"Reworking Race, Nation, and Diaspora on the Margins” is professor Jamella Gow’s most recent article arguing the importance of diaspora in relation to globalized capitalism.
Gow, an assistant professor in the sociology and criminology department, published her article in September.
The article was kickstarted by her thoughts and reflections from the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s win. Understanding the expansion of neoliberalism and the globalization of culture and social movements that grew in conjunction with the hyper-nationalism from the Trump campaign sparked a question in Gow’s mind.
“How do we have this explosion and celebration of difference but at the same time this backlash to it?” Gow said.
The lack of an answer drove her toward diasporic literature to find what was missing from it.
According to Gow, the article is more of a theoretical piece, which she loves due to the analytical and argumentative nature of that kind of research and writing.
By giving an overview of the literature of diaspora, she analyzes the different ways in which people have defined and understood diaspora. No one understands it because it has been defined in so many ways, Gow said.
Having specialized in the Black Caribbean diaspora throughout graduate school, the topic was familiar to an extent but still required a deep dive into research. With how interdisciplinary diasporic studies are, Gow read articles from diasporic experts in history, anthropology, sociology, psychology and more.
Gow’s article aims to explain the traditional lenses with which we are currently understanding diaspora and the new forms of diaspora that are emerging, especially in response to the expansion of nationalism.
The desire to preserve culture and reinvent it in new ways that is found with the Black and Caribbean diasporas, as well as her own history with that diaspora attracted Gow to this area of study.
“Yes, we hold onto our culture, but we redefine it in our own ways depending on where we are,” Gow said. “We define what homeland looks like for us.”
Her article is trying to challenge the literature of the diaspora to show how radical the new diaspora is through challenging the fixed definition of a nation. These new forms of diaspora are challenging nationalism by dismantling its racial and gendered origins.
“Black people and people apart of the global south have been negotiating or struggling with this rising of nationalism and racism for a long time and have countered it with these new definitions of culture in a really interesting, radical way,” Gow said.
During her studies, an English professor’s focus on Irish literature stuck with Gow and inspired her to enter this area of research. When the class was reading and learning about Irish colonization and revolts, Gow saw the same struggle for freedom that Black/Caribbean populations she studied had faced and spoken about.
Having come to Gonzaga in 2020 from graduate school at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the missing pieces of diaspora literature she had studied were itching in the back of her mind to be written about.
Going out on a limb, Gow wrote an abstract and sent it to the Society for the Study of Social Problems, a sociology conference, to determine if it would be an acceptable topic for research. Her proposal was accepted and she began reading everything she could find about diaspora.
Her research showed her that there is no definition, but that seemed to be the point. This discovery served as her starting point for further research.
“I love the process of writing and research,” Gow said. “It’s not always fun or easy, but I really enjoyed this piece because it allowed me to move away from some of my work that’s more empirical, which I also love to write about, and to get to play around with the ideas of [diaspora] scholars.”
After her article was written, it needed to be peer reviewed. Faculty from around the world with knowledge on the subject can review the article, provide feedback and decide when it is publishable.
Vilna Bashi Trietler, the co-chair of her dissertation from UCSB who Gow was close with during graduate school, served as a mentor throughout the writing process and provided Gow with critiques and revisions. She helped Gow decide to include Black politics, a point of interest for Gow, in her article.
“She came to me with very bold ideas of how race works around the globe and knowing her background in American and British sociology, she’s an unusual thinker compared to those students here who were just trained in American sociology,” Bashi Trietler said. “My role was to help her both hone that vision and also encourage her to make it even bolder.”
After being sent to multiple faculty for peer revisions, an article then goes to the copy editor and publisher.
On average, academic publishing takes around one to two years. However, the academic publishing process had slowed due to COVID-19, with the excess of work in teaching remotely and faculty burnout, making it even harder to find professors and experts to suggest revisions.
For Gow, the editing process has taken a couple of years, but she calls it a labor of love.
“It was wonderful working with her,” Bashi Trietler said. “She was ambitious, and I encouraged her to stay that way.”