Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Chronically Academic anti-Black racism statement

At the time of writing, worldwide protests are taking place against police brutality and anti-Black racial violence in the US. As a community, we at Chronically Academic condemn anti-Black violence and systemic racism. We support and stand in solidarity with our Black network members, colleagues, and students. Our mandate to support academics with chronic conditions and disabilities and to work to dismantle structures of academic ableism is intersectional; we cannot dismantle ableist structures without dismantling racist, sexist and colonial structures of white supremacy in the academy and beyond. We recognize that in academia, in the medical system, and in everyday life, Black disabled academics face a great deal more systemic oppression and direct discrimination due to the intersection of disability and blackness. Therefore they are more likely to face ableism and racism. This might include: being turned down for a job, not being able to access healthcare or disability accommodations, being racially profiled, being told that they do not belong in academia, not being believed when they speak up about being mistreated, being ignored, being silenced, being racially abused, being victimised. We also recognise that this intersectional lens has to acknowledge the oppression faced by Black trans people and Black queer people, who face disproportionately high rates of discrimination and violence.
We recognise that making a statement in itself is not enough, and strive to learn about how we can do better as a community and with this platform. We do not want to place the burden on BIPOC/BAME members of our community to educate us. Instead we encourage everyone in the Chronically academic community to join us in educating ourselves and fighting these inequalities.
We commit to the following actions:
  1. Amplifying the voices of Black disabled students and academics and helping to increase representation.

  2. Providing a platform for Black disabled students and academics (e.g. through our Twitter account, and through Twitter hashtags).

  3. Ensuring that people in the Chronically Academic community are aware that we have a zero-tolerance policy to racism, ableism or discrimination of any kind.

  4. Holding monthly Twitter chats about allyship and sharing resources about how to be an ally.

  5. Looking at whether Chronically Academic needs to make any other changes at an organisational level to become more inclusive and anti-racist.
If you are a non-Black person, as a first step, we urge you to educate yourself on the key issues and how to engage on this topic, including taking note of what not to do. We as a team are committed to doing this self-education and self-reflection as well. Please see below a list of resources as a starting point. We welcome you to get in touch with us to add more to the list. It is OK to be outraged or upset about the injustices, but do not air your outrage or sadness with Black people and ask them to educate you about what you can do, or expect their emotional support. It is understandable that you may feel guilty and uncomfortable about your privilege, but ask yourself how you have benefitted from this privilege, why it makes you uncomfortable, and what you can do going forward to make things better for people without your privilege. Use your privilege to provide platforms for others without it. Do not ask for emotional labour from Black students or colleagues at what is already a traumatic time. Do not share graphic images or videos of violence against Black people, especially without a trigger warning. If you are an academic with seniority, support your Black students by thinking about what you can do practically to make your department actively anti-racist. Lastly, you may feel an urge to write about this movement as an academic, but reconsider: does academia need another non-Black perspective on Black issues? Instead, look at your archive and citations, consider what perspectives are missing and work to fill these spaces. We must all strive to continually do anti-racist work and uphold anti-racist practices, no matter our fields of study or the demographics of our classrooms and departments.
Blog posts, websites, twitter threads and articles:
Racism in academia
Ableism and racism/racism in health and healthcare
Racism throughout history (the legacy of racism)
  • Historic England’s website on racism and resistance in Britain.
  • David Osoluga’s article on the legacy of racism in Britain.
  • Dr Amy Kavanagh’s blog post on the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.
  • Twitter thread on racism in the UK from @ObiomaUgoala.
  • Dr Kimberle Crenshaw’s 1991 article Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics and violence against women of color, Stanford law review.
  • Interview with Dr Crenshaw about intersectionality.
Critical race theory:
  • Purdue OWL’s explainer and reading list on Critical race theory.
Resources and guidance on action
Resources on allyship and being a good ally:
Why just showing that you are an ally is not enough:
How can I teach my students about race and racism?
  • How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
  • Women, Race and Class by Angela Y. Davis
  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Du Bois
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  • Superior: The return of race science by Angela Saini
  • So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Brit(ish): On race, identity and belonging by Afua Hirsch
  • Ain’t I a woman by bell hooks
  • The Master’s tools will never dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde
  • Why I’m no longer talking to White People about race by Renni Eddo-Lodge
  • Insurgent Empire: Anti-colonial resistance and British Dissent by Priyamvada Gopal
  • The colour of Madness: exploring BAME mental health in the UK by Samara Linton and Rianna Walcott
  • The end of policing by Alex S. Vitale (ebook available for free at the time of writing)
  • Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter Edited by Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton (ebook currently free on verso books)
Useful websites and organisations to follow:
Helpful reading lists shared by people on Twitter:
Twitter hashtags to follow:


Sunday, 16 February 2020

An Unreliable Mind: Being OCD in the Academy

Written by Clare Griffin 
I am writing the first draft of this on a flight home, feeling emotional after a crappy connection. Is it a good idea to start writing this now? Is it a good idea to write it at all? To publish it, where anyone could read it? What do I hope to achieve by this? How much will it hurt me to publish it? How much good could it possibly do? For me, or for anyone else? Do I mean everything I am saying? And will anyone believe it?
This, and a thousand other worries come to me on bad days, when the OCD I was diagnosed with a few years ago takes over. At some points in my life, all I had were bad days. Now, I have a lot of good days, and still some bad days, and the bad is manageably bad.
After much treatment, and much help, life is easier. Easier is not the same as easy. But some days, easier is everything.
My OCD rewrites the world for me. It pushes me into false certainties where only uncertainties lie. If a friend doesn’t reply to me, they must certainly hate me; yet I can only be uncertain as to the motivations of others. My mind can be unreliable, yet my work, my career, my life, rely on my mind and on my judgement. How can an unreliable mind be an academic mind? If I can’t always trust my judgement, how can anyone else?
My OCD gets me praise. If I have scrutinised every detail of a piece of work or of an event, my OCD will still have me check again, and again, and again, and again. I am early for deadlines, always there for meetings and the most reliable collaborator – until I’m not. Until the compulsion that drives me to check, and recheck, and check again, pushes my brain too far, and I have to lie in the dark to try to make it stop. How can I feel well in an Academy where other people look at pain and see productivity, see the shadow on the wall cast by a pathology and declare it a work ethic? How can I function here? How can I function anywhere?
And yet I know for certain - with actual certainty, not the false kind the OCD sends - that people with mental health and neurological problems are valuable, intelligent people. I know for certain that academics with these conditions make major contributions. I know for certain that those people who have been open about their conditions, and their problems, have helped me. Cartoonists, writers, presenters, literary studies scholars, and historians have all made important and beautiful works out of their pain. If I can unquestioningly accept the value of the intellectual work of other people - other creators and academics with problems like mine - can I accept the value of my own mind? Can I believe that other people will?
Why did I decide to write this? Is it to free myself from the prison of shame that keeping medical conditions private can create? Is it to find sympathy? To aggrandise myself or pity myself, or hurt myself? To martyr myself? Will I cause myself too much pain with the vain and self-important idea that I will help others by writing this? Will people react negatively to this? Or will they not even notice it? Have I disclosed enough to help people? Or have I exposed myself by sharing far too much? The reality I must live with is - I just don’t know.
About the Author

Clare Griffin is a historian of early modern science
Portrait photo of Clare who is 
dressed smartly and facing the camera 
in front of a plain background.
and assistant professor at Nazarbayev University, Republic of Kazakhstan. Her work focuses on global exchanges, practical knowledge, and translation, especially as this relates to the early modern Russian Empire.

Monday, 13 January 2020


Written by Ella Hollis 

Ella kindly gave us permission to share this post from her personal blog.

I think that going through any kind of hardship, no matter of what nature, can sometimes mask what you do have in life to be grateful for.

Ella, a young white woman with
long blonde hair, is dressed
formally in a black academic
gown. She is standing on a lawn
facing the camera and smiling.
It’s so easy for me, and only natural, to focus on what I’ve lost. Compared to only 4 or 5 years ago, I’ve had my world totally stripped of life as I knew it. My total life plan was scrapped, I have had to intermit from university, I no longer have any independence, I have to use a wheelchair and rely on carers to do the simplest of tasks I never imagined, at my age, not being able to do. My life went from having a successful academic career to spending extended periods of time in hospital, with my body failing me more and more. My daily routine was suddenly out of my control, and my life was dictated by my body.

This week in particular, I’ve been really struggling. I don’t really know why; as always, there has been a lot going on, but I just haven’t been able to see a way forwards. I can’t help but apologise for basically my existence and the smallest of tasks seems massively overwhelming. I just haven’t been able to get myself out of this frame of mind and I’ve spent so much time in tears.

Ella is in her home cuddled
up to her dog Jeffrey. They
both face the camera and Ella
is wearing a nasojejunal tube.
How did I get here? 23 years of age, I can’t even eat a meal, I’m fed through a tube in my nose, I have a stoma bag, I’m in a wheelchair, my health conditions have been taking over my life and I don’t know how much more I can take.

However, although I’ve found it even harder than usual to see clearly, I need to try to focus on what I do have and what I am truly grateful for. Please don’t think that this comes easily, because I can assure you it doesn’t, and whatever positive front I may seem to put on here isn’t how I feel most of the time.

Firstly, there’re things to be grateful for because of my illness. This sounds
Ella is pictured in a cafe with a
friend. Both young women are
in wheelchairs and smiling
directly at the camera.
crazy, I know, but without it I wouldn’t have met some of my closest friends who share some of the same conditions as me. I’ve lost most of my older friends because of being unwell, but the friends I’ve met through my blog or other forums understand me like no one else and the bond I have with them is something I’m so grateful for. There’re people whom I can talk about things I never imagined myself having to discuss at my age, but people who have an understanding of at least some aspects of what I’m going through.

As well as this, my illnesses have truly changed my perspective on life. It has shown me the most important things which, to me, is my family – I have the most supportive parents, sister and boyfriend, as well as Jeffrey who brings me more joy than anybody realises. Being unwell has also made me grateful for the smallest things I never realised I took for granted; getting fresh air after eight weeks in hospital, sleeping in my own bed and having a nights sleep without being sick.

Ella is looking down at her
dog Jeffrey who is sitting in
her lap. She is pictured outside
a building in her wheelchair.
When I really thought about it, I also have a lot more to be grateful for – good days where my pain and other symptoms are manageable and I’m able to get out the house and enjoy myself, even if it’s just taking Jeffrey to the woods. Getting a surprise, receiving a nice message or comment on a blog post or getting a letter from one of my pen pals; honestly the smallest things now just mean the world to me as I understand the importance of kindness more deeply.

As difficult as life is at the moment, and as much as I’m struggling both physically and mentally, all I can say is that the love and support from my family and friends, messages, visits, and any act of kindness, no matter how big or small, is appreciated more than I can put into words. No matter how challenging life gets, there is always something to be grateful for.

About the Author

Ella, who is 23, was studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge University but unfortunately had to intermit from uni for the last three years due to ill health. She suffers from EDS, PoTS, Gastroparesis and associated conditions as well as Crohn’s Disease. She writes a blog to connect with others in similar positions with the hope to support them, as well as document her journey.