It has taken me a little time to grasp the different writing conventions of academe. Writing for a conference presentation is not like writing for publication which can be totally different than writing for OpEds. I don’t have it mastered but I think I have determined that as much as academe is about scholarship it is about story-telling. This is a relief because I came here a storyteller. Oddly enough, the first thing everyone tells you that you must do to be a serious academic is to ditch narrative forms of writing. Here, I find it useful to listen to what people do, and not what they say. It’s a good lesson for graduate school, overall. Most of what people will tell you to do bears little resemblance to the work that gets published, shared, and taught. For this reason I find it most useful to tune out the voices, find models of work that impacts you, and keep those models nearby as you write. You are not mimicking so much as you are cancelling out some of the noise.
Several projects I’m developing have given me reason to think about this. The latest is a more formal critique of the Schaefer Riley-CHE debacle. I argued at the time that there was an organizational logic to systematically marginalizing junior scholars who also happened to be black women. Trading in race is a distinct means of generating “page views”, an important form of capital as media undergoes major structural change. We’ll see if the conference presentation happens. In the meanwhile this gendered, racialized organizational logic is something I will be re-visiting.
Raging Against The Machine: The Case of Naomi Schaefer Riley and The Chronicle of Higher Education
In May 2012, conservative author Naomi Schaefer Riley published a vitriolic attack on black studies in The Chronicle of Higher Education. That attack was waged through an assault on the doctoral work of four black women scholars. A social media campaign, waged by another black woman doctoral student, led to Schaefer Riley’s dismissal and, eventually, a structural change in the Chronicle’s opinion pages. This case study examines how new media challenges the hegemonic legitimacy of traditional academic models that have systematically marginalized women and people of color. While there is potential in the ability to “talk back” to power by harnessing social media, this mode of grassroots resistance is also rife with potential land mines for scholars who lack the authority provided by prestige, power, and position. Grounded in organizational theory, this paper interrogates the shifting landscape of academic work in a neo-liberal political climate. It also explores under which conditions digital media, so often proffered as utopian, can be used as a tool of both marginalization and liberation.