It's Diablogical!
A Collaborative Diablog on Feminist Pedagogy
Academic Authority, Freedom, Authenticity KCF’s Thoughts

Wow – this is quite the interesting article isn’t it? I think it’s really great that we decided to start off our summer diablogging series with this article! (You like what I did there?!) Anyways, I am going to post my response to the article here and then try to answer some of your questions and then pose a couple of my own.

One of the issues that I see with this article right off the bat is that Hutcheson seems to create some idea of academic freedom by equating “freedom” with authority and also seems to create a false dichotomy of academic knowledge vs. internet internet knowledge (should we add this to our list of busting binaries?). On the first point I think this is really dangerous. When we think about freedom, I don’t necessarily believe this should be equated with “authority” and Hutcheson seems to be doing this with statements like:

And if society no longer believes professors have special expertise, it may no longer grant them the ability to pursue controversial ideas that grow from it.

Related to some of your ideas you bring up in your diablog questions this seems troublesome to me and if we think about the ways that we have posited that the internet enables us (ourselves + students) to access our authentic selves, I don’t think this automatically equates to authority then in order to retain our academic freedom. I also think think that in regards to your first question, it seems like those who have the most to lose in terms of their authority (read: freedom) might be the most upset about the easy reachability of “knowledge” on the interwebs. I say this because perhaps this is new for the “traditional” disciplines but let me tell you – frankly – from the position of “lowly” women’s studies and ethnic studies assistant professor I don’t really have much authority or knowlege to give in the eyes of many of my entitled, millennial, white students. So coming from a classroom situation where much of what I share is interpreted as “opinion” and not knowledge anyways I guess it’s a pretty moot point as to whether I access the internet for my information or the Routledge Published Feminist Academic Book when most of my students (who don’t want to hear what I have to say) consider what I’m saying already as “biased” and not based on any academic authority.

So – to jump off your your question about privilege – is it possible to present ourselves as experts in the disciplines we emerge from? And as feminists should we be concerned with being expert knowers instead of expert sharers? Let me tell you – this is coming from someone who is perpetually referred to as Ms. or Miss Creel Falcón and NOT Dr. or Professor! This is a serious epidemic, I’m thinking about making a digital story about it to share with my students! I tell my students they can call me Kandace but when the insist on addressing me vocally and in email with a Ms or Miss before my name it’s like they perpetually undermine any sort of authority I thought I might have had a slight grasp on with surviving grad school and completing that whole dissertation thingy…

Also, did you happen to see this article in April about how academics are caught in a really rough position in relation to wikipedia? This article “Wikipedia Wants More Contributions from Academics” traces the difficult position academics are in when they rely on the information from wikipedia but are not rewarded for contributing to it. Interesting questions this article raises – what do you think about this? Also, thinking about how many women contribute to wikipedia is even more alarming, what type of feminist or anti-racist work is being done on wikipedia in the grand scheme of things?

I want to answer more of your questions – but I’ll do that in a comment on your blog post tomorrow sometime, gotta get back to working on that online class and packing. So, I’m going to leave this here for you to think about! I’m glad we’re diablogging, let’s do at least five this summer together how does that sound? I need to get back into the writing groove. And let’s plan our writing retreat friend!

2 Comments to “Academic Authority, Freedom, Authenticity KCF’s Thoughts”

  1. SLP says:

    Thanks for this great post! I love your suggestion about doing at least five of these this summer and your suggestion about a writing retreat. I don’t have time to respond right now (making lunch for RJP), but I hope to write later today. I’m particularly interested in thinking more about academic knowledge vs. internet knowledge and the difficulties of earning respect/having authority without being an Authority.

  2. SLP says:

    Okay, I’m back. In terms of the false dichotomy between academic and internet knowledge, I keep wondering, what and who is the knowledge we (as academics) produce and share for? There are all sorts of ways that we could discuss this question, but I am thinking particularly of my feminist debates class this past semester and our repeated discussions about feminist education. Early on in the semester (on this day), we read an excellent article by Joy Castro: On Becoming Educated. Castro is critical of the “trickle-down” theory of academic ideas/theories/knowledge and the inability of much academic work to ever reach audiences who need/hunger for it. She doesn’t want to reject academic knowledge, but to expand it (maybe include internet knowledge as academic knowledge and/or spread ideas cultivated in academic spaces across the interwebz?). Check out this passage:

    The academy—as we fondly, misguidedly call it, as if it were some great, unified thing—is lumbering along amidst eviscerating budget cuts, pressures to corporatize, to streamline, to justify its existence to hostile anti-intellectual factions and a skeptical public, to become purely instrumental, a machine that grants job credentials to twenty-two-year-olds so they can get on with their lives. In the face of such intense and varied pressures, the academy must find ways to preserve itself as a place for thought to flourish—yet everyone needs to be invited to think. The discussion has to matter to everyone, and everyone’s voice must be heard.

    Yes, everyone needs to be invited to engage in thinking (and, I would add, everyone who is already thinking needs to have that thinking acknowledged and valued as such)! Academics must stop trying to shore up their status as experts/knowledge gatekeepers and devote much of their energies to learning how to make their ideas relevant to their various communities and to valuing/encouraging/promoting those incredible thinkers(like you, KCF) who are already reaching and connecting with their communities in critical and creative ways. For me, this need to value wider forms of thinking connects to the problem of not being taken seriously by students–we are devalued/disrespected by students partly because the knowledge we share is devalued/disrespected by academic institutions.

    I like this passage from Castro because it also reminds me how much I cherish critical thinking. I find that it can be hard to remember this when working in certain academic spaces; critical thinking is presented in such narrow ways and is often used to shut people out and to actually shut critical/creative thinking down. Personally, I feel that the pervasive attitude within the academic spaces that I inhabit is extremely damaging to my creative and intellectual spirit. While I have had some great experiences with many of my classes and exciting conversations with some colleagues, much of the “good stuff” seems to be in spite of the academy and not because of it. Perhaps I am being too vague in these statements–maybe I should expand on this claim in another blog post?

    Hopefully my rambling here has managed to engage with your great post. Before I make this comment too long (too late?!), I want to post a few more questions: What would academic spaces that were open to everyone (or at least a much broader range of people) look like? That nourish instead of damage our critical and creative spirits? Can they exist? What role might social media play in enabling academics to imagine and realize these spaces?