“Stuck in the middle of what?”: the pursuit of academic careers by mothers and non-mothers in higher education institutions in occupied Palestine

Abstract

Dominant maternal ideologies impinge upon the career progression of academic mothers and non-mothers. Using “narratology” as a theoretical lens, this article offers insights into the working lives of academic mothers and non-mothers by drawing upon narratives collected by phenomenologically interviewing Palestinian women academics working at Palestinian universities. The analysis of the emerging persistent narratives shows that, as women, both mothers and non-mothers are influenced by socially constructed notions of “motherhood” and are accordingly put at a disadvantage within academia. In Palestine’s conservative, patriarchal context, academic non-mothers are expected to shoulder the burden of care within their families and to extend their mothering capacity to their students and co-workers. Furthermore, this study contributes to the contemporary debates on the tensions that exist between the prevailing discourses of the “altruistic mother” and the “career woman,” as well as the institutional demands that restrict women’s ability to simultaneously fulfill their work expectations and domestic roles.

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Correspondence to Mira T. El-Far.

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El-Far, M.T., Sabella, A.R. & Vershinina, N.A. “Stuck in the middle of what?”: the pursuit of academic careers by mothers and non-mothers in higher education institutions in occupied Palestine. High Educ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-020-00568-5

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Keywords

  • Academic mothers
  • Academic non-mothers
  • Motherhood
  • Women academics
  • Higher education
  • Hermeneutical phenomenology
  • Palestine