“Creative Non-Fiction” in Academia

booksAfter reading the piece on the importance of critical self reflection assigned for class last week, I started to wonder how often this method of reflection is used in an academic setting. Whenever an article on a specific subject is published, it always seems to read with an impersonal tone, where the author takes his or her voice out of the prose unless the discipline requires it ( for example, the emphasis on ethnographic writing in Anthropology). However, many topics that scholars write about often directly relate to the writers themselves and by not placing personal reflection in the piece, the article ignores an important aspect of the issue. Take for example food desserts. While there are scholars who spend all day researching and learning about the issues that surround food deserts (the causes, effects, and unforeseen problems associated with them), it is sometimes hard to find scholars who write where the main focus is his or her contribution to the issue. When SES and ethnicity appear in the conversation surrounding food deserts, scholars critique these issues in the abstract and often don’t engage in personal reflection, sometimes to avoid engaging controversial topics. This creates a situation where the topic is talked about in the abstract instead of the concrete.

In another one of my classes, we read an article called “Gentrifier? Who, Me? Interrogating the Gentrifier in the Mirror” where the authors reflected on how urbanists criticized gentrification all the time, but often overlooked if they were  part of the process as well. The authors of this article decided to give personal accounts of how their housing decisions interacted with the topic at hand, gentrification. I believe that all disciplines can improve dialogue if those who write about critical issues first engage with the issue by asking if they are part of the problem. Ignoring personal involvement intentionally or unintentionally through impersonal writing creates a a lot of theory and limited critical reflection. As we read last week, critical self reflection helps people internalize ideas and bring intangible ideas into practical conversation and use. Why then are there not more avenues for this form of writing to occur in academia? Academia is becoming more and more interdisciplinary, why not encourage academic writing  to slant toward the personal instead of the impersonal? It could open up different avenues of discourse that are often left in the dark.

Creative Nonfiction is a fast growing field of writing that is attempting to approach some of these issues.