I was at a panel all day yesterday — stuffy little room, 9-5 pm. Sometimes, in the course of discussing difficult issues — like how projects in which we’re deeply invested reflect and reproduce privileges that as hard as we try remain embedded in our practices — we wind up taking out broader frustrations on each other. Part of what I saw yesterday were people who were frustrated with institutions in somewhat diametrically opposed fashions: one because after all these years feminists remain excluded from communication studies’ canons, the other because she was frustrated with how the canon functions in communication studies to exclude forms of knowledge produced outside its parameters.
There was an intriguing conversation to be had in all this, but as is typical when emotions are running high, it didn’t happen. I’ve never liked canons and their implicit and explicit conferrals of value on particular kinds of texts. On the other hand, when you supervise PhDs, you can’t help but be implicated in producing officious forms of knowledge — like the dreaded “survey of the field” question. I’m constantly frustrated by the homogeneity of those lists — in the US context, it means reading the work of a bunch of misogynist philanderers who often cribbed work from lesser known wives and colleagues. But including white American women — Hortense Powdermaker, Marie Jahoda, etc. — doesn’t really get at the the fundamental problem, either, which is how we’re institutionally encouraged to reproduce very specific forms of knowledge.
Maybe we’ll have that conversation next time.