Battles for occupied academic space


  • Kara Smith University of Windsor



women, academia, colonized space, institutional racism, intersectionality, women's studies, critical race theory, CRT, institutional frameworks, mentoring, leadership


For women, sharing space, being acknowledged in that space, is a battle of trust and spirit. Academic spaces have previously been colonised, either by the leader in charge, or a previous ‘owner’ of that space. This presentation and paper describes three common intersectional narratives of Williams’ (1991) ‘spirit murder’; and the ‘protectors and restorers’ (Revilla, 2021) of our space in the academy. Women are battling to occupy their work spaces on a daily basis: trying to speak, teach, research in ways they have organically invented and conceived in their service. They are the caretakers of diverse and different languages, and innovative methods to research and teachings; yet these divergent pathways are often blocked by colonised, ‘expected’ practices within the institution. Even the physical grey and white walls are concrete signs of ownership. The Academy is a place we are in; where we have a right to be in (Sefa Dei, 2021). Trusting and accepting these unique differences is at the heart of moving forward to a more inclusive, rich research and teaching space. Just because a pathway or method is distinct, does not mean it is deficient. For educational leaders, acknowledging shared ownership in the academic space involves sharing and projecting one’s self into the space (Kreger,1999); trusting that, while an approach is unknown, can be successful. To redress space in the academy, educators must be at ease with the discomfort of sharing space in what has yet to be experienced and institutionalised.

Author Biography

Kara Smith, University of Windsor

Kara Smith, PhD, Isle of Lewis, is an educational researcher working in both Scotland and Canada. She is the past editor of the Journal of Teaching and Learning (2016-2020) and the books review editor for the Canadian Journal of Education (2017-2020). Smith has served on the boards of the Ontario College of Teachers (2012-2015) and as a fellow for the Royal Society of Arts (2018-2020). Author of The Artists of Crow County (2017); Next to the Ice (2016); and Teaching, Learning, Assessing (2007), Smith has published over 25 articles about teaching leadership in the arts, and in 2013 was awarded the ‘Distinguished Contributions to University Teaching’ award.


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