The Persistence of Sexism and Racism at Universities: Exploring the Imperceptibility and Unspeakability of Workplace Harassment and Discrimination in Academia

Bontu Guschke

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandling

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This PhD dissertation investigates the reproduction of sexist and racist harassment and discrimination in workplaces at Danish universities. It contributes to feminist organization studies by exploring: (1) How does the dis/organization of Danish universities enable the reproduction of inequalities, specifically in form of sexist and racist harassment and discrimination? (2) What allows sexist and racist workplace harassment and discrimination to be reproduced both on an institutional-structural and an interactional-individual level? (3) How are sexist and racist harassment and discrimination reproduced intersectionally, and what is distinct in how they are reproduced?
Data from the Danish university context provides the empirical basis for the study. The author conducted in-depth interviews with academic faculty at all eight Danish universities. Interviewees were not required to have personal experiences with harassment and discrimination. An approach of anti-narrative research operationalized through embodied queer listening was developed and used in both data generation and analysis to methodologically acknowledge and engage with the interviewees’ vulnerabilities as well as autonomy in relation to organizational norms and power structures. It further allowed engaging with both discursive and affective aspects of data generation and analysis.
The findings of the study are structured in six analytical chapters. These outline (I) contextual mechanisms within the Danish academic system that facilitate harassment and discrimination, (II) the unspeakability of racism when speaking of harassment and discrimination, (III) the imperceptibility of harassment, that is, how harassment often becomes affectively noticed before becoming named as such, (IV) ten (de)legitimization strategies that allow harassment and discrimination to persist, (V) expectations in how to speak up about harassment experiences, and finally (VI) insights on the reporting process and its challenges.
The dissertation contributes to research on harassment and discrimination within feminist organization studies, developing both theoretical and empirical insights. Overall, it maintains and details how harassment and discrimination are reproduced in a context of in/formality leading to a reproduction of inequality underneath a layer of unspeakability which leads to a lack of responsibility. Finally, implications for organizational practice are discussed, suggesting that organizations need to recognize anti-harassment and anti-discrimination as ongoing, relational organizational practices rather than a goal to be achieved, respond with autonomy-fostering care to the vulnerability involved in harassment experiences, and be able to ‘stay with the trouble’ in addressing the affective ambiguities of harassment and discrimination.
ForlagCopenhagen Business School [Phd]
Antal sider323
ISBN (Trykt)9788775681556
ISBN (Elektronisk)9788775681563
StatusUdgivet - 2023
NavnPhD Series