by guest author Philipp Schulz
This text was first published on the blog „Duck of Minerva“ on February 17, 2020. The blog focuses on world politics from an academic perspective. We thank the author and publishers for the opportunity to share this article on our Toolbox-Blog.
Academic competitiveness and pettiness is alive and real. From expediting demands of the competitive academic job market, disrespectful peer review comments, to micro-aggressions and open hostilities at conferences – in particular to early career, women and/or people of colour scholars – there seem to be countless examples for an acute absence of kindness and empathy in the academy. Probably most of us, although to varying degrees, have been confronted with the unkind aspects of academic environments. In many ways, of course, these problems are embedded in wider structural problems of racism and sexism within the academy at large.
Fortunately, there seems to be increasing (albeit slow) recognition of the toxic practices of academic work cultures. As an early career researcher, I am particularly excited about some of the kindness that many of my peers are extending and the horizontal generosity that is beginning to spread across conferences, workshops and social media. Yet, I do believe that the (sub-)field of feminist international relations is particularly unique in that way, perhaps not unrelated to some of the disciplinary sanctioning and marginalizing that the field still experiences in the discipline more widely.
Kindness through Thank You Emails
Inspired by some of that inclusivity and kindness of the scholars I look up to and read – and I am specifically looking at Cynthia Enloe here, who has often been praised for being ‘amazingly generous to feminist colleagues and graduate students’, or my former supervisor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin – I too aim to be more mindfully generous and kind, in my research and writing, as well as during conferences/workshops and teaching. Here, I want to share one particular way in which I try to practice (and teach) academic kindness in the classroom: Together with my students, for each session in our seminars, we write an email to the authors we read that day, to share our appreciation for their work.
The idea came to me when a scholar whose work I absolutely admire in an email also mentioned that she had assigned one my recently published articles in one of her seminars, and that the students liked the text. For me, this was the first time I heard that someone had used any of my writing in class, let alone that it was apparently well received, and so this was an absolute highlight for me that semester. I have also been inspired by others following similar paths, such as Megan Mackenzie, who has previously recorded thank you videos with her students for the authors they read in class, and shared those publicly via twitter.
Influenced by that, I intend to myself share more positive feedback with the authors I read – whether for research or for teaching. We all get so used to receiving and articulating critique (mostly constructive, but often also harsh, unreasonable and imbalanced) about our work and papers, whether at conferences, during peer-review or from supervisors and/or peers. But in my experience so far, we too seldom just articulate positive, affirmative, encouraging and generous feedback about something we truly enjoyed reading, and from which we benefited intellectually, politically or even personally.
In order to change that, for the past two semesters now, I have made it a practice of together with my students sending positive feedback emails to the authors we read. With these emails, we aim to let the authors know how we engaged with their work, to recognize and thank them for their work, and to share with them how this has been beneficial for us.
How does this look like in practice? „Practicing Academic Kindness in the Classroom“ weiterlesen