“Doing Just Enough to Get By”: Voices of Black Women Early Career Academics on Navigating the Publish or Perish Discourse in South Africa
Keywords:Early career academic, higher education, transformation, decolonisation, publish or perish, neoliberalism
In this article, we focus on the narratives of black women early career academics (ECAs) who are confronting and negotiating the “publish or perish” discourse in their professional lives in the university. Through a qualitative interpretivist case study, we purposively recruited and interviewed 10 education academics in one research-intensive university in South Africa. We relied on Nancy Fraser’s social justice framework to think through and to theorise the complex positionality of black women academics in a South African university. The findings reveal that black women ECAs often have challenges when it comes to research and publication, with some of the participants rejecting the publish or perish mantra, questioning the usefulness of publishing, and to what extent their own research will make a societal impact. The findings also reveal the deeply embedded patriarchal and gendered nature of the publish or perish discourse in how it disregards the role of wife/motherly/societal care work that women academics often perform. We end the article with broader reflections on the emergence of the publish and perish discourse in the South African higher education system and its implications for the attraction, retention, and wellbeing of black women ECAs in the sector.
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