The first forty minutes of this session will be structured to elicit maximum participation from the audience and direct engagement with the presenters. The main issues to be addressed in the roundtable will be divided among four tables, run by the six presenters. The audience will be divided into four groups, and each group will spend ten minutes at each table, where they will share their experiences and thoughts related to the issues of that table with the presenters, who will share theirs and take notes of the exchange. The four audience groups will move, round-robin style, through the four tables. The last 35 minutes of the roundtable will feature a general discussion dedicated to summing up and fleshing out the ideas that emerged at the four smaller tables.
We would like to stream the session online. Since the session deals with working conditions and precarity in academia, it makes sense to allow people (members of our organization, if the MLA would like the streaming to be limited) who do not have the means, or the institutional support, to travel to the MLA convention to be able to see what is being discussed in the session.
ALCESXXI (Asociación Internacional de Literatura y Cine Españoles Siglo XXI / International Association of XXI Century Spanish Literature And Film) was founded in 2010 as a space to not only bring together scholars, educators, artists, producers and activists engaged in the critical study of contemporary Spanish literature, cinema and culture but to challenge the very conditions in which that study takes place. From its beginning, therefore, the work of ALCESXXI has been traversed by a critical reflection on the very conditions that sustain, as well as limit, academic research and teaching and the forces that all-too-often separate those endeavors from the real-world objects of their critical attention.This round table will explore the ways in which organizations like ALCESXXI can become catalysts for change in our profession by not only showcasing the way cultural studies can provide a frame for effectively questioning the conditions under which we work in academia but by embodying alternative practices that are more democratic and participatory, collaborative and creative, interdisciplinary and holistic. The work of ALCESXXI has, from its inception, sought ways to resist the effects of a neoliberal reason that, according to Wendy Brown, “normalize inequality and disembowel democracy” through the combination of their “radically extended reach of the private, mistrust of the political and disavowal of the social” (61) 1. This disemboweled democracy is lived in academia partly as a gutting of the material conditions necessary for all to thrive equally. The precarious conditions of our workplaces can be addressed, first, by making them visible and, secondly, by seeking and defending, fleshing out, sustainable and equitable alternatives. The participants in the roundtable represent a variety of positions within academia, from graduate students to tenured and non-tenure-track faculty, and hail from diverse institutions, from small, private liberal arts colleges to large, public land grant universities. The event will address questions and issues related to the working conditions of these differing work positions and contexts, actively inviting the public’s participation. The roundtable will also present various ways in which ALCESXXI has addressed these issues, from a large questionnaire of graduate student working conditions in the US to an open proposal for alternative academic practices. Issues to be addressed include, but are not limited to:
The structural effects of various crises on society and the job market, including the great recession, the global pandemic, long-term structural racial disparities, the unequal gender burdens of precarity, etc., all leading to structural inequality at all levels of academia.
The rise of the all-administrative university, including the ongoing transfer of economic and decision-making power from faculty to administration.2
The role of technology and online learning in increasing precarity within our profession.
The causes and effects of “the great resignation” as well as the on-going need to seek and provide equitable access to alternative job paths.
The unique ways in which the humanities are positioned to think through these challenges and envision alternatives, especially by establishing dialogues among such diverse theoretical frameworks as: (eco)feminisms, Marxisms, ecocritical degrowth paradigms, postcolonialisms and decolonial theory, studies of visual culture, urban studies, etc.
Innovative and creative ways to re-imagine how we work together through sustainable and joyful collaboration.
The roundtable, ultimately, follows Judith Butler’s call to link the analysis of precarity “with forms of social and political agency where that is possible” and to become “a defense of our […] persistence in the making of equality and the many-voiced and unvoiced ways of refusing to become disposable” (qtd. in Puar 168, 169)3.
1 Brown, Wendy. “Neoliberalism’s Frankenstein: Authoritarian Freedom in Twenty-First Century ‘Democracies’” Critical Times 1.1 (2018) :60-79.
2 Ginsberg, Benjamin. The Fall of the Faculty. Oxford University Press, 2011.
3 Puar, Jasbir. “Precarity Talk: A Virtual Roundtable with Lauren Berlant, Judith Butler, Bojana Cvejic, Isabell Lorey, Jasbir Puar, and Ana Vujanovic.” TDR (1988-) 56.4, Precarity and Performance: Special Consortium Issue (Winter 2012): 163-177.
Ofelia Ferrán (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Palmar Álvarez-Blanco (email@example.com)
Expertise and Scholarship: Palmar Álvarez-Blanco is a Professor at Carleton College (Minnesota). She is the co-founder and President of ALCES XXI, International Association of Spanish Literature and Film of the 21st Century. Dr. Alvarez-Blanco’s research focuses on the transformation of cultural paradigms in the frame of capitalism and its crises. Her latest project is The Constellation of the Commons, an open-access archive concerning the culture of the commons in Spain.
Jose Antonio Aguirre Pombo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Expertise and Scholarship: José Aguirre Pombo is a PhD candidate in Iberian and Latin American studies in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Minnesota. He has two degrees from the University of Valladolid, in philosophy and comparative literature. His research includes Transatlantic Studies, Contemporary Iberian and Latin American Cinema and Visual Arts, and Memory Studies.
Marina Bettaglio (email@example.com)
Expertise and Scholarship: Marina Bettaglio is Associate Professor in the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies at the University of Victoria. Her publications focus on gender and media in Spain and Italy. Exploring how images of motherhood constitute powerful ideological tools that shape women’s identity, she studies the way maternal narratives respond to patriarchal notions of proper maternal conduct and neoliberal self-branding in post-Franco Spain, and post-Berlusconi Italy. Her scholarly activity has been supported by fellowships and visiting scholar positions at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at UVic, the Universidad de Salamanca and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
Katryn Evinson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Expertise and Scholarship: Katryn Evinson is a PhD candidate in the department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University and a member of ALCESXXI since 2017. In her research, she charts histories of creative resistance in modern and contemporary Iberian visual culture. Her writing has appeared in boundary 2, an edited volume on sound artist TRES’ blackout performances, and the Bulletin of Spanish Visual Studies (forthcoming), among other venues. The Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies recently accepted a special issue she is coordinating on the relationship between contemporary art and labor.
Ellen Cecilia Mayock (email@example.com)
Expertise and Scholarship: Ellen Mayock is the Ernest Williams II Professor of Spanish at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. She has been with ALCESXXI since the beginning and is Reviews Editor for Revista de ALCESXXI. Mayock has published on historical memory, gender and sexuality, and silence and violence. Her monograph, Gender Shrapnel in the Academic Workplace, treats labor inequities in the workplace, and her co-authored textbook is an introduction to Hispanic Cultural Studies. She oversees English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), a community service organization whose volunteers teach and tutor, translate, interpret, and program events in and with the Latina/o/x community.
Steven Torres (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Expertise and Scholarship: Steven L. Torres is Professor of Spanish and Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is also a co-founder of ALCESXXI and the Editor of Revista de ALCESXXI. Much of his research focuses on metacultural discourse and the complex relation between culture and politics. He has published work on academic activism, community engagement, the 15M movement and its ramifications, as well as Spanish cultural politics, film, and literature.
Ofelia Ferrán (email@example.com)