Women’s Rhetorics of Trauma and Survival in Higher Education

 Lisa Emerson, Massey University, and Susan Thomas, The University of Sydney

In the wake of #Lock Her Up, #MeToo, and the Kavanaugh hearings, the world’s gaze has been firmly transfixed on Hollywood, the US Government, and the subsequent feminist backlash against the silencing and shaming of vulnerable women by powerful men. However, away from the glare of world politics, the casting couch and college frat parties, is the equally disturbing yet lesser known phenomenon of women being silenced within the academic community.

As evidenced by the growing body of scholarship on bullying and harassment in higher education (e.g., Elder et al, 2019), the need to expose the abuse of women in academia has never been greater. Inspired by our own stories of silencing and shaming in the academy, we believe that sharing our stories is our most powerful means of collective activism. In gathering and publishing firsthand narratives from women at all levels of academe, in institutions around the world, we examine how careers have been adversely affected by bullying at the hands of managers and peers – and we consider the implications for institutions of higher education .

In this book we use a combination of storytelling and story analysis to explore the often-complex abusive relationships in higher education. Storytelling sees the story as the product of the enquiry, and invites the reader into the story to engage at both emotional and rational levels with the narrator’s experience (Frank, 2000). The researcher-as-storyteller understands the story itself as containing analytical techniques, theory, and dialogical structures (Bleakley, 2005; Ellis, 2004) which can speak for themselves:

In a narrative analysis, storytellers emphasize that participants’ stories of the self are told for the sake of others just as much as for themselves. Hence, the ethical and heartfelt claim is for a dialogic relationship with a listener… that requires engagement from within, not analysis from outside, the story and narrative identity. Consequently, the goal and responsibility is to evoke and bear witness to a situation … inviting the reader into a relationship, enticing people to think and feel with the story being told as opposed to thinking about it. (Smith & Sparkes, 2006, p. 185)

This book will comprise multiple narratives (1500-3000 words) of women’s experience of bulling in the academy. These narratives will be framed by two analytical essays, using story analysis to examine themes that emerge from the data as a whole, e.g. patterns of bullying, systemic and personal rationales for bullying behaviours, and effective methods of resistance. The study draws on a range of literatures including bullying in the workplace bullying in higher education, women in the workplace, women’s experience of workplace bullying, and women and power.

For us, collecting and sharing these stories is a first step in documenting a toxic culture and establishing pathways for activism, healing, and change.

We have a website which provides you with more information about the project and the authors here:

The Invitation

Our aim is to produce a truly international text which incorporates the experiences of tenured, untenured, adjunct, and administrative staff, and graduate students in all disciplines. To achieve this, we need your help.

Write your story.

Stories should be written in the first person and be between 1500-300 words. You might like to explore one or more of the following themes:

  • When someone stands in your path: blocks to advancement
  • That was my idea: when your contributions are seconded by another
  • Behaviours in the boardroom/staffroom: when your contributions are derided or belittled
  • I said/couldn’t say no: sexual harassment in the academy
  • The (lack of) color of the academy: bullying and women of color/indigenous cultures.
  • We really don’t count: when academics bully administrative staff.  
  • The powerlessness of the graduate student
  • I thought she would support me: women bullying women
  • Tales of effective resistance

For more information about how to write the story and who to send it to, please click here:

Tell your story

If you don’t want to write your story, or don’t have the time, but would like it to be part of our research, we would love to interview you about your experiences of bullying in the academy.  Interviews may be conducted face-to-face, by phone, or by Skype.

For more information about the interview process, please click here:

Spread the word.

Maybe you haven’t had experiences of bullying yourself, but you know of colleagues who have – or maybe there is someone in your institution who is struggling with a bullying situation of which you are unaware. We would appreciate your effort to spread this invitation to colleagues and students in your institution/discipline or by pointing others to our website.

Keeping Contributors Safe

We recognise that telling stories of bullying is a risky business. We are, therefore, concerned to keep all contributors safe. We have been through a rigorous human ethics process, and have sound processes in place to protect the identity of contributors. All contributions will be anonymous, and we will work with you to ensure that anything published cannot be identified in terms of individuals or institutions. For more information about our ethical procedures and safety measures, see

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