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Younger academics' constructions of 'authenticity', 'success' and professional identity

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This article contributes to ongoing work that seeks to understand the nature and formation of contemporary academic identities. Drawing on interview data conducted with a sample of 'younger' academics within UK universities, it considers how they position themselves (and in turn experience being positioned) in relation to notions of 'authenticity' and 'success'. It is argued that younger academics' experiences of inauthenticity are exacerbated by: (a) the current dominant performative ethos, (b) their age, (c) race, class, gender, and (d) status - but especially for those who are contract researchers. In particular, it is argued that the extent to which they are able to perform 'success' is shaped and constrained by structural locations of 'race'/ethnicity, social class, gender and age. Consideration is given to the younger academics' various attempts to position themselves as 'authentic', and their negotiations of this contested discursive terrain. It is suggested that the 'authentic' and 'successful' academic is a desired yet refused identity for many younger academics, who must negotiate on a daily basis not only their attempts at 'becoming' but also the threat of 'unbecoming'.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Education and Professional Studies, Centre for Public Policy Research, King's College London, London, UK

Publication date: 01 August 2008

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