Conference Papers

’ The Red Shoes' in Salem: unnatural performances and witch-hunts of the ‘feminine’ in Higher Education

Do you know Hans Anderson’s folktale, ‘The Red Shoes’? A young girl ends up in the wrong shoes caught up in a continuous and deadly destructive dance. It is all about how we can be seduced to follow ways of ‘being’ not our own, often alien to our instincts, in order to conform to another’s rules and regimes and which become deadly threatening to our wellbeing (Acton & Glasgow, 2015). In telling tales we can make sense of events and who we are in them, hence wishing to explore this story in order to question the relationship between the ‘red shoes’ and what happens when ‘Academics are persuaded to teach the same way, complete the same forms, make applications to the same funding bodies…in short to reproduce the same practices in order to re/organise themselves to fit the template of best practice as this is defined by management’ (Davies & Bansel, 2010:7). In my experience, the red shoes of ‘Performativity’ results in chronic anxiety, greater impositions of control; and far less playful and significantly more dour attitudes to educational practices, concepts of professionalism, and research endeavours (Kinman, et al, 2006). And if these shoes don’t fit us, how perhaps there are too many parallels with the witch-hunts of the seventeenth century and the debasement of other ways of being and knowing (Shotwell, 2011) which now abound within new figurative sites of Salem (Miller, 1968).

Acton, R. & Glasgow, P. (2015) Teacher Wellbeing in Neoliberal Contexts: A Review of the Literature. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, Vol 40 (8) 99-114
Davies, B. & Bansel, P. (2010) Governmentality and Academic Work Shaping the Hearts and Minds of Academic Workers, in Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, Vol 26 (3) 5-20
Kinman, G., Jones F., & Kinman, R. (2006) The Well-being of the UK Academy, 1998–2004, Quality in Higher Education, Vol 12(1), 15-27
Miller, A. (1968) The Crucible, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books
Shotwell, A. (2011) Knowing Otherwise: Race, Gender, and Implicit Understanding, University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press
*Hans Anderson, ‘The Red Shoes’ Folktale

Macleod-Johnstone, E. (2016) '’ The Red Shoes' in Salem: unnatural performances and witch-hunts of the ‘feminine’ in Higher Education', paper presented to The 12th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 30 June-01 July, viewed 13 August 2020, <>