I have been fortunate to present the early findings from the migrant academics study at two conferences. The first was the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion conference (EDI) in Athens at the start of July. As an aside, this is a conference I would recommend. It is very friendly and the range of work presented is inspiring. The feedback I received on my paper was some of the most useful I have received for a conference paper, no doubt because it was a stream specifically for those researching migration. Many of the people in the room were shocked at some of the experiences I had collecting the data and this led to some interesting discussions. Largely people were interested in why some academics felt free to express such racist views and whether these were views participants would have expressed at ‘home’. The feedback also suggested I look at the literature on critical whiteness studies and the social construction of both whiteness and blackness.
These discussion helped me go back to my data and reverse the questions we usually ask – why are there so few women in senior positions? Why are there so few ethnic minority senior academics? etc. Instead, perhaps we should ask ourselves why there are so many white male academics in senior positions. I have some ideas as to how my data may illuminate that, but I need to think it through more before I can expand on that.
Last week I presented a further, theoretically informed, consideration of my data – this time to the Work, Employment and Society conference at Warwick Uni. A different audience this time which included a number of migrant academics. There was some discussion of ‘identity’ and whether this is fixed or flexible with migration. Again the racism expressed by respondents was a cause for much discussion – both in the stream and in more informal chats afterwards.
The next phase is to write up for publication. I have been warned that the work may struggle in peer review given that it critiques the dominant culture in academia. I have experienced how well this can go down with reviewers before, including suggestions that the lack of women and ethnic minority academics in senior roles is because ‘they’ are not good at research. It means I need to identify appropriate journals, within the confines of the ABS list.
Presenting work at conferences can be a demoralising experience, especially if no one turns up. However, these two experiences have helped me consider my data and where I want to take it in future.