While I tend to avoid writing explicitly about race and gender (and all the rest) I am happy to write about anything and everything from a raced and gendered position. I am mindful here of the tendency to morph into Sutapa’s housewife with steak knives (what is she holding in her lower left hand). Beautiful though she is, my intention is clear: to succeed in studying certain types of knowledge is to undo that knowledge system itself.
Reading Heidi Mirza:
“Puwar (2004) draws on the social theorists Bourdieu and Foucault to explain how cultures of exclusion operate within contested social spaces such as universities:
“Social spaces are not blank and open for any body to occupy. Over time, through processes of historical sedimentation, certain types of bodies are designated as being the ‘natural’ occupants of specific spaces….Some bodies have the right to belong in certain locations, while others are marked out as trespassers who are in accordance with how both spaces and bodies are imagined, politically, historically and conceptually circumscribed as being ‘out of place’ “(Puwar 2004: 51)
Puwar suggests black bodies out of place are ‘space invaders’. She argues there are several ways in which black bodies are constructed when they do not represent the racial somatic norm within white institutions (Puwar 2001; 2004).
First there is ‘disorientation’, a double- take as you enter a room, as you are not supposed to be there. You are noticed and it is uncomfortable. Like walking into a pub in a town where you don’t live. There is confusion as you are the not the ‘ natural expected occupant of that position’ . I know this well, in many meetings even though I am a professor I have been mistaken as the coffee lady! Even students do a double-take when they see you are the social theory lecturer.
Second there is ‘infantalisation” here you are not only pigeon-holed into being ‘just a race expert’, but black lecturers are seen as less capable of being in authority. This can mean black staff are assumed to be more junior than they are (I have been told to get off the photocopier as it is not for administrators). There is a constant doubt about your skills, which can affect career progression.
Third there is the ‘burden of invisibility ‘, or hyper surveillance. Here you are viewed suspiciously and any mistakes are picked up and seen as a sign of misplaced authority. You have to work harder for recognition outside of the confines of stereotypical expectations, and can suffer disciplinary measures and disappointment if you do not meet expectations in your work performance”
Mirza, H. (2006). Transcendence over diversity: Black women in the academy. Policy Futures in Education, 4(2), 101-113.