Using the example of Andean archaeology, this article focuses on subtle forms of inequality that arise when academic communities are conceptualized as friendship-based and egalitarian, rejecting explicit hierarchy. I describe this as performative informality and argue that it stems from a meritocratic ideology that inadvertently reproduces Euro-American white-male privilege. In a discipline that prides itself on its friendliness, openness, and alcohol-fueled drinking culture, those who find themselves unable to enact or perform informality appropriately are at a distinct disadvantage. Drawing from a multisited ethnography of Andeanist archaeologists, I make the case that it is the ephemerality and plausible deniability of performative informality that makes it hard to recognize and thus mitigate against it. In doing so, I draw on and contribute to the theorization of gender/class intersectionality in anthropology and science studies, US conceptualizations of meritocracy in academia and higher education, and feminist Jo Freeman's concept of “the tyranny of structurelessness.” [anthropology of science, ethnography of archaeology, class, gender, anthropology of work and education].
Leighton, M. (2020). Myths of Meritocracy, Friendship, and Fun Work: Class and Gender in North American Academic Communities. American Anthropologist, 122(3), 444–458. https://doi.org/10.1111/aman.13455