Sunday, November 25, 2018

"Diversity" in Academia: How the Ivory Tower Stays White


Academia wants diversity without diverse people.

One of the peculiarities of academia is that it preaches diversity while at the same time locking its doors to people of color. This problem has only become worse in recent years, with the academic job market crashing just as new cohorts of non-white PhD Candidates are beginning to seek tenure-track positions. This has not been helped by the fact that universities have tried to address the issue of job scarcity with solutions that perpetuate academia's lack of diversity. Indeed, in attempting to address the lack of available tenure-track positions, universities have barred people of color from the Ivory Tower and secured its status as a white institution.

One example might be the growth of "diversity" programs adopted by several PhD-granting institutionsI put diversity in quotes because they are not speaking about race or gender diversity, but career diversity. These programs attempt to re-imagine PhD programs, making them less about preparing students for academia and more about funneling them towards jobs outside of the academy.

There are many ironies to this. The first is that it seems unwise to task programs originally designed to prepare people for academia with the contradictory goal of pushing them into the "real world," if only because many of the people running such programs do not have adequate experience outside of the academy. If anything, perhaps PhD programs should place less emphasis on "career diversity" and more emphasis on solving its lack of actual diversity, which limits its ability to effectively cater to students of color (as evidenced by Tiffany Martínez's story and others like it).

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Review - Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire

Eliga H. Gould. Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of A New World Empire, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2012 1 + 301 pp. $40.00. Notes, bibliography, and index.
          
            Eliga H. Gould’s Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of A New World Empire is less about the revolution itself than it is about the external forces that influenced the early United States and its foreign and domestic policy. For Gould, these external forces came largely in the form of Europe’s power and influence. Indeed, early in the book he notes how, while “the revolution enabled the Union’s citizens to begin making their own history...the history that they made was often the history that others were willing to let them make” (2). In other words, the revolution did not so much mark the entrance of the United States as an influential nation on the world stage as it did signify the desire of U.S. political leaders to create a European inspired nation that might eventually be worthy of having a place “among the powers of the earth.” This meant, according to Gould, integrating the United States into the legal geography established by Europe’s law of nations, a set of “neither coherent nor binding” treaties that governed everything from war to commerce between countries in Europe (5). Among the Powers of the Earth thus borrows from one of Gould’s earlier articles, which demonstrated how the thirteen colonies and the early United States were entangled in a web of European customs and traditions. In Gould’s mind, the American Revolution was not complete until the United States could be accepted as a nation in the eyes of Europeans.  

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Review - The River Flows On: Black Resistance, Culture, and Identity Formation in Early America


Walter C. Rucker. The River Flows On: Black Resistance, Culture, and Identity Formation in Early America, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 2006 xii + 288 pp. $49.95. Notes, bibliography, and index.
 
          One of the major criticisms of early American history is that it ignores Africa. In the past few decades this has changed, with historians like Ira Berlin and Randy J. Sparks using the Atlantic World lens to insert Africa into otherwise Americanist histories. But some scholars, like Walter C. Rucker, argue that inserting Africa and Africans into the story is not enough. One must also seek to understand African people at a more fundamental level. For Rucker, this means acknowledging that the behavior of African Americans was "largely shaped by their African past" (4). Rucker's book, The River Flows On: Black Resistance, Culture, and Identity Formation in Early America, does this by analyzing slave revolts in North America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. His central thesis is that African culture did in fact survive the middle passage to British North America, and that these cultural ties inspired slaves to resist chattel slavery.