Subtle Activism: Heterotopic Principles for Unsettling Contemporary Academia from Within

Annemette Kjærgaard*, Rasmus Bergmann, Maribel Blasco, Tali Padan, Carole Elliott, Jamie Callahan, Sarah Robinson, Tony Wall, The Kintsugi Collective

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Research on academic activism tends to foreground vociferous and explicit forms of activism that pursue predefined political agendas. Against this backdrop, this article proposes that academic activism can take more subtle forms. Writing as an academic activist collective, we unpack what subtle activism might look like within the context of contemporary academia. We use Foucault’s concept of heterotopia to argue that subtle activism can expand the space of what is possible in academia today by experimenting with quietly unsettling norms rather than overtly opposing or rejecting them. We offer a set of principles that might underpin a subtle activist agenda, extrapolated from practices from colleagues and from own activist collective. We hope that these principles may serve to inspire other academics wishing to engage in subtle activism by unsettling everyday practices that discreetly challenge the status quo, thereby contributing to gently shifting the agenda for how it is possible to conduct intellectual work in the contemporary neoliberal university context.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 24 April 2023


  • Academic activism
  • Collective action
  • Foucault
  • Heterotopia
  • Individualization
  • Instrumentalization
  • Intensification
  • Neoliberal university
  • Resistance
  • Subtle activism

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