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Can the failure speak? Militant failure in the academy

Clare, Nick



Academia is rife with structural issues. We are witnessing a mental health crisis among staff and students, hiring and employment practices are institutionally sexist and racist, and staff are increasingly expected to be a triple threat (research, teaching, and admin superstars). In the face of this discussion of failure can reveal an important fallibility and demystify academic processes. But done badly it can also be self-indulgent and demoralising for those who view themselves as failures. Exhortations from those that have been successful to stick at it and be more resilient do nothing to combat the serious issues that (early career) academics face. This new focus on failure can only be successful if it is collective not individualising and it retains a focus on the structural. Grounded in my own experiences and anxieties, this intervention argues that a commitment to militant research practices can help us achieve this important task, and that discussions of failure need to consider teaching and not just fieldwork and writing processes. If not, nothing will change and we will continue to fetishise and paradoxically reward people who can ‘fail up’, while further silencing and alienating those whose ‘failures’ are more systemic.


Clare, N. (2019). Can the failure speak? Militant failure in the academy. Emotion, Space and Society, 33, 1-4.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 7, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 14, 2019
Publication Date 2019-11
Deposit Date Oct 14, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 15, 2021
Journal Emotion, Space and Society
Print ISSN 1755-4586
Electronic ISSN 1878-0040
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Article Number 100628
Pages 1-4
Keywords Failure; Militant research; Strategic incompetence; Methodology
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Can the failure speak? Militant failure in the academy; Journal Title: Emotion, Space and Society; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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