Public Scholarship

The opinion articles below were originally published in my column “Diversity in the Workplace” in Anthropology News between 2017-2018.

Diversity in the Workplace

2/11/19        What Does Diversity and Inclusion Mean?

In the spirit of creating alternatives to capitalism that also recognize the importance of advocating for institutionally marginalized students, I suggest that we ask, taking an emic approach in anthropology seriously: What does diversity and inclusion mean to our departments and to our schools?

10/11/18         Starbucks, Racism, and the Anthropological Imagination

After a series of discrimination allegations, Starbucks announced in April that it would close to eight thousand stores on May 29 to conduct racial bias training. Many applauded the multinational corporation for taking a stance against racism, while others scoffed. Anthropologists have long kept a pulse on how corporations pollute environments, depress wages, control workers, create war, and, as a mentor recently reminded me, how they “just kill people.” Corporations were at the forefront of theoretical musings on evil infrastructure in Cultural Anthropology’s 2017 Theorizing the Contemporary series. So, what sense can we make of a historical moment such as this, wherein one of the largest multinational corporations hired leading experts on American racism purportedly to transform their business culture?

3/21/18         The Spirit of Affirmative Action in Hollywood and Academia

Frances McDormand finished her acceptance speech for best actress with the phrase, “I have two words to tell you all tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.” Within hours the mainstream media clarified the inclusion rider as a contractual clause that actors can use to require diversity standards for the film’s cast and crew. Wide adoption of the inclusion rider would effectively institutionalize the guiding principle that women and people of color have used for decades: pull each other up. In the aftermath of affirmative action, the A-list member can employ their status to pull others up to grow both diversity and business. This begs the question, What can the inclusion rider reveal about academia’s own limitations and possibilities for diversity?

2/6/18          Diversity Audited (A Short How-To Guide)

Since the 1980s, audits have almost become mundane. They have provided means by which employers can increase efficiency and productivity, as well by which the most disenfranchised can exercise agency. With regards to the latter, documents, numbers, and benchmarks make rights visible and achievable, even if these tools for measurement end up obscuring and simplifying complex issues. Despite limitations, I ask us to turn to diversity audits for inspiration to create better and more inclusive academic departments. Below I present five methods for organizational change: reviewing diversity demographics, creating resource awareness, identifying diversity targets, increasing retention, and creating accountability structures.

11/21/17          Advocating Professionalism or Muting Mental Health Problems?

A study conducted by the University of California Berkeley in 2014 found that 47 percent of graduate students showed signs of depression. Around the same time, a study published in Academic Psychiatry found this to be the case for up to one-third of graduate students at Emory and that 7.3 percent of those surveyed had contemplated—and 2.3 percent actually had plans of—committing suicide. Both of these studies found that these students had perpetual anxiety, loneliness, and hopelessness. Although mental health challenges are commonly known, they continue to be stigmatized and dismissed as part of the disciplinary process of becoming an academic. Insofar mental health needs not medical, but social and structural interventions, academic departments need to adapt to their student needs, including creating professional competencies for scarce and highly competitive academic and non-academic job markets.

10/26/17         Beyond the Criminal Discourse in Title IX Procedures

On September 22, 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rolled back the Title IX guidelines implemented under the Obama presidency. The shocking implications of this are too numerous for this short article, however, I want bring to the fore one key concern: changes to what constitutes as the standard of proof for a violation in sexual harassment policies. Whereas Obama-era guidelines lowered the standard of sexual harassment to include the creation of a hostile work environment, DeVos Devos raised them. Her changes arguably provide due process only for those accused of the most egregious crimes. However, both of these approaches employ punitive measures to address sexual harassment on campus, and they are both insufficient and harmful.

9/25/17          The Disastrous End for DACA Students and Workers

Early morning on September 5, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, issued to protect over 800,000 undocumented persons who arrived to the United States as minors from deportation and provide them with temporary work-permits. Sessions claimed that DACA had been “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch,” and hence, needed to be repealed. Despite all efforts to portray DACA recipients as the perfect immigrant, Sessions still characterized them as having “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans, by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.” As early as March 5th, almost one-thousand people will be subject to deportation every day. Certainly, we are all hoping that Congress will find a permanent solution. Yet, given that DACA students and workers are not a legally protected class in the United States, it would be a serious mistake to not anticipate and plan for the worst possible outcome.

8/29/17          Deconstructing the Millennial Classroom

Millennials are often thought of as selfish, lazy, and entitled. Yet, this narrative ignores much of the systemic issues that this generational group faces, including stagnant wages and hyper-inflated postsecondary degrees. We have also underestimated their power in bringing about political and social change.

7/31/17          The Zero-Sum Game of White Supremacy

The struggle for civil rights is often interpreted as a challenge to white heteronormative ideals. These take the shape of zero-sum logics in which minorities are seen as threats. Such rhetorics are, hence, enactments of exclusions, Othering, and violence.

6/26/17         Racial Projects

Race is often discussed as question of identity or biology. Yet, Omi and Winant (1984) have argued that it is a project. In a time when diversity and inclusion has been institutionalized, such projects align bodies, documents, logics, and affects.

5/30/17         Managing Hope After Affirmative Action

While affirmative action policies have been all but eliminated, management consultants, human resource professionals, and other professionals invest in professional development program. These place much of the responsibility for upward mobility of minorities and women on the person, rather than the organization.

4/28/17         Disentangling Antiracism from Capitalism

Since the 1960s, antiracism politics have tended to align with capitalism to advocate for social and economic mobility of minorities by framing them in terms of upward mobility. In a Post-Trump political environment, what is needed more than ever is a project that imagines antiracism outside of the projects of capitalism.

3/27/17         Six Ways Anthropologists Can Challenge White Supremacy

A Boasian tradition has positioned anthropologists to advocate for most marginalized. Today’s political environment suggests that we turn to the discipline’s genesis to re-imagine public anthropology, teaching, activism, and antiracist practice.