Thursday, May 27, 2021
Book Review: The Imperatives of Supporting New Scholarly Voices
Jamie Abrams, The Imperatives of Supporting New Scholarly Voices, 69 Journal of Legal Education No. 3 (2020).
The Legal Scholar’s Guidebook is dedicated “to all the voices longing to be heard,” previewing for readers the important values that the book champions of inviting more scholars to the table. The book is grounded in values of inclusivity and accessibility. It describes the analytic paradigms and organizational frameworks that govern traditional legal scholarship. The book implicitly reveals to readers something of a tension between conformity and inclusion. How do supervisors and mentors cultivate the development of new scholarly voices, particularly marginalized voices, within a context of reverent conformity to existing paradigms, methods, and schemas? In teaching scholarly writing, is the reverence and conformity to existing scholarship lifting up voices longing to be heard or is it conforming the voices longing to be heard with the dominant voices already being heard?
The Legal Scholar’s Guidebook is savvy in its quest to help the voices longing to be heard, and in its efforts to help address the self-doubts that nag so many scholars. It introduces important concepts of inclusion and imposter syndrome, boldly addressing them head-on, which is worthy of great gratitude. It embeds guidance throughout each chapter to “squelch the imposter voice” that can compromise the production of scholarship. The solution to the “imposter syndrome” though may not be more instruction. Mentors can reinforce the problem if those mentors share a different pedigree, background, resume from the scholar or if those mentors are confused or conflated with supervisors.
The Legal Scholar’s Guidebook, when read during a global pandemic and amid a crescendo of calls for racial justice in our communities, calls for our self-reflection as a community of scholars. Conquering imposter syndrome requires a strong sense of authenticity and belonging. This requires an alignment between one’s authentic values and identity and acceptance in a setting, institution, or task. For readers of this book in modern political, economic, and social times, it might be a springboard to deeper conversations about the chasms between the communities that feel like they belong in legal scholarship and those that do not. It might call for us all to strengthen the intentionality of our mentoring of students of color, nontraditional students, LGBTQ students, and women students. There has never been a better moment for us all to revisit how we produce and define “good” scholarship, the breadth of the scholarly voices we reproduce and consume, and the entrenched assumptions and hierarchies that shape our scholarly practices. In that sense, this guidebook might guide us all to a more inclusive and inviting place uplifting new scholarly voices.