Duke Univ. Sept. 2021. 376p. ISBN 9781478015093. $109.95; pap. ISBN 9781478017714. $29.95. ED
In 2016, women’s studies scholar Ahmed (What’s the Use? On the Uses of Use; Living a Feminist Life) resigned her faculty position at Goldsmiths, University of London, in protest of the institution’s failure to address complaints about harassment, abuse, and inequity. Spurred by her experiences, she researched university complaint procedures and interviewed other frustrated academics; the results of her research are in this new volume. She found that though most universities now profess their commitment to justice, diversity, and equity, they often don’t actually listen or respond to complaints about abuse and harassment. Ahmed notes that bureaucratic requirements for filing a complaint often divert and exhaust those bringing forward complaints (“When a complaint is filed away or binned or buried, those who complain can end up feeling filed away or binned or buried”), and that policies designed to rectify inequities more often become tools to deny abuse rather than end it. She praises the power of collective action to protect relative newcomers to academe—women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people—and to allow them to raise their voices and participate fully in academic life. Ahmed’s book clearly presents personal stories of abuse and the rigid administrative responses to it. Her detailed analysis becomes poetic, and she concludes that “to complain is to give support to life...You can’t always tell, you don’t always know, what a complaint makes possible.”
VERDICT A powerful indictment of universities’ failure to recognize the power imbalances that continue to harm too many of those who seeking academic careers.
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