Emily Henderson


This paper explores the action of attending a visiting academic’s one-off lecture, whether in the lecture theatre or on the Internet, in order to gain knowledge from a recognised expert of an unfamiliar but relevant field of research. The actions of entering the theatre and sitting for an hour, or of clicking “play,” appear to be simple gestures for the acquisition of knowledge; this paper explores the complexity of the processes surrounding the lecture, and the way in which the lecture constructs a passive listening position for the audience. The exploration takes place in the frame of one such lecture: the inaugural lecture of the Bocconi annual series at Bocconi University, Italy, entitled “Gender Equality and Economic Development,” held in 2010. The author watched this lecture on the Internet in order to gain knowledge of the place of “gender” in Development Economics; the paper represents in part the author’s struggle with expectations of a feminist stance. The paper is an attempt to find an active listening stance, and to interrogate the author’s reaction to the lecture.

The first section of the paper addresses the presentation of information in the lecture, how it is established as an Economics lecture on gender. Categories of feminist economics: access feminism, empiricist feminism, difference feminism, and the newer position of gender awareness, are aligned with the lecture. The second section, which analyses the position of the lecturer, situates the lecture in the ongoing processes that establish the lecture as an event, the lecturer as an expert in Economics. Finally, the overt agenda of the lecture, as laid out in the literature on the art of lecturing, is juxtaposed with the covert processes of academic identity construction.

Note on the Author

Emily Henderson is a PhD scholar at the Institute of Education, University of London.