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The cultural politics of a sense of failure in feminist anti-racist mentoring

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A sense of failure can be a central motivation and questioning force that pushes us as feminist geographers in uncomfortable, yet potentially productive, directions. Where failure has been applied as an analytic lens to geographical research, the ‘doing’ of our profession extends beyond fieldwork to our classrooms and mentoring relationships. This article argues that there is value in proactively treating our feelings of failure as resources not only to improve our individual feminist anti-racist mentoring practices but also to use emotional residues to inspire broader conversations that can collectively disrupt masculinist, racist, heteronormative, and ableist professional norms. It is too easy to individualize and demonize failure when instead it needs to be institutionally contextualized and cooperatively understood in order to be leveraged for social change. Drawing upon methodological practices of critical self-reflection and collective biography, we interrogate four empirical examples of dyadic mentoring and two collective co-mentoring initiatives. Feelings of failure are used as an analytic lens into the cultural politics of mentoring relationship from a mentor’s perspective.
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Keywords: Collective biography; Feminist anti-racist mentorship; failure; higher education; self-reflexivity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga, Mississauga, ON, Canada; 2: Department of Geography, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada

Publication date: August 3, 2018

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