Sara Ahmed investigates what happens when students and professors protest abuses of power.
On this week’s episode, feminist writer and independent scholar Sara Ahmed discusses Complaint! (Duke University Press, Sept. 21), a rigorous consideration of what actually happens when students and professors file formal complaints against harassment, bullying, and discriminatory policies in academia. The 10th book from Ahmed (What’s the Use?, Living a Feminist Life, etc.), Complaint! draws on dozens of oral and written testimonies and the author’s own experience to answer questions including: Who gets to complain? Whose complaint is heard? And who or what stands to benefit from institutions’ formal complaint procedures?
Kirkus on Complaint!: “The author, who has gained notoriety in academic circles for Living a Feminist Life (2017) and other books, presents a strong argument that power in higher education tends to protect itself, that diversity initiatives are often nothing more than window dressing, and that those who file complaints about a hostile work environment often face accusations of disloyalty or troublemaking. Charges of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, Ahmed argues, are similar from institution to institution and ubiquitous because the conditions that spark them don’t change. Those who wish to file formal complaints often find it difficult to navigate the complex procedures, only to find their paperwork buried in some cabinet or their cases adjudicated behind closed doors. Those who go public, meanwhile, face withdrawal of funding, lack of institutional support, and being passed over for promotion….Sharp criticism of an overlooked systemic problem in higher education.”
Ahmed and host Megan Labrise discuss her work as an independent scholar and relationship to academia; the types of complaints presented and considered in the book; why there’s an exclamation point in the title; the many forms a complaint might take; the importance of hearing complaints and listening with a feminist ear; what positioned Ahmed to be able to receive these complaints; how the labor of complaint is often exhausting; why one of two of the book’s conclusions is written collectively; whether it’s possible for someone identified as a “complainer” to advance in a settler colonial institution; and much more.
And in a sponsored interview, Megan talks with Julie Morstad, author-illustrator of Time Is a Flower (Tundra Books, Sept. 21), a gorgeous new picture book that offers an intriguing exploration of the nature of time. Kirkus: “This exuberant vehicle will expand the thinking of those just beginning to comprehend clocks and calendars” (starred review).
Then editors Eric Liebetrau, Laurie Muchnick, and Johanna Zwirner offer their top picks in books for the week.
The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War by Craig Whitlock (Simon & Schuster)
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
Skinship by Yoon Choi (Knopf)
Also mentioned on this episode:
How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon by Rosa Brooks (Simon & Schuster)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
Deacon King Kong by James McBride (Riverhead)
In the Country by Mia Alvar (Knopf)
Thanks to our advertisers this week:
A Rising Tide of People Swept Away by Scott Archer Jones
A Symphony of Rivals by Roma Calatayud-Stocks
Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters by Suzanne Kamata
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.