Nomadic Subjectivity: Movement in contemporary student development theory




Smithers, Laura Elizabeth
Eaton, Paul William

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Thresholds in Education


This essay opens space for movement in higher education~student affairs by using post-structural philosophy as a counterweight to balance the corpus of student development theories that create and inscribe in/dividualized subjectivity onto students. Taking up Jones and Stewart’s (2016) structuring of waves in student development theorizing, we unpack régimes of truth that undergird the profession of college student educators: discipline/control (a doubled biopower that centers the whole student), and dividuation (a fracturing of the whole student into component parts). We extend dividuation to include an adherence to representationalism through method in perpetuating and inscribing the student as in/dividual (neoliberal subjectivity). We take up Rosi Braidotti’s concept of nomadic sub-jectivity—a relational subjectivity—as a counterbalance to the in/dividualizing subjectivities of current student development theorizing. In doing so, we advance queered third wave theorizing, provoking movement and necessary ethical questions for college student educators: what does it mean to give up commonplace notions such as student, development, identity, and method? What possibilities for practice(s) and futurities in higher education~student affairs open by embracing movement?



Student development, identity, neoliberalism, dividual, nomadism


Smithers, L. E., & Eaton, P. W. (2017). Nomadic subjectivity:Countering neoliberal subjectivity in contemporary student development theorizing. Thresholds in Education, 40(1), 68-92.