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Neither White Nor Male: Female Faculty of Color (review)

From: The Review of Higher Education
Volume 31, Number 3, Spring 2008
pp. 367-368 | 10.1353/rhe.2008.0001

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Over the last 30 years, a respectable body of literature has accumulated detailing the experiences of women faculty of color in predominantly White U.S. institutions. A number of the women have said they felt like "outsiders" because the "old boys' network" operating in some of these institutions relegated them to the margins on the basis of their ethnic/cultural differences (Collins, 1986).

The new compilation of essays presented in Neither White Nor Male: Female Faculty of Color continues this discourse. This collection supports and extends claims about inequitable treatment stemming from race and gender discrimination and the resulting hegemonic practices that have privileged some and marginalized others in the academy. The voices now include an international perspective, and they are steadily mounting.

The introduction by Katherine Grace Hendrick provides the typical information—the need for the volume, what it is about, author specifics, and whose voices are represented. She suggests that the existing literature has not been as inclusive of all women or representative of all disciplines as might be needed to give a broader perspective of the experiences of women faculty of color. Some scholars may take exception to this statement, given that it is often members of a particular ethnic/cultural group who produce scholarship on or about their group to inform the broader community of their experiences. This is, in fact, the purpose of the current volume. The chapter authors use their own experience and the scholarly literature to develop themes of academic life for faculty women of color.

Fang-Yi-Flora Wei (Asian) takes an in-depth look at how new international professors might develop self-efficacy and confidence in their teaching while simultaneously resolving inner fears of being young, inexperienced, and self-conscious about their abilities as nonnative speakers. Chikako Akamatsu McLean (Asian) provides the results of a study conducted to investigate how Asian-born female faculty establish credibility in the classroom. Mary Fong (Chinese American) provides an exposé of her 25-year career trajectory by sharing intimate accounts of the incivility she encountered from students in U.S. classrooms across southern California and the Pacific Northwest. Aparna G. Hebbani (East Indian) compares her teaching in the United States and institutions in Australia, Hong Kong, and Malaysia; she suggests that constructions of race and gender are more rigidly defined in the United States than abroad. Claudia Ladeira McCalman (Brazilian) focuses on the need to equip international women faculty with pedagogical strategies and interpersonal skills that enable them to be more culturally relevant as facilitators of learning in U.S. classrooms.

Dora E. Saavedra (Hispanic) and Marisa L. Saavedra (Hispanic) present pedagogical tools that can be used to create a classroom climate to enhance at-risk students' chances of academic success. Katherine Grace Hendrix (Black) examines issues related to student incivility that can occur in the classroom even when the student and professor share the same race/ethnicity.

Two contributions in the book stood out. Chapter 3, "From behind the Veil: Students' Resistance from Different Directions" by Ahlam Muhtaseb (Muslim), is one of the most compelling chapters in this volume. The author explores how critical race and expectancy violation theories can be used to examine students' resistance to faculty when aspects of their racial identity—such as the traditional Islamic female covering (i.e., hijab)—creates a rift in student-faculty relations that has been influenced by Western media stereotypes of Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim cultures. The theoretical discussion in the chapter is quite informative.

Chapter 6, "Black Feminist Thought and Cultural Contracts: Understanding the Intersection and Negotiation of Racial, Gendered, and Professional Identities in the Academy," by Tina M. Harris (African American) was equally significant. Through self-reflection, Harris explores the difficulties involved in negotiating and balancing competing identities in interpersonal relationships women encounter in predominantly White institutions. A bonus of the chapter is Harris's attempt to extend the theoretical parameters of Black feminist thought by combining it with the theory of cultural contracts to provide her analyses.

Most of the chapters were well written and engaging, providing intriguing insights and practical suggestions. McCalman, for example, provides a noteworthy discussion on how intercultural competency starts with the instructor's being culturally self-aware...

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