A colleague in the American Academy of Religion passed along a blog post titled “Surviving (and Thriving) in the Academic Shame Culture.” The link is here and in the sidebar:
For those who need a refresher, social scientists distinguish between guilt (feeling bad about something you did) and shame (feeling inadequate in front of others). There’s also a distinction between success-failure culture (for example, ours) and honor-shame culture (traditional China, most Arab societies, etc.) (Fun fact on religion: the historical context of the Bible is almost entirely honor-shame culture, not success-failure culture. Does that clarify anything for you?)
Anyway, there is apparently a good deal of discussion out there about a culture of shame in academia. What’s your take on this? Have you experienced subtle or overt shaming in graduate school or faculty meetings? Have your professors or senior colleagues used shame as a motivating force? Are we expected to feel shame for not being on the tenure track? Is academia really exceptional – that is, does just as much shaming go on in business or law, for example? Let us know what you think.