In light of current public debates sparked by the publication of the chapter “The walls spoke when no one else would: Autoethnographic notes on sexual-power gatekeeping within avant-garde academia,” included in the edited volume Sexual Misconduct in Academia: Informing an Ethics of Care in the University (Routledge 2023), we express our full solidarity with the authors. We extend the same solidarity to other voices that came out publicly, as well as to all those subjected to abuses of power and other forms of violence both in academic contexts and beyond. This document is a collective and unfinished contribution to an ongoing debate. 

Paula Rego, 'First Mass in Brazil' (1993). Acrylic on paper laid on canvas,Paula Rego, 'First Mass in Brazil' (1993). Acrylic on paper laid on canvas,




1. It is Not Defamation 

Far from constituting an episodic or even a concerted attack with the intent of personal, institutional, or political defamation, the repeated and persistent abusive situations portrayed in the chapter should be read as a contribution towards a critique of systemic institutional dynamics, common within and outside the academy.


2. It is Structural and Structuring

Sexual and moral harassment, intellectual extractivism (the practice of plagiarizing or reproducing another’s work without appropriate citation or attribution, presenting it as one’s own), as well as other forms of violence, are structural and structuring of an academic system founded on marked professional hierarchies and divisions of class, gender, ethnicity and race. A particularly insidious dimension of this hierarchical structure concerns the concentration of power and, consequently, the monopolization of financial resources that are essential for the development of research careers, since the vast majority of academics are employed in precarious or contingent positions. In this context, harassment can affect men. However, it particularly affects women, becoming more detrimental to the development of their careers, given the far greater difficulties faced, namely due to motherhood and caregiving responsibilities. Moreover, because harassment and violence against women have been naturalized in patriarchal and misogynistic societies, these acts are often devalued by the institutions where they take place. This kind of negligence and inertia ultimately serve and benefit the aggressors, who enjoy the support and acquiescence of people in administrative roles. Thus, whether through apathy or the rationalization of abusive behavior, those involved in managing these institutions are effectively also enmeshed in these complex networks of power, thus becoming complicit in these acts of abuse.


3. The Retaliations 

Women do not lightly enter public scrutiny, subjecting themselves to questioning. Survivors of abuse know in advance what awaits them: value judgments, humiliation, misrepresentation, devaluation, ridicule, and potential re-traumatization. Often, abusers appeal to a consensual right to due process, while transferring the guilt to the victims. In parallel, those accused of abuse also tend to resort to personal attacks aiming to discredit survivors through arguments where they appear as the victims of political persecution or a conspiratorial attack. This, ironically, despite the fact that the very same people against whom accusations of abuse are levied command a great deal of power–both institutional and economic. This situation thrives on the absence of a clear legal framework and the lack of effective codes of conduct. Strictly speaking, there is no clear pathway to initiate a legal process to denounce abuse. Because those who speak do so without any protection in their work/research place, they become easy targets for retaliation. The greater the level of “informality” upon which these mechanisms rest, the more obscure they become–and, as a consequence, given the precarity that pervades academic careers, the greater the deterrents created against the reporting of abuse. This results in a vicious cycle of re-victimization, isolation, self-blame, and even in abandoning one’s academic career altogether; not to mention the trauma inflicted by the violence inherent to these situations. In the case in question, the adjectives used against the authors of the chapter, accusing them of being “difficult”, “problematic” or “insolent”, stem from a long patriarchal tradition. These are all too familiar commonplaces mobilized to discredit women. What is more, the chapter has also been the target of arguments masked under an academic veneer rigor, by and attacking its purported lack of rigor and the quality of the peer-review scrutiny it was subjected to. The use of the auto-ethnographic method, in particular, has received criticism, despite representing a disciplinarily sanctioned, valid method to articulate, characterize, and analyze the type of abuse and violence the chapter brings to light. We repudiate such criticism. 


4. “If there is no witness, there is no crime”

We respect due process and the principle of the presumption of innocence in the judicial sphere. However, we condemn the position taken by the alleged abusers, which invariably translates into a refusal to acknowledge the problem. Despite being recognized scholars whose work has scrutinized asymmetrical power relations, they stopped short of applying those same critical and theoretical tools to themselves. What is more, they do not allow for a questioning of their position of power, nor do they acknowledge the abusive violence their disavowal reinforces. This was blatantly visible in the immediate public reaction to the chapter and its authors, namely through threats of filing defamation lawsuits. This reaction demonstrates a knowledge of how legal mechanisms work, for if there are no witnesses, there is an added difficulty (indeed, sometimes a real impossibility) of proving that a crime was committed at all. 


5. Delayed Justice 

The mechanisms of justice do not keep up with the struggles and processes of gender and social justice triggered by grassroots social movements. There are multiple examples of women whose experiences are denied justice. Complaints of harassment and violence usually result in victim blaming, that is, in questioning the behavior of survivors, instead of fact checking and enforcing justice. This modus operandi, which puts the victim rather than the perpetrator under scrutiny, eludes the problem and perverts the course of justice.  



6. Ineffectiveness of Reporting Mechanisms

Due to a context that does not protect victims/survivors, they end up paying too high a price, either professionally (sometimes abandoning life goals and projects), or in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional health, by suffering life-long trauma. Also, formal complaints submitted to  higher education institutions and other authorities are not a fully effective mechanism. As a result, victims are often deterred from pursuing official complaints – not least because when they do so, cases tend to be hushed, as exemplified by the one under discussion. Insidiously, the economy of higher-education rankings, evaluations, and prestige encourages and favors impunity and inertia. Institutions prefer not to “sully” their name by deterring investigations into cases of  sexual harassment, moral abuse, and plagiarism committed by faculty members or senior academic staff. In 2022, for example, it was reported that the Pedagogical Council of the Law School of the University of Lisbon received, in just 11 days, 70 complaints of harassment, 50 of which were “validated”. These accusations involved a total of 31 faculty members. All complaints were closed, and those that were subsequently pursued by an internal faculty committee expired. 


7. Discourse Validation Regimes

It was necessary for the authors of the chapter to go through blind peer review, one of the most widely recognized mechanisms of academic validation, as well as to be published by a prestigious academic press (Routledge), to trigger a wave of attention to situations of abuse of power. However, it is important to note that all this comes after several complaints made by researchers from “the Global South” were stifled or ignored over many years. During this same period, either through whisper networks or because “the walls started to speak”, “everyone knew” what was happening, even if informally. 


8. Power-Knowledge

We believe that it is fundamental to expose that there is a process of intellectual extraction targeting groups who embody situated epistemologies and knowledges, which, in the context of the patriarchal and colonial academy, are used as resources to be capitalized. In this context, the dynamics described in the chapter reproduce power-knowledge relations and reconstruct modes of knowledge production marked by the polarity of domination-subalternity. Paradoxically, these dynamics are central themes of the research developed by the very same academic researchers  who work at the research center in question. Incidentally, several subsequent accusations came from researchers anchored to contexts that amplified their subordination. This was either because they are dislocated from their social, cultural, and/or work environments, or because of their economic, social, or migratory condition, or due to the confluence of all these factors. Within a framework of unbalanced power relations, these accusations involve, in certain cases, subjects whose enunciative positions and epistemological perspectives have historically been subalternized. 


9. The Tip of the Iceberg

The cases reported are only the tip of the iceberg. Consent is often compromised by power relations of academic dependence. These asymmetries in power lead female researchers, dependent on the institution’s validation for their financial and even migratory security, to silence their abuse to avoid problems or even retaliation. This phenomenon was also reported in the case at hand. Most victims do not report out of fear, disbelief in the judicial system, as a survival strategy, and even to preserve the people around them– such as those whose careers depend on the abuser and  even those within the abuser’s intimate sphere. The increasing precarization of academic work is at the heart of this vulnerability. Some women  abstained from signing this manifesto, precisely, out of  fear of reprisals. However, the chapter in question has already triggered several other complaints and more will surely follow. To date, in the two days since the chapter was made public, there were dozens of public testimonies and as many complaints – all reporting a reality undeniably known and tolerated for decades. 



10. Safeguarding Emancipatory Work

The merits of the important and progressive research agenda developed over decades at CES is not in question. It is precisely this confusion that some agents , whose  aim is the political instrumentalization of  this case against emancipatory agendas, want to create. It is fundamental to recognize the relevance of instruments of social justice and of platforms allowing for the kinds of critical practice pioneered by CES.. This recognition cannot stop us, nor will it prevent us, from underscoring the failures on the part of CES’ lead management to protect its researchers. Thus, we underscore that precisely because of CES’ inscription within an emancipatory ideological and discursive space, impunity is unacceptable. For it is by sustaining an ecology of complexity, conflict, and permanent self-criticism that intersectional social justice can be achieved.  


11. For a Multi-diverse University and for Intersectional Struggles

We strive for a university that values progressive ideas and practices; a university with the capacity to exercise self-criticism, accept vulnerabilities, and take on caring practices with a view towards social justice and the formation of supportive, abuse-free communities. We fight for a university where knowledge circulates horizontally, not through patriarchal and colonial power relations. A multi-diverse, equal, intersectional, and emancipatory university. A university free from generalized precarity and which does not fear a feminist modus operandi in the construction of people unconstrained by prescriptive roles of gender, class, race, ableism or other cultural expectations. A university where decision-making positions and the accrual of social prestige do not constitute the almost exclusive domain of white men, and where support staff and custodial roles responsible for care duties such as cleaning and nourishing are not almost exclusively assigned  to women (especially, precariously employed racialized and/or migrant women). A university that breaks with the tradition of rigid hierarchies and the reinforcement of power by those more concerned with the preservation of their privileges rather than with fostering communities of care and accountability. In sum, we reject a culture based on the reproduction of “genius patriarchs.” 


12. We Question the Ministers Elvira Fortunato and Ana Catarina Mendes and the FCT

We ask the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Elvira Fortunato, and the Minister of State and Parliamentary Affairs, Ana Catarina Mendes, as well as the Foundation for Science and Technology, to come forward and make available all resources necessary to improve the legal frameworks applicable to this type of cases in all institutions of higher education and research. This includes contemplating the necessary requirement for legal codes and regulatory frameworks analogous to, e.g., “Title IX”, enforced in the USA. In addition, regulatory agencies of education and research should immediately create the conditions for ALL higher education institutions to have mechanisms allowing  anonymous reporting of sexual and moral harassment and capable of providing guarantees of  protection to anyone who endured abuse. In addition, we demand the constitution of independent, non-endogamous commissions responsible for the establishment of preventive measures, capable of assessing complaints, of operationalizing processes, and assisting in the implementation  of sanctions.


13. Solidarity Network SabemosTodas

Recognizing that due process and the presumption of innocence are indispensable to a fair investigation in any democracy and applicable to complainants and accused parties alike, we condemn any attempt of retaliation against the former. We anticipate the possibility of retribution against the signatories, specifically those with institutional relationships within the academy, and will remain vigilant to denounce any punitive or retaliatory behavior. Due to the lack of effective institutional support channels,we appoint  ourselves as a space and network of solidarity.


We reaffirm our solidarity with all these women and all victims/survivors of harassment. 


We support those who had the courage to organize against, denounce, and challenge this oppressive and toxic system– and who, as a consequence, also subjected themselves to the difficult position of having to relive past trauma. We will therefore remain alert to any attempt of retaliation and avow to  act in order to repair any wrong.


There will be more and more of us denouncing abuse and supporting those whose actions have helped deconstruct academia’s patriarchal and colonial foundations.



Ana Balona de Oliveira, Ana Bigotte Vieira, Andreia Cunha, Ana Cristina Pereira (Kitty Furtado), Catarina Botelho, Catarina Boieiro, Fábian Cevallos Vivar, Filipa César, Inês Beleza Barreiros, Inês Espírito Santo, Josina Almeida, Júlia Suárez-Krabbe, Luísa Semedo, Maria Benedita Basto, Maria do Carmo Piçarra, Marta Lança, Marta Mestre, Patrícia Martins Marcos, Sara Goulart, Raquel Schefer, Rita Tomás.

by várias
Mukanda | 18 April 2023 | intellectual extractivism, power asymmetries, progressive academia, sexual harassment, solidarity network, todassabemos