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“And a Charming Wife”: Gender, Marriage, and Manhood in the Job Search Process
The academic job search process, and the applications and reference letters that are constitutive elements of that process, are central to the creation and re-creation of a discipline. Disciplines and departments renew and re-create themselves — or do not, and merely replicate themselves — through hirings. A job search process can serve to hinder changes in the membership, culture, “look,” and the norms of the discipline, or it can facilitate dramatic and often rapid transformations. Job search materials thus provide an insight into the prevailing norms and conventions of a discipline. A review of a recent set of such materials reveals subtle gendered and racialized differences in the job search process. Such differences are apparent in the composition of referee committees, in the evocation of marital status both by applicants and by referees, and in the surprising persistence of themes of robust manhood. The referee pool, the applicant pool, and the search committee pool in an academic discipline are interlocked constituencies, and the job search process plays a “gatekeeping” role. The extent to which gender or racial differences are inserted into the job process thus has a bearing on the long term social construction of the discipline.
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