Imposter agony aunts : ambivalent feminist advice

Breeze, Maddie and Taylor, Yvette and Addison, Michelle; (2021) Imposter agony aunts : ambivalent feminist advice. In: Handbook of Imposter Syndrome in Higher Education. Palgrave Handbooks . Palgrave, London. (In Press)

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    Abstract

    Imposter syndrome is something of a buzzword in blogs and online commentaries on higher education (HE) and is receiving increasing research attention. Research findings regularly orientate towards advice for coping with feeling like an imposter in the university (Hutchins & Rainbolt 2017). For instance research identifies reflexive diary keeping (Wilkinson 2020) and coaching and mentoring (Hutchins et al. 2018) as strategies for combating academics' imposterism. Likewise, everyday informal talk of academic imposter syndrome, including on social media, repeats advice on how to overcome imposterism (Taylor & Breeze 2020). A common recommendation is that academics 'open up' (Bahn 2014) and share experiences of insecurity, inadequacy, fraudulence, and failure: 'The first rule of impostor syndrome is you talk about impostor syndrome' (Vaughn 2019 np). Having participated in university training courses, mentoring programmes, and having been on the receiving end of such advice, in this chapter we re-think the politics of advice and of talking about it. What structures and surpasses opening up in reflexive accounts of imposterism? What are the preconditions and limits of advice-giving and receiving? In this chapter we think through the ambivalences of these questions, exploring how feminist academics might respond to and rework a familiar advice format by inhabiting the figure of the agony aunt. Throughout we aim to explore the possibilities and constraints of feminist advice as well as drawing attention to underlying assumptions perpetuated in advising, when talking about it is heralded as a solution to the problem of imposter 'syndrome'.