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Voices in Cyberspace
May 13, 2012 - 7:28pm

On April 30th, Naomi Schaefer Riley, a blogger for the Brainstorm blog on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s website, argued (and poorly) that Black Studies as a discipline should disappear; her argument was based solely on brief descriptions of three dissertations by three PhD candidates from Northwestern University’s first cohort of Black Studies doctoral program, as seen in an earlier article in The Chronicle. (On May 7, 2012 Brainstorm Editor Liz McMillen posted a note to readers stating that Schaefer Riley had been fired from the blog.) I am not going to argue with Schaefer Riley because several have already argued with her post better than I ever could (for example, Tressie MC's guest post on fellow University of Venus blogger Lee Skallerup's IHE blog College Ready Writing). However, the kerfuffle that ensued online in response to Schaefer Riley's post hit close to home and made me think about my role as an academic who blogs. 

Schaefer Riley is not an academic blogger, but many of the people blogging at The Chronicle of Higher Education and here at Inside Higher Ed (for example) are academics who blog and who, more importantly, see blogging as a worthwhile endeavor. We invest a lot of time and effort into what we do--for many of us, the care and attention we put into each of our blog posts reflects the attentiveness we have within our own research as a whole, and by extension reflects perhaps our training as scholars. (See Profhacker editors’ post on the ethics of academic blogging in response to the Schaefer Riley posts and the response from "Brainstorm" editors) When Chronicle Content Promotion Amy Alexander told Tressie Mc in a Twitter exchange that their bloggers, although published on The Chronicle’s website, are independent from The Chronicle (which she also sees as “not of” academia), that made me stop and think. Although it is true that blogs within The Chronicle and within IHE are overseen by individual blog editors, as academics and bloggers we should still be mindful of the importance of well-written prose to convey a point. My experience working with other academic bloggers is that none of us simply get on a soap box and let go whatever is on our mind. Blogging is different from journalism (to a certain extent) and is different from academic journals, but it still holds its own as a forum for ideas and for “civil discourse” among academics, like the Profhacker post argues.
Therefore, as I watched the debacle about Schaefer Riley’s post and Amy Alexander’s exchange with Tressie Mc days after NSR's post went live, I thought to myself, how does this make other bloggers look? How does this affect our legitimacy? The online response to Schaefer Riley reminded me that our legitimacy lies in our writing: in our laptops, in our pens, in our smartphones. As Rohan Maitzen argues in her post on academic blogging, blogging is a way of continuing the conversations that are so important to keeping our fields and research alive. However, when she posits in her post "why should we blog?" it made me think about my concerns for academic minority scholars. Amidst the flurry of tweets about Schaefer Riley’s post, this tweet by Howard Rambsey II came across my feed: “Interesting: a negative blog entry about black studies solidifies my sense that we need more blogging from black studies scholars.” I knew that I was not alone in my concerns.
The post and the response that ensued afterwards reminded me of the importance of making the voices of minority scholars heard and, in a broader sense, the importance of writing as a way of making those voices heard and engaging detractors and supporters. The emergence of many minority academic programs and departments (African American Studies, Latino/a Studies, Women's Studies, for example) is connected to a desire to make visible to others not just the work but also the culture of certain segments of the population that have been ignored, undervalued, oppressed. For minority scholars such as myself, blogging is not just a bullet point for a CV; it is an intrinsic part of what my research is about: a commitment to making the struggles and achievements and contradictions of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Latin@s, Women visible to a broader population. I cannot afford silence. Blogging allows me a platform to talk about issues that may go unnoticed, or issues where the point of view of a person of color or of a woman have been left in the cold. Because it happens. A lot. Let us not forget that Tressie Mc's post in response to Schaefer Riley first appeared on her blog.
Minority academics who blog must, now more than ever, be aware of how important it is to articulate their ideas and their knowledge outside of our departments, our journals, our conferences. Blogging is a space in which we can do that. Many are already doing it, but that does not mean we do not need more voices participating in the conversations.We must make our voices heard, especially when others do not want to hear us.  
Kansas City, Kansas in the US.
Liana is a regular contributor at University of Venus and a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department at Binghamton University. Follow her on Twitter @literarychica.


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