Redefining the Impact-Factor [?]: Female Scholars who Practice Public Academia and Social Activism
A long-standing debate revolves around the social obligations of academic institutions, and whether academics should be required to engage in social activism. This article contributes to the discussion by considering the perspectives of 27 female activist academics from the fields of humanities and social sciences, who were interviewed for this study.
The interviewees suggested an alternative view of the role and mission of academic institutions – one which included a committed attitude towards social involvement and change. The interviewees sought to empower social minorities and to change the academic institutions "from inside." In many interviews there was a strong connection between the interviewee's academic discipline and her activism. Prominent motivations that were described were early socialization to social involvement, and a strong belief that activism is part of their academic missions. Some of the interviewees emphasized feminist theory as being the basis of that belief, a viewpoint that had been cemented during their student days. It appears that the responses to the interviewees' activism can be divided into two main types, depending on the character of specific academic departments: predominantly male departments tend to support institutional thinking, and often respond negatively, marginalizing the interviewees' research interests and activities; in departments that are predominantly female and tend to support feminism and reflexive research, the academic activism is usually welcomed. However, further empirical support is needed to confirm this finding.
The article ends in a discussion in which we present some aspects regarding the question of whether public-academia practices should be regarded as relevant criteria for academic promotion.