Date of Award

Fall 2020

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Cultural Studies, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Eve Oishi

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

David Luis-Brown

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jih-Fei Cheng

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2020 Kelly L Opdycke


affect, care, contingent faculty, diversity, intersectionality, neoliberal academia

Subject Categories

Higher Education | Labor Relations


Since its inception in the late 1970s, neoliberal academia has increasingly relied in under-paid contingent faculty to carry its teaching workload. During this same time, neoliberal academia began to take up ‘diversity’ as a way to sell its brand. This dissertation stands at the crux between diversity branding and the exploitation of contingent faculty. Specifically, I explore how teaching General Education diversity courses through precarity impacts contingent faculty affectively and emotionally. Michel Foucault (1979) describes those who live in the context of neoliberalism as homo economicus, or entrepreneur of the self. As one becomes stuck in contingency, they begin to question whether they graded fast enough or said the wrong thing. Concurrently, they might begin to see how their contingent position is a bit different from their students or their colleagues. Importantly, I bring Patricia Hill Collins’ (2019) most recent work on intersectionality to help better understand how relationality and power differences impact feelings of precarity while being contingent and also teaching GE diversity courses. Through the lens of Foucault, Collins, and other works on affect and intersectionality, I seek to capture ways these faculty navigate teaching about precarity while being precarious.To this end, I employ feminist and queer ethnographic methods. Through autoethnography, I show how my identities as white, working-class, and neurodivergent pull me in multiple directions, leaving me exhausted as I do my best to navigate my GE diversity courses. With this in mind, I turn to my colleagues to explore how their identities impact their negotiations with these types of courses. While listening to my colleagues, I also realize how contingency molds my ethnographic process. Contingency forces me to interrogate a system that is not structured for my upward mobility. The collective bumps and bruises between my colleagues and I implore us to form a make-shift community of care, where we talk about the difficulties of doing diversity work in the classroom. After reading this work, I hope others better grasp the impact of placing diversity work onto the shoulders of contingent faculty. It is hard to teach students to care within a system that does not care about us. It is hard to care without care.