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K-State Today

December 5, 2016

Bhattacharya publishes book on power, race in higher education

Submitted by Patrice Scott

Cover of "Power, Race, and Higher Education."

A College of Education faculty member and her former graduate student recently published a book about the complicated interaction between power and race at colleges and universities. It all started with a question about a dissertation topic. 

"Power, Race, and Higher Education" is a parallel narrative written by scholars Kakali Bhattacharya, associate professor of educational leadership, and Norman K. "Kent" Gillen, a former College of Education graduate student and adjunct professor at Del Mar College in Corpus Christy, Texas. The book is published by Sense Publishers. 

"I believe this book would be beneficial for anyone who wants to teach about race, gender and culture," Bhattacharya said. "At the graduate level, this book would be applicable in various qualitative research methods classes, ethnodrama classes, classes that focus on qualitative research writing, and arts-based research classes."

Bhattacharya explained the subject for the book came about organically while mentoring a white graduate student, Gillen, her future co-author. He wanted to conduct a critical qualitative study and approached her without realizing the complexities of creating an entry point to conduct cross-cultural research. Bhattacharya, a South Asian woman who immigrated to the U.S., noted that even when dealing with predominately critically conscious white students like Gillen, challenges exist. 

"The process revealed how power works within and outside of academia and how we understand ourselves in relation to the power," she said. "I had some power as an academic because I am the gatekeeper and his dissertation supervisor, yet I am a woman of color. These realities can create complicated power dynamics." 

While the nature of the research can be personally challenging and even emotional at times, Bhattacharya believes it is worth it. 

"The work is really challenging to do and there are misunderstandings, heartbreaks, and sometimes invitations to face some darker parts of our memories," she said. "But it is rewarding to take those journeys because of the insights gained as a result of traveling those arduous paths." 

Read more information or order "Power, Race, and Higher Education" online