Tag: Will Moore

A Friendly Amendment to a Useful Conversation: Lets Make the World a Better Place

Will Moore

This is a guest post by Christian Davenport, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Will Moore was a close friend of, and  collaborator with, Professor Davenport.

There have several themes emerging out of the loss of our dear colleague that have emerged: how wonderful Will H. Moore (hereafter Will) was as a colleague, teacher and friend as well as a detailed and long-overdue discussion about mental health/care in the profession as well as individual cases. I do not want to detract from that conversation but I do wish to suggest two things.

First, just because we might—and should—provide some venue/place/service for people to share and be heard regarding what is going on in their lives does not mean that all of those in need will avail themselves of such a service. As an African American (after generations of experiments, neglect and poor treatment), I am hesitant to go to anyone’s office; many friends, relatives, and black folk I don’t know share this opinion according to existing research. There are other reasons for not going —pride, fear, a perception of inefficacy, shyness, poverty, etc.

I’m not against the community of scholars identifying and providing such a service. I’m just identifying that there are some limitations that need to be considered. If things were available does not mean that our dear friend would still be here.  It’s a little more complex than that and I wish to probe this a little.

With regards to my work on Rwandan political violence, I was essentially traumatized by my trips. I saw mass graves with bodies still in them, conversed with murderers, interviewed survivors, and surveyed both—as well as bystanders.  There was no one to speak to except the small group of other scholars who were interested/open (like Will) and practitioners who shared the experience (like the late Alison Des Forges), most of whom were dealing with their own stuff. When I later got in trouble for highlighting diverse forms of violence and got labeled a genocide denier/trivializer by the Rwandan government (incorrectly I might add), I was further isolated, unsure whom to talk to, and felt compelled to withdraw. Indeed, during this period I did not really speak to anyone about the experience. This persisted for several years, until I started writing about it—initially in story/blog form.  After I did this, I began to feel more comfortable about continuing my work there.  Upon seeing the scholarship that emerged (after I was criticized and banned), I became enraged—further propelling me into the research about Rwanda, which I am now completing.

Trips to India to study the horror that is untouchability (PDF), and to the Dominican Republic to study the slavery-like condition of Dominican-Haitians in Bateyes, further fueled my negative thoughts/feelings about the human condition. Much less sensationalistic, this says nothing about my constant attention to the plight of African Americans regarding the myriad of ways that they are killed and treated in a discriminatory fashion—the number of ways which only multiplies as I look further (higher rates of diagnosed schizophrenia being the last). I tend not to discuss this last one with any of colleagues and numerous friends because most “don’t want to go there”—including, to be honest, myself. Will would go there. He was always ready to let me vent and I would let him do the same when he so desired. Part of the reason that most would not, however, is that there is no simple resolution to the problem. This leads me to the second point.

Second, I wish to suggest that we not only focus on the scholars who are addressing difficult topics and the support systems around them, but also the system that produced the privilege that so elevated and disturbed our dear friend Will.  I wish to suggest that we focus on the system that produced the misogyny that upset our friend and compelled him to take action—repeatedly. I wish to focus on the racism that compelled him to take action and the repression that provoked him to work so hard. I want to focus on the discipline, departments and society that thrives on ignoring peoples work and creating cultures where folks are intolerant of people who are different, awkward, or even odd.  I do not want to suggest that we turn away from such topics because they are difficult, but rather that we all turn to such topics in order to alleviate the overall cost spent by any single person who studies them.

I say all this because I think that some of our conversation following Will’s departing has been hijacked by a belief that if we just had the right apparatus in place, then we would not currently be where we are. I think that many people are in pain because of the world being the way that it is. We are only going to improve this situation by improving the world around us. We don’t just need a venue for communicating our pain and resolving some massive internal issues that these involve. We need to also address the sources for some of the things that prompt anxiety and depression, as well as that shape the openness of individuals to discuss uncomfortable topics. For example, many do not even acknowledge the high rates of suicide within the African American male population (PDF). To deal with this problem effectively however we not only need to provide venues and strategies for helping this population deal with their mental health, but we also need to stop sticking guns in their faces, patting them down, under-employing them, underestimating them, and subjecting them to microaggressive behavior. These two efforts need to work hand in hand in order to produce a change.

A Perspective on Engaging Scholars with Autism

The following is a guest post by Rachel Harmon, a PhD student in Political Science at Emory University.

Recent events have prompted necessary discussions about mental health in academia, but a topic that remains underdiscussed are the challenges faced by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As an adult diagnosed with ASD and current PhD student, I have personally experienced how ASD can be a strength or a struggle, conditional on the surrounding environment. ASD is a spectrum and effects each person differently, but for me, being autistic shapes every moment of every day of my life. I’m thankful that ASD has given me the ability to intensely focus on my research interests, making me a dedicated and creative researcher. At the same time, I have struggled to learn and communicate in the same ways that neurotypical students do. It takes enormous energy and mental space to navigate a world designed for the neurotypical, and most faculty are simply not trained on how to respond to or recognize the difficulties.

I have had significant ASD-related challenges in graduate school, but several people and resources have been crucial to my overall success. First, a TA during my first-year methods training took it upon herself to give me hours of additional assistance beyond what was required by her job when she saw how I struggled in the classroom setting. Second, I have developed two close friendships with people in my cohort; they have helped me navigate and interpret social interactions, monitor tone, and have stepped up for me when sensory processing is difficult. Finally, I have access to regular treatment through the Emory Autism Center and worked with a private tutor my first year. These resources are expensive and not covered by insurance. I hope that institutions find ways in the future to offer these types of assistance to all students with special needs.
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Building Safe Space for Depression in Academia

The following is a guest post by Emily Hencken Ritter, Assistant Professor at the University of California, Merced.

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Like so many, my heart and mind aches for the loss Will Moore’s death represents to humanity. He was as much a mentor to me in grad school and my career as if he had been on my dissertation committee. He supported me, critiqued my work, told me to be bold, and showed me I could be myself. Perhaps the most special thing he gave me was an example for generating bigger conversations. I attended conference after conference that he hosted not to present papers in panels but to get people to think outside of boxes and talk to one another. Will taught me about the community of science. His absence is so much greater than my loss.

One way that Will continues to help all the people he touched is by stimulating conversations about mental illness. I want to assist in this effort and be honest, as Will was, so that his scientific community can innovate in mental health as much as peace research.

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For Will: Some Reflections on Sorrow

The following is a guest post by Jana von Stein, Senior Lecturer of Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington.  

Will Moore’s suicide carries with it a special sorrow that I can’t yet even wrap my head (or heart) around. I met Will when I was on the job market in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2008 that we became close. My comradery with him did not revolve chiefly around academics, although he was a tremendous mentor to me. Instead, it revolved around tragedy.

“Somewhere, my son’s brain is in a jar in a medical researcher’s office,” Will bellowed to a group of us at the 2008 Peace Science conference.

What a strange thing to announce in public, I thought. I needed to know more. I shared with him that I was 5 months pregnant, and that the baby had been diagnosed with very complex heart defects. The neonatologists were optimistic, and I wanted to believe them, but I knew it was possible that my firstborn, like his, would die far too young.

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