Gender and Sexuality in the Neoliberal University Conference

This year has been different for all of us. Most academic conferences moved online and fared pretty well there. Although, I must admit that self-identifying as an online enthusiast clashed with my vision of such professional gatherings. Lack of coffee breaks and spaces conducive to small talks and making new academic friends was a massive downside. Nevertheless, together with Joanna Chojnicka, we signed up for the groundbreaking conference bringing up issues of gender and sexuality in the tertiary level education sector. Gender and sexuality in the neoliberal conference was organised jointly by De Montfort University and the University of Birmingham between 27-28 May 2021 and constituted an exciting opportunity for us to share our most recent research, which has already been published in Trabalhos Em Linguística Aplicada (Papers in Applied Linguistics).

Łukasz Pakuła gender and sexuality in the neoliberal university

What follows is our talk abstract:

When the obligation to be neutral becomes the right to discriminate: discursive struggles over LGBTQIA+ rights at Polish universities

Joanna Chojnicka & Łukasz Pakuła
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland

In this presentation, we are going to discuss narratives of struggle, resistance, and counterresistance with regard to the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in contemporary Polish academia. In particular, we focus on the discourses of LGBTQIA+ groups attempting to establish or maintain organizations of various forms (from students’ study circles to unionlike institutions) against the backdrop of internal university structure, Polish academic culture and current political developments in the country. This presentation shall report on our pioneering research that involved conducting semistructured in-depth interviews with
representatives of the LGBTQIA+ community at several Polish universities, which remain unnamed in order to protect our informants. The interviews took place in spring and summer 2020, placing this research in the context of the presidential election campaign that instrumentalized the Polish LGBTQIA+ in the most distressing, although sadly not unprecedented, way. In our analyses of the interview material, we apply a multidisciplinary methodological framework combining CDA and narrative inquiry in order to examine linguistic phenomena participating in constructing a particular version of reality through text in talk. Such research design enables us to offer a case study of the difficulties and obstacles faced by LGBTQIA+ activists in the Polish academia the way they understand them, and of the resistance strategies they employ in this particular context. Our research shows a wide range of resistance strategies employed by the LGBTQIA+ community members that can be classified according to the scale of discriminatory practices they form a response to (systemic/individual discrimination) and the type of the response itself (group/individual response). On the basis of the discussed examples, our presentation shall offer an interagentive matrix of strategies of addressing LGBTQIA+ issues emerging within the Polish academic context.

Joanna Chojnicka holds a PhD in linguistics and an MA in Latvian philology, both from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, and is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Celtic Studies at the Faculty of English of that university. Previously she was a Fellow at the Herder Institute in Marburg, a Marie-Curie Fellow at the Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz, and a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty 10: Linguistics and Literary Studies of the University of Bremen, where she also acted as the managing director of the Institute for Postcolonial and Transcultural Studies (INPUTS). Her research interests include dis- course, gender and sexuality, the language of argumentation, manipulation and resistance, ecolinguistics and discourses of language revitalisation.

Łukasz Pakuła is affiliated with the Faculty of English at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland. He has been awarded numerous scholar- ships and internships abroad as well as attended various international conferences, workshops and seminars at, inter alia, University College London, King’s College London, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, University of Sheffield, University of Birmingham and Lancaster University. He is an active researcher, author and editor of scholarly publications, Editorial Board member for Gender and Language (Equinox), Language Editor for the Journal of Gender and Power (Adam Mickiewicz University), reviewer for renowned journals, and a member of numerous scientific boards. He belongs to the International Gender and Language Association and the British Association of Applied Linguistics. He served as a leader on a British Council-funded project within the English Language Teaching Research Partnerships scheme, ‘Investigating Gender and Sexuality in the ESL classroom: Raising Publishers’, Teachers’ and Students’ Awareness. Łukasz’s book-length publications include Gender and Sexuality in English Language Education: Focus on Poland (2015) (with Jane Sunderland and Joanna Pawelczyk) and Young Linguists’ Insights: Taking Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Fore (2013) (with Monika Połczyńska and Dorota Jaworska).

Should you like to read the article on which the talk was based, have a look here.

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