Abington professor publishes book that challenges myth of meritocracy

October 16, 2009

Karen Weekes, associate professor of English and women's studies, and division head of Arts and Humanities at Penn State Abington, recently published a book of essays titled "Privilege and Prejudice: Twenty Years with the Invisible Knapsack."

The book challenges the idea that an individual succeeds in life solely due to his/her own efforts (the "myth of meritocracy"). It also emphasizes societal influences manifested as privilege or prejudice that vastly increase or decrease chances of success.

"These essays explore continuing inequities in our culture, despite more than two decades of raised awareness around privilege," explained Weekes.

Greatly influenced throughout her academic career by one of the essayists, Peggy McIntosh, Weekes delves into McIntosh's key metaphor of the "invisible knapsack" -- a weightless bag of special provisions of unearned assets (race, class, gender, family environment, etc.) that people from privileged groups (whites, males, heterosexuals, for example) unknowingly carry around with them and that ultimately gives them an "unearned advantage."

"Reading the book," said Weekes, "is an opportunity to evaluate our own practices and to make sure we are addressing both privilege and prejudice as we think about our interactions and how we proceed in the world."

For more information on "Privilege and Prejudice: Twenty Years with the Invisible Knapsack," go to http://www.c-s-p.org/Flyers/Privilege-and-Prejudice--Twenty-Years-with-the-Invisible-Knapsack1-4438-1009-6.htm online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 09, 2015