Reviewed by: National Association of Student Anthropologists
Of interest to: Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Identity and Equity
Secondary Theme: Race
Often the graduate student experience is described as isolating or lonely. Graduate students spend hours alone studying, reading, and doing research. There are few spaces within departments and universities, let alone outside our home universities to build networks of support. A piece published in the journal Nature has reported that, “PhD and Master’s students worldwide report rates of depression and anxiety that are six times higher than those in the general public”, with transgender/gender-nonconforming and female graduate students at the highest risk (Evans et. al.). Nevertheless, this study did not analyze the particular challenges that students of color face, but white graduate students do not. Our roundtable looks to explore this void through the narratives of a group of young scholars, who will simultaneously tell their experiences and analytically reflect on the production of isolation.
As experienced by many, isolation in academia can be a divisive tool to silence abuse or other forms of power relationships. For example, political figures often reply to the concerns/challenges that graduate students externalize about isolation with an “I went through it, you should too” explanation of graduate academic life. That way, what is deemed as acceptable, or a rite of passage, in academia settles, normalizes and reproduces. For our discussion, we are thinking about isolation as an essentialized experience that refers to the individualization/liberalization of academic life and the alienation of the scholarly community. We want to make the argument that the isolation experience for graduate students of color expresses in, at least, two levels: (1) as a dissociation with other selves and (2) as a dissociation with other epistemologies.
To answer to this reflection, graduate students across the country of varying identities, will join in a dialog on a spectrum of experiences within academia. Discussants will engage with narratives on topics such as structural violence, racism, colonialism, and other experiences that are silenced or taboo in academia. After sharing their stories, willing audience members will be given a few minutes to share their own testimonies. Once experiences have been shared, the panel and attending audience will engage with the analytical reflection of isolation for students of color in the US academy. The round table seeks to equip future generations of scholars with tools to recognize and combat macro and microphysical experiences of violence that characterize graduate school. As such, this round table hopes to begin a movement to change the isolating culture of academia. The goal, as always, is coalition.