Conducting Fieldwork While Female, or “Is Crit Always Legit?”

Sandra M. Bucerius and Marta Urbanik, When Crime is a “Young Man’s Game” and the Ethnographer is a Woman: Gendered Researcher Experiences in Two Different Contexts, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 2019, Vol 48(4) 451-481, DOI: 10.1177/0891241618785225

Of all of the articles I have chosen to read during the early days of this experience, this one was far and away my favorite. Perhaps I missed my true calling as an ethnographer!

The authors are female ethonographers who conducted separate research projects that involved studying the behavior and experiences of certain types of men. The participants in Bucerius’s study were young, immigrant, “second-generation Muslim” men who were involved in selling drugs and other criminal activity in the German city of Frankfurt. Urbanik’s research project involved studying young men residing in a public housing project in Toronto, almost all of whom were racial minorities and who lived a “hip-hop” or “gangsta” lifestyle.

These two researchers collaborated on this article to explore the many ways in which the fieldwork required for this type of research can be difficult or dangerous for women. Looking through a gender-specific lens, the authors observed that the men who participated in this study, who were in certain ways socially disadvantaged, felt compelled to engage in “boundary work,” which means that they “increase their self-perceptions by relegating women into even more subordinate positions than they themselves occupy.”

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Burdens of Women in Academia, Continued…

Citation #1:
Amani El-Alayli, Ashley A. Hansen-Brown, and Michelle Ceynar, Dancing Backwards in High Heels: Female Professors Experience More Work Demands and Special Favor Requests, Particularly from Academically Entitled Students, Sex Roles (2018) 79:136-150,

Citation #2: Marlene L. Daut, Becoming Full Professor While Black, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 29, 2019,

My previous post was about how women in academia are especially burdened to perform uncompensated emotional labor. That theme continues today, albeit with a twist.

The article I had originally scheduled to read today is the first one listed above, which reports two studies conducted by the authors. The authors posited that university students have certain gender-based expectations of their professors, and that they expect female professors to conform to female-specific stereotypes of acting warm and nurturing. Accordingly, female professors are subjected to more scrutiny and more criticism than their male counterparts, especially if they are disinclined to act like “academic mothers.”

The authors further believed that a key variable in this phenomenon is “academic entitlement,” which indicates whether and how much the student feels he or she is owed this treatment by his or her professors.

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Emotional Labor in Academia: Burdens, Metrics, and Compensation

Brandi Lawless (2018) Documenting a labor of love: emotional labor as academic labor, Review of Communication, 18:2, 85-97, DOI: 10.1080/15358593.2018.1438644

I started reading what is considered to be the seminal treatise on emotional labor, Arlie Russell Hochschild’s The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, a few months ago. This book so resonated with me that I found I wanted to note and respond to about 10 things on every page. Since that takes a lot of time and energy, I am only about 30 pages in so far.

The main thing this book has awakened in me is a strong interest in understanding what emotional labor is (essentially, it is the regulation and suppression of your own emotions in response to customer needs and expectations when performing a service-oriented job) and how it shapes workplace culture and interactions.

Brandi Lawless’s 2018 article focuses on the impact of emotional labor in academia, which is a subject I have been thinking about throughout my career, especially in the last year or so. Although Professor Lawless is a communications professor and not a librarian, I recognized myself and my librarianship practice in which she writes here.

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