Being women scholar-activists:

Tensions between the neoliberal university and grassroots housing movements

Meg Bishop and Abi O’Connor

Published in Issue 5.1 // The Long Read

Keywords: Housing movements, gendered inequality, precarity, organising, invisible labour


Research rarely unpicks the variety of experiences that exist between activists at different intersections. Our paper attends to this shortfall in literature, firstly through the lens of gendered experiences of labour in housing movements, and secondly through the lens of casualised gendered labour as scholar-activists in the neoliberal university. How we, and others, negotiate these everyday politics will be analysed to offer a more complete understanding of the nuances and tensions at play even in the most progressive movements in Britain. By combining our own experiences with those gleaned from interviews with fellow activists, we develop a framework for understanding what we term ‘activist housework’ – often carried out by those of us who are not cis men – and how this shapes our capacity as organisers and researchers. This framework identifies mundane, everyday and behind-the-scenes labour of activism, which too often goes unseen in favour of focus on more emergent, organic and direct forms of resistance (Pain, 2019). Doing so, we consider, allows reflection on where and how resistance can and must change to maintain the welcome growth in housing activism in Britain.

Meg Bishop (she/her) is a PhD student in Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh. Her research looks at the intersections between class, tenure, and community in tenant union organising around the housing crisis in Scotland. She has been an active member of her tenants union, Living Rent, since 2018.

Abi’s PhD explores how territorial stigmatisation supports the extraction of capital from devalued land and housing markets in Liverpool, focusing on how residents resist these processes, whilst political corruption aides them, speaking to the complex local class politics on the ground. She is a member of ACORN & UCU.

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