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Lean Semesters

How Higher Education Reproduces Inequity

Sekile M. Nzinga

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Addressing in depth the reality that women of color, particularly Black women, face compounded exploitation and economic inequality within the neoliberal university.

More Black women are graduating with advanced degrees than ever before. Despite the fact that their educational and professional opportunities should be expanding, highly educated Black women face strained and worsening economic, material, and labor conditions in graduate school and along their academic career trajectory. Black women are less likely to be funded as graduate students, are disproportionately hired as contingent…

Addressing in depth the reality that women of color, particularly Black women, face compounded exploitation and economic inequality within the neoliberal university.

More Black women are graduating with advanced degrees than ever before. Despite the fact that their educational and professional opportunities should be expanding, highly educated Black women face strained and worsening economic, material, and labor conditions in graduate school and along their academic career trajectory. Black women are less likely to be funded as graduate students, are disproportionately hired as contingent faculty, are trained and hired within undervalued disciplines, and incur the highest levels of educational debt.

In Lean Semesters, Sekile M. Nzinga argues that the corporatized university—long celebrated as a purveyor of progress and opportunity—actually systematically indebts and disposes of Black women's bodies, their intellectual contributions, and their potential en masse. Insisting that "shifts" in higher education must recognize such unjust dynamics as intrinsic, not tangential, to the operation of the neoliberal university, Nzinga draws on candid interviews with thirty-one Black women at various stages of their academic careers. Their richly varied experiences reveal why underrepresented women of color are so vulnerable to the compounded forms of exploitation and inequity within the late capitalist terrain of this once-revered social institution.

Amplifying the voices of promising and prophetic Black academic women by mapping the impact of the current of higher education on their lives, the book's collective testimonies demand that we place value on these scholars' intellectual labor, untapped potential, and humanity. It also illuminates the ways past liberal feminist "victories" within academia have yet to become accessible to all women. Informed by the work of scholars and labor activists who have interrogated the various forms of inequity produced and reproduced by institutions of higher education under neoliberalism, Lean Semesters serves as a timely and accessible call to action.

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Lean Semesters

Sekile M. Nzinga

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Reviews

This original and necessary book maps the lived impact of neoliberalism and names the opaque ways in which the market practices of contemporary higher education institutions are compounding inequity for Black women in the twenty-first century. Readers will find themselves traveling the invisible trails and listening to the hushed conversations that Nzinga and her colleagues have had to follow on this unpublished map. Lean Semesters will stay with me forever.

Relevant and timely! Nzinga exposes the structural injustices within higher education systems that indebt, exploit, and delegitimize Black women academicians. Lean Semesters centers the experiences of Black women in academia and should be required reading for all individuals undertaking higher education diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

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Book Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction. The University as Hyper-Producer of Inequity
Chapter 1. Mortgaging Our Brains: Black Women, Privatization, and Subprime PhDs
Chapter 2. Ain't I Precarious? Black Academic

Acknowledgments
Introduction. The University as Hyper-Producer of Inequity
Chapter 1. Mortgaging Our Brains: Black Women, Privatization, and Subprime PhDs
Chapter 2. Ain't I Precarious? Black Academic Women as Contingent
Chapter 3. Families Devalued: Black Academic Women and the Neoliberal Era's Family Tariff
Chapter 4. Jumping Mountains: Resisting the Marketized University
Conclusion. Statement of Solidarity
Appendix A. Our Truths Interview Guide
Appendix B. Resources and Organizations
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Sekile M. Nzinga, MPH, PhD

Sekile M. Nzinga is the director of the Women's Center and a lecturer in gender and sexuality studies at Northwestern University. She is the editor of Laboring Positions: Black Women, Mothering and the Academy.