Week 9: A multi-purpose University, Eve.

“What is the root of the dissatisfaction? Probably the variety of purposes teachers, students, administrators, feel a university has.” (Bambara, 14).

Reading this excerpt of Bambara’s work from 1969, I was struck by how relevant her thoughts and observations are today. We are still having conversations today about representation in academic disciplines. Students want to see their own experiences in the work they study because the assumption of the Western World and Canon relating to everyone is Supremacist– but I think the more insidious idea, that underscores traditional academia, is that it’s a space of objectivity: we do not dote on our personal experiences when engaged in discourse and analysis, and then you realize that’s the standard while concurrently a professor assigns Walden?

So why are we living in the age of Political Correctness now? The roots of “A Counter Culture” and the strength of youth protests go back to the 60s: The University as a source of political discourse in response to Vietnam. Or if you want to be schmaltzy, Barbara Streisand’s character in The Way We Were protesting against Franco’s fascist regime– or the Trotsky Stalinist debates of the 30s on City College’s campus? The end of the 50s, and push against your parent’s domesticity, challenging the nuclear family and the institution of marriage, all the way to the late 60s and the rise of the Black Panthers and Black Power movement show some roots of Identity Politic. Why are we only in the age of PCness now?

How would you date the start of modern-day PC culture and why are we so quick to label it this– especially when it’s the generation of 60s activists (Boomers to be reductive), who are the first to label modern-day critiques as purely “Identity politic”? At what point did we get to the type of discourse surrounding identity in the university, and has it ultimately has it led to progress?

2 thoughts on “Week 9: A multi-purpose University, Eve.

  1. Katina Rogers (she/her)

    Eve, I think it could be interesting to trace the movements of ethnic studies programs in relation to the questions you raise here—their development, their situated locations (often on the margins of other, more well established departments), the ways in which they are often absorbed into other departments or disbanded entirely. Lucien’s post is related to this question, as is Karen’s of whether Black studies departments must always exist in a fugitive relationship to the university. There are questions of insider/outsider identity at play, and what it means for a program to be institutionalized. I’ll look forward to discussing tonight.

  2. Matt Brim

    Building on Katina’s post… you might look at Robyn Wiegman’s great (difficult) book _Object Lessons_ to think about how some disciplines’ commitments to social justice (she’s calls these the “identity knowledges” disciplines or the “interdisciplines) are never fulfilled, yet they nevertheless have provided productive interventions into the academy.

Comments are closed.