[INDOLOGY] Sexism and Bias on INDOLOGY governing committee

Arash Zeini arash.zeini at gmail.com
Thu Apr 4 14:02:39 UTC 2019

Dear All,

I am not in a position to say anything about the issues that Dr Truschke
has raised on this list. When it comes to that, I find myself agreeing with
Dr Uskokov's above e-mail. I am generally very careful when it comes to
gender bias. I don't deny its existence, but I don't believe that such
issues are solved by adding female voices. Gender bias is in my view often
the result of unbalanced or inappropriately distributed power structures.
The same people that abuse female colleagues tend to abuse also less
powerful male colleagues. This observation does not acquit them, but I find
adding female voices does not automatically result in a better working
environment, if the power structures remain in place. If we discuss gender,
I would suggest we discuss it in terms of diversity.

Incidentally, today I came across an interesting read on the Guardian that
highlights the issue:

"The books that had beat Cole [my addition: author of colour] as finalists
in the best short historical romance category were all by white women, all
but one set in 19th-century Britain, featuring white women [note lack of
diversity] who fall in love with aristocrats. The heroes were,
respectively, one “rogue”, two dukes, two lords and an earl.

What followed, on Twitter, was an outpouring of grief and frustration from
black authors and other authors of colour, describing the racism they had
faced again and again in the romance industry."
I am not suggesting that the committee needs to be regulated the way Dr
Truschke suggests. For that I don't have enough information. However, if
there is a need for change, I would suggest we start talking about
diversity rather than limiting ourselves to gender bias. I would wish to
see more Indians, people from diverse backgrounds and more "lowly"
positioned academics within the committee along with gender parity.

Best wishes,

On Thu, 4 Apr 2019 at 13:30, Uskokov, Aleksandar via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> I still don't understand where the potential bias is -- in disagreement
> over who may become a member? What is it that members disagree on that is
> gender-sensitive and could benefit from more female voices, or could be
> biased in some other way so would need any other kind of voices (i.e, a
> member from India)? Again, not rhetorical questions.
> Get Outlook for Android <https://aka.ms/ghei36>
> ------------------------------
> *From:* INDOLOGY <indology-bounces at list.indology.info> on behalf of
> Audrey Truschke via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info>
> *Sent:* Thursday, April 4, 2019 6:35:52 AM
> *To:* Birgit Kellner
> *Cc:* Indology List
> *Subject:* Re: [INDOLOGY] Sexism and Bias on INDOLOGY governing committee
> Dear Birgit and All,
> To clarify - I am not advocating an expansion of the committee's job in
> regulating INDOLOGY. I am suggesting measures designed to prevent what I
> have experienced, internally on the committee, from happening again, to me
> or to anybody else. Inappropriate, biased behavior can occur anywhere, even
> on a committee with a limited function.
> I understand the point about not having all sides of the story. I would
> gently point out - Nobody on this list needs to adjudicate the past in
> order to advocate some basic checks on potential bias and abuse going
> forward. Given that most of us agree that bias is a significant issue
> throughout our discipline and the academy, I think we should all be in
> favor of basic measures to prevent and address it here.
> Audrey Truschke
> Assistant Professor
> Department of History
> Rutgers University-Newark
> On Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 12:16 PM Birgit Kellner via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>> 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>
>> 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> 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
>> Director
>> Institute for the Cultural and Intellectual History of Asia
>> Austrian Academy of Sciences
>> Hollandstrasse 11-13/2
>> 1020 Wien / Vienna
>> Austria
>> Phone: +43-(0)1-51581-6420
>> Fax: +43-(0)1-51581-6410
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