Inside Higher Ed
by Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt, Patti Duncan and Marie Lo
October 1, 2021
Throughout the pandemic, various articles have explored the many challenges women of color faculty have encountered, including the amplification of structural inequalities, particularly for women faculty with caregiving responsibilities; barriers to publishing; and the extra labor of resisting racism and other forms of systemic exclusions. But we’ve also seen essays that highlight new possibilities that the pandemic has engendered, including rethinking academic leadership and teaching toward social justice.
In this piece, we’ve followed the thread of new possibilities, examining what we are learning during these difficult months and how it may fundamentally change the relationships that women of color faculty have with the academy. What transformative possibilities are enabled by the institutional changes enacted during COVID-19, including working from home, holding classes and meetings online, and other shifts in labor? What innovative spaces or strategies are we creating that we may wish to retain once the pandemic is over? How might power be reconfigured in new kinds of remote spaces like Zoom?
Embodied Responses to Institutional Spaces
So many of us who are faculty of color at predominantly white institutions experience physical reactions to hostile work environments. We have discussed among ourselves a shared sense of bodily discomfort, like knots in the stomach when arriving to campus. That type of discomfort is an embodied response to spaces where we regularly confront countless tiny paper cuts, or microaggressions, that structure our experiences in the academy. We consider those embodied responses as racialized and gendered, like those Resmaa Menakem discusses in My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, in which he writes that racialized trauma “lives and breathes in our bodies.”