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Anthropology as White Public Space?
Karen Brodkin, Sandra Morgen, and Janis Hutchinson

ABSTRACT How far has anthropology come in becoming racially inclusive? In this article, we analyze an online
survey of anthropology graduate students and faculty of color undertaken by the AAA Commission on Race and
Racism in Anthropology. Despite some progress, institutional and attitudinal barriers remain. We use the concept
of white public space to analyze these barriers: departmental labor is divided in ways that assign to faculty and
graduate students of color responsibilities that have lower status and rewards than those of their white counterparts.
Colorblind racial explanatory practicesdiscourses that explain away racially unequal institutional practices as being
not about raceare common. We argue that such practices make many anthropology departments feel like white-
owned social and intellectual spaces. We conclude by suggesting steps with which anthropology departments can
create more inclusive social spaces that are owned equally by scholars of color and their white peers. [racism and
anthropology, racial division of labor, diversity, race avoidance, white public space]

A nthropology has a contradictory history when it comes

to race and racism. Historically the discipline has con-
tributed to scientific racism and colonial projects, but it has
responsibilities assigned to faculty and graduate students of
color have lower status and rewards than those of white
colleagues. The second praxis is cultural and discursive,
also been home to anthropologists who have challenged them including a range of departmental and individual practices
(Mukhopadhyay and Moses 1997; Mullings 2005:668669). that carry racial baggage but also deny their racial subtexts
Since the 1960s, anthropology has rethought theory, issues and racially unequal outcomes. We use Enoch Page and
of study, and relations with its research partners. Anthro- Brooke Thomass (1994) concept of white public space to
pologists also began to study race and racism in the United describe these aspects of departmental praxis because it puts
States as well as the persistence of colonial and racist ways of the emphasis on the social construction of institutional spaces
thinking within the discipline. But has anthropology in fact and refers to the implicit and explicit practices, beliefs, and
decolonized its standard practices and internal culture? values that govern behavior in them.
How far has anthropology come in recent decades in Our argument is organized into six parts. First, we
meeting its goal of racial inclusivity? How well have we explain our conceptual framework. Next, we describe the
created institutional spaces that successfully and equitably survey, respondents, and limitations. Third, we discuss what
recruit, retain, educate, employ, and reward professionals we know about the growth in numbers of minority anthro-
and students from racial-minority backgrounds? Answering pologists over time and compare anthropologys progress to
these questions requires data and conceptual frameworks up that of other disciplines. Fourth, we analyze the racial divi-
to the task of understanding the nuances of race and racism. sion of academic labor in departments. Fifth, we examine
It also means recognizing that our interpretations will vary a range of race-avoidant practices and explanatory patterns
depending on our vantage points. that marginalize anthropologists of color and their scholarly
Our argument is that anthropology departments have perspectives. Together, the racial division of academic labor
not done well when it comes to decolonizing their own and race-avoidant workplace discourses are key constituents
practices around race. This is neither true of all departments of anthropology departments as white public spaces. In our
nor true all of the timebut is still true all too often. We conclusion, we suggest steps for making anthropology de-
analyze two kinds of praxis by which departments constitute partments more inclusive social spaces that are as much
themselves as social spaces that are white owned. The first is owned by and home to the ideas of scholars of color as they
through a racial division of departmental labor whereby those are for white anthropologists.

AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, Vol. 113, No. 4, pp. 545556, ISSN 0002-7294, online ISSN 1548-1433. 
c 2011 by the American Anthropological
Association. All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2011.01368.x
546 American Anthropologist Vol. 113, No. 4 December 2011

HISTORY AND CONCEPTUAL FRAME to defamiliarize or call into question taken-for-granted as-
Under the influence of anticolonial and U.S. social move- pects of anthropologists own cultures. Anthropology pio-
ments in the 1960s, anthropology became more reflexive neered the first mode. Its respect and value [of] culturally
about its racial and colonial politics and its self-construction diverse epistemologies [and] knowledge sets is what at-
as a scientific enterprise carried out by objective researchers. tracted to the field more than one survey respondentsuch
In this climate, in 1969, the American Anthropological As- as one who saw anthropology as support[ing] the mainte-
sociation (AAA) first committed itself to increasing the num- nance of diversity across the world.
ber of students and faculty from racial-minority backgrounds Anthropology has done less well in the second mode,
and to expanding the impact of their perspectives on anthro- something respondents also pointed out with some fre-
pological thought. Its first Committee on Minorities and quency. Several described white anthropologists who be-
Anthropology (CMA) was made up of well-established an- lieve their training inoculates them against racism, assuming
thropologists of color who set out to study the situation. that because they understood culture(s) intellectually, they
Their method was to interrogate their own experiences in werent racist/sexist/elitist. One respondent suggested
anthropology as the basis for framing their study. They found that we as a profession and professionals need to practice
that students and faculty of color were leaving the field before what we preach . . . to do the same with those we see as a part
completing their degrees and that some committee members of our own culture (other academics)particularly if they
themselves were either encouraged to leave the discipline may see themselves as a part of the Other themselves. To
or not encouraged to pursue a professional career in it . . . not do so is hypocrisy. To do so creates real understanding,
[In addition,] many minority anthropologists did not feel that acceptance, and diversity in a department.
they could actively encourage minority students to take up a The critical, defamiliarizing mode of explanation grew
career in anthropology. Thus, they shifted their assignment up largely outside anthropology. Born in the social move-
from how to recruit more minorities to analyzing the nature ments of the 1960s, a robust family of critical scholarly disci-
of the ideology and/or the structure of anthropology, which plines rests on a spectrum of social standpoint theories shared
acts to exclude, or keep at a minimum, the number of mi- across anthropology, ethnic, feminist, and queer scholarship.
nority anthropologists in the first place. They also believed These theories rest on the notion that our perspectives on
that the dimensions of these ideological and structural char- our own culture are shaped by our social place(s) within
acteristics could be exposed by collecting information on the it and that the perspectives of subordinated groups within a
experiences of minorities in anthropology (CMA 1973:1). society are key to illuminating the ways that daily structures,
In November of 2007, the AAA established a Com- institutional policies, practices, and norms are anything but
mission on Race and Racism in Anthropology (CRRA) to neutral. Equally central is the recognition that such practices
once again address these questions. The authors of this arti- will be less visible to members of unharmed racial groups and
cle were members of this commission. In 2009, the CRRA that the latter will understand and evaluate their meanings
conducted an online survey of anthropology graduate stu- and consequences differently than those harmed by them. As
dents and faculty of color as a way to learn about those Mullings (2005) points out, with economic globalization and
practices that hinder and those that support diversity in aca- the concomitant globalization of race and racelike forms of
demic anthropology. Our intention was to identify barriers invidious distinction, critical race perspectives have become
and best practices, particularly identification of exemplary important analytic tools globally. Thus, theories generated
departments and their praxis. Our own racial identities and from the perspectives of racial subordination are critical
theoretical perspectives are pertinent to this article: Brodkin (but hardly the only) theoretical contributions that anthro-
and Morgen are white, Hutchinson is African American; we pologists of color make to anthropologys core explanatory
all incorporate critical race theory in our scholarship. project. Part of these contributions involves anthropologists,
In this article, we analyze the results of this survey and especially of color, recovering and building on the research
place it and previous efforts in a wider theoretical context. of earlier anthropologists who studied racism in the United
There has been some improvement, and we detail it. How- States (Baker 1998; Bolles 2001; Harrison 1997).
ever, many of the same exclusionary ideological and struc- In part because many anthropology departments have
tural elements that the CMA encountered are still prevalent been resistant, as we shall see, critical scholarship has been
in many anthropology departments. most strongly developed in organizational spaces within an-
Like the CMA, our survey sought the experiences and thropology like the Association of Black Anthropologists, the
analytic perspectives of anthropologists of color, and we Association of Latina and Latino Anthropologists, and the
employ these theoretical lenses because they demonstrate Association of Indigenous Anthropologists. The Association
ways of making anthropology more robust and less colonial. for Feminist Anthropology and the Association for Queer
This becomes clearer if we situate them within the context Anthropology have generated similar theoretical lenses with
of anthropologys historical explanatory projects. The first regard to gender subordination and homophobia and have,
project makes that which is culturally unfamiliar understand- in recent years, helped develop intersectional frameworks
able across cultures. The second, complementary project is that also take race seriously.1 Together, these sections and
Brodkin et al. Anthropology as White Public Space? 547

their overlapping memberships nurture specifically anthro- experienced at three key stages of their career: as graduate
pological versions of critical scholarship from a variety of students, as new Ph.D.s on the job market, and as faculty.
complementary social standpoints. We also asked for advice and lessons respondents wished
We also set our analysis of anthropologys praxis in to pass on as well as exemplary departments and practices.
the wider context of postcivil rights U.S. racism. Historian The survey contained both closed and open-ended questions.
Nancy MacLean (2006) roots the rise of contemporary racial The former included multiple choice, yes or no, and fixed
patterns in the attack on affirmative action, which began in answers. Open-ended questions included an other option
segregationist and neoconservative circles during the 1970s. within multiple-choice questions and questions requiring
Neoconservatives redefined racism as overt interpersonal big- written responses. We coded open-ended and other re-
otry, which allowed them to argue that widespread racism is sponses and examined both types of responses for general
a thing of the past or at least that it is now widely negatively patterns and variations by gender, ethnicity, and year of
sanctioned. Since the U.S. Supreme Courts Regents of the Ph.D. These are our core data.
University of California v Bakke decision (438 U.S. 265[1978]) Because the AAA contains no database from which
against university affirmative-action programs in 1978, law anthropologists of color can be identified, we distributed the
and white public opinion have come to see most kinds of insti- survey to members of the Association of Black Anthropolo-
tutionalized antidiscrimination efforts as special privileges gists (ABA), the Association of Latina and Latino Anthropol-
in fact, they are often codified as reverse discrimination. ogists (ALLA), and the Association of Indigenous Anthro-
Underlying this view is what MacLean calls a zero-sum atti- pologists (AIA). Although these groups have white members,
tude toward race, which creates competitive relations among the survey was directed to anthropologists of color. Of 108
marginalized groups for limited goods. Today, mainstream usable responses, 83 respondents gave an ethnic or racial
rationales for racially disparate institutional outcomes are identification; 28 did not.2 Of those who did, there were 36
more likely to avoid than to directly address race and, in- African Americans, 24 LatinosLatinas, 1 Asian American, 2
deed, often deny that racist consequences rest on racist ideas. Afro-Latinos or Afro-Latinas, 14 Native Americans, 3 Native
This can lead to the production and reproduction of what Americanbiracials, and 3 whites. Because the answers of
Eugenia Shanklin (1999) calls colorblind racism. the 28 non-self-identifying respondents to experiential ques-
Eduardo Bonilla Silva (2006) describes colorblind racist tions did not differ in ways we could see from those who did
practices that disconnect racially unequal outcomes from identify as nonwhite, we made the working assumption that
racial causes, whether causes are intentional, covert beliefs they were anthropologists of color.
about race, or ideas that point to race. He describes four Our sample then consists of 105 anthropologists of
common narratives by which people deny the persistence of color: 78 percent of whom have their Ph.D., about half of
racism and attribute racial inequalities to other than racial those completing their degrees since 2001, and 23 who were
causes. In the past is past, racism is asserted to be a thing still in graduate school. Women make up 62 percent of the
of the past only. The storyline if other ethnic groups have respondents overallmore than two-thirds of the African
made it, how come blacks have not? denies racisms per- American respondents and almost two-thirds of Native
sistence and blames African Americans for their own social American respondents but only half of Latino and Latina
subordination. In the line my ancestors did not own slaves, respondents. Percentages of women of color in the sample
whites absolve themselves of any responsibility for current are higher than the 5658 percent average of women overall
racism. Finally, I did not get a (job or a promotion) because among anthropology Ph.D.s.3
of a black man makes the claim that whites are victimized Although useful, this is not a representative sample of
by reverse racism because racism no longer exists. These anthropologists of color. First, because there is no association
stories have a distinctly conservative ring, but they rest on for Asian American anthropology, we appear to have just one
assumptions that also underlie the academys racial division Asian American respondent. Second, our sample is decidedly
of labor and thinking about race. one of sociocultural (83 percent) and linguistic anthropolo-
Racial inequality remains deeply woven into the fabric of gists (13 percent). Only four archeologists and one biological
our social institutions, including the academy, so that todays anthropologist responded. Third, minority anthropologists
racism includes but is far more than merely the cumulative who are members of these sections might be more likely than
expression of individual prejudice and bias. Central to its those who are not members to be interested in issues of race
practice are race-avoidant discourses and patterns of insti- and racism as well as to be studying communities of color in
tutional behavior that nevertheless index race and promote the United States. In short, this is a survey of the experiences
racially unequal outcomes. Before analyzing anthropologys and perceptions of a variety of sociocultural anthropologists
specific praxis within this framework, we describe our sur- of color, with a possible bias favoring those who study race
vey and the data on which we base our argument. and racism, especially from critical perspectives. Neverthe-
less, given anthropologys broader explanatory project of
SURVEY defamiliarizing prevailing common sense within as well as
Our analysis is based on answers to sets of similar sur- across cultures, we believe this bias to be a productive one
vey questions about barriers and support that respondents for insights about diversifying anthropology.
548 American Anthropologist Vol. 113, No. 4 December 2011

Our respondents are far from marginal in their place- 2009, the number of Ph.D.s rose to 490 in 2009 (National
ment within anthropology. For the most part, they began Science Foundation [NSF] n.d.). Minority percentages rose
their careers in large, highly ranked departments, mainly to 16 percent in 1996, and for the decade 200009, they
in large ethnically diverse coastal cities. Almost all received averaged about 14 percent of all anthropology doctorates
their training at research universities, 43 at public univer- annually. At 69 doctorates a year in the last decade, this
sities and 28 at private universities. However, 15 of these has brought almost 700 anthropologists of color to the job
schools accounted for 51 percent of our responses, and only market (AAA 1995, 1996, 1997; NSF n.d.). The large por-
6 schoolsStanford; University of Texas, Austin; City Uni- tion of survey respondents with post-2000 degrees and fac-
versity of New York; University of California, Berkeley; ulty positions in anthropology is cause for optimism.
New York University; and the University of Virginia It appears that the steep growth spurt in hiring of mi-
trained 29 percent of survey respondents. We divided our nority faculty took place between the late 1970s and 1980s,
sample into current graduate students, of whom there were before the smaller growth spurt of minority Ph.D.s, which
23, and four Ph.D. cohortsPh.D. 196478 (9); 198190 seems to have begun in the mid-1990s. This timing suggests
(8); 19912000 (8); 200109 (26)to allow us to examine that recruitment and mentoring by more faculty of color
changes over time.4 may have helped retain minority students and boost the
Respondents include senior and junior tenure-track fac- percentages of minority Ph.D.s in the last 15 years (a view
ulty, non-tenure-track faculty, and graduate students. A that our surveys qualitative responses reinforce).
small majority of those with Ph.D.s are employed in anthro- Questions remain about retention and recruitment of
pology departments (43 of 79 Ph.D.s who gave a current faculty of color in the last decade. In 1998, the profile
departmental affiliation) but not all were full time. The of anthropology faculty of color was 17 percent assistant
ethnic breakdown of those employed in anthropology de- professors and instructors, 9 percent associate professors,
partments was 56 percent of African American, 54 percent and 8 percent professors (AAA 1999:22, 24). However,
of LatinaLatino, but only 32 percent of Native American by 2009, after a long period of consistently rising minority
respondents. In contrast, few of the insecurely employed representation among Ph.D. awards, one would expect the
work in anthropology departments. Ethnic and womens numbers and profile of anthropology faculty of color to have
studies were their most common departments, followed by expanded, creating a more balanced representation across
sociology, with the remainder scattered across a wide variety the ranks.
of homes ranging from drama to English to religion. Our admittedly unrepresentative survey suggests that
this may not be happening, particularly when we examined
NUMBERS THEN AND NOW data for 37 tenure-track faculty who listed their rank, depart-
How do past and present states of racial diversity in anthro- mental affiliation, and year of Ph.D. (see Table 1). Of 13 re-
pology compare to each other? There is a general perception spondents with Ph.D.s prior to 1991, 9 were in anthropology
among anthropologists that the discipline has become more departments, while only 4 were not. Four of 5 with Ph.D.s
racially diverse since the 1960s but also that it remains over- obtained between 1981 and 1990 were in anthropology de-
whelmingly white. Unfortunately, the data are too sparse partments. Then the patterns shifts: 9 of 19 respondents
for more than tentative answers.5 whose Ph.D.s were obtained in 2001 or later are employed
AAA data indicate that the number of anthropology outside of anthropology departments. Additionally, no one
faculty of color has increased since the late 1970s. In the in the 19912000 cohort has been promoted to full profes-
two decades prior to 1998, the total number of full-time sor, despite being in the professional workforce for a decade
anthropology faculty rose modestly from 1,266 in 1977 or two. Although this cohort seems stalled at associate-
to 1,734 in 1998. However, the percentage of minority professor status, a smaller proportion of recent Ph.D.s are
anthropologists among them more than doubled, growing entering anthropology departments or earning tenure in
from 4.6 percent in 1977 to about 11 percent by 1988 them. Although a majority of respondents in Table 1 with
from 58 to 191 minority anthropology faculty. Although we tenure-track positions are in anthropology departments, a
do not know the ethnic makeup of minority faculty in 1977, longitudinal view suggests a possible rotating door that re-
between 1988 and 1998 Native Americans made up about produces a constant number of anthropology faculty of color
one percent of full-time anthropology faculty, while Asian despite larger Ph.D. cohortsmany of whom do not work
Americans and African Americans were each three percent in anthropology. Additionally, about a fifth of post-2000
and Latinas and Latinos were four percent. However, the Ph.D.s have not found tenure-track positions at all, although
number of minority faculty was unchanged between 1988 reduced hiring because of leaner budgets may be responsible.
and 1998 (AAA 1977, 1999:22). We found no faculty survey Our survey also suggests a gendered dimension to recent
for the last decade. hiring patterns. There are more women than men of color
The share of Ph.D.s earned by anthropologists of color in our sample, but the increase in the proportion of women
has risen. Between 1975 and 1995, about 400 anthropol- Ph.D.s does not show up in proportional faculty hiring of
ogy doctorates were awarded annually. In 1990, minorities women of color, especially in anthropology tenure-track
earned ten percent of all Ph.D.s. Between about 1998 and positions. There also are more women than men across
Brodkin et al. Anthropology as White Public Space? 549

Table 1. Association among Tenure Track Employment in Anthropology, Rank, and Decade of Ph.D.

Ph.D. 1980 Ph.D. Ph.D. Ph.D.

Rank or earlier 198190 19912000 200109
Full Anthro dept. 4 5 0 0
Nonanthro dept. 2 1
Associate Anthro dept. 0 0 4 3
Nonanthro dept. 0 1 1 4
Assistant Anthro dept. 0 0 0 7
Nonanthro dept. 0 0 0 5

Total 6 7 5 19

Note: N = 37.

the cohorts in temporary positions. Longitudinal study of arly values and discursive patterns that index racially unequal
patterns of hiring, promotion, and retention would help ownership of the discipline.
to clarify what might be a revolving (and gender-biased)
faculty door for a relatively static number of scholars of
How do we compare with other social sciences? With the Department cultures, although shaped by university prac-
notable exception of psychology, other social sciences seem tice, often create informal job expectations for faculty of
to be doing no better than anthropology.6 The American Psy- color that are different from expectations of their white
chological Association (APA) seems to be the bright light in counterparts. Universities are part of a U.S. labor force char-
a landscape of mediocre progress. Between 1995 and 2004, acterized by persistent occupational segregation by race and
psychology consistently awarded a greater percentage of gender. Even in the face of concerted desegregation efforts
bachelors and doctoral degrees to minority students than in the 1960s and 1970s, when many labor-force sectors faced
any other science discipline and at higher rates than the com- pressure to hire women to mens jobs and racial minorities
bined average of all social sciences.7 According to an internal to white jobs, employers and employees often colluded to
APA report, block true occupational integration. Some jobs shifted and
became less well paid, some developed secondary tracks, and
Between 1998 and 2003, total APA student affiliate member- some refused entry to women and racial minorities almost
ship declined by 25.9 percent, while minority student affiliate
membership increased by 28.7 percent. Between 1997 and 2004, entirely (Carter and Carter 1981; Glenn 1985; Green 2001).
ethnic minority participation in APA governance rose by 41.2 Informal workplace practices in anthropology departments
percent. Between 1996 and 2004, ethnic-minority recipients of partake of this larger pattern of occupational segregation.
masters degrees in psychology increased by 90.8 percent, while It is important to set the racially disparate treatments
ethnic-minority doctoral recipients in psychology increased by
16.6 percent.8
that follow in the context of three positive patterns that mark
anthropology departments as racially inclusive spaces. First,
The report also highlights successful strategies to effect as noted, most survey respondents trained at departments
change (task forces, funded activities, and pipeline programs in research universities. Second, most received some pre-
for recruiting, retaining, and training minority students) and doctoral funding, and there were relatively few reports of
strategic action plans to ensure these trends continue and discriminatory allocation.
improve. Part but not all of psychologys success can be Third, and perhaps most important, mentoring of grad-
attributed to career possibilities outside the academy. uate students of color seems to have improved significantly
There is much that anthropology can do to make it- over the decades. Overall, anthropology Ph.D.s rate their
self more multiracial. In the following sections, we focus training and mentoring as consistently poor, or nonexis-
on barriers within anthropology departmentsbecause de- tent, and done almost totally by the advisor (AAA 1995:5,
partments are key places where anthropologists constitute 1997:3; Rudd et al. 2008:iii). In contrast, most of our re-
themselves and the discipline as white public spaces. This spondents reported relatively good mentoring. Although
concept makes visible everyday practices and beliefs that only a third of respondents whose Ph.D.s predate 1981 re-
appear to be race neutral but that systematically privilege ported having campus mentors, by the 1990s, 88 percent
white actors while marginalizing and subordinating those did so, and the most recent cohorts reporting remains al-
who are not racially white. Two practices mark anthropology most as high. Better mentoring may be partly a result of
departments as white public spaces. The first is a de facto the increased numbers of faculty of color, but respondents
racial division of academic labor. The second is a set of schol- also report good mentoring from white faculty as well.
550 American Anthropologist Vol. 113, No. 4 December 2011

Nevertheless, a significant minority had no mentors at For me, the issue hasnt been explicit racism, but when at-
all, especially among Native Americans and Latinas and tempting to recruit grad students or faculty, there are several
Latinos. Mentor performance during respondents job in my department who are resistant to thinking along diver-
search was mixed, with more reporting almost no assis- sity lines.
tance than receiving some help. Respondents were equally Our survey indicates that many anthropologists of color
negative about their departments professional support and were often the only or one of two students or faculty of color
training as Ph.D.s surveyed by the AAA. in their department. Expecting numerical as well as racial
What practices then constitute anthropology depart- minorities to carry the workload of enhancing racial diversity
ments as white public workplaces? Expectations for service places undue burdens on faculty of color while freeing white
and teaching, as well as implicit job descriptions, for faculty faculty from responsibility. The other side of such bifurcated
of color differ significantly from those for white faculty, and work norms is that white faculty are expected and allowed to
faculty of color are expected to do work that is of lower concentrate on their scholarship in ways that their minority
value for promotion and tenure. Those who are held institu- colleagues are not; yet publication is what counts for tenure
tionally responsible for the work of creating a more racially and promotion. One respondent wrote: No senior faculty of
diverse faculty and student body are disproportionately mi- color in the department to urge me to be more protective of
nority faculty. As respondents described the amount of time my time. As the only African American in the department,
they spent on this work and the consensus of their colleagues I worked harder to be a good citizen and, in retrospect,
that it was their job, we came to think of it as diversity duty. squandered too much of my time on things that meant very
Our first sense of what diversity duty looked like and little in terms of tenure and promotion.
how time consuming it could be appeared in answers to sur- Respondents gave examples of daily practices that do
vey questions about barriers to tenure.9 The most common not hold white colleagues responsible for racial fairness. For
barriers for respondents were lack of release time for re- example, several reported instances of white faculty agreeing
search and high service loads. African American respondents with a minority colleague that a particular behavior was racist
rated heavy student advising alongside these as their biggest but refusing to do anything about it. One reported an ex-
barriers, whereas LatinaLatino and Native American tremely racist departmental chair, about whom everyone
respondents rated heavy course loads as major barriers. Re- knew . . . but no one cared enough to do anything about it.
duced service loads and manageable student advising loads Another student described initiating a discussion about race
were the least available forms of support to faculty. When behavior in his or her department and was surprised when
we put these answers together with responses to open-ended a white faculty member who had seemed like an ally took
questions about support for faculty of color, it became clear public offenseand then later came to offer private support.
that heavy service and student-advising requirements, as A racial division of expectations also applies to teaching
well as perhaps heavy course loads, were major barriers to and advising. Departments often value faculty of color for
professional advancement. their ability to teach students of color but not necessarily
Departmental and university diversity service was es- white students. Respondents acknowledge the tremendous
pecially time consuming. One faculty respondent reported needs of students of color and regard this work as important
being asked several times to serve on departmental search professional and social labor. Most embrace it willingly, de-
committees both within my own and in other departments spite the time and effortone called it the Latina/faculty of
since you are a minority. Several respondents experienced color tax in that students of color are immediately sent to
being actively sought after, only to discover that their most me. Another described himself as the dean of invisible stu-
valued attribute was their appearanceso that their univer- dents. Both indicated that this work is neither recognized
sity or department could have the look of diversity. One nor valued by most of [their] colleagues.
who was so courted discovered that her appointment was Too, as another respondent explained, the language of
tied to a diversity-related administrative function with little recruitment was usually oriented toward diverse faculty for
budget or power. Many respondents described getting little diverse students, often ignoring the fact that most of the
support from administration or faculty for trying to bring students Id be teaching and advising were not minorities
real racial diversity to academe. and that I had something to offer them as well. However,
One respondent noted that white faculty members were teaching white students brought problems that their white
not held responsible for such work: As an assistant profes- counterparts did not share: If someone had told me the
sor, in one of my annual reviews, my department chair wrote sheer mental exhaustion of engaging racist undergrads before
that I wasnt active in a campus faculty-staff minority asso- I began teaching, I wouldve told them they were lying.
ciation. I refused to sign the review, responding, If I was Most universities and departments within them concep-
Irish, would you write down that I didnt march in the Saint tualize racial diversity as a general social good rather than
Patricks parade? Another pointed out that such practices as integral to the intellectual strength or mission of grad-
suggest that it is only the problem of people of color. If uate and professional life. Widely reported indifference by
there are diversity efforts, all faculty and grad students must white faculty toward recruiting a racially diverse department
be committed. Another respondent echoed these feelings: is part of the process by which a white demographic and
Brodkin et al. Anthropology as White Public Space? 551

cultural norm reproduces itself, seemingly naturally. Within scholarly. Several respondents noted that among white
this context, students and faculty of color are often hyper- anthropologists it was more acceptable for people who
visible as tokens of institutional political correctness but are white to be praised for their study of people of color
invisible as scholars in their work settings. than for the work of anthropologists of color on people
In 1973, the CMA described graduate training as be- who are white. A Native American faculty member who
ing organized on two tracks, with white students being asked if there were any Native American students in the
trained for full professional careers and students of color schools Indian studies program was told we study Indians
being trained for secondary tracks as applied researchers or here; meanwhile, the schools anthropology department
as informants and research assistants to white professionals. made it clear to this respondent that it was not good for
Susan Carter and Michael Carter (1981) described the emer- an Amerindian to teach about Indians as there would be a
gence of a similar a two-track system based on gender in the problem with objectivity.
professions, including medicine, law, and academe as a re- Misguided notions of objectivity contribute to disparate
sponse to the entry of more women to professional training. treatment. For example, working on hip-hop, race, etc.,
They showed that primary and secondary tracks of specializa- [is] often seen as predictable and limiting intellectual en-
tion emerged with women diverted to less prestigious, less gagements performed by those who were already native
autonomous, and less well-paid specialties. For example, before they became anthropologists. Of course, whites can
women predominated in pediatrics and family practice and research these topics at will. Anothers advisor discouraged
domestic law while surgery, anesthesiology, and corporate continuing graduate study, labeling my research [as] specif-
law remained male-dominated fields. Many respondents de- ically related to my identity; because research concerning
scribed their graduate training in analogous ways. people of color is only of interest to people of color.
Racially disparate treatment in professional attention In sum, taken-for-granted practices of racially dividing
was a marker. Respondents told of advisors offering white labor mark anthropology departments as white institutional
advisees opportunities to co-write, write, present at con- spaces. They include assigning diversity work to faculty of
ferences with fellow students or faculty but not offering color, while giving it little value for tenure and promotion,
the same to students of color. Others reported being given and freeing white faculty from responsibility for it. Informal
passing grades but no comments on their work, while white practices that train students of color for a paraprofessional
students got greater attention. One student whose work was track reinforce long traditions of treating members of subor-
timely and of good quality asked why the advisor had not dinated communities as study subjects and native informants
provided comments and was told, It seems you dont want rather than as professional colleagues. The message is that
to be part of us. minority anthropologists are not full professionals.
More specific were reports of white faculty who treated
students of color as research assistants and cultural brokers RACE-AVOIDANT DISCOURSE AND PRACTICES
rather than scholars-in-training. A student who wanted to INDEXING RACIALLY UNEQUAL OWNERSHIP
pursue a career in urban applied research directly after fin- We need to acknowledge that white anthropologists percep-
ishing a masters was strongly advised by a faculty mentor tions about things pertaining to race, especially in daily aca-
of color to complete the Ph.D. Without it, Ph.D.s are go- demic life, are often at odds with those of their colleagues of
ing to use you up; they will employ you to collect their color. When anthropologists of color describe something as
data, and theyll do the thinking. This student went on to discrimination or as an inequality-producing practice, white
a Ph.D. program and found the warning borne out; the stu- colleagues may see their views as exaggerated, ill founded,
dent never wanted for work, doing professors fieldwork. or only true of the past. Let us recall that anthropologys
Another described a professor who wished me to accom- resistance to the epistemologies of ethnic-studies scholarship
pany him to Africa to be his go-between with the natives to examine disciplinary praxis led underrepresented anthro-
although this would have yielded no advantage to me and pologists of color to create their own institutional spaces in
would greatly have delayed my ability to complete my pro- the AAA from which to develop critical and theoretically
gram of study. . . . He wished to exploit me for his gain be- informed scholarship.
cause of my minority ethnic status. A third, whose day job These perceptual differences underlie two explanatory
was in an area an advisor wanted for a field site, had to take stories that illustrate discursive ways in which anthropology
extreme measures to avoid being coerced into becoming a departments constitute themselves as white public spaces.
sponsorinformant. Some respondents reported being val- The first defines the boundaries of proper anthropological
ued for my language and cultural insight, not for my intellect scholarship while avoiding its racial subtext and racially dis-
and getting minimal guidance or professionalization. criminatory outcomes. The second employs different kinds
An important conceptual foundation of a secondary of binary or competitive reasoning to deny intentionality and
track for anthropologists of color is a common assumption responsibility for racially unequal outcomes.
that outsider status is the desired norm for anthropological Regarding boundaries, many respondents were told
research. This marks insider researchers negatively, most that the subject matter of their work, especially studies of
notably marking their knowledge as folk or local but not U.S. communities of color and patterns of racism, do not
552 American Anthropologist Vol. 113, No. 4 December 2011

belong in anthropology. Several were encouraged to leave have no space to consider respondents arguments that the
anthropology and move to ethnic studies. Native American content of the boundaries is racially exclusionary. Rather,
respondents often felt rejected by their departments, which the storys message is that such considerations are irrele-
expressed little interest in living Indigenous communities vant, certainly not intended, and hardly racist. The sub-
as partners. Many respondents felt forced to look outside texts, however, are quite racial: that boundary makers are
their departments for professional communities. When try- not responsible for the racially discriminatory outcomes of
ing to build networks around my research interests, I had to their efforts and that racism is defined by intent but not by
look out to neighboring universities and professional orga- outcome. These subtexts rest on binary thinkingboth in
nizations other than the AAA (i.e., LASA). This is a difficult separating intent from outcome and separating institutional
hurdle to surpass, especially as a graduate student trying to marking of anthropological turf from a range of other schol-
establish a solid research question thats significant beyond arly topics and theoretical perspectives. In contrast, respon-
the discipline of anthropology. dents employed multiple causes and consequences in their
A lack of courses and faculty research on race and racism explanations. Some noted that gatekeeping is often about
sent indirect messages about the boundaries of anthropol- racial exclusion and theoretical and topical gate keeping.
ogy. Only 15 percent of all respondents found departmental Sometimes, it is both. The latter view opens a conversation
support for classes in their areas of interest. Not until the about racially disparate outcomes and theoretical perspec-
2001 cohort did anyone report support for such classes; tives, while the former, admitting only one, race-avoidant
but even among current graduate students, with the highest explanation, shuts it down. By doing so, racially exclusion-
rates of support, slightly less than a quarter reported being ary practices are likely to remain an elephant in the middle
able to find classes in their research areas. Rates differed by of theoretical and canonical debates.
ethnicity: 28 percent of African Americans reported some A more competitive kind of binary thinking underlies
support while zero percent of LatinasLatinos and Native understandings about how racial marginalization relates to
American respondents did. other kinds of social marginalization. For example, one re-
Anthropology marks its boundaries by theoretical per- spondent described white women leaders who recognized
spectives and explanatory projects as well as subject matter. racism but did not act to oppose it. They stand by and do
Respondents to our survey encountered resistance similar to nothing or tell you to go back into the ring and get beat up
that reported in 1973 to scholars of color actively shaping the because that is what they did. In this story, the reported
directions of anthropological thoughtand, notably, they speakers thought of sexism and racism as separate issues af-
mentioned hostility toward critical theoretical perspectives fecting discrete groups of people. One subtext is that it is
on taken-for-granted aspects of mainstream culture. One not white womens responsibility to deal with racism. How-
faculty respondent reflected, Neither myself nor my grad ever, in also avoiding the obvious fact that not all women are
school peers of color expected the extreme resistance for white, it draws the boundaries of responsibility for dealing
paradigm changes . . . we have all been pushed out of these with sexism in ways that exclude women of color.
colleges simply because of this resistance. Another, criti- Several respondents also had constantly to grapple with
cizing a continuing adherence to colonial attitudes toward the affirmative action stigma that they were not as good as
Native Americans, wrote of archeologys whites, who believed only they had made it on merit and
that affirmative action promoted people of color without
unwillingness to recognize that todays Native Americans are the regard for merit. The subtext of this stigma combines
descendants of the people that archaeologists study. [It] absolves
the archaeologist of any responsibility for the often-damaging ef-
Bonilla Silvas story that because discrimination is a thing
fects of his/her work in real-life issues of American Indian tribes. of the past, affirmative action is no longer needed, with
Failure to understand or even acknowledge that anthropology MacLeans zero-sum story that whites are victims of reverse
continues to be culpable in the colonizing of Indigenous peo- discrimination, which presumes whites superior merit.
ples perpetuates the racist image of anthropology to Indigenous Anthropologists know full well that everyone has a com-
peoples. Failure to teach graduate students (at least) about the
history of the relationship between anthropology and minority plex mix of positions in social hierarchies, among which
populations from minority perspectives is irresponsible. class, gender, and sexuality loom large. But in daily work-
place practice, we often think in mainstream binary ways.
Survey participants consistently reported that works by mi- For example, we may use an eitheror lens to separate mul-
nority scholars and their roles in theory building are simply tiple causes so as to evaluate the residual impact of race
not reflected in the canon or curriculum and explained that rather than to explore how race interacts with other factors.
this adds to a daily experience of exclusion from the intel- Or we may attribute racial disparities to class biaswhich is
lectual life of the discipline. perhaps seen as less offensive than race bias. In contrast, in-
Explanatory boundary stories are about that which nat- tersectional thinking attends to what is shared as a window on
urally distinguishes anthropology from other university dis- needed changes for improving multiple dimensions of inclu-
ciplines (Davalos 1998). They function thereby to define or sivity in anthropology. We chose the latter approach, as did
assure anthropology of an intellectual rationale and institu- many respondents. So, too, did the Commission on Lesbian,
tional place. Such tellings of boundary-maintenance stories Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Anthropology (Leap
Brodkin et al. Anthropology as White Public Space? 553

and Lewin 1999), which explained how socially structured relatively privileged: Too often diversity dissolves into a
class, race, sexuality, and gender inequalities interact in kind of multi-elitism that maintains class solidarity for the
mutually reinforcing ways to ignore the circumstances of privileged, who are often blind to academic strengths in
a wide spectrum of anthropology students and faculty. In- different class-based and racial packaging. It was also true
tersectional analysis requires rotating analytic perspectives, that the less polished and underfunded working-class stu-
among, for example, feminist, queer, and working-class dents of color succeeded less often than their middle-class
lenses to include the multiple and overlapping needs of an- and funded counterparts, and faculty were so unfamiliar
thropologists of color. with the other that they were very poor judges of ability
More than half of survey respondents are women of because they could only see ability that was manifested in
color; hence, they experience both racial and gender bias. their own image.
They employed a feminist lens to explain how departmental Predominantly white departments are fertile environ-
insensitivity to womens responsibilities for others affects ments for reproducing these kinds of race-avoidant thinking.
their work lives: scheduling of colloquia and social events, Arenas of unspoken agreement help constitute departments
for example, could exclude a disproportionate number of as white conceptual spaces, as when white peers reinforce
students of color from valuable professional training and one anothers interpretations of behavioral meanings, proper
community building because they have economic and fam- anthropology, and responsibility for diversity. As one re-
ily responsibilities. As one respondent explained, [We] are spondent explained, peers may be
expected to deal with [childcare] on our own. We are also
well-intentioned but ignorant. Then, ones community becomes
expected to participate in department activities at the same a forum, instead, for cultural debate and tensionmeaning that,
level as students who are single and do not have family obli- as the person of color, I have to educate more than I can engage in
gations. Even the best family-leave policies are restricted to discussion. More often than not, I have to walk on eggshells to get
partners and children, but women of color are often also dis- the harsh reality across to (particularly) white people because they
are often the most sensitive to interrogating their own behaviors
proportionately likely to be caring for siblings and parents. in order to understand racial or privileged complicity.
Likewise queer students are often denied university benefits
for their spouses and children, and departments may not Because students and faculty of color are so few and scat-
recognize their forms of family (Leap and Lewin 1999). tered, many respondents were the only person of color in
One respondent argued that academic culture is based on very white departments and felt conspicuous. Almost half
a norm of people without family responsibilities: childless of the respondents who received their Ph.D.s before 1981
people put in so much time and effort that they produce described feeling out of place. Sometimes it was because of
a speed up of the production line that is impossible for their scholarly interests, as when one respondent reported,
parents to copy, so we look like slackers and dont get I was the only student in my department interested in work
promoted. Another implicated class bias: Tenure requires on race and that was often a lonely place. Sometimes uncon-
having no life but [an] academic [one] and a class background scious social interaction patterns marked the space as white:
that gives you a level of financial support to work. Any department or, for that matter, campus gathering in-
Class and race bias interact. Students of color are dis- evitably ends up with black students standing alone while
proportionately from working-class backgrounds, and insti- others chat on diffidently and obliviously. Gesture, language,
tutional blindness to the concomitants of class works against aesthetic, all employed to include and exclude, as one who
them. Because levels of financial support are seldom ade- was surveyed indicated. Native American respondents de-
quate, students without family resources are disadvantaged. scriptions are the bleakest: they report the highest rates of
Many have to take nonacademic jobs, which restricts study social isolation, unsupportive faculty, bad mentoring, and
time and participation in departmental social-professional chilly university climates, together with heavy family and
life. One respondent noted that this meant my serious- personal responsibilities.
ness was questioned. Working-class students also may not In sum, professional training and support systems as
have the same know how about the educational system as well as lifelong scholarly networks begin in graduate school.
students from more affluent backgrounds. A respondent ex- Ones cohort and mentor are the starting points for building
plained: As a kid, I thought college was college[I was] such ties. Social marginalization, especially around ones re-
oblivious to the fact that a state university and an Ivy League search interest, is more than a psychological barrier (although
college were not equivalent for later professional success, it is that too). It slows the process of forming the kinds of pro-
even though they might be equivalent in what students ac- fessional peer groups that underlie ones academic success:
tually learned from them. access to critical readers of drafts and invitations to present
Class bias among academics negatively affects working- and to participate in symposia and other venues bringing
class students of color. Respondents pointed out that na- together those with similar interests. Doing ones work in
tional fellowships and intramural funding to support students isolation means few or no opportunities to see its mean-
of color in practice support those from upper-middle-class ing and significance reflected back through participation in
backgrounds. One suggested that national fellowships cre- a community of scholars. These are the professional conse-
ate a prestige hierarchy and exclusive networks among the quences of racially divided academic labor, a white-centered
554 American Anthropologist Vol. 113, No. 4 December 2011

canon, and white-reinforced interpretations of behavior and minority faculty members cannot change a negative climate
meaning. These are some of the practices that constitute perpetrated by the majority. Respondents also suggested
anthropology departments as white-owned public spaces. that cluster hiringbringing in a critical mass of faculty and
To undo such self-reinforcing racial practices, anthro- graduate students of coloris the single most important
pology needs to become more diverse and self-conscious practice for creating the safe and welcoming climate needed
than it is. Departments seeking to be supportive of stu- to change the status quo.
dents and faculty of color need to be conscious of class- and Many departments remain attitudinally white in owner-
gender-associated social and financial responsibilities as well ship and decision making about the discipline, undermining
as different levels of class-associated academic know-how; what Daryl Smith (2009) calls institutional mattering and
furthermore, departments should be ready to restructure belonging. This happens through the continuing pattern of
professional training and social life in ways that do not ex- marginalizing the work and theoretical perspectives gener-
clude. By so doing, they will also be creating supportive ated by scholars of color, as well as by seeing proper an-
environments for white working-class and women students. thropology and ethnic studies as mutually exclusive. Both
One respondent summed up the advantages of thinking with practices constitute anthropologists of color as less than
intersectional perspectives: full anthropologists. White ownership also happens when
a predominantly white department collectively enacts main-
A family-friendly, inclusive faculty environment is an aspect of stream U.S. forms of race avoidance in dealing with racial
support that I have really come to appreciate. Not only in the
sense of gathering informally as a community for social occasions issues in departmental practice. As one respondent put it,
but also a climate in which the professional practices of the office Simple awareness that department culture is not race neu-
are flexible and considerate of the need to spend time with family tral would go a long way in breaking down the barriers that
or accomplishing family-related activities. Also, a professional discourage anthropologists of color. Binary thinking and
climate that recognizes and supports diverse kinds of family and
gender roles within families.
race-avoidant discourse around disciplinary boundary main-
tenance index racially unequal ownership of the discipline
and rationalize racially unequal divisions of labor. Studies
CONCLUSIONS of gender used to be treated as not real anthropology, and
Anthropology has made modest progress in racially diver- studies of homosexuality are still treated as this way (Leap
sifying its faculties and Ph.D. cohorts since the late 1970s. and Lewin 1999) so that anthropologys intellectual public
Graduate students of color are finding good mentors and space can also be considered not only white but also male
more funding, at least to the extent that it is available. Still, and straight.
the sharp rise of faculty of color in the 1980s seems to have Perhaps the biggest attitudinal barrier to ethnic diversi-
stagnated in the 1990s. And there are signs of a revolv- fication is a belief that being an anthropologist inoculates one
ing door for a limited number of minority faculty positions against racism (as well as other varieties of social stereotyp-
within anthropology departments. ing). Many respondents urged developing a departmental
Incremental changes are not enough. From the outset, discourse about race that includes reflexivity. Intersectional
anthropology has had two specific goals in racial diversity thinking is at the heart of reflexivity: for example, recogniz-
efforts: to diversify the practitioners racially and to diversify ing that not all minorities are male (or straight or working
the perspectives from which its theory comes. Both goals class) nor are all women white (or straight or middle class)
together would racially diversify the ownership of anthro- opens up possibilities for making racial diversity the cutting
pology and make its departments multiracial public spaces. edge of broader diversification. The lesson is to make critical
However, neither has happened. discourses part of departmental discourse.
Instead, the organizational nature of all-too-many an- Change of the magnitude necessary to ensure that an-
thropology departments is as white public spaces. By this, we thropology is a fully inclusive profession racially will also
mean a hegemonic, daily, unreflexive praxis that marginal- require actions by the AAA. The APA has successfully em-
izes faculty and students of color. We have argued that it ployed a robust mix of efforts that have produced a decade
does so organizationally by dividing faculty labor and respon- of significant growth of minority Ph.D.s, practitioners, and
sibility along racial lines, such that faculty of color are held greater involvement of psychologists of color in APA gov-
responsible for diversity duty while their white colleagues ernance. The APA has established an Office of Ethnic Mi-
are encouraged to develop their own research. Racial di- nority Affairs that offers fellowships, mentoring programs,
visions persist in graduate training, at least in sociocultural training programs, and materials for and about students and
anthropology, separating students into two race-based and faculty of color in the field and the needs of communities
professionally unequal tracks. A key lesson for overcom- of color. Among these are a leadership and mentoring pro-
ing organizational segregation is that departments must hold gram for honors community college students of color; a
white faculty equally responsible for improving racial di- multi-institutional recruitment, retention, and training pro-
versity for it to be highly valued. As one respondent wrote, gram supporting students of color interested in biomedical
Faculty as a whole have to discuss the stance they plan to take research in psychology; an initiative that promotes inter-
on minority student recruitment and retention. One or two est in, visibility of, and concern about psychology in ethnic
Brodkin et al. Anthropology as White Public Space? 555

minorityserving institutions; and a standing committee that small, respondents could have been identifiable from their
empowers and supports the mission of a multicultural psy- answers. We believe that omitting some data may be ways
chology (APA n.d.). to retain anonymity, a concern expressed by a number of re-
The AAA needs to do far more of this than it does. We spondents.
recommend three relatively simple steps. First, far more 3. Surveys in the late 1990s show that 56 percent of the 400
intensive and systematic data collection by the AAA is crit- Ph.D.s a year and 58.5 percent of about 490 Ph.D.s a year
ical. The second goal should be making visible the valuable between 2000 and 2009 have been awarded to women (Rudd
reports that are already on the AAA website but are almost et al. 2008:3; NSF n.d.).
impossible to findsuch as those concerning how racial mi- 4. Not all respondents answered year of Ph.D. and school.
norities, women, and queer anthropologists all experience 5. The main sources of data about the numbers of minority Ph.D.s
the discipline. Anthropologys interest in diversity needs to and faculty are NSFs WebCASPAR database for doctorates
be obvious on its website, either grouping pertinent data and the three AAA surveys of departments. The latter, al-
there or with prominent links. Third, the AAA needs a though detailed, are limited in that departmental participation
staff person whose sole job is promoting diversity. The re- is voluntary and not all departments respond.
sponsibilities of this staff member would include aggressive 6. The following websites describe in some detail the efforts
dissemination of pertinent data both within the field and in undertaken by political science, sociology, and economics and
venues that will reach prospective students; expanded, coor- offer some quantitative data on the numbers of students and
dinated pipeline programs; increased, targeted support for faculty of color in these disciplines:
the research of graduate students and faculty of color; and content_6832.cfm,
support for departments to more effectively assess and im- search/ASAMembership_2007%20Final.pdf, http://www.
prove institutional climate. The point is that success requires
multiple strategies and long-term commitmentsand staff 7. For study of rates of minority participation in selected social
responsible for them. sciences, see
Finally, the heart of our conclusion is embarrassingly statistics/.
obvious. It is this: the defamiliarizing insights and analyses 8. The full report is available at
generated from vantage points developed by anthropologists nov07/ceo.html.
of color are better tools for diversifying departmental orga- 9. Respondents were asked to check all items they had experienced
nization and culture (among other things) than hegemonic (no support for research travel, heavy course loads, no support
ones, and anthropology departments should embrace them for tenure, no release time for research, poor compensation,
instead of marginalizing them. Alternatively put, anthropol- heavy student advising, heavy service loads, no stopping the
ogy has made its mark on understanding cultures by taking clock for family responsibilities, no research assistance).
seriously the points of view of those it studies. We suggest
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