An Open Letter to the James Joyce Community

James Joyce Open Letter statement

On November 8, 2018 (and again on December 12, 2018 with an altered form of address and an acknowledgement of the new bylaws passed by the International James Joyce Foundation as well as the James Joyce Quarterly’s response [with the permission of the signatories]), the letter below was sent to numerous representatives of James Joyce-affiliated organisations: namely, the James Joyce Italian Foundation, the Korean James Joyce Society, the Zurich James Joyce Foundation, the Dublin & Trieste Joyce Summer Schools, the James Joyce Society of Japan, and the Spanish James Joyce Society. Our hope was to elicit immediate and meaningful action regarding an escalation of harassment, misogyny, inappropriate behaviour, assault, and other abuses of power in Joyce studies. Leniency and indulgence of this behaviour has propagated and helped to produce new generations of scholars who replicate this unsafe environment. The growing list of signatories was in many ways a reflection of the extent of the whisper network described by the editors of The Modernist Review, and even now, many have not seen the letter referred to in the James Joyce Quarterly’s online post.

We are immensely grateful to the editors for agreeing to publish this letter. Our reasons for wanting to see the letter published are twofold: firstly, we wanted to reassure vulnerable scholars that we as a community will no longer be tolerant of the abuses outlined in this letter; secondly, this is not just a Joyce problem, and we sincerely hope that other academic communities will take heed of the success of the James Joyce Open Letter and work to make academia a safer place. We have seen success in many corners — i.e. the ratification of the new bylaws by the International James Joyce Foundation; the promise of the Dublin James Joyce Summer School to make their reporting procedures more transparent; encouragement from the Italian James Joyce Foundation and their promise to prioritize this at their next AGM; and the James Joyce Quarterly’s publication of their stance and procedures. We see all of this as the start of a success story and a new era, though we still have a long way to go. The list of signatories in this version of the letter is up-to-date as of January 15, 2019. We are still accepting signatures if you would like to email us at jamesjoyceopenletter@gmail.com.

The Open Letter

To the James Joyce community, including all of its globally associated Societies, Foundations, and Schools.

We, the undersigned, call upon the James Joyce community, including all of its globally associated Societies and Foundations, to take meaningful action to reduce the incidents of sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour, abuse, and even assault at conferences, workshops, summer schools and any other events affiliated with the community. We, too, are survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse, or know others who are.

The works of James Joyce are remarkable in their frankness about sexuality and their sensitivity to the value of women’s experience. Women’s scholarship within Joyce Studies is justly respected and celebrated. The spirit of Joyce’s works themselves, as well as the critical tradition emerging from it (which includes an important branch of feminist scholarship), is in sympathy with making the academic and social events that are central to the life of the community more accessible, more inclusive, and safer for women who are trying to make a name in the field.

We are familiar with readers who do not believe, or are not willing to believe, that there is a problem in Joyce Studies. We understand the perspective of readers who remain innocent of this issue or who have never had to deal with sexual harassment, even indirectly. We promise these readers that we are differentiating between natural interpersonal relationships (collegiality, friendship, flirtation, consensual relationships) and the abuse that we are targeting here, which have all happened at Joycean events (misogyny, voyeurism, abuse of power, harassment, assault, rape).

Abuses are born of imbalances of power and environments in which those hierarchies are used to silence and shame victims. When complaints are bravely made, we rarely see action being taken. It might be that procedures are robust and effective, but they are not transparent. Often we only hear the end of the story: the victim leaving the community or making a joke out of their horrific experiences so as not to appear ‘oversensitive’. Those of us who have survived abuse and developed coping strategies might be coded as ‘difficult’, ‘sharp’, ‘unfriendly’. We might be presented to others as ‘not getting’ some fundamental aspect of the community. All of these experiences affect the work of women in the Joyce community in ways we have been afraid to talk about until now.

Those of us with more experience in the community are tired of sending graduate and undergraduate students to conferences or summer schools with a list of unsafe individuals to avoid and/or behaviour of which to be wary or, conversely, tolerant. No one should have to introduce new scholars to the community in this way, and younger scholars should not be obliged to withstand behaviour that would be intolerable in non-academic circumstances and other learning and work environments. No one should be afraid for their physical and emotional safety in these spaces or worry that refusing/reporting unacceptable behaviour will lead to a diminishment of their academic prospects or standing. We can and should do better.

We are pleased that the Board of Trustees of the International James Joyce Foundation and the James Joyce Quarterly have already formulated policies and made them publicly available; likewise, many societies have agreed to make this a priority at their next general meeting. We would also like for other societies, foundations, and publications to address these issues, including, but not limited to, the James Joyce Italian Foundation, the James Joyce Society of Japan, the Korean James Joyce Society, the Spanish James Joyce Society, and the Zurich James Joyce Foundation. We would be happy to work with them to produce a policy that fully acknowledges the problems we are here describing.

Our demands are fair, reasonable, and proportionate:

  • we ask for clear indications that this behaviour is unacceptable; for instance, through official statements from the boards of Joyce societies, foundations, and journals, and/or the inclusion of codes of professional, collegial, and respectful conduct in conference/workshop/summer school materials, membership forms, and websites.
  • we ask for an implementation of a new code of conduct, including a clear explanation of how complaints are to be processed;
  • we ask for multiple clear, confidential channels for the reporting of abuse without fear of retribution, and which recognise and respect the many difficulties in coming forward with an accusation of misconduct. These should include a named harassment or safeguarding officer — either an external Ombudsperson or a particular, impartial member of the Foundation or Society, elected or appointed to this task — to be made available for future conferences, summer schools, fellowships, and symposia;
  • and we ask for punitive measures for academics who have amassed more than one complaint about harassment and/or assault (or who have been found guilty of any other sexual offense), which, at the very least, will prevent them from being chosen to give plenaries at conferences or to speak at summer schools, thereby placing them in positions of authority that will enable further misdemeanours (and send a message to young scholars that sexual violence is rewarded in the Joyce sphere).

We have a great respect for the Joyce industry — it is our chosen field — and all of the wonderful people that come with it. We request that you help us protect the collegiality of our profession and make our community a better environment for all of its members. We ask that you actively participate in this movement to put an end to harassment, exploitation, and assault in our community.

Yours sincerely,

Concerned Joyceans

cc: James Joyce Italian Foundation, Korean James Joyce Society, Zurich James Joyce Foundation, Dublin & Trieste Joyce Summer Schools, James Joyce Society of Japan, Spanish James Joyce Society (sent on 8.11.18 and again 12.12.18)

  1. Talia Abu
  2. Peter Adkins
  3. Boriana Alexandrova
  4. Robert Baines
  5. Richard Barlow
  6. Robert Berry
  7. Georgina Binnie
  8. Stephanie Boland
  9. Lucia Boldrini
  10. Elizabeth M. Bonapfel
  11. Ruben Borg
  12. Robert Brazeau
  13. John Wolf Brennan
  14. Jennifer Burns Bright
  15. Daniel Bristow
  16. Sara Ceroni
  17. Natasha R. Chenier
  18. Michele Chinitz
  19. Jean-Christophe Cloutier
  20. Jeremy Colangelo
  21. Sophie Corser
  22. Sara Crangle
  23. Matthew Creasy
  24. Daniel Curran
  25. Sarah Davison
  26. Jed Deppman
  27. Barry Devine
  28. Iva Dimovska
  29. Conor Dowling
  30. Hunter Dukes
  31. Katherine Ebury
  32. Dylan Emerick-Brown
  33. Bridget English
  34. Flavie Épié
  35. Paul Fagan
  36. Tiffany L. Fajardo
  37. Fiorenzo Fantaccini
  38. Layne Farmen
  39. Andrew Ferguson
  40. Tiana M Fischer
  41. Leah Flack
  42. Catherine Flynn
  43. Matt Fogarty
  44. Finn Fordham
  45. James Alexander Fraser
  46. Oona Frawley
  47. Ariela Freedman
  48. Dieter Fuchs
  49. Bruce Gilbert
  50. Michael Patrick Gillespie
  51. Jonathan Goldman
  52. Thomas Gurke
  53. Meltem Gürle
  54. Yaeli Greenblatt
  55. Michael Groden
  56. Cleo Hanaway-Oakley
  57. Julian Hanna
  58. Matthew Hayward
  59. Joseph Heininger
  60. Cheryl Herr
  61. Jeri Johnson
  62. Maria Kager
  63. Mikaela Kelly
  64. Ethan King
  65. Yvonne Lai
  66. Jeremy Lakoff
  67. Liam Lanigan
  68. Victoria Lévêque
  69. Laura Lovejoy
  70. Sangam MacDuff
  71. Vicki Mahaffey
  72. Celia Marshik
  73. Timothy Martin
  74. Ariana Mashilker
  75. Seamus May
  76. Barry McCrea
  77. Ivana Milivojevic
  78. Paige Miller
  79. Yoshimi Minamitani
  80. Katie Mishler
  81. John Morey
  82. Nicholas Morris
  83. Steven Morrison
  84. Camilla Mount
  85. Christin M. Mulligan
  86. Katherine Mullin
  87. Jonathan Najarian
  88. Stephanie Nelson
  89. Emer Nolan
  90. Katherine O’Callaghan
  91. Kate O’Donovan
  92. Salvatore Pappalardo
  93. Cóilín Parsons
  94. James Blackwell Phelan
  95. Adam Piette
  96. Vike Martina Plock
  97. Niko Pomakis
  98. Teresa Prudente
  99. Siobhán Purcell
  100. Marion Quirici
  101. Tamara Radak
  102. Ennio Ravasio
  103. Dominic Richard
  104. Maisie Ridgway
  105. Federico Sabatini
  106. Paul Saint-Amour
  107. Genevieve Sartor
  108. Helen Saunders
  109. Jaya Savige
  110. David Shackleton
  111. Sameera Siddique
  112. Sam Slote
  113. Flicka Small
  114. Sara Spanghero
  115. Agata Szczeszak-Brewer
  116. Rasheed Tazudeen
  117. Lindsay Welsch Sveen
  118. Elizabeth Switaj
  119. Chrissie Van Mierlo
  120. Wim Van Mierlo
  121. Annalisa Volpone
  122. Dominik Wallerius
  123. John Waters
  124. Kiron Ward
  125. Jolanta Wawrzycka
  126. T. Welsch
  127. Beth A. Wightman
  128. Michelle Witen
  129. Mark Wollaeger

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