[INDOLOGY] Sexism and Bias on INDOLOGY governing committee

Birgit Kellner birgit.kellner at oeaw.ac.at
Thu Apr 4 10:16:08 UTC 2019

Dear everyone,

I am in full agreement that bias in Academia is something that needs to 
be addressed. Like others, I feel I'm not in a place to comment on the 
situation that Audrey Tuschke experienced. We have not heard from 
everyone on the committee, and I am also not sure whether this forum is 
the right place for resolving tensions in the committee.

My concern is now with a more fundamental matter as far as the list and 
its relationship to the committee is concerned. It seems to me that 
Audrey Tuschke's proposal calls for a much stronger function of the 
committee than it has had (and exercised) so far.

Having served on the committee myself for several years, I can only 
confirm what Dominik outlined in a previous post: the committee actually 
has a very minimal function. Its main task is to administer membership. 
It does not regulate communication on the list in a particularly strong 
fashion. Committee members on occasion step in if they feel discussions 
become inappropriate. But the overall assumption is still, I think, that 
communication on the list is and should be self-regulating.

It appears to me that the measures outlined by Audrey under "Dealing 
with Bias" assume a different kind of governing body, one that 
intervenes in a regulatory capacity in a stronger fashion than has been 
the case so far. There would be upsides and downsides to such an 
approach (one downside being that perhaps rather few scholars could be 
persuaded to become a part of a governing body expected to exercise a 
far more active role than it has done so far), but I think this point 
merits explicit discussion.

With best regards,

Birgit Kellner

Am 04.04.19 um 10:45 schrieb Audrey Truschke via INDOLOGY:
> Dear Colleagues and Friends,
> I have been heartened to see the supportive responses by many on this 
> listserv. It means a lot to see my colleagues - some of whom rarely or 
> never post on this list - trying to honestly grapple with our 
> problems, make sense of bias and its many forms, and talk about 
> possible steps for improvement. Going forward, I hope that we follow 
> up on John Nemec's suggestion to gather data about women in PhD 
> programs (and, perhaps, job placement thereafter, since hiring 
> processes often involve gender bias in the profession). I also draw 
> attention to Herman Tull's observation that many female Sanskritists 
> opt out of this forum; I hope that we continue to try to change the 
> listserv so that more women find it a welcoming forum.
> Thus far, the INDOLOGY governing committee has taken no steps to 
> address our problems with sexism and bias. I and others have made 
> concrete suggestions, and we have been met with silence. Two members 
> of the governing committee (besides myself) have e-mailed during this 
> discussion; neither response made any attempt to address the concerns 
> of bias and sexism raised by myself and other list members. This is 
> unsurprising. Inaction and flat denial of any problem are quite common 
> responses when women come forward with the dark side of what we face 
> in the academy.
> I suggest, again, the following concrete steps ought to be taken by 
> the INDOLOGY governing committee.
> (1) Gender Parity. Numerous people have supported a call for gender 
> parity on the INDOLOGY governing committee (currently a 2:1 
> male:female ratio). Let's move forward with that, now, and add 2 women.
> (2) Dealing with Bias. It is unacceptable to go forward with the same 
> structures in place that have resulted in me experiencing, in my view, 
> sexist treatment, for months without recourse. We need a better 
> system. I have suggested conducting committee business openly or 
> shaking up membership on the committee. Jason Birch suggested a 
> grievance system with an outside mediator. We could do all of those 
> things, or some of them. A key point is this: The INDOLOGY governing 
> committee needs to be committed to taking action and showing 
> leadership in openly trying to implement some of these suggestions and 
> thereby make the governing committee and the list a more equitable place.
> There has been ample support demonstrated by list members for action 
> on issues of possible bias on the INDOLOGY governing committee and 
> also interest in openly discussing, on the INDOLOGY list, a wide range 
> of issues concerning sexism and discrimination. I thank those who have 
> spoken up thus far, and I invite everyone else to please join us in 
> making our small corner of the academy a more equitable place.
> All the best,
> Audrey
> Audrey Truschke
> Assistant Professor
> Department of History
> Rutgers University-Newark
> Audrey Truschke
> Assistant Professor
> Department of History
> Rutgers University-Newark
> On Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 7:21 AM Michael Brattus Jones 
> <mbjones at utexas.edu <mailto:mbjones at utexas.edu>> wrote:
>     Dear List,
>     I support parity on the governing board. It would be a small
>     action with a great effect, and I don't believe I've read any
>     arguments directly against it.
>     I happen to follow Dr. Truschke on Twitter and I've seen the
>     terrible abuses she endures there, as a result of discussing her
>     academic work. I'm not comparing this forum with that one, but it
>     does underscore the need for this forum to strive to seem as safe
>     a place as possible, whether or not people see eye to eye on any
>     specific issues.
>     Thank you,
>     Michael Brattus Jones, Ph.D.
>     On Tue, Apr 2, 2019 at 12:56 AM Audrey Truschke via INDOLOGY
>     <indology at list.indology.info <mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
>     wrote:
>         Dear Friends and Colleagues,
>         I am writing to call your attention to the entrenched,
>         worsening sexism I have been experiencing on the INDOLOGY
>         governing committee over the past year or so (I have served on
>         the committee for six years). Other committee members have
>         warned me not to publicly discuss the bullying and abuse that
>         I have faced from them in private. I break my silence and go
>         against their explicit instructions here.
>         I have repeatedly faced sexism within the INDOLOGY governing
>         committee, ranging from patronizing comments to silencing of
>         discussions about bias to overtly different standards applied
>         to male and female members of the committee and list. I have
>         tried many times to raise these issues internally among the
>         committee and privately with specific individuals. I have been
>         met with blanket denials, belittling of my concerns,
>         declarations that discussing sexism is not a substantive
>         issue, accusations of being a troublemaker, and flat out
>         refusals to discuss gender issues. Indology as a discipline
>         has deep-seated issues with male privilege, discrimination
>         against female scholars, and even outright misogyny. The
>         issues within INDOLOGY's male-dominated governing committee
>         are arguably a reflection of this larger set of problems that
>         systematically drives women out of the discipline. If Indology
>         or INDOLOGY are going to survive in any worthwhile form, we
>         must face our ongoing issues of sexism and bias. I have made
>         numerous suggestions to the INDOLOGY governing committee in
>         this regard, including striving for gender parity on the
>         committee by adding more female members, conducting committee
>         business more openly as a check on bullying, and undergoing
>         bias training. I hope the committee follows up on these
>         suggestions. But, to date, I have seen only a desire to circle
>         the wagons and deny bias, rather than any serious attempt to
>         make the committee or the list a more equitable place.
>         Last week, following another case where I documented and
>         called out a committee member for acting with bias, that
>         committee member wrote that if he were in my position, he
>         would consider resigning from the committee. In other words,
>         if I find members of the INDOLOGY committee discriminate
>         against women, then I should bow out. I find that suggestion
>         highly inappropriate, and I do not acquiesce to it here. But I
>         will no longer serve as a punching bag for men who insist I
>         keep quiet.
>         I expect to face significant pushback and recriminations for
>         shedding light on the dark underbelly of the
>         INDOLOGY governing committee. But, unlike many of my fellow
>         committee members, I think that this is an issue for the list
>         at large. Many of us, myself included, find scholarly value in
>         this listserv. But knowledge exists within power structures,
>         and I find that I can no longer stomach what I have to
>         overlook in order to quietly run this forum. I think it is
>         time for us to talk about the key issues of bias and sexism
>         facing our discipline that make women unwelcome at every turn,
>         including in running this listserv.
>         All the best,
>         Audrey
>         Audrey Truschke
>         Assistant Professor
>         Department of History
>         Rutgers University-Newark
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Prof. Dr. Birgit Kellner
Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Hollandstrasse 11-13/2
1020 Wien / Vienna
Phone: +43-(0)1-51581-6420
Fax: +43-(0)1-51581-6410

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