[The latest installation of a Monday series profiling Group of 88 members, which has included posts on miriam cooke, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Wahneema Lubiano, Pete Sigal, Grant Farred, Sally Deutsch, Joseph Harris, Paula McClain, Jocelyn Olcott, Irene Silverblatt, Maurice Wallace, and Kathy Rudy. The posts examine the scholarship and teaching of Group members, delving into the mindset of professors who last spring abandoned both the tenets of Duke’s Faculty Handbook and the academy’s traditional fidelity to due process. An item to keep in mind: in higher education, professors control the hiring process. The people profiled in this series will craft future job descriptions for Duke professors; and then, for positions assigned to their departments, select new hires.]
In one recent comment, a Group of 88 member/sympathizer suggested that the Group profile series had created an inaccurate perception of the Group, since the series had focused on “marginal academics rather than folks who have had long careers with stellar pedigrees.”
Beyond the sympathizer’s remarkable suggestion that Duke has a habit of tenuring “marginal academics,” the comment was untrue. Since the series has focused on tenured professors, it almost by design excluded Group members who haven’t published a book. In the humanities and social sciences at any elite university, it is rare to receive tenure without publishing a scholarly monograph. Wahneema Lubiano—she of the “perpetually forthcoming” monographs—is an exception in this regard.
Remarkably, no fewer than 20 members of the Group of 88 had not published a scholarly monograph (or its equivalent, in the case of the three Math and Physics signatories) at the time they signed the statement on April 6, 2006.
This total was clustered in two programs:
The University Writing Program—which is staffed mostly by postgraduates—had five of the non-monograph publishers (Benjamin Albers, Christina Beaule, Matt Brim, Marcia Rego). Since all five of these instructors were post-graduates, it would not be expected that they would have produced a book.
The African-American Studies Program—which is staffed exclusively by tenured or tenure-track-professors—had four of the non-monograph publishers (Anne-Maria Makhulu, Thavolia Glymph, Wahneema Lubiano, Bayo Holsey). Indeed, of professors listed as “full” or “joint” in the revised AAAS website, a full 50 percent have, of this date, published no monographs. Two more (Michaelene Chichlow and Charles Piot) have published only one monograph, and the most widely published of the eight (Charles Payne) has left Duke. And yet, with that record, Duke elevated the program to a full department?
Eleven other members of the Group (Jessica Boardman, Connie Blackmore, Silvia Boero, Mary Hovsepian, Ashley King, Caroline Light, Marcy Litle, Kenneth Maffitt, Lisa Mason, Wilma Pebles-Wilkins, Antonio Viego) had not published monographs at the time they signed the statement.
Most of the non-monograph publishers, however, do teach. Since this category formed nearly a quarter of the Group signatories, it seemed reasonable to devote one of the profile series posts to looking at a few of the above figures.
Take, for instance, Caroline Light, who describes her research interests as “feminist history, race and sexuality in the South, Southern Jewish history, [and] queer theory.” Light, who has a Ph.D. in History and Women’s Studies from the University of Kentucky, where she completed a dissertation entitled “Uplifting the Unfortunate of Our Race: Southern Jewish Benevolence and the Struggle towards Whiteness.” She is the coordinator for the Institute for Critical U.S. Studies—whose official homepage is devoted to the culminating event of the Group of 88 Rehab Tour, Wahneema Lubiano’s remarks at the “Shut Up and Teach” forum.
The institute’s director is Mark Anthony “thugniggaintellectual” Neal; eight of its nine-member advisory board signed either the Group or clarifying statements, or both. Its mission statement: “We seek an expanded understanding of what constitutes an ‘American,’ as we acknowledge that America cannot be adequately conceptualized from within the national borders of the U.S. but rather must be studied in relation to those ‘others’ who have both contended with the power of the United States and helped constitute its historical and affective reality.” In other words: have the answer first, conduct the research second.
The institute sponsored a spring 2007 course, “Introduction to Critical U.S. Studies,” which was co-taught by Group members Wahneema Lubiano and Jocelyn Olcott. Forty seats were allotted to the course. Seven students enrolled.
Light herself teaches a course called “Sex & the Global Citizen[ + ] Expand to see course description ,” which explores such questions as, “What differentiates a citizen from an “exile” and how is s/he constituted through dominant understandings of sexuality?”; “How is sexual shame generated on a mass scale, and how does it assert control over people’s lives and choices?”; and “How, for example, do we come to know what we know about sex, gender, race, and citizenship?” She also serves as the faculty sponsor for the House course, “Dating and Mating: Hookup Culture at Duke,” which last year was taught by Shadee Malaklou.
A few weeks before she signed the Group of 88 statement, Light demonstrated her tolerance of opposing viewpoints when she heckled—and praised students who joined her in heckling—conservative speaker David Horowitz when Horowitz spoke at Duke. That action appeared to violate the Faculty Handbook (is the Handbook ever enforced?), which states, “It is the policy of the university to protect the right of voluntary assembly, to make its facilities available for peaceful assembly, to welcome guest speakers, and to protect the exercise of these rights from disruption or interference . . . The substitution of noise for speech and force for reason is a rejection and not an application of academic freedom. A determination to discourage conduct that is disruptive and disorderly does not threaten academic freedom; it is, rather, a necessary condition of its very existence.”
Group member Antonio Viego has taught such courses as “Special Topics in Gender and Sexuality”; “Special Topics in United States Latina/o Literatures and Cultural Studies”; and “Topics in Psychoanalytic Criticism.” Regarding his approach in the classroom, Viego has written that “as a professor who teaches Latino/a Studies and Sexuality Studies in a literature program, I am constantly forced to rethink my role as an educator who is at times in collaboration with or in tension with the demands of contemporary globalization. The knowledge I produce in my classes is often in the service of the financialization of the globe.” His openly political goal? “An ongoing critical examination of the ways in which our intellectual labor reproduces the logic of the capitalist marketplace, at the same time that it might allow for the cultivation of pedagogical strategies that ‘attempt to interrupt such collusion.’”
Viego’s most prestigious publication to date—“The Place of Gay Male Chicano Literature in Queer Chicana/o Cultural Work”—was a peer-reviewed journal article that appeared in Discourse. The article opened with a discussion of Mexican artist Nahum Zenil’s work: for Viego, “the image of Zenil’s queer, naked body positioned in front of a Mexican flag as target provided a powerful, instant visual analogue for what I was trying to think through and write about with regards to the place of gay male Chicano work in Chicana/o Studies, specifically, the ways in which the gay male Chicano body has become a target of sorts in the different discussions attempting to locate his place in relation to Chicana lesbian literary and cultural work.”
The remainder of the essay consisted of a plea for devoting more attention to gay male Chicano literature—for reasons that, to Viego, appeared to be self-evident. The issue, he contended, raised “a cluster of pertinent questions posed to the academy, questions which attempt to explore the conditions under which a lesbian Chicana, Latina subjectivity has emerged in dominant critical academic discourse and the conditions under which a gay male Chicano, Latino subjectivity has failed to enter academic discourse.” Viego’s essay never really got around to answering these questions, or even to framing the questions clearly.
Unlike—to date—Lubiano’s “forthcoming” books, Viego at least produced the book he listed as forthcoming on his CV. Entitled Ruining Ethnicity and Race: Latino/a Studies, Psychoanalysis and Ego Psychology, it “argues that the repeated themes of wholeness, completeness, and transparency with respect to ethnic and racialized subjectivity are fundamentally problematic as these themes ultimately lend themselves to the project of managing and controlling ethnic and racialized subjects by positing them as fully knowable, calculable sums: as dead subjects. He asserts that the refusal of critical race and ethnic studies scholars to read ethnic and racialized subjects in a Lacanian framework—as divided subjects, split in language—contributes to a racist discourse. Focusing on theoretical, historical, and literary work in Latino studies, he mines the implicit connection between Latino studies’ theory of the ‘border subject’ and Lacan’s theory of the ‘barred subject’ in language to argue that Latino studies is poised to craft a critical multiculturalist, anti-racist Lacanian account of subjectivity while adding historical texture and specificity to Lacanian theory.”
In many ways, Viego’s decision to join the Group of 88 was among the most disappointing. Unlike many Group members, he has a reputation as a professor who cares about Duke students and their interests. He isn’t, therefore, someone that would have been expected to advance his personal, pedagogical, or ideological agenda on the backs of his students, as he did by signing the statement.
Although Viego is a virtually ideal candidate for the Group of 88’s race/class/gender agenda, many people might consider a research interest in gay male Chicano literature to be rather narrow. It’s the nature of a quality liberal arts education to expose students to research interests that might be considered fringe. That said, all universities—even a wealthy one like Duke—have limited resources. It would be interesting to know which fields were allowed to lapse with retirements, or funding for which fields the administration turned down, so that Duke could bring aboard a specialist in gay male Chicano literature. That information, alas, isn’t public—at Duke, or (to my knowledge) at any other institution.
Sociology professor Mary Hovsepian, spouse of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, is one of two husband-wife teams among the Group (Rom Coles and Kim Curtis are the other). Like Curtis, Hovsepian appears to be a permanent visiting professor—essentially, a spousal hire. (The Group fights the patriarchy—but spousal hires seem to be one benefit of a patriarchal system to which Group members do not object.) Hovsepian has an undergraduate degree from Birzeit University. She received her Ph.D. 22 years later from the University of Wisconsin, with a dissertation entitled “The Politics of Garment Production: Nation, Work, and Gender across the Palestinian/Israeli Border.”
Hovsepian regularly teaches two classes. One focuses on the sociology of the Middle East; the other explores “the changing configuration of global capitalism, with emphasis on comparing global regions of North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The internal dynamics of these regions, including the development strategies of selected nations, interregional comparisons (for example, regional divisions of labor, state-society relationships, the nature of their business systems, quality of life issues).”
Hovsepian’s publications are almost non-existent. According to her CV, she has produced only one four-page article (“‘This is a White Country’: The Racial Ideology of the Western Nations of the World-System”), which was co-authored with Bonilla-Silva. She does have several encyclopedia entries under contract, and her CV lists a “manuscript,” though with no indication that it is completed or under contract with any press.
Her area of specialization is the Middle East; her general perspective, unsurprisingly, is critical of Israel.