You know how people complain that Academia (the institution, not necessarily the individual members) is part of the “ivory tower” complex, detached from the realities of society, etc? I do not necessarily agree with that, however, I just had a “shaking fist” moment at my screen.
Someone on Twitter posted a link to a text: Femininity and Feminism: Chinese and Contemporary [A Special Issue of the Journal of Chinese Philosophy]. I clicked, excited, at the prospect of reading it. Well… no. As is always the case with these kinds of journals, one needs “Institutional Access” to get to the text. Now, I am fully aware of copyright issues, funding, etc. However, we have tons of access to pop culture material (magazines, newspapers, etc), but any serious academic study requires the filter of further academic credentials to access it.
If this had been the first time that it happened to me, I wouldn’t probably notice, but it is a pattern: academic knowledge is kept within the confines of academia. And sure enough, I know people with institutional access whom I could ask to get the text for me, etc. But that’s not the point. The issue is that by keeping these texts behind a virtual academic wall, people who have no ties to academia (activists, grass roots organizers who could benefit from perspectives, etc.), are also shut down from this knowledge. Coincidentally, the people discussed in this journal (i.e. Chinese Feminists living in China) will not be able to read what is said about them because they will also lack an institutional login to access the text.
As usual, I do not have solutions, but I do certainly see a problem with this, especially because a lot of this research is funded with public moneys (at least that is the case with much of what is done in European institutions).