Friday, November 06, 2009

Dangeral Studies

Like many colleges and universities, we have some fields of studies that aren't actual departments, but field offices. Unlike departments here, field offices don't necessarily have a separate budget, staff support, an office (yeah, the irony), representation in governance, etc.

There's an idea over in the administrative fort that we should combine all the field offices into a single department.

Historically, our field offices got started whenever someone would recognize that there's an interdisciplinary field and we're not doing it but we should, but we don't want to put any money in, and besides, faculty from all different areas across campus can teach in the field studies, because "we" don't actually recognize this as a real academic area worthy of funding and tenure lines.

Typical field studies offices have names such as: Black Studies, Women's Studies, Asian Studies, and so forth. You get the idea. They represent marginalized groups that suddenly got recognized by white administrations in response to some state or federal funding opportunity or mandate.

So, now the fort wants to combine them all into one department. It would, so to speak, give the fields a "chair at the table" for governance and funding decisions, and that would be good. On the other hand, it makes little sense to combine these disparate fields into one department. That difficulty is easy to see when you try to think of a name for the department.

Here are some we've come up with: Department of the Othered; Department of Not-White Men.

My favorite plays with Michael Berube's Dangeral Studies; imagine, a department of Dangeral Studies! The white male Marxists would clamour to get in! Heck, maybe someone from chemistry who likes explosives could teach a team teach a special course in activism!

Think of the reaction over in criminality studies! And over in business!


  1. Since philosophy, Music and Art and foreign languages are relatively small(4 full-timers max) -- Theater is one person -- and Humanities is one full time plus a few folks who teach there... we got organized into the "humanities" department a long time ago.

    We also have global studies in humanities.

    I kind of like being their chair, as we have a decent amount of influence as a collective, we have a nice amount of independence withing our own disciplines and we have a GREAT holiday party... plus my faculty are too busy teaching to get too riled up about stuff.

  2. A Humanities dept makes some sense.

    I believe a dean here also tossed around the "dept of non-white non-male stuff" idea, and quickly got shot down. Particularly because the frame she put on it bundled Women's Studies and Ethnic Studies, but really had no relation to Latin American Studies, which was intended to go there too. Etc. Yeah.

    But we're bigger. I believe that "Directors" of Studies programs have a voice at the table commensurate with dept chairs, and the admin work tends to get combined---eg, there's an International Studies office that has a part-time job for the Latin American Studies TA, African Studies TA, etc. I don't know that an Interdisciplinary Programs Office, for admin purposes, really needs a theory to hold together Medieval, Religious, Asian, Ethnic, if the point is to streamline the support side.

  3. One of our lecturers was trying to float the idea of combining all our women and ethnic studies classes with law and society to create a "Liberation Studies" department. I kinda like the term, and done well it might be really strong as a intersectional social justice type emphasis, but she was a crazy nut so no one takes her ideas seriously.

    Now we have no money at all, so several of those programs have just been eliminated and all the lecturers fired.

  4. I think I want to major in Not-"White Men". But don't you have to expand to Not white-straight-rich-men? It has a nice ring to it.

  5. I'm partial to "The Other Department." We've been having a similar conversation, mainly because these programs are dying and will soon be dead if we can't a person to coordinate and do the admin work for them. Each program "chair" is currently working without any support or compensation, which means the Others just get leftover time, despite students wanting to take the classes if we could just get it together as a uni to make the programs work.