Too Supportive: On Fostering Allied Behaviour on Social Media with Jessica DeWitt

 Jessica DeWitt and I put this presentation together for the #Beyond150CA Twitter Conference in August 2017.

We saw the presentation as an opportunity to respond to comments and questions that emerged from a roundtable we participated in on Canadian History & Social Media—a discussion that also included scholars Andrea Eidinger, Daniel Ross, Alexandre Turgeon, Adam Gaudry, and was chaired by Sean Kheraj at the Canadian Historical Association meeting in May, 2017.

Responses to the roundtable ranged from a) questions on how to foster allyship and support between historians, b) questions regarding best practices for addressing discrimination on Social Media and in our work/academic communities; and c) questions on the consequences of a supportive/allied approach, particularly if a focus on support and allyship has the potential to shut down critique & educational discourse.

The latter perceives supportive/allied behaviour as an impediment to dialogical methods of learning near & dear to Historians’ pedagogy and discourse. At times critics have called the style of interaction as “too supportive” and held that such relationships prevent challenging conversations.

As longtime and long-distance friends who met in grad school, Social Media has functioned as a space to maintain our friendship & has been a platform for supporting each other’s work. The support networks organized by minoritized scholars online have been integral to our experience getting through graduate studies. And purposeful supportive interactions have facilitated a great deal of networking opportunities with symbiotic relations between scholars and community.

Subjectivities differ significantly across our traditionally Anglo-Canadian & masculinized discipline, not to mention the subject positions of the historical actors represented in our research. To create an accurate and representative historical record that captures the widest swath of human experience, it is paramount that scholars make spaces for difference, support minoritized scholars, & develop purposeful allyship that serves minoritized scholars.

Minoritized scholars report experiencing discrimination, microaggressions, and violence in academia—impediments to our participation that occur on Social Media and in our places of work (Henry, Dua, James, Kobayashi, Li, Ramos, & Smith; Chan; Yudkevich, Altbach, & Rumbley; Mayazumi). Discrimination is an energy drain and distracts us from our work. At times it can result in scholars leaving academia; the effects of such losses are unknown.

Purposeful & relational support systems enable minoritized scholars and diversify scholarship, strengthening our understanding of history. As junior scholars, forming solidarities across difference, being supported by mentors (particularly women and BIPOC scholars and community members who, time & time again, are the ones who make time for such labour), amplifying each other’s work, carving out spaces for unexpected voices, and holding one another accountable has not only made our work possible but stronger.

We propose an approach informed by the various communities (de-colonial, queer, feminist, anti-racist, labour justice, and disability justice) who have made spaces for us.  Too Supportive 1Too Supportive 2Too Supportive 3Tweet 9Too Supportive 4Tweet 11Too Supportive 5Tweet 12Too Supportive 6Tweet 13Too Supportive 7


Chan, Jennifer. “Out of Asia: Topologies of Racism in Canada.” Workplace 27 (2016):

Henry, Frances, Enakshi Dua, Carl E. James, Audrey Kobayashi, Peter Li, Howard Ramos, and Malinda S. Smith. The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities. Vancouver: UBC, 2017.

Mayuzumi, Kimine. “Navigating Orientalism: Asian Women Faculty in the Canadian Academy.” Race Ethnicity and Education 18, no. 2 (2015), 277-296.

Yudkevich, Maria, Philip G. Altbach, and Laura E. Rumbley. International Faculty in Higher Education:Comparative Perspectives on Recruitment, Integration, and Impact. Routledge, 2017.

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