Now, admittedly I was just taking quick glances at small photos on google, and the author does state up front that these are just the intellectual shamans that she knows of personally. Nevertheless, her selection of ostensible shamans begs several uncomfortable questions. According to this website, in US business schools women are less than a quarter of tenured faculty, and less than a fifth of full professors — and women of color are even more hugely underrepresented. So why aren’t there more management/business professors who are women or people of color? Further, Waddock’s selection of study participants works out to only one woman for every seven men, rather than the one in four or five that it should be when based on actual statistics — and her ratio for people of color is even worse. True, she points out that those were the only ones she herself knew — but she also notes she didn’t personally know all of them. Many of them were introduced to her by others. That being the case, why didn’t the author at least try for more diversity, in an attempt to provide a broader and richer selection of intellectual shamanistic thought?
As I continued reading, another uncomfortable thought started to intrude: is this use of the term shaman a form of cultural appropriation? I’ve been told that using another culture’s concepts with respect is often considered acceptable to the originators of that culture… but I honestly don’t know if they’d consider this respectful or not. Actual shamans sometimes go through years of training with a mentor shaman, or endure some agonizing or near-death experience, before they refer to themselves as such. Further, there is a strong spiritual or religious aspect to indigenous shamanism. Would they feel this so-called intellectual shamanism truly equivalent to their life-long efforts — for the blood, sweat, and tears shed for their people? In fact, now that I’m thinking about this… is there an element of ivory tower elitism here — as in: is the author (hopefully unconsciously) inferring that true, indigenous shamans are somehow… I don’t know, maybe non-intellectual, or overly dependent on emotion, or something? I’d hope not… but again, as a middle-class white woman in my chosen field of study, I try to be extremely leery of even the possibility of cultural appropriation.
There was one last thing that crept up on me as I was reading: the author notes repeatedly the importance of being who and what one is called to be — yet she gives no credence at all to the equal importance (at least in academia, and I presume in business as well) of actually being recognized as outstanding in one’s field. In fact, she doesn’t seem to even realize that the issue of women — especially women of color — being overlooked for men exists at all. This is a real shame, especially since both academia and business are huge purveyors of inequities to women and people of color. In general men out-earn women, and white people out-earn people of color, while promotions go more often to men than women, and to whites rather than PoC. Ignoring such things does not make them go away — if anything, it makes them worse. For the author to be blissfully oblivious to these glaring inequities in her research does not speak well, to me, of her powers of observation, especially since she herself is a woman in academia — you’d think she’d maybe notice things like that?
I also strongly feel more diversity in her selection of research participants would have added an inspiring depth and richness to her depiction of intellectual shamans. For her to be (apparently?) utterly oblivious to the overwhelming predominance of academic — and consequently also somewhat socially elite — white males in her research not only diminishes the potential value of her work, but also makes me uncomfortably wonder: is she (unconsciously?) suggesting it’s mostly only white men who can truly become who they really are? But then she keeps saying we all need to just do it — to have the courage to answer the call and become shamans in service to our world in our own right. So… does her paucity of study participants who are women and/or people of color show her belief that women and people of color just don’t have the courage to answer that call, and/or that they simply aren’t that good at this sort of thing? Or is this more a case of her not realizing that ‘answering the call to become who we really are’ only works when one has a job that ensures enough food for the family to eat, and a roof over their heads? Does she not realize how important the opportunity offered by being in the social higher classes is, in order to take fullest advantage of talent and training? Does she not get how much easier privilege makes things… or does she simply just not care?
In conclusion, there were quite a few issues for me regarding the research methodology which ultimately caused me to regard the book with regretful suspicion. Not only am I still extremely uncertain regarding the potential cultural appropriation, but I also don’t feel I can really trust the author’s discoveries to be truly representative, due to the rather narrow selection of participants. On the other hand, I feel very strong agreement with the author’s base premise: in order to offset the incredibly destructive current results of widespread corporate greed, selfishness, and lack of empathy or cooperation, we have a powerful need to bring back both ethics and (perhaps personal) spirituality into our lives and our work. In the end, I loved the concept, but the examples did not really clarify as much as they could have — more research is clearly needed!