I’ll confess that I always feel a little pit in my stomach when I see that a new book about diversity in higher education goes to print. I started this project several years ago, and it was slow, difficult work getting it all together, and now it is making the slow journey to publication. It’s difficult to hurry up and wait. I worry that the narratives I’ve compiled will seem like old news.
Then I remember that an issue as complex and deeply entrenched as this one requires multiple essays, articles, anthologies, and special journal issues. The goal isn’t to be first but to expand and extend the discussion (it should probably be this in all areas of research but this is especially the case when it comes to diversity). And I remind myself that more than professional advancement or ego boosts, we need as broad a community as possible to be as informed as possible about this issue.
This is not only a list books that came out this year (Presumed Incompetent) but of books that are important to this conversation that I returned to this year as I finished writing the introduction to the collection. These are books I looked to as I planned the anthology, and they are books that I think everyone should read—especially white academics who want to do more than just say that they value diversity (or offer the earnest head nod whenever the issue comes up). And I should say that I am very glad that colleagues in my home department are reading some of these books with me and doing the work to develop and maintain meaningful diversity.
If you know of more good books on the subject, please send the titles my way
(NB: Descriptions are from websites about the books where available).
If you’re going to start anywhere, start with: Deborah Gray White, ed. Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower. Gender and American Culture Series. (U of North Caroline, P., 2008).
Engagingly written, Telling Histories should appeal to multiple audiences. Taken together, these stories underscore the firm hold of racism, sexism, and classism within American society in general and the academy and history departments specifically. While presenting and often resolving theoretical and methodological questions, the book not only is valuable for graduate students but is also a significant contribution to the field and should facilitate bringing down barriers, both within and outside the academy, that constrain the professorial ranks, stifle voices, and preclude diverse academicians and scholars from writing and teaching without restraint. The contributors’ content is largely descriptive but it also provides analysis about the progression of scholarly trends and instruction in historiography to historians at all professional stages.
Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs, et al, eds.
Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (Utah State UP, 2012)
Presumed Incompetent is a pathbreaking account of the intersecting roles of race, gender, and class in the working lives of women faculty of color. Through personal narratives and qualitative empirical studies, more than 40 authors expose the daunting challenges faced by academic women of color as they navigate the often hostile terrain of higher education, including hiring, promotion, tenure, and relations with students, colleagues, and administrators. The narratives are filled with wit, wisdom, and concrete recommendations, and provide a window into the struggles of professional women in a racially stratified but increasingly multicultural America.
Black Women in the Ivory Tower: 1850-1954 (UP Florida 2007).
Evans chronicles the stories of African American women who struggled for and won access to formal education, beginning in 1850, when Lucy Stanton, a student at Oberlin College, earned the first college diploma conferred on an African American woman. In the century between the Civil War and the civil rights movement, a critical increase in black women’s educational attainment mirrored unprecedented national growth in American education. Evans reveals how black women demanded space as students and asserted their voices as educators–despite such barriers as violence, discrimination, and oppressive campus policies–contributing in significant ways to higher education in the United States. She argues that their experiences, ideas, and practices can inspire contemporary educators to create an intellectual democracy in which all people have a voice.
Janis Fay, et al, eds.
Racism in the Academy: The New Millennium. American Anthropological Association. (2012)
The starting point for this study was through the auspices of our professional scholarly society, the American Anthropological Association. In 2007, then-president Alan Goodman appointed a commission charged with two primary responsibilities:
“(1) to collect information in order to better expose how privilege has been maintained in anthropology and the AAA, including but not limited to departments and the academic pipeline and
(2) to develop a comprehensive plan for the Association and for the field of anthropology to increase the ethnic, racial, gender and class diversity of the discipline and organization.”
Affirmative Action, Hate Speech, and Tenure: Narratives About Race and Law in the Academy. Benjamin Baez (Routledge Falmer 2002).
I like everything that Baez has written on race in higher education. Everything.
Geok-Lin Lim, Shirley et al, eds.
Power, Race, and Gender in Academe: Strangers in the Tower. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1991)
My favorite chapter from this collection is Gunning, Sandra. “Now That They Have Us, What’s the Point?” The Challenge of Hiring to Create Diversity.”
Matthew, Patricia A., ed.
Written/Unwritten: Tenure and Race in the Humanities (not yet, but I couldn’t resist…)