Almost a year after the national wave of #MeToo stories in the United States, and almost two years after the release of the Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape, I’m still thinking about #MeTooAnthro. I’ve especially been reading and rereading the stories on metooanthro.org, Bianca Williams’ writing about fieldwork experience, the 2016 story Anthropologists Say No to Sexual Harassment, and since yesterday, a new, particularly overwhelming set of reports about sexual assault by male anthropologists at CUNY.
Anyway, here I just want to recount one incident that happened to me last decade. I haven’t seen a lot of nonwomen anthropologists writing about these sorts of workplace harassment stories. (The overwhelmingly predominant scenario is men harassing women, in any case.) I’m not trying to claim that my story is a remarkable one. But it does bring out some issues about power and abuse among precarious and temporary workers. And perhaps naively, I still think I have a right to write about my experience. It’s an older story now, and I changed all the names, since at this point, it’s not about anyone but me.
Continue reading ““I kind of miss him but he hates me”: a workplace harassment story”
Since I started teaching at Whittier, I’ve been thinking about how I like my students to address me. There’s something of a local norm of just calling everyone “Professor.” It cuts down on cognitive overhead, no doubt, to be able to address all of one’s teachers by their title; it saves on having to keep track of their names. Not to mention that my last name is hard to pronounce, so perhaps students don’t know how to say it, or don’t care to risk getting it wrong…
I’ve started to tell them they can call me “Eli,” as a sign of… a sign of what? Familiarity? Informality? Friendliness? Being easygoing? Not wanting to reinforce the old-school hierarchies? Some combination of these. But it also occurs to me that telling my students what to call me is still a way of inhabiting authority, even if I ask them to call me something less-hierarchical. So instead of requesting that they call me “Eli,” I just frame it as giving them the option of calling me by [firstname]. They can exercise it as they choose.
Continue reading “Does academic informality matter?”
In my corner of the academy, one isn’t really taught much about writing.
One is taught constantly to produce texts and to judge texts, but that isn’t the same thing, because writing is a process, and the text is merely the product. A theory of a product isn’t a theory of its production.
There is of course a cottage industry of advice, guidelines, tips, “rules for writing,” writing strategies, and so on. Generally this advice is instrumentalist. It tells you, “Picture your reader!” “Write short sentences!” “Always revise!” “Have modest goals!” It tells you, in sum, “Write like this if you want to succeed.”
The problem with this sort of writing advice is that it isn’t really about writing. It is about career success, behavioral self-optimization, and complying with norms.
The second problem with writing advice is that it constantly equates writing with composition. But composition is only one metaphor for writing. Perhaps improvisation (to borrow a sibling musical category) is another possible metaphor for writing. Maybe it’s even a good one?
Continue reading “Is writing composition or improvisation?”