Indigenous Sociology for Social Impact

Indigenous Sociology for Social Impact

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a strong contribution to make in leading change in sociology, however, their knowledges are kept on the periphery of our discipline. Associate Professor Kathleen Butler is working to transform sociology by “Indigenising” sociology. She is an Aboriginal woman belonging to the Bundjalung and Worimi peoples of coastal New South Wales, and a sociologist who hosted the “Indigenous Sociology for Social Impact” workshop. The workshop explored ways to address colonial practices in sociology, as well as how to draw on Indigenous expertise to decolonise research, methods and theories in sociology.

Indigenising sociology

Using the Aboriginal method of a “talking circle” (or yarning circle), where any person can contribute to unstructured dialogue, Professor Butler began two-day discussions considering how Indigenous-led practices can enhance Australian sociology.

The first day of the workshop was centred on a thoughtful presentation by former social worker and researcher Karen Menzies on how intergenerational trauma of forced removal of Aboriginal children continues to impact the health and life outcomes of Indigenous people.

The second day of the workshop began with Associate Professor Butler reflecting on her evolving research on sociological teaching and resources. She has analysed the topics covered in higher education sociology courses around Australia, and finds that there is almost no focus on Indigenous scholarship, and that there is little attention to race in central sociology teaching. She argued this is one of the ways in which we see how sociology actively participates in an exclusively Western framing of social issues.

We discussed that sociology as a discipline actively perpetuates colonialism in the citing conventions, theories and methods we continue to pass on to students.

Investing in future change

Another question we discussed at length was: how do we account for the fact that the majority of people who are trained as sociologists are not Indigenous? We discussed how Aboriginal sociologists are on the fringes of our discipline, either underemployed or precariously employed as casual staff. We noted a major investment in the training, mentorship, sponsorship, promotion and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sociologists needs to be prioritised in sociology.

Decolonising sociology

We discussed what a decolonised sociological imagination would look like, with critiques of foundational Western sociological texts at the centre. Australian sociology has rebuilt itself before – using a White feminist framework in the 1970s and 1980s – we can do this again using Indigenous knowledges and intersectionality. Associate Professor Butler argued that the work of Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson (a Geonpul woman) is our starting point for decolonising sociology, especially in Australia.

We also discussed issues of ethics and intersectionality (the interconnections between gender and racial inequality and other forms of social marginalisation).

Read more on my post, including a video interview with Associate Professor Butler delving into the outcomes of the workshop and questions that remain for our discipline. https://othersociologist.com/2018/01/06/indigenous-sociology-for-social-impact/

#sociology #socialscience #indigenous #aboriginal #research #academia #inequality #race #racism #australia #university #socialjustice

Gender, Race, Power and The Beguiled

Gender, Race, Power and The Beguiled

How do White women perpetuate gender and racial inequality in film? A new adaption of the 1966 novel and 1971 film, “The Beguiled,” is hitting the silver screen. The original story opens with a limping, dirtied White man, John (also nicknamed “Mr B”), played with relish by Clint Eastwood. The audience knows the violence and lies he’s capable of, as we see flashbacks that contradict his charm. He is an Unionist soldier injured in battle towards the end of the American Civil War. He staggers his way to a secluded boarding school for girls and young women, where he is nursed back to health by the older women, a mixed group of begrudging and bemused ladies who are stifled by their secret desires.

The 2017 version has already built up high praise, with director Sofia Coppola being awarded Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. This is the first time the prestigious award has been given to a woman. Coppola has given an interview to explain why she chose to erase the character of Hallie, a slave woman who features prominently in the original.

“I really thought it was interesting because it was a group of women all living together, all different ages with different stages of maturity, and how they interact. It’s a group of women kind of isolated in the world… I’m definitely attracted to stories about female characters, and characters that I can relate to. I’m interested in stories of groups of women together… At the heart of the story, it’s really about the power dynamics between men and women that are universal, but that are sort of heightened in this kind of premise.” https://goo.gl/74SgRK

Copolla makes two points in this interview:

* She loves women’s stories (read: White women’s stories).

* By saying she chooses stories that she relates to, and having omitted the only Black woman from her script, she is saying she only relates to White women.

This may seem “natural” to White people: why would a White woman relate to a Black woman character? This logic is how Whiteness works: by taking for granted the power dynamics of race.

Hallie (played by Mae Mercer in 1971) is the sole Black woman character in the original story. Her presence alone would disrupt Coppola’s picturesque vision of gender unity. Her existence as a slave is both a reminder of the violence that White women are capable of, and the violence that is to come. She discusses life as a slave and comments about the racism the other characters throw her way.

White women like Coppola ignore two crucial points. First, White women benefited from slavery. Second, White women today continue to benefit from slavery. For example, being in control of a story set in slave times and removing enslaved women is power. It is an example of White supremacy.

Read more on my blog: https://othersociologist.com/2017/06/21/gender-race-power-the-beguiled/

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read my article, and the scientific sources referenced.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #socialjustice #equity #inclusion #diversity #poc #slavery #whitefeminism #whiteness #racism #film #history #sofiacoppola #gender #power #race

Tone Policing People of Colour

Tone Policing People of Colour

When White people try to dismiss Indigenous and other people of colour’s (POC) discussion of colonialism and its present-day impact by focusing on “tone,” that’s racism at work. Tone policing is when members of majority groups focus on the language and perceived emotion of marginalised or underrepresented groups during discussions of inequality. The majority group sees themselves as entitled to infer “illegitimate” arguments based solely on the words being used, rather than the meaning of what is being said. This is an attempt to silence or derail discussions, to shift power away from the lived experiences and knowledge of minorities or disempowered groups.

On my latest blog post, I discuss a recent example where a White Australian woman felt a need to tell me that they refused to read an article I’d tweeted, which was written by an Indigenous woman author. The title was White “Australia” Has a Black Future. I didn’t tweet the article to this woman and she doesn’t follow me. Yet because it was being shared by others, she felt a need to comment to me, a non-Indigenous woman of colour, that the title was “offensive.” She said: “We need to maintain civilities.”

She continued to argue for hours that there are nicer ways to discuss Indigenous issues without putting “allies” like her offside with language. The article is about the history of Australia. Everything is fact. There is no offensive language—no swear words; no hate speech. So what exactly is offensive about a Black woman talking about the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? Especially during Reconciliation Week, where Australia reflects on Indigenous rights issues?

If White people can’t handle POC talking about racism, it doesn’t matter what words we use; the issue you have is that we’re talking at all. There’s no “nice” way to talk about racism. Racism is structural; it envelops us; it ruins the life chances of POC. There’s nothing “positive” about racial inequality.

White people who imagine there’s a “rational” way they deem acceptable to hear discussion of racism is actually them saying they want to dictate how POC express their lived experiences and knowledge of racial oppression. As POC point out all day, every day, White people put more effort into policing discussion of race so they don’t have to work on themselves.

Read more on my blog: https://othersociologist.com/2017/06/17/tone-policing-people-of-colour

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read my article, and the scientific sources referenced.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #socialjustice #equity #inclusion #diversity #poc #indigenous #tonepolicing #whiteness #racism #australia #reconciliationweek #history

Interracial Dating: Pushing Past Prejudice

Interracial Dating: Pushing Past Prejudice

Last week, I was interviewed on triple j radio for the program, The Hook Up. The show explored listeners’ experiences of sexual fetishisation and prejudice in relationships, as well as what it’s like being partned with people from minority backgrounds. A few minority-background callers described feeling reduced to only one facet of their identity due to sexual racism. An Indigenous woman talked about the explicit and implict racism she faces as someone perceived not to look and act like a “typical” Aboriginal woman (despite the diversity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people). A woman of Indian background felt no strong cultural connection to India but was often placed in the position of being tokenised because of her heritage.

The discussion featured the talented Zambian-Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker Santilla Chingapie. She reflected on her SBS documentary Date My Race, where she shared her personal experiences being discriminated against as a Black Australian woman on dating apps. White Australian counsellor Sue Pratt talked about the challenging patterns that interracial couples experience as they attempt to work through cultural differences, as well as strategies to manage intercultural respect in relationships. Andy Trieu, Australian-Vietnamese co-host of the SBS TV show, Pop Asia, discussed how the only women who respond to him on dating apps are from similar Asian backgrounds. He expressed a curiosity about dating White women and why they may not be interested in him as an Asian man. Shantan Wantan Ichiban discussed the racist implications of the question “Where are you from?,” which is often used as opening line in bars and other pickup situations.

I discussed how people often try to frame sexual fetishes as a positive compliment, but that this is misguided. Racial fetishes are the twin side of the same coin of racism; on the one side are stereotypes that emphasise exotic otherness and on the other side are those same people who must navigate multiple experiences of being discriminated against as they go about their daily lives. I note that one thing we can collectively do to start tackling sexual racism is to start having broader conversations about race and racism in Australia. Most of the people who have racial fetishes and those who exclude being open to dating particular groups have never had to think about their race. There are many resources available, including on social media, that are produced by minority groups, that help us all to better understand other cultures without fetishising differences and which break down negative biases.

Listen to the discussion below on Triple J.

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please listen to the podcast.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #socialjustice #equity #woc #diversity #interracial #inclusion #dating #relationships #triplej #australia #racism #unconsciousbias #prejudice

Interview: Sociology at Work

Interview: Sociology at Work

I was interviewed by Mendeley about my work in equity and diversity in research environments. Below is an excerpt.

My focus is on gender equity and diversity. I have worked with many different organisations as a consultant and project manager; I’ve instructed them on how to review, enhance, and evaluate effectiveness of different policies. I’ve also provided consultancy on how to provide training at different levels so organisations can better understand their obligations and responsibilities.

My work includes enhancing workplace culture, particularly, the everyday cultural dynamics that impact on working life. For example, by offering more flexibility for workers, and looking at where there may be gaps or opportunities to enhance existing procedures. I also study how everyday interactions can enhance productivity. In other words, I don’t just look at how organisations can meet their legislative requirements, which are merely the minimum standard. I also work with teams to see how they interact and how organisations can create policies to suit their unique workplace needs.

In the course of my career, I have worked with a number of research organisations, mainly here in Australia, such as the Academy of Science. I helped them implement their gender and diversity programme. I have also worked with several other national and state research programmes, looking at how they can meet the challenges of intersectionality issues; that is, how they can better understand how gender equity and racism intersect along with other diversity needs, including those associated with class, sexuality, and disability.

I’m sad to say that the research community is far behind other sectors: bullying is much higher in academic and research contexts. Although there ought to be a better understanding of diversity, minorities report they are targeted via a variety of forms, including microaggressions – everyday comments and “jokes” that exclude or demean differences. Furthermore, compared to industry and government, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) people in the research sector are more likely to remain “in the closet.” Studies indicate people working in universities feel less safe in disclosing their sexual identity to their managers, and they feel more susceptible to harassment and homophobia. This is particularly prevalent in Australia and English speaking countries including the UK and USA.

Read more on Mendeley: https://www.mendeley.com/careers/article/interview-sociology-at-work/

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read the article.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #socialjustice #equity #woc #socialpolicy #medeley #science #womeninscience #womeninstem #diversity #academia #inclusion

Ring a Bell? Charles Murray and the Resurgence of Scientific Racism

Ring a Bell? Charles Murray and the Resurgence of Scientific Racism

My latest for American Humanist Association. Below is an excerpt.

In his latest podcast episode titled “Forbidden Knowledge,” atheist author Sam Harris guides political scientist Charles Murray through an extensive defence of Murray’s widely debunked body of work, focusing mostly on The Bell Curve. Co-authored with psychologist Richard Herrnstein (who died around the time it was published in 1994), the book was universally critiqued as an example of modern-day scientific racism.

The Bell Curve was founded on a flawed premise that inferred a correlation between intelligence, socio-economic achievement, and genetics, without accounting for the effects of discrimination (https://goo.gl/X9TtBT). The research was funded by the eugenics-promoting Pioneer Fund, while academics like Stephen Jay Gould showed that The Bell Curve obscured data (https://goo.gl/GXSdL5).

Time has proven the book to be scientifically “reckless.” (https://goo.gl/lZi3rD)

It enjoys a resurgence in 2017, the era of Trump, specifically because it is read as proof that White people are superior to racial minorities, especially Black and Latin people. […]

Harris’s characterizations of Murray’s critics are a projection of the push back he feels he’s unfairly faced. “You were one of the canaries in the coal mines,” Harris tells Murray. Having previously dismissed Murray, Harris now feels an affinity due to facing rebuke for racism (while continuing to espouse similar views).

The atheist movement has changed. Once the almost-exclusive domain of White men, calls for equality have challenged conversations, as diverse groups of women and minorities seek a more inclusive vision for atheism. It is telling that aggrieved White men feel more comfortable hosting uncritical discussions on scientific racism than engaging in anti-racism practices to reform the movement.

Read more on The Humanist: https://thehumanist.com/commentary/ring-bell-charles-murray-resurgence-scientific-racism

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read my article, and the scientific sources referenced.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #socialjustice #equity #scientificracism #racism #poc #socialpolicy #thehumanist #americanhumanistassociation #humanism #atheism #charlesmurray #science

Better Leadership through Diversity: A Case Study of the March for Science

Better Leadership through Diversity: A Case Study of the March for Science

My latest for American Humanist Association: In failing to take responsibility for diversity in a methodical and transparent manner, the March for Science leadership made four major errors. First, the organizers attempted to set up the march as “apolitical” without having thought about equity, inclusion, and accessibility (https://goo.gl/f8gcbr). The organizers failed to connect with diversity experts and activist groups.

Second, the march organizers did not proactively manage the anti-diversity discourse that their supporters engaged in (https://goo.gl/FNV5WW).

Third, the march used an ineffective communications strategy that exacerbated poor diversity practices (https://goo.gl/acgFek).

Fourth, the organization was not welcoming of diversity. Several women publicly left over dysfunctional dynamics and lack of support for diversity (https://goo.gl/cOk4Xq).

In short, rather than learning from similar problems of exclusion that emerged from the Women’s March, the March for Science replicated them, particularly by marginalizing people of color and community activists.

The best way to redress the inequities in science is through structural reform. This means reviewing policy through an evidence-based process. A more productive approach to diversity focuses on responsibilities of leaders to enhance measurable results. In other words, for science to make the most of everyone’s talents, leaders must “walk the talk,” modelling best practice and promoting accountability for themselves and other managers.

Read more on The Humanist: https://thehumanist.com/commentary/better-leadership-diversity-case-study-march-science

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Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read my article, and the scientific sources referenced.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #socialjustice #equity #marchforscience #sciencemarch #inclusion #diversity #poc#socialpolicy #thehumanist #americanhumanistassociation #humanism #leadership

Making the Most of Diversity Lessons from March for Science Australia

My latest on Women’s Policy Action Tank discusses the various delays in addressing equity and diversity at the March for Science Australia. At the national level only around half a dozen of the promoted speakers were representative of Australia’s multiculturalism. I also discuss the gaps in the national agenda for the march, and its local goals for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Stronger integration of equity and diversity in leadership would improve outcomes in future science events. Below is an excerpt of my article.

Continue reading Making the Most of Diversity Lessons from March for Science Australia

Why Memphis Has Two Marches for Science

I was interviewed by WIRED on the disunity caused by scientists who have tried to split the March for Science from social justice work done by scientists, and who undervalue our collaboration with activists. The case study in this article is the appalling treatment of organisers in Memphis, USA. Scientists split from the Memphis March to form a separate rally in the same city. Both groups have scientists but the March has centrally been led by women of colour activists with more experience in social movements, and they incorporate a focus on inclusion of minority communities. This is symbolic in their decision to march to an historically Black university. Participation of minorities in science is not mutually exclusive to the goal of enhancing evidence-based science policies.

I’ll point out what I said in my interview: scientists from underrepresented groups have always been part of, and learned from, social justice movements.

“Both groups feel that their work isn’t done—and with the perception that science is under attack in the US, they wish they could show a united front. But ‘that in itself is a false picture of science, because we are not united,’ says Zuleyka Zevallos, a sociologist at Swinburne University in Australia who has studied the online reaction to the March for Science’s shifting messaging. Saturday’s marches, rallies, and other events around the world will surely pull some science supporters together. But they’re just as likely to highlight the clash over science’s priorities. Should the science community focus on fighting back against a hostile administration? Or on improving itself from within?”

Learn More

Read the rest on Wired.

Check out my science articles on the March for Science.

Scientists and Activists Look Beyond the March for Science

Scientists and Activists Look Beyond the March for Science

I was interviewed by the The New York Times:

‘It set off alarm bells,’ said Zuleyka Zevallos an applied sociologist from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. ‘How can we trust them to look after inclusion and accessibility if they are going to buckle under pressure?’

The statements from the organisers in this article are easily disproved from public record. For example, the organisers resisted the idea that science is political, and they have created a series of sexist, racist and ablesit problems (discrimination against people with disabilities). They have completely ignored the needs and representation of LGBTQIA scientists.

The organisers have also inadvertently created an anti-diversity discourse the fuels exclusion amongst their supporters.

Most tellingly, several women have left the organising committee due to a toxic organisational culture, with influential women of colour in particular leaving after months of problems.

The problems with the march reflect broader issues of discrimination in science and academia. This includes a lack of awareness about the structural barriers inhibiting the full participation and success of minorities and White women in research. The march is also plagued by ineffective leadership, policy and practice responses to diversity, which is another troubling hallmark of science.

We must do better to ensure everyone can achieve their full potential in science.

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Read my science articles on the March for Science

>The March for Science Can’t Figure Out How to Handle Diversity, Latino Rebels: https://goo.gl/2mskSK

>Analyzing the March for Science Diversity Discourse, DiverseScholar, 8:1: https://goo.gl/FNV5WW

Commenting policy

Before commenting on this post, please read the original article, and the scientific sources referenced in my articles above.

I moderate comments to maintain a safe space first and foremost for women of colour of various backgrounds, and also to support the voices of other minority groups who are marginalised. I welcome comments but please note that I do not allow abuse. People commenting should discuss sociology; be polite; stay on topic; and be aware of their own bias. My commenting policy is in my About section of G+ and also here: https://othersociologist.com/about/commenting-policy/

Please note I often lock my posts overnight or close off comments after a few days when I’m unable to moderate. This keeps my threads free from abuse.

#sociology #socialscience #socialjustice #inclusion #diversity #sciencemarch #nytimes #newyorktimes #woc #urm #poc #socialprotest