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Contesting Neoliberalism Through Critical Pedagogy, Intersectional Reflexivity, and Personal Narrative: Queer Tales of Academia



In this article, we use personal narrative to explore allies and alliance building between marginalized people working in and through higher education, with an eye toward interrogating the ways in which ideologies of neoliberalism work to maintain hierarchy through the legitimation of othering. Inspired by Conquergood (1985 ), who calls scholars to engage in intimate conversation rather than distanced observation, we offer our embodied experiences as a way to use the personal to reflect on the cultural, social, and political. Our narratives often recount being out of place, moments of incongruence, or our marked otherness. Through the sharing of these narratives, we will demonstrate the possibility for ally building based in affective connections forged through shared queer consciousness, paying particular attention to the ways in which neoliberal ideologies, such as individualism and postracism, may advance and impede such alliances.
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Contesting Neoliberalism Through Critical
Pedagogy, Intersectional Reflexivity, and Personal
Narrative: Queer Tales of Academia
Richard G. Jones Jr. PhD & Bernadette Marie Calafell PhD
To cite this article: Richard G. Jones Jr. PhD & Bernadette Marie Calafell PhD (2012)
Contesting Neoliberalism Through Critical Pedagogy, Intersectional Reflexivity, and Personal
Narrative: Queer Tales of Academia, Journal of Homosexuality, 59:7, 957-981, DOI:
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Journal of Homosexuality, 59:957–981, 2012
Copyright ©Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0091-8369 print/1540-3602 online
DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2012.699835
Contesting Neoliberalism Through Critical
Pedagogy, Intersectional Reflexivity, and
Personal Narrative: Queer Tales of Academia
Department of Communication Studies, Eastern Illinois University,
Charleston, Illinois, USA
Department of Communication Studies, University of Denver,
Denver, Colorado, USA
In this article, we use personal narrative to explore allies and
alliance building between marginalized people working in and
through higher education, with an eye toward interrogating the
ways in which ideologies of neoliberalism work to maintain hierar-
chy through the legitimation of othering. Inspired by Conquergood
(1985), who calls scholars to engage in intimate conversation
rather than distanced observation, we offer our embodied experi-
ences as a way to use the personal to reflect on the cultural, social,
and political. Our narratives often recount being out of place,
moments of incongruence, or our marked otherness. Through the
sharing of these narratives, we will demonstrate the possibility for
ally building based in affective connections forged through shared
queer consciousness, paying particular attention to the ways in
which neoliberal ideologies, such as individualism and postracism,
may advance and impede such alliances.
KEYWORDS alliance building, feminist theory, intersectional
reflexivity, neoliberalism, personal narrative, queer pedagogy
The 2010 midterm elections further confirmed the instantiation of neoliberal
ideologies into American values. On the evening of November 2, 2010, John
We dedicate this essay to Dr. John T. Warren, a mentor, colleague, and friend.
Address correspondence to Richard G. Jones, Jr., Department of Communication Studies,
Eastern Illinois University, Coleman Hall 1260, 600 Lincoln Ave., Charleston, IL 61920, USA.
958 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
Boehner, the Ohio Congressperson who ended up being the next Speaker
of the House invoked the key tenets of neoliberalism when he stated the
following in his victory speech: “We can celebrate when we have a gov-
ernment ... that honors our Constitution and stands up for the values that
have made America, America: economic freedom, individual liberty, and
personal responsibility” (“Midterms 2010,” 2010). The anti-Washington, anti-
incumbent political sentiment that prevailed in the 2010 midterm elections
was imbued with neoliberal ideologies that, through the veil of the myth
of meritocracy, support corporate economic interests at the expense of the
most vulnerable in our society—marginalized and disenfranchised groups.
As Kotz (2002) explains, neoliberal policy recommendations include “dereg-
ulation of business, privatization of public activities and assets, elimination
of or cutbacks in social welfare programs, and reduction of taxes on busi-
nesses and the investing class” (p. 65). Writing before the “great recession”
he continues, with eerie accuracy, to note that “the neoliberal model creates
instability on the macroeconomic level loosening public regulation of
the financial sector. This renders the system more vulnerable to major finan-
cial crises and depression” (p. 66). Even though these claims clearly make
a case for neoliberalism’s culpability in our current economic downturn,
neoliberalism’s suspicion of government intervention in economic regulation
can be seen in current negative reactions to continued government spend-
ing to try to invigorate the economy. In short, Kotz argues that suspicion
of government intervention is based on the “grounds that such intervention
is likely to create more problems than it solves” (p. 64). In fact, neoliberal
economic policies will likely not create more problems for big business or
the wealthy; however, the very voters who elected leaders, like Boehner,
who taunt these policies are not as likely to benefit. Slaughter and Rhoades
(2004) explain: “The benefits of the neoliberal state [tend] to accrue less to
the broad citizenry and more to large corporations, the wealthy, and the
upper middle class” (pp. 309–310). These policies once again disenfran-
chise queers of color, and others, who are not represented within this upper
middle class status.
Neoliberal politics have also created a backlash against higher edu-
cation as we face the growing problem of state budget crises and higher
education and public employees in general, rather large corporations, are
scapegoated. Undoubtedly, neoliberal ideologies will shape the response
to these economic crises, and in turn (re)shape higher education more
generally. Scholars have already begun to critique neoliberalism’s ideolo-
gies of curricular standardization, top-down management, proscriptions on
behavior, and invasive systems of accountability (Giroux, 2010; Hammersley-
Fletcher & Qualter, 2009). We believe that this exigent moment provides a
fertile opportunity to explore possible avenues of resistance regarding the
constraining ideologies of neoliberalism, particularly as neoliberalism affects
higher education.
Contesting Neoliberalism 959
Our personal narratives explore how neoliberalism operates in
academia and how we as queer educators seek to connect across our
difference through our shared experiences of Otherness. As we chart our
shifting positionalities in the academy, we understand the importance of
locating our experience within larger social, cultural, political, and eco-
nomic climates from which they emerge (Berry & Warren, 2009). We attempt
to make transparent the opacity that sometimes shrouds the diffuse and
disciplining power of the academy as an institution and reflect on how
critical/queer pedagogy offers us tactics for countering institutional strate-
gies imbued with neoliberalism, such as discourses that position students
as consumers, reframe higher education as job training, and promote civil-
ity and accountability in ways that inhibit the academic freedom of cultural
I remember our first meeting. It was years ago at the National
Communication Association Convention. You were in North Carolina
then, where I had just left to move to Syracuse. Both of us were in transi-
tion. The panel on Latino masculinities drew a scant crowd if I remember
correctly, but there you were definitely engaged. Just a few months out of
graduate school, suddenly in a tenure track position, I was still trying
to find my place—What kinds of privileges come with the title assistant
professor rather than doctoral candidate? I was in the midst of contin-
ual challenges based on my race, class, gender, and sexuality by faculty
and students alike—How do you deal with the blatant homophobia and
“fear” from students and educate faculty and staff who don’t know how to
respond? (Calafell, 2010a). How do you deal with the tokenizing of both
you and your research? I was also in the midst of trying to work through
the many layers of Homeland Security to sponsor my Egyptian partner
(Calafell, 2008). In the midst of feeling out of place, both as a new pro-
fessor and a Chicana in the academy, I used heterosexual privilege to
sponsor him to stay in the United States. I am a critical scholar and was
aware of all of these contradictions, but after 9/11 things became a lot less
clear cut. But I digress ...I return to you. A chance meeting, an email
later, and then, finally, in 2006 we met again. I came to a new depart-
ment and yours was one of the first faces I saw. I longed for spaces of
connection, and I found them in a seminar in performance ethnography
with graduate students who also aligned themselves with Other position-
alities. Together we went on to critical sexuality studies, a seminar where
I continued to long for connection. In the end, I found connection as
we worked as advisor and advisee on a dissertation project that blended
intersectionality and queerness, a project that truly united our commit-
ments. In the course of it all we became friends. How many times have
we sat together talking about the ways we continue to be reminded of our
Otherness in the academy? How many times have we commiserated over
stories of love gone wrong? Our professional and personal lines continue
to fluctuate.
960 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
After getting divorced, I’m coming out all over again. I’m not being
insensitive, I’m being honest. I’m not only single, but I’m queer. This was
one of the first things that connected us. As someone who is bisexual
I tread a fine line, always being aware of the ways I can and do sometimes
draw on heterosexual privilege. Like Warren, I understand the tensions
surrounding my identities, particularly around my bisexual queerness
(Gust & Warren, 2008).
You’ve heard this before, I do not want children. Uttering these words
aloud always seems to elicit some heteronormative backlash, particularly
in a department where I am the only queer faculty member and babies
are suddenly abound. I understand Dow’s (2008) sentiments when she
questions the ways heteronormativity fuels discourses about being family
friendly in departments, but I also care about my colleagues and their
children. I long for connection. I long for other queer bodies.
That was my first NCA, in Chicago in 2004, and it was quite a high
for me. Not yet knowing either of us would end up at the same univer-
sity, that chance meeting was a highlight of my conference. You’re right,
there weren’t many audience members at the panel, but it was my first
time hearing other academics discuss queerness, masculinity, and cul-
ture in critical, intersecting ways. Being a critical scholar, and a queer
one at that, is isolating in most contexts, and I think we are quick to
make affective ties when we’re able to connect at conferences, via email,
or even through the texts that our peers publish. I’ve been lucky to have
a lineage of three female mentors, two of whom are women of color, that
have prepared me to defend my scholarship, be proud of my blended aca-
demic and personal identities, and stand up for what I believe in when
my voice is marginalized. I’ve always found it interesting that some of the
key mentors in your academic journey were queer White men. It seems
as though we were set-up to form an alliance even before that chance
meeting at NCA.
As a graduate student, I learned from you and my other mentors to
understand the politics of “playing the game” as well as the politics of
resistance. We’re not naïve enough to think that we’ll get hired, retained,
published, tenured, or promoted because we call people out for their priv-
ilege (regardless of their standing in the field and whether or not it’s in a
crowded public forum like a conference panel) or question and queer the
academy. We also have to make concessions and placations. Just as you
acknowledged the inherent contradictions between your critical/queer
political commitments and your conscious enactment of heterosexual
and citizenship privilege, I’ve learned to better negotiate the tensions
between my queer and privileged (White, male) identities.
Through our alliance over the years, our positions have changed and
we have earned higher credentials. Now that you’re tenured, you have
additional freedoms and additional responsibilities. Now that I’m in a
tenure-track position, I’m learning even more about playing the game
and when to stick my neck out or keep my head down. I think we
Contesting Neoliberalism 961
help each other to remain reflexive as we share our challenges and
rewards. We both have a certain amount of privilege to retreat to osten-
sibly safer places by “passing” for the purposes of access or advancement,
yet we find ways to use our access to subvert the status quo, advocate for
marginalized voices, and call out privilege.
I’m sure our alliance threatens neoliberal ideals that seek to con-
strain the agency and voices of students and faculty within the confines
of standardization, hierarchy, and corporatization. Our often-voiced
dissatisfaction with uncritical diversity initiatives and multicultural pro-
gramming that lack intersectionality has led to much change on the
campus we previously shared. We continue to try to make change
in the field through our scholarship, and daily challenge the tradi-
tional power dynamics of the classroom through critical communication
pedagogy. My reflections on the power of alliance are not meant to be
self-congratulatory. Alliance in the face of normative discourses rang-
ing from color-blindness, to the myth of meritocracy, to neoliberalism is
difficult, fraught, tenuous, and at times painful. But, our commitments
to the performance paradigm, auto-methods, and narrative have been
powerful outlets for these emotions, which we seek to embrace and learn
from rather than ignore or disown through a guise of objectivity. And it’s
in this space of possibility between text (this narrative), performer (us),
and audience (you, the reader) that our voices (ours and yours) come
We reflect on our relationship in order to frame and contextualize our discus-
sion of the intersections of culture, identity, critical pedagogy, and narrative.
We also understand the importance of recognizing the ways our identities
and our bodies are situated within the academic world and the vulnerabili-
ties that come with forging alliances across difference. As J. R. Johnson and
Bhatt (2003) note, we are “lodged between the either and the or” in a society
that marks some of our identities as superior and some as subordinate, and
each of us must negotiate our dual existence (p. 230, emphasis in original).
As critical scholars, we center discussions of power in our scholarship and
teaching, and we are careful to acknowledge our positionalities, but not list
them as some sort of disclaimer. We identify as queer not just as a marker
of sexuality but also of politics. Further, we draw on Gamson’s (2000) con-
ceptualization of queer as a perspective that opposes established social and
academic norms, critiques assimilationist and binary views of sexualities and
identities, and questions identity politics. Although we focus on our identi-
ties in our narratives, we adopt performative (Conquergood, 1991; Langellier,
1999) and queer notions of identity (Gamson, 2000; Gamson & Moon,
2004; Green, 2007; Khayatt, 2002) as fluid and constructed, maintained, and
changed through narrative. Our queer approach is distinct from gay and les-
bian studies, which may view identity as fixed, stable, or inherent within the
individual (Yep, Lovaas, & Elia, 2003). In fact, our queer-informed critique
962 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
of neoliberalism is predicated on a rejection of individualism. We are also
committed to queer scholarship that challenges the hegemony of Whiteness
that goes unquestioned in some queer studies (E. P. Johnson, 2006; Ross,
As this article unfolds, we discuss connections between queer con-
sciousness, intersectional reflexivity, and alliance building, but it is important
to note that these connections emerge from our lived experiences with queer
theory and critical pedagogy. We do not mean to conflate critical and queer
pedagogy, as each has its scholarly lineage. However, we capitalize on the
de-centering philosophies and the emancipatory promises of each, and it is
through these lenses that we examine neoliberalism. Further, we intersect
these approaches and queer pedagogy by working together a politics of
love, respect, and reciprocity that works against hierarchy (Calafell, 2007)
and ask what queer theory and queer identities might teach us about how
our experiences and histories shape our pedagogy (Warren, 2011).
Personal narrative engages the politics of voice. Through our co-constructed
personal narratives, we co-perform spaces of possibility where our queer
identities and critical politics can talk back to hegemonic, heteronormative,
and homonormative discourses (Corey, 1998, 2006). Additionally, our nar-
ratives affectively provide spaces for connection and understanding across
difference. Even though our positionalities differ, our shared experiences of
queerness, coupled with an affect of Otherness in academia offer a bridge
to alliance. We use our narratives to demonstrate the complex and careful
negotiations between identities and alliance building. While identity politics
have come under critique as essentialist or outdated, we use this oppor-
tunity to demonstrate that identities do still matter. Scholars such as Yep
(2003) have called for a move to explore queer diasporas. While this work
is not about queer diaspora, we operate in the spirit of using queerness as
a point of connection across differences while honoring our intersectional
identities. Scholars such as Pérez and Goltz (2010) have explored the pos-
sibility of queer alliances across difference; however, we put this work in
conversation with discourses of neoliberalism and critical communication
The power of personal narrative has been thoroughly explored in per-
formance studies, and has also been theorized as an important part of
identity and agency in critical pedagogy. Drawing on these two fields of
study, we seek to use our personal narratives to counter the master narra-
tives that shape and proscribe our experiences and performances within the
academy (Corey, 1998). Additionally, we acknowledge that our narratives,
and those of our students, can be read against totalizing narratives in order to
Contesting Neoliberalism 963
resist and transform them (McLaren, 1995). The political possibilities further
lie when those from different positionalities might be able to bodily expe-
rience or understand an other identity. We complicate this moment further
through intersectional reflexivity.
As practitioners of critical communication pedagogy, we embrace the
call for self-reflexivity (Fassett & Warren, 2007). As scholars of culture, we
are also committed to scholarship that explores intersections of identities.
Although we acknowledge that, ideally, intersectionality would be reflex-
ive and vice versa, we also know that these terms are conceptualized
and employed in many different ways. Jones (2010) notes that “engaging
in intersectional reflexivity requires one to acknowledge one’s intersecting
identities, both marginalized and privileged, and then employ self-reflexivity,
which moves one beyond self-reflection to the often uncomfortable level
of self-implication” (p. 122). Additionally, intersectional reflexivity should
inform the research process and be present in the final scholarly product.
Our narratives, through intersectional reflexivity, acknowledge our privi-
leges and disadvantages as well as the power of our positions in academia.
As educators we have the power to plant subversive, potentially transfor-
mative seeds of thought in the minds of our students, but we also have
the privilege to retreat to the banking model of education, where we are
more likely to be lauded than questioned. In working toward intersectional
reflexivity we resist potential interpellation by discourses of neoliberalism
that have infected the academy, including those that may tokenize or scru-
tinize us. As Nast and Pulido (2000) warn, our commitment to oppositional
multiculturalism upsets the desire for universities to preserve consumer and
corporate interests and socially nonconflictual climates and will likely cast
us as trangressives and incite classroom–institutional harassment. Although
our alliance is strengthened by the resolve of our resistance, through
intersectional reflexivity we hold our bodies accountable to the ways we
might also be complicit in neoliberal ideologies.
In writing the personal we further consider the ways our intersec-
tionalities or positionalities may be used to advocate for our students and
ourselves. Alcoff (2003), Calafell (2008, 2010a), and Hu-DeHart (2000) have
given testimony to the ways in which issues of race, class, gender, and sex-
uality permeate the academy. We follow a methodological vein forged by
scholars such as Alexander (1999), Calafell (2010a, 2010b), Patton (2004),
and Taylor (2000), who have each used their own experiences to offer
complex critiques of the academy by unpacking moments of rupture, in
which they have been forced to examine how we are implicated and situ-
ated within what Hill Collins (2000) terms the matrix of domination. Further,
we engage in self-reflexivity, as a tool through which those of us marked as
Other can begin to intervene in our own complicity of the perpetuation of
the status quo by unpacking the politics inherent in our lived experience—
in our narratives. Our self-reflexivity also opens up a space for dialogue
964 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
with one another as we engage in a form of Conquergood’s (1985) dialogic
performance that calls us to not only hear the Other’s perspective, but also
be accountable to it. Martinez (2003) challenges scholars to exercise self-
reflexivity because our daily lives affect how we approach our research,
teaching, and service whether we are conscious of it or not. Even con-
summate critical pedagogy scholars have been critiqued for not practicing
the self-reflexivity about which they write. Fassett and Warren (2007) note,
regarding McLaren’s (1997) rejection of Whiteness and avowal of a brown
identity, that “being a critical scholar not about escaping your implica-
tion or complicity in systems of power, but, rather, about living there in that
uncomfortable space” (p. 88).
Liberalism, rooted in the philosophies of the Enlightenment, has worked
to reinscribe the “virtues” of “individuality, autonomy, and moral self-
development,” (Parekh, 2005, p. 81) which are still present within
neoliberalism and affect our institutions of learning and society in general.
Neoliberal ideology is inherently contradictory, as it “is both egalitarian and
inegalitarian, it stresses both the unity of mankind [sic] and the hierarchy
of cultures, it is both tolerant and intolerant, peaceful and violent, prag-
matic and dogmatic, skeptical and self-righteous” (p. 82). We see some of
these contradictions play out in the following ways: neoliberalism’s col-
lusion with late-capitalism creates an ostensible level playing field, but
only for those with the monetary capital to enter the game; countries
and people are brought closer through technology and trade, but the dig-
ital divide and neocolonialism reinforce the longstanding hegemony of
the West; and, finally, from all these practices results the epistemic and
physical violence inherent in a system that privileges some and oppresses
others. The violent potential of neoliberalism is also noted by Bourdieu
(as cited in McLaren, 2003, p. 156), who makes the bold claim that the
gospel of neoliberalism will not hesitate to destruct any obstacle in its
quest for maximization of profit. As such, the quest for profit has infiltrated
higher education, as the move toward privatization makes higher education
resemble a corporate/competitive model.1Neoliberal ideologies in higher
education mirror the neoliberal policies of privatization and commercial-
ization that have swept around the world. Although, universities were not
key in creating neoliberal policies and ideologies, they have directly and
indirectly endorsed such policies (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004, p. 20).2
Neoliberal ideologies also infiltrate higher education’s diversity ini-
tiatives through a turn toward corporate multiculturalism that “prepare[s]
students to become workers culturally adept in laboring or exploiting oth-
ers’ labor in a global economy” (Nast & Pulido, 2000, p. 725). Further, by
adopting corporate multiculturalism, which frames diversity as entertaining
Contesting Neoliberalism 965
and unproblematic, faculty who bring up issues of difference that “cause
student-consumers discomfort” or who “oppose a profitseeking ethos” may
“find themselves without institutional support, facing a hostile student [and
administrative] population” (pp. 722–723). McLaren (as cited in hooks, 1994),
derides “conservative and liberal [models] of multiculturalism ... because
when we try to make culture an undisputed space of harmony and agree-
ment ...we forget that all knowledge is forged in histories that are played
out in the field of social antagonisms” (p. 31). Rather than critical histori-
cization, called for above by McLaren, the view of multiculturalism that
prevails on many campuses is more about numbers than inclusion (Williams,
Berger, & McClendon, 2005).
Neoliberalism’s privileging of individualism and personal responsibility
also influences notions of culture and identity. These discourses manifest
in political rhetoric and policies that call for dismantling social welfare pro-
grams (Kotz, 2002) and reducing other “entitlements” such as health care,
and social security (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004, p. 309). When identity is
seen as fixed, stable, and emanating from within an individual, it is much
easier to blame that person for their problems. As is often the problem
with discussions of race, the individual is put in the spotlight while systemic
and institutionalized oppressive practices remain uncritiqued. For example,
following the 2008 election, neoliberalism manifested prominently through
the lens of postracism (Ono, 2010). This disguised racism can manifest in
the classroom through students who deny the existence of racism, citing as
proof that an African American man has been elected president. Ignoring
the complexity of the situation or larger social and cultural contexts, their
discourses deny racism, “overlaying it with an upbeat discourse about how
things were never really that bad, are not so bad now, and are only getting
better” (Ono, 2010, p. 227).
In addition to infiltrating diversity initiatives, neoliberal ideologies
explicitly interfere with critical pedagogy in that they infiltrate and effect
policy related to teacher education programs.3One aspect of critical teacher
education that has come under suspicion is social justice oriented curricula
(Sleeter, 2008). Spurring such suspicion is a general resistance to discussing
systemic issues of oppression. In regards to postracism, Ono (2010) argues
that denial of racism manifests itself in several forms including minimization,
which casts racism as no longer important. This can further lead to charges
of “reverse racism,” which is “said to be perpetuated primarily by people
of color” (p. 229). This strategy allows individuals to perform “strategic
racial moves that help to avoid and ignore racism’s past and present effects,
including their very own performances” (p. 229, emphasis in original; see
also Nakayama & Krizek, 1995; Warren, 2001).
Undergirding postracism discourses are clear connections to class,
which are built on neoliberalism’s privileging of individualism and auton-
omy vis-à-vis the myth of meritocracy. Noting the intersections of race and
966 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
class, hooks (1994) states that some people believe “that conditions of social
equality are solidly in place [and] would enable any Black person who works
hard to achieve economic self-sufficiency” (p. 29). Again, the focus on indi-
viduals allows us to internally attribute a person’s failures or successes and
ignore external factors. If one buys into the myth of meritocracy, then the
underlying assumption is that people who do not succeed are either not
industrious or indolent. In the classroom, students can and do embody
neoliberal voices such as postracism or charges of reverse racism. When
we, as critical educators, question these assumptions, we invite the charge
from students, administrators, colleagues, and the like, that we are politiciz-
ing what should be a neutral space. Although we know the classroom is not
a neutral space (Fassett & Warren, 2007; hooks, 1994), we must still deal with
the practicalities of the effects of such resistance on our pedagogical goals.
For some time I had been looking forward to teaching a graduate semi-
nar on women of color feminist writers. It was a dream class; a class that
centered the experiences of women of color feminists, not simply includ-
ing them as supplemental in a larger discussion of feminist theory (i.e.,
mainstream White feminism). Initially I worried about whether the class
would make. Would the majority White graduate student body at my uni-
versity be interested in the voices of women of color? I also worried that
the class would be appropriated by students who saw this as opportunity
to engage in “training” strategies for dealing with Others. I was happily
surprised when the class not only filled, but I had students asking to be
added despite enrollment limits. The class drew students from across dis-
ciplines. What I wasn’t prepared for the constant fight to center Whiteness
by some of the White women in the class and the desire to center hetero-
sexuality by some of the straight identified women in the class. While the
class did have a few women of color, the majority of students enrolled
were White women, save one biracial man. The struggle to center women
of color’s voices, not only in the texts that we read, but also in allowing the
few women of color in the class to speak, was exhausting. Furthermore,
I was continually cognizant of not allowing other students to try to make
the women of color speak as “experts” of their communities. The class was
quite literally a labor of love.
Reflecting on the experience I can see the ways neoliberal or postracist
attitudes shaped some of what happened in the classroom. This mani-
fested in the continual struggle by some students to re-center Whiteness, a
lack of reflexivity about standpoints, and an undercurrent of heteronor-
mativity that I and the few queer students had to continually challenge.
Even when many of texts were written by queer women who centered their
queerness, often students would re-center it toward heteronormativity by
discussing their own straight relational histories. My outing of myself as
queer had little effect on getting some students to move past their het-
eronormativity. But nothing shook me more than the resistance I faced
Contesting Neoliberalism 967
from one student in particular, Jenny. I had met Jenny the summer before
the class started when she came to my office to discuss the possibility of tak-
ing classes in my department. Jenny, was a White, straight, second year
graduate student in Education, with a specific focus on “multicultural”
curriculum and instruction. Jenny shared her dissatisfaction with her
current program for the lack of critical offerings; thus, she hoped our
department could augment this. After mapping a possible course of
study in our program Jenny decided she would start by taking my
Given the amount of time Jenny had staked in investing in the depart-
ment, I had assumed she would be an active participant in the seminar.
This, however, this was not the case. Throughout the quarter she had sat
quietly and smugly with an ambivalent and bored look on her face. She
never spoke unless she had to. A very charitable reading of her behav-
ior could be that she wanted to give others space to talk or that she did
not feel that she had the authority to speak. All I knew about her was
that she was interested in multicultural education and that her husband
was “Hispanic.” Whenever she used this term I cringed, especially since
we had read several authors that deconstructed the term, pointing to its
offensiveness. It was not my intention to rob her of the ability to use the
term, but in a critical classroom environment where it had been decon-
structed, and was clearly offensive to me, a Latina professor, I expected a
bit more sensitivity.
As the quarter progressed an essay written by a Jewish woman raised
by lesbian parents resonated with Jenny, and, suddenly, for the first time,
she spoke more than a few sentences. I was extremely pleased and hoped
that this was a sign that she was finally connecting with the material.
The next class a student was facilitating discussion, and the readings
for the day focused on perspectives of Arab and Arab American fem-
inists. Part of the student’s facilitation included a fishbowl exercise in
which four students would sit in the center of the circle and discuss the
readings while the rest of the class listened. When it was time for Jenny
to sit in the fishbowl she was partnered with a Moroccan woman, and
two White women. As the Moroccan student, Marina, began speaking
about her reactions to the readings, the other White women in the group
started engaging her. In the midst of her talking, Jenny shifted the conver-
sation so that it was no longer about Marina’s reaction to the readings,
but instead became about her own experience as a White multicultural
educator and the challenges she faced. I sat horrified, Marina looked
frustrated, and some of the other students showed embarrassment about
the shift in the course of the discussion. Once the fishbowl was over and
the facilitator asked if we had comments, I took the opportunity to high-
light the way Whiteness was recentered in the conversation. I assumed
Jenny, as a “good” multicultural educator would be amenable to my
comments and see this as a learning experience. This was far from the
case. As I shared my comments, Jenny began to cut me off explaining
that she was not “doing that.” Jenny illustrated “the danger of thinking
you got it” ( Warren, 2010). Then she began to cry. As a woman of
968 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
color and critical educator/researcher I am no stranger to this tactic.
In fact, I have written about it before ( Calafell, 2010b) and experienced
this many times over in my life as a graduate student, untenured fac-
ulty member, and now tenured faculty. This strategy is often used by
White women in the classroom and in other professional settings against
antiracist women of color, as it deflects blame and guilt, instead “vic-
timizing” the White woman while centering Whiteness and reaffirming
the savage Otherness of women of color. It also often functions as an
opportunity for White women to reinforce the bonds of their privilege with
White men through the role of innocent victim who must be protected
from Otherness. Historically, as we have seen White womanhood must be
protected at all costs ( Hill Collins, 2000). This manifestation of postracism
elides histories and casts those who are marginalized as the aggressors or
As the class ended, Jenny whimpered out of the room. Little did I know
this would be the last I would see of her. I went home bothered by the
experience, wondering if I had been too hard, wondering if I expected too
much from graduate students ...Had I expected too much from Jenny?
Had I assumed she would be open to constructive criticism because she
claimed to be committed to issues of difference? Was our understand-
ing of difference and antiracist pedagogy that different? These questions
flooded my mind throughout the night. The next day, when I logged onto
Blackboard, I discovered that Jenny had dropped the class. Eight weeks of
a 10-week quarter were easily dismissed with the click of a drop button.
I heard from a few other students that Jenny had emailed them trying
to rally them against me. All of this from a White woman educator who
described herself as committed to “antiracist pedagogy.” I was angered
and embarrassed. The questions I asked myself earlier remained. Had
I expected too much? Was I too naïve? This was the first class I taught after
being tenured; however, my level of vulnerability pre-tenure remained.
What does tenure mean when you are a queer Chicana feminist educa-
tor? What are the privileges tenure affords you in this situation? How does
the privilege of tenure factor in when you sit in a classroom where every
day is a struggle not to center Whiteness and heteronormativity? What
does it mean when daily you must put your queer and brown body on
the line, often suffering substantial pain in the process?
Furthermore, I began to wonder if the class and Jenny’s larger program
of “multicultural curriculum” was more about cultural cache in the con-
temporary climate. Was there also an economic desire that drove her entry
into and eventual “mastery” of the subject? Did she believe that because
she was married to a “Hispanic” man and academically invested in these
discourses that she was above critique? Did she desire multiculturalism on
her own terms, and when they were challenged, cast me as the problem?
I became individualized as the problem, not a larger system of power.
My frustration with the situation increased when I would later find out
that Jenny continued to pursue a professional relationship with a White
woman colleague who also did work in culture. Elsewhere I have written
with two of my former White women colleagues who actively practiced
Contesting Neoliberalism 969
an understanding of intersectionality and coalitional politics, about the
ways White women in academia are often positioned in departments as
“good” versus their “bad” women of color colleagues (Faulkner, Calafell, &
Grimes, 2009). It was happening again.
Through neoliberal discourses, certain bodies become privileged while
others become pathologized (Calafell, 2007, 2010a), and the hierarchy of
identities that is created is validated, as neoliberalism facilitates some peo-
ple’s movement through spaces and hinders those who are marked as Other.
In the above narrative, we can see how ideologies of individualism—and the
privileges and discourses of blame that come with it—cast Jenny as the vic-
tim and the Other as aggressor. However, the framework of neoliberalism
and late-capitalism paradoxically creates discursive spaces for anyone with
enough monetary capital to purchase and cultivate unique identities. These
differentiated identities (Giddens, 1991) are commodified in that they are
created around and by product consumption. In this sense, gay cultural
identity, complete with the niche marketing and commodities that come
with it, becomes more visible and ostensibly included in society. However,
cultural critics question the legitimacy of such inclusion. Hill Collins (2004)
questions this strategy in regards to representations of African Americans to
argue that visibility in the media is often uncritically equated with gained
power, and new packaging of quasi-feminist ideologies are often just as
oppressive, if not more so than patriarchal ideologies. Additionally, Sender
(2006) makes a similar claim about the Bravo cable network’s Queer Eye
for the Straight Guy, which has been likened to a form of gay minstrelsy in
a format laden with consumerism, product placement, and corporate spon-
sorship. We are particularly troubled by the conflation of consumerism and
citizenship in neoliberalism, which may lead society at large to celebrate
consumer inclusion as a civil and human rights victory.
This type of superficial commercial inclusion is sometimes mirrored
in the academy in that difference and diversity are lauded and some-
times resourced at curricular and extracurricular levels. As Hu-DeHart (2000)
argues, universities may desire other bodies, but do little to change academic
cultures, as others are instead expected to assimilate. Others, are included or
tolerated to the extent that they remain docile, unthreatening, and invested
in self-commodification rather than queer or in your face. Those who defy
expectations of middle-class Whiteness civility and heteronormativity are
often disciplined for their failure or desire to perform within the hegemonic
order (Calafell, 2008; 2010a, 2010b; hooks, 1994). We question the motives
and outcomes of such inclusion in higher education.
970 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
Aside from being told, “Having a gay friend is cool!” by a popular cheer-
leader in high school who had only recently started talking to me, I’d
never really thought of my gay identity as commodified. In fact, I, like
many others, thought it was pretty revolutionary when Ellen came out
on her show when I was in high school, and when Will and Grace
became a big hit. It wasn’t until graduate school, when a more critical
consciousness germinated, that I began to question certain parts of my
There is some irony in the fact that the institutions that exposed me to
critical and queer theory are so resistant to incorporating them. As one
of my queer, Chicano, dissertation participants put it when discussing his
exposure to Chicana/o studies, “The White university taught me how to
be brown.” It is also in the context of academia that I’ve learned to use
my queerness as capital, while being cognizant of the limited and con-
ditional discursive space I was granted. However, I have an additional
degree of passing privilege in that I can choose, in some situations, how
high to wave my queer flag, if I choose to display it at all. Although queer-
ness permeates my identities, my performances are not always already
marked as marginal because my White, male privileged identities can be
overshadowing. It’s within this dialectic between passing and resistance
that I’ve brushed against and felt the pull of neoliberal ideologies.
As an ambitions academic, there have been many occasions on which
I’ve decided to strategically use the unearned entitlements that come with
my White, male privilege. I’ve never had problems attaining leadership
roles on campus and in the community. People seem to want to listen to
me. I’ve also learned that, in these situations, people read me as norma-
tive rather than queer. I actually had a former colleague who worked in
multicultural student affairs tell me that she thought I was a graduate
student in the business school and probably a Republican when she first
met me. I began to wonder if I was playing the game a little too well. Was
I becoming one of “those people” who gets some power, some recognition
and wakes up one day a conservative? I questioned to what extent I felt
accountable to intervene in the way people read me.
I was a key player in getting gender identity and gender expression
added to the non-discrimination policy at our university. No one really
questioned my motives, or presumed I had an activist agenda. When we
presented the case to the board of trustees, I don’t think the social justice
implications really mattered to them. What they found most persuasive
on our executive summary was the comparison to our aspirational peers
and the idea that including this language would put us in a group of pro-
gressive universities, bringing good publicity and more profits. I reflected
on the ease with which I slipped into PR/marketing mode, and, hon-
estly, how surprisingly comfortable I felt in that mode. Even though I was
uncomfortable—as a person with a working class background from rural
Appalachia—sitting in a literal mansion (where our Trustees met) and
wearing a “White man power suit,” I felt good about this instance of
undercover queerness for the purposes of passing a policy important to me
Contesting Neoliberalism 971
as a queer activist and trans-ally. But it’s largely through the power vested
in me through my privileges that I was able to access that space. What
could I have done to queer that space more? How much queerness could
that space tolerate? How much of myself am I willing to suppress in order
to “play the game?” How am I complicit in perpetuating neoliberalism
because I relied on arguments based on corporate competition?
We know that tactics of resistance can be co-opted and turned or sub-
sumed into hegemonic strategies (DeCerteau, 1984). I see this happen
regularly when people “think they got it” and begin to avow their work
as critical. As a basic course director, I incorporate critical pedagogy
into the training of my graduate teaching assistants, and I’ve had to
explain to them that not assigning a grade on a minute paper isn’t criti-
cal pedagogy. I’ve explained to colleagues that doing research on lesbian
mothers doesn’t instantly make your research agenda critical or queer.
I’ve reviewed numerous conference papers and journal submissions that
poorly attempt auto-ethnography by using the personal voice without con-
necting to the theoretical or methodological genealogy that informs it. The
academy will gladly open up a small and tolerated space for alternative
discourses. However, it should never be forgotten that the space has been
granted as a placation, in an attempt to legitimate, sanitize, surveil, and
perhaps co-opt.
The above personal narratives address the ways in which neoliberal ideolo-
gies affect our experiences within higher education. Our bodies are desired
because they fulfill diversity initiatives and because our expertise in culture
and communication can be spun as a recruiting tool attracting tuition dol-
lars from domestic and international students, which, in turn, can develop a
“financially strong and internationalized alumni base” (Nast & Pulido, 2000,
p. 725). Otherness is often seen as a means to further someone else’s agenda;
however, when we do not always react or perform appropriately we are dis-
ciplined (such as in the case of Jenny). Additionally, we are aware of our
abilities to act as shapeshifters or tricksters who play with and against the
very tools that the academy tries to use against us, such as in the discussion
of the presentation to the board of trustees or the ability to use one’s White
male identity to challenge systems of oppression. As Others, we recognize
the challenges and possibilities the we face in the academy.
While critical pedagogy seeks to unite teacher and student, we are
aware that suspicion by colleagues, administrators, and other students
regarding activist-oriented pedagogy, social-justice oriented curriculum,
and close mentoring relationships impedes transformational ally building
(Calafell, 2007). Moments that rupture this layer of suspicion prove to be
powerful moments of teaching and learning. Freire (1970/2003) stresses the
fostering of solidarity between teacher and student through communication.
972 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
However, we are careful to follow the heed of Torres (2003), who chal-
lenges Freire’s notions, which do not always work, particularly in the
context of historically marginalized faculty teaching privileged students. She
writes, “Dealing with the sensitivities, hostilities, and defensiveness of priv-
ileged students cannot be my full time concern. It robs marginalized and
oppressed students of my attention and takes valuable time away from their
engagement in the learning process” (Torres, 2003, p. 91).
Our locations on the borders of society and identity sometimes offer
us an escape from surveillance. But, as we know, even though the eco-
nomic policies of neoliberalism open borders for the purposes of trade
(whether trafficking goods, services, or even human beings), the individual-
ism and xenophobia that comes with neoconservatism increases the border
patrol. The borders we traverse are “historically constructed and socially
organized within maps of rules and regulations that serve to either limit or
enable particular identities, individual capacities, and social forms” (Giroux,
2005, p. 136). Sometimes a student, like Jenny, may act as a border patrol
McLaren (1995) defines border identities as “narratives and counternar-
ratives which we choose to enact ... in the context of our everyday,
mundane practical existence” (p. 106). While McLaren’s conceptualization
of narrative captures the potential for resistance inherent in personal narra-
tives that we privilege in our scholarship, his discussion of border identities
differs from ours, which is based on the work of queer feminists of color like
Anzaldúa (1999).4In spite of this difference, we highlight McLaren’s concept
here because of its connection to affect and neoliberal consumerism: “Border
identities are anchored in and are the outcome of those social practices that
configure experience and shape affective investment in such experience
in relation to narratives of liberation which challenge the market identities
produced by the New Right’s narratives of consumer citizenship” (McLaren,
1995, p. 106). As demonstrated in Calafell (2007), affective connections
across difference, even constructed hierarchical differences are important,
particularly in mentoring relationships between faculty and students of
color. These affective connections offer spaces for possibility, transgression,
and home-place in a university setting that does not welcome Otherness
(Calafell, 2007).
She has been missing a lot of class ever since that day. It was the day
we discussed Denzel Washington and Anthony Hopkins. She said that
Washington winning the Oscar for playing a villain was just the same
as Hopkins winning for Hannibal Lecter. This, after months of critical
scholarship and months of her protests as she refused to acknowledge
her privileges as a heterosexual White woman. I finally told her she had
missed the point. After weeks of not coming to class she returned, embold-
ened. She started being obviously rude to me in class. The uncomfortable
Contesting Neoliberalism 973
tension filled the room. Students seemed unsure of how to react. I asked
her to step out in the hallway and the screaming match began.
“You’ve made me look like a White racist bitch!”
“You’re not going to pull that on me ...that’s a common tactic used
by White students to disempower women of color in the classroom.” Did
I really say that? Yes, I did.
Across the hall, the department’s “star faculty” peered out his door in
amusement, but did nothing to help the situation. Only, when I talked
to my teaching supervisor for the class, a queer White man, did someone
get it. In fact, he was mortified. We sat in his office, and reveled in this
moment of connection born out of our shared experiences of difference in
the academy, and the classroom in particular. This was a place of safety
with one of the first professors who taught me queer theory and about
being queer in the academy.
Our conceptualization of queer consciousness is informed by the work of
queer scholars of color who have critiqued the lack of inclusion and reflex-
ivity in much of queer theory (Cohen, 2005; E. P. Johnson, 2003; Ross, 2005).
The exclusive focus on the hetero/homosexual binary of early queer theory
left out people who are heterosexual but may also be queer in terms of how
their multiple identities, aside from sexual orientation, impact their lived
experience. Cohen (2005) instructively explains the failures of both identity
politics and queer opposition to identity politics and, drawing on Hill Collins
(2000), provides an alternative to single-identity-based politics by presenting
a more intersectional view of queerness that accounts for multiple identi-
ties and how power and agency operate within those identities. Rather than
focusing exclusively on heterosexism, Cohen (2005) calls for a broader theo-
retical framework based in social justice when she states “queer activists who
evoke a single-oppression framework misrepresent the distribution of power
within and outside of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered communi-
ties, and therefore limit the comprehensive and transformational character of
queer politics” (p. 25). Cohen proposes a framework where identification is
achieved in terms of relative power position rather than sociocultural iden-
tity. Rather than organizing around the reductive and exclusive categories of
heterosexual and homosexual, Cohen suggests coalitional activism. Similarly,
Yep (2003) demonstrates the violence of heteronormativity on individuals of
all sexual orientations, again moving toward the possibility of coalitional
As a first generation college student, I didn’t have much guidance in
terms of preparing for college. However, my innate curiosity and often
involuntary social isolation led me to reading and research as a hobby.
974 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
Part of what spurred my growth as an organic intellectual was the drive
to make sense out of the mess of identities inside me. In graduate school,
I was exposed to queer theory. I was immediately attracted to its post-
modern, and cerebral challenges to my ways of thinking. Through my
readings, I began to see that some of the critiques I had of my own gay
identity, and gay culture in general, were echoed in and validated by
queer theory—critiques of political apathy, assimilationist rhetoric, and
commercialization, for example. When I entered my doctoral program,
I decided to explicitly change my identification from gay to queer. As a
result, I experienced some negative backlash from community members,
and some of my friends. Intellectually, the move was intriguing and satis-
fying. Emotionally, it was like a second coming out. I had gotten a little too
comfortable, too complacent, as a gay man, and was now thrown back
into a space of liminality and messiness—a space that I love because it’s
creative and dynamic ...but a space that has also been uncomfortable
and lonely. Writing has often been an outlet for the regular confusion
and occasional realizations that resulted from my reading and research
on issues of culture and identity. As I dug, excavated, and unpacked my
memories, I discovered that I had a history of questioning the identities
I was encouraged to uncritically consume—often with similarly negative
results to my reidentification as queer. Now, I theorize that my ongoing
experiences of incongruency were germinal seeds for the development of
a queer consciousness—moments of incongruency such as: being the gay
Southern Baptist who later renounced Christianity; being physically and
verbally assaulted because I was the supposed-to-be-redneck who instead
sat with and talked to Black kids on the bus and later identifies as an
anti-racist; and being a gay man who resists assimilation. Although these
embodied experiences of queerness predate my exposure to queer theory,
I carry their significance in my flesh.
As Darder (2003) recounts, Freire (2003) also espoused such a view of
coalitional activism in his commitment to alliance over identity politics.
We find it productive to bring together conversations regarding queer theory,
intersectionality, and critical pedagogy in order to highlight their important
similarities. Our ongoing experiences of incongruency with various cultural
and social identities and the consciousness-raising that resulted relates to
Carrillo Rowe’s (2008) scholarship on feminist alliances, which draws on and
extends Segrest’s work on belonging. Carrillo Rowe (2008) describes a pro-
cessual development of self and consciousness. While we share narratives
of salient moments regarding our identities, we consciously avoid thinking
of these narratives as linear and final, which is an academic convention of
Western ways of thinking and writing (Trinh, 1989). Presenting linear narra-
tives as finite and discrete signifiers of the meaning of our queer identities
would go against conceptualizations of queer as unstable and fluctuating,
and would be incongruent with the politics of the performance paradigm
we outlined earlier.
Contesting Neoliberalism 975
The first time I taught intercultural communication, I offered an optional
final exam as a way for students who may have not done well on the
other forms of assessment to improve their grade. On the day of the exam,
three students showed up. Two of them were the only White men in the
class. Throughout the semester, they had struggled with our discussions of
racism, classism, and privilege. They saw this as an opportunity to resist
what they probably assumed was my anti-White, anti-male agenda by
verbally marking their presence in the room. “Of course it’s the two White
guys who are here today,” they said. I thought, “I am a White man too,
doesn’t’ that make three of us?” I wasn’t hurt by their lack of identification
with me, but it was a salient moment of being marked in the class-
room as different from many of my White male students. Even though we
would check the same demographic boxes for race and gender on a sur-
vey or form, we perform Whiteness and maleness in different ways, and
I often find it difficult to see White straight men as potential allies. But
I must remember that my acknowledgement of my White privilege doesn’t
mean that those I may want to ally with who are marginalized because
of their race won’t have the same difficulties seeing me as a potential
As a critical scholar committed to reflexivity, I have moments of diffi-
culty reconciling the citationality of my body. For example, even as I work
to subvert masculinity through my queerness, the materiality of my body
carries with it the historical, political, social, and biological citationality
of masculinity (and patriarchy), which may be perceived as hegemonic
and/or threatening. The fact that I’m a feminist who has worked to edu-
cate other men about sexual assault doesn’t prevent some women from
crossing to the other side of the street at night as I near them on the walk
from my office to my car. They don’t know I also get a visceral sense of fear
and cross the street when I see a few male undergraduates approaching
me on the sidewalk at night. But I am aware that my male body signifies
to them the very same male aggression and male sexual violence that has
victimized me, so I acknowledge that their fear is valid and that my body
will always carry this baggage no matter how much of a feminist and
anti-violence advocate I am.
A question we are compelled to consider is, “What makes an ally?” An
alliance cannot be formed by the privileged transgressing a societal bound-
ary to interact with the marginalized. hooks (1994) recounts “interacting
with liberal White folks who believed that having a Black friend meant
that they were not racist, who sincerely believed that they were doing us a
favor by extending offers of friendly contact for which they felt they should
be rewarded” (p. 25). Jones (2010) also argues that allying oneself with
marginalized groups should not be a self-congratulatory effort. To be an
ally, one must not just be willing but feel compelled to face the daily epis-
temic and physical violence that threatens marginalized groups, Che Guevara
stated, “Solidarity means running the same risks” (Johnson & Bhatt, 2000,
976 R. G. Jones, Jr. and B. M. Calafell
p. 230). But how can we move toward more alliance building for the sake
of social justice in the face of neoliberalism?
Extending Alcoff’s (1991–1992) reminder to critically question political
accountability and positionality, Carrillo Rowe (2005) calls for a shift from
“I,” which “announces ‘I am ...’ to a sense of ‘self’ that is radically inclined
toward others, toward the communities to which we belong, with whom
we long to be, and to whom we feel accountable” (p. 18). This means
critically minded people, scholars and citizens, must move beyond an indi-
vidualized location, expanding their accountability from self, to others and
self. Through our narratives, we have traced how the development of queer
consciousness moved us toward alliance, which critiques the individualism
that so heavily influences and colonizes the imaginary within neoliberalism.
Our narratives also recount the pain and isolation that also comes with the
daunting task of bridging difference.
We find hope in Freire’s commitment to establishing critical networks
of educators to remake culture and “[confront] the devastating impact of
neoliberal economic and social policies” (Darder, 2003, p. 505). Jones
(2010) likened such critical networks to a “rhizomatic underground rail-
road” through which we may transport our radical ideas as critical educators
(p. 125). We also find inspiration in hooks’ (1994) reminder that our collec-
tive commitment to cultural diversity must not be squelched and take pause
in her attention to the reality that “we must accept the protracted nature
of our struggle and be willing to remain both patient and vigilant” (p. 33).
Our alliances may not always be perfect, but as critical scholars we must
find comfort in the messiness to be able to live with ourselves. Rather than
measuring our success on the perfection of our performance as a critical
scholar, “our solidarity must be affirmed by shared belief in a spirit of intel-
lectual openness that celebrates diversity, welcomes dissent, and rejoices in
collective dedication to truth” (p. 33).
While we are committed to the possibility of connections across difference
we also acknowledge that privilege may also play a factor in the ability to
forge coalitions. At times, we wonder what gets lost or sacrificed in prac-
tice rather than theory. Is too early to speak across differences when many
of us have yet to be heard and recognized, let alone see this in practice?
In the past, I have always understood the importance of coalition across
race and ethnicity, but for the first time understood the practice of femi-
nist coalitional politics when I worked side by side with two White women
colleagues to challenge a pattern of racism, sexism, and homophobia that
persisted in an academic setting. These women had not been as severely
subjected to the experiences I had, yet, they literally laid their bodies, rep-
utations, careers, and experiences on the line with me. They worked to try
to understand the affect of Otherness in the academy, and one queerly
understood it. They exhibited the ethics of love that should underlie coali-
tional politics across difference. Additionally, in a recent reflection upon
Contesting Neoliberalism 977
a continued collaboration with a feminist of color scholar, I continue to
be amazed by the care, support, mentoring, and ethics practiced in the
various ventures we have undertaken together. She continues to reaffirm
for me the importance of friendships among women of color in academia
and how these friendship can serve as a space to begin to start radi-
cal change in our academic environments. We must continue to work
toward coalition, but always with intersectional reflexivity driving our
moves, so that we may challenge ourselves even when we think we’ve got
it. We cannot allow ourselves the arrogance of mastery.
1. See White and Hauck’s (2000) edited volume, Campus, Inc.: Corporate Power in the Ivory Tower.
2. Just a few examples of how higher education has been commercialized include: expansion of
student loan programs that position students as consumers, passage of the Bayh-Dole law that allowed
universities to own and profit from faculty research, discouraging unionization, enacting policies that
allow for more adjunct faculty, and revising accreditation practices to approve for-profit colleges and
universities (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004, pp. 20–22).
3. See Groenke and Hatch’s (2009) edited volume, Critical Pedagogy and Teacher Education in
the Neoliberal Era.
4. For a detailed discussion of the differing conceptualizations, by McLaren and Anzaldúa, of
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... Oftentimes hiring historically underrepresented people in academic institutions feels like add-on only, without fundamentally shifting and transforming entrenched cultural hierarchies. Cultural othering cements the white dominance and serves to maintain the status quo practice within structures of numeric inclusion but perpetual marginalization of faculty of color (Delgado, 2009;Jones & Calafell, 2012). Treating faculty of color as add-ons without offering more resources and space for their presence and professional quality of life often hurts faculty of color and the students and peers of color that they mentor, personally and professionally, since they are burdened to absorb all diversity initiatives for the department and college. ...
... Latina/ o/ xs remain highly underrepresented in academia as faculty, administrators, and graduate students. For this reason, we internalize the social responsibility to be accountable for our intersectional reflexivity (Atay & Toyosaki, 2018;Jones & Calafell, 2012) as both educators and peers in the Latinx mentormentee dynamic. Being Latinx is even lonelier when considering the dearth of Latinxs in administration roles, and as more of us ascend the ranks, we must consider how Latinidad performances unfold on a very circumscribed, public stage (Delgado, 2009). ...
... We also labored toward providing a credible, dependable, and real account of ace and aro experiences, bolstered through multivocality (Linabary et al., 2017). Furthermore, we were constantly engaging in self-reflexivity toward how our own spectra of (a)sexual and (a)romantic sensibilities, alongside other features of identity, influenced our work (Eguchi & Long, 2019;Jones & Calafell, 2012). ...
Despite exploring other queer topics, communication scholars and rhetoricians are lacking in offering academic inquiries involving asexuality. We engaged in a critical thematic analysis of posts and comments posted from asexual and/or aromantic folks on the online communities of Reddit and AVEN, the Asexuality Visibility & Education Network. The analysis focused on three cultural tropes prominently used when describing asexual and aromantic folks, namely robots, aliens, and monsters. Our discussion centers asexual and aromantic voices and invites communication and rhetorical scholars to take steps in combating the allonormativity of our fields by centering the voices and experiences of intersectional aces and/or aros in their own research. We conclude with a call for an asexual and aromantic communication studies.
... It is further intensified by the myth that exposure to these themes produces a viral effect which corrupts those exposed to it. These myths and structures ensure that heterosexuality is seen as the only viable option to living life (Jones & Calafell, 2012). Even though there is a growing work addressing heterosexism and homophobia within classrooms, there is a lack of inclusion of identities and issues such as those related to the trans community. ...
Why are some conversations considered more difficult in learning spaces than others? What is the potential for educational interventions strengthen our capacities for such challenging conversations and for allyship? Guided by these broad questions, the present thesis focused on LGBTQIA2+ affirming education and sought to specifically test how an intentionally queer online learning experiences impacted the participants’ self-perceived allyship efficacies. In my thesis, I draw on literature exploring how the “civility, teacher immediacy, or teacher credibility” (Chen & Lawless, 2018, p. 376) of Western education has prevented instructors from bringing topics related to race, gender, immigration, sexuality, and others in the classroom and also how these topics impact different students differently (Scharrón-Del Río, 2018). However, despite the challenges faced by both instructors and students, literature also shows how it is more harmful, especially for students, when these topics are not being taught or explored in the classroom (Scharrón-Del Río, 2018). To address this issue, the current thesis implements Queer Communication Pedagogy (Atay & Pensoneau-Conway, 2020), which is a feminist educational approach, to develop learning materials countering the white cis-hetero dominance of western education. The project offers the LGBTQIA2+ Learning and Affirming Challenge implemented through the Fogler Library at University of Maine. My interest was to investigate how having an LGBTQIA2+ affirming curriculum impacts allyship towards LGBTQIA2+ population. A survey consisting of demographic questions and an allyship scale (Jones et al., 2014) was used to “assess the skills to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) persons, knowledge of the LGBT experience, awareness of LGBT oppression, and engagement in action among heterosexual allies to the LGBT community” (Jones et al., 2014, p. 181). Participants completed the survey before and after engaging in the LGBTQIA2+ Learning and Affirming Library Challenge. The data collected from those participants who completed both the surveys allowed us to conduct a paired samples t-test for each question in the allyship measure. The results of this survey along with the existing literature available helped us to understand how an educational intervention such as a curriculum developed using QCP can contribute towards positive differences in improving allyship competencies. Practically, this project provides content which can be incorporated in any academic discipline. In terms of research implications, it highlights how queering education is not an additional burden but something which can positively impact learning, respect, and knowledge production in the classroom and beyond. In addition to the positives, the research also poses the questions as to who benefits from a queer affirming curricula and how, especially since Western academia is dominated by white cis-heteronormativity, both in terms of content and in terms of representation among learners and educator.
... That also includes the field of communication in perpetuating allonormative rhetorics and assumptions even within queer communication (Brandley & Spencer, 2022). Broadening and deepening our disciplinary understanding of queer pedagogy through aceness help us recognize and celebrate intersectional differences among our students, peers, and communities (Faulkner et al., 2021;Jones & Calafell, 2012;Lewis, 2019;Ruiz-Mesa, 2021). ...
In this essay, we move towards theorizing an asexual-affirming communication pedagogy. We position asexual-affirming (or ace-affirming) communication pedagogy as having two core commitments: (1) challenging allonormativity and (2) creating ace-affirming spaces. In developing pedagogical praxis points for these commitments, we address the tensions of challenging allonormativity on stolen land and offer classroom interventions designed to affirm intersectionally diverse asexual-spectrum individuals and communities in popular communication courses including intercultural and gender communication, interpersonal and family communication, mass media, organizational communication, and health communication. We weave interview data from 20 asexual-spectrum individuals to support our theorizing towards our goal of worldmaking radically affirming classrooms, curricula, and communities.
... As Hawkins et al. ( 2014 , p. 341) note, 'academic life is closely associated with masculine characteristics such as being aggressive, competitive, rational and individualist, which end up drastically affecting our experience, 'progress' and 'success.' Now, more than ever, it is important that we take stock, begin conversations, and build coalitions about how to resist its assumed logic (see Jones and Calafell 2012 ). It is our hope that this book speaks to many scholars who are undertaking research with marginalized communities, or are themselves marginalized due to their position in the social structure. ...
... These data, together with the fact that inf luential positions are most frequently occupied by (white male) scholars over 60 years old, mean that early-stage scholars find it increasingly difficult to reach stable or non-precarious positions and to transgress the established operational dynamics. 1 In addition to labour structure inequalities, the process of marketization of universities contributes to the centralization-and, consequently, marginalization-of certain epistemologies, approaches, fields, and even methodologies (see Jones & Calafell, 2012). In other words, the marketized university is designed to legitimize and normalize certain epistemologies, perspectives, and fields, while silencing and side-lining emergent, critical, or innovative approaches that may challenge its neoliberal logics. ...
In this paper, we illustrate the usefulness of intersectional reflexivity as an approach for researchers to reflect on their role with more nuance. This approach highlights the importance of reflexivity accounts engaging in more nuanced reflection that considers how intersecting socially constructed categories of difference are mobilized during research exchanges to negotiate positionality and the resulting instances of researcher privilege and disadvantage. We exemplify the value of intersectional reflexivity by using our own experiences as ethnic minority women researchers in patriarchal settings to show that gendered, racio-ethnicized, aged, and classed dynamics in interactions and exchanges are not immediately obvious. We argue that a purposeful framework that embeds the intersectional lens into reflexive efforts is needed to understand researcher experiences as riddled with both privilege and disadvantage, where both researchers and participants have power and invoke particular intersectional identities to reposition themselves and each other in their interactions. The paper calls for more attention to the co-constructed nature of research exchanges to inform the way the researcher's self-accountability is problematized and reported.
This study is based on an undergraduate course on intercultural conflict and community building, which was grounded in critical intercultural communication pedagogy (CICP) and included a two-day, over-night, off-campus retreat. Three themes were critically analyzed and problematized in student retreat reflection paper discourse: celebrating difference and plurality, emphasizing similarity over differences, and building community: tools and tensions. Students praised individuals’ pluralistic cultural identities and differences, described spaces of connection primarily through the identification of similarities, and described communication practices such as sharing culturally-based visions and narratives in community building and intercultural conflict management. Bringing together frameworks for critical reflexivity and critical communities within CICP, the conception of critical intercultural communities becomes an important way to define, orient, and teach intercultural communication, conflict and community building.
Critical reflexivity, situated in a critical communication pedagogy framework, enables students and instructors to critique their identity positions alongside broader contextual structures enmeshed within the dynamics of intercultural conflict. This study therefore examines undergraduate students’ discourses of critical reflexivity following a retreat workshop experience in an intercultural conflict course. After collecting data through reflection papers, we found uneven understandings and applications of critical reflexivity that reflect the potential of critical reflexivity in helping students to question various assumptions about themselves and others but also the challenges of disrupting dominant ideologies such as individualism to increase understanding of structural factors.
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"I wish to make two claims in this article. One is that multicultural education has largely refused to acknowledge how imperialism, colonialism, and the transnational circulation of capitalism influences the ways in which many oppressed minority groups cognitively map their paradigm of democracy in the United States. The other claim is that the present focus on diversity in multicultural education is often misguided because the struggle for ethnic diversity makes progressive political sense only if it can be accompanied by a sustained analysis of the cultural logics of white supremacy; While these two claims mutually inform each other, it is the latter claim that will occupy most of the space in this article."
The chapters in this edited collection make it clear that critical teacher educators are aware of neoliberalism and its profound impact on public schools and university-based teacher preparation programs. They know the deleterious effects of macro-level, neoliberal forces on the local and particular teaching contexts where they are trying to do critical pedagogical work. The authors describe the havoc NCLB has wreaked, especially on minority and ELL students; the pressures university-based teacher preparation programs feel to align themselves with neoliberal agendas; and the frustration of knowing that critical work is not always valued, supported, or understood in academe. Yet all of the authors in this book persist, finding or creating "small openings" in their contexts that foster the critical reflection, intellectual engagement, and examination of alternative paradigms that help beginning teachers pursue deeper understandings about schooling in a democratic society. They describe these openings here.
"… methodologically innovative… precise and perceptive and conscious… " -Text and Performance Quarterly "Woman, Native, Other is located at the juncture of a number of different fields and disciplines, and it genuinely succeeds in pushing the boundaries of these disciplines further. It is one of the very few theoretical attempts to grapple with the writings of women of color." -Chandra Talpade Mohanty "The idea of Trinh T. Minh-ha is as powerful as her films… formidable… " -Village Voice "… its very forms invite the reader to participate in the effort to understand how language structures lived possibilities." -Artpaper "Highly recommended for anyone struggling to understand voices and experiences of those ‘we’ label ‘other’." — Religious Studies Review.