is institutionalized carework a trap?

by d

some thoughts i’m still developing…

this line from Risam’s work is sticking with me: “participating in diversity work is a trap into which those whose work is guided by an ethical commitment to communities underrepresented in academia and those who belong to these communities risk falling.” reading this essay reminded me of the many instances where i’ve been asked to take on additional labor (emotional labor/knowledge production/interpretation for my Spanish speakers) without any compensation, and how i was convinced that this was “for the community.” but that labor was swallowed up by the institution, and in so many ways, de-prioritized. for example, i think of being promoted in a previous workplace, and no longer having capacity to interpret during family-teacher conferences (a service i provided to mainly Latine immigrant mothers)…all of a sudden there was room in the budget to hire interpreters (i no longer offer translation/interpretation services for free). i’m thinking about the trickle effect. how the devaluation of my labor in so many ways was a deprioritization/dehumanization of specific groups of people.

i’m thinking also about performative diversity — how often i’ve witnessed incredible adjuncts who are hired … i’m guessing because it’s good marketing, and not necessarily because their work is valued within an institution. it’s too many times that these individuals’ labor has been treated as disposable. i’m thinking about labor and time extraction within the academy, and how it directly influences the lives of BIPOC who enter the academy with the hopes of making a difference. i’m thinking about how carework is invisibilized through algorithms in digital spaces.

tbh — this week’s readings felt…exhausting. because i feel caught in this trap. and i’m not sure exactly what the way out is…

2 thoughts on “is institutionalized carework a trap?

  1. Katina Rogers (she/her)

    I’m also thinking a lot about Risam’s idea of diversity work as a ‘trap’. I was struck in this read through by the idea of the double-bind, that this is work that is both desired and not desired. That double-bind makes it impossible to move, because you’re constantly pulled both ways at once. A sense of stasis, impossibility, stuckness results. I’m also thinking about the ways that accountability and relationality can be weaponized—when someone takes those commitments seriously, it is extremely difficult to walk away from them—which can leave an individual susceptible to institutional exploitation. The university using someone’s care against them.

  2. Adrianna Rios (she/her)

    Yes, this “trap” is what I was thinking when I asked what can we do to counteract? I’m also not sure what’s the solution or way out. Not engaging in diversity studies if you care about it is really not an option. Perhaps having conversations like the one’s we’ve been having is the best “way out”? The more we have conversations about this, the more the message can get to people in positions of power and maybe things could change. It feels like wishful thinking but this is the best “solution” I could think of.

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