Monday, November 12, 2007

Quote of the Evening Number Two

Don't mean to stack up on y'all, but this is too good to pass up. From Dr. Boyce Watkins, a Black professor:
For example, in academia, we have the so-called “elite” journals: mostly controlled by white males or those who think like them. When I have submitted work relevant to the black community to these journals, that work is then rejected. At which point, I am criticized for not having my work published in the so-called “premiere journals”. That’s like me forcing Garth Brooks to perform in the Apollo Theatre in Harlem , and saying “From the crowd’s reaction, it’s clear that you’re a shitty singer”.

The article in general is great, and particularly interesting to me for its clear ties into my outside research into subjectification (see my post, "The Diversity Rationale and the Problem of Subjectification" for an overview of the concept, or contact me if you want a copy of the article I'm currently drafting).


PG said...

Hmm. I think that it's silly to criticize someone for doing important work that nonetheless is deemed by the flagship law reviews not to be appropriate for their audience. However, I haven't read Dr. Watkins's work, so I don't know whether he can be properly criticized for failing to publish in those journals because his work is insufficiently original, well-written, relevant to a large number of people, etc.

To take just the examples with which I am most familiar, both Kimberle Crenshaw and Patricia Williams have had several publications relevant to the black community in the flagship journals of top tier schools (Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, USC, etc.).

I don't like the Apollo Theatre analogy because it implies that flagship journals as a matter of mere taste (like the taste of the Apollo audience) need not be publishing on matters important to the black community. The better analogy ought to be to Madison Square Garden: if you're really good (or at least have a really big audience), you can play there no matter what you're playing. Both Jay-Z and Garth Brooks can play MSG. Pat Green, though in my own opinion a better artist than Brooks, can't. It's entirely fair for a record company, in deciding how much money an artist gets from a contract, to decide that the person who can play MSG gets more. While "popularity" perhaps doesn't work the same way in academia, maybe the metric is relevance: if enough people think your work is important, you deserve to be promoted. If your work is on the Pat Green level -- beloved only by a relatively small group of people even within your area (country music/ race studies) -- then maybe you shouldn't get the same level of promotion as the Garth Brooks.

On the other hand, I think both flagship journals and the MOMA ought to serve the same purpose: gathering the best of what's taken from the specialty journals/museums for comparative exhibits.

David Schraub said...

I think critical race theory showing up in top-level law journals is kind of a unique case. CRT is legal academia's biggest success story in terms of its penetration across other academic disciplines. For a department that has a constant inferiority complex with regards to how it's viewed by others, it's a massive ego boost to actually be leading the discussion for once. So I think that pushes CRT work into top journals (though, and maybe this is just me, it seems over the past few years the number of CRT articles in top journals has dropped substantially).