Friday, July 06, 2007

Gowri Ramachandran on Prawfsblawg

A lot of useful advice!

Aspiring Law Profs: Listing Teaching Preferences

But I'm going to comment on this part:

Thus, while I didn't hide my secondary interest (and it was secondary) in courses such as Feminist Legal Theory, my terror at giving such courses too much prominence did, I realize in retrospect, underlie my failure to fully explore the options in these supposedly "less respected" areas. A friendly interviewer, late in the process, pointed out to me that I might very much enjoy developing a seminar such as Asian Americans and the Law. He was right, and I had failed to even think about such a course, much less decide whether to list it. Now I hope to teach it one day.

I do think the stereotype about women and about people of color is out there and significant, and I do not want any aspiring woman and/or person of color professor to be unaware. However, I think I seriously overestimated the strength of the stereotype about particular fields associated with the left, such as Critical Race Theory. The quiet and sometimes not so quiet disparagement of such subjects I heard while at Yale is not nearly as widespread or entrenched elsewhere, and is even non-existent at some schools.

Perhaps even more importantly, I had failed to consider that someone who considers Critical Race Theory to be on the fluffy side might still very much want to hire someone who can teach it well, simply because the students are expressing interest. This attitude is far more common than I had realized.

But perhaps I am again being naive.


Just from my limited interaction with other scholars, I've perceived that there's a mix of interest, enthusiasm, and reservations-about-fluffiness about CRT. I'm quite qualified to teach it--I do have this thing on my transcript and diploma that says I have a concentration in CRT. But I don't know if I want to teach it anymore. I have this whole ambivalence towards crit theory in general, and I'm not really employing any of the traditional scholarly techniques anymore. I'm still committed to the project of anti-discrimination law--but I'm much more into social network theory and organizational theory. I'm even getting into empirical legal studies! Trust me, I feel a great deal of confusion and even guilt about this. I used to be a po-mo cheerleader. What's worse is when nice CRT scholars email me words of support and even praise, even as I write critically about my self-distancing from CRT.

So I'm not sure I'll list CRT on my FAR. Not out of a fear of "fluffiness"--I still have plenty of that with my sociology of law stuff, and my willingness to teach feminist legal topics (like Sexual Harassment Law). It's just that, I don't write in the area anymore (and don't read as much either)--so should I put it on my FAR? I'm thinking my list of teaching preferences is going to be any of the following topics: contracts, torts, employment discrimination law, and of course, constitutional law. If there is a need and interest at my school for courses in CRT or Asian American Jurisprudence (also pretty qualifed, having been Articles Editor for a journal), or any other theory course--I'll do it, and happily.

But as far as I can figure, the "package" I'm going for (and the tool kit I'm building) seems to be centered on constitutional law, employment discrimination law and the sociology of law. So that's what I'm sticking with, for now.

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