Scrutinized but not recognized: (In)visibility and hypervisibility experiences of faculty of color

Because of their minority group status and underrepresentation, faculty of color (FOC) are tokens and as such, are highly visible within the academy. Paradoxically, token status may result in their being made to feel simultaneously invisible (e.g., accomplishments are unimportant, lack of belonging) and hypervisible (e.g., heightened scrutiny). Drawing from 118 interviews, we identified six themes related to how Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and American Indian faculty members at a single, predominantly White, research-intensive university, describe issues of (in)visibility at work. FOC experienced hypervisibility when they were treated as Tokens and used to represent diversity within the institution, and they felt invisible when they experienced Social and Professional Exclusion and Epistemic Exclusion (i.e., lack of recognition for their scholarship and achievements) from colleagues. FOC responded to tokenism and exclusion using three (in)visibility strategies: Strategic Invisibility (i.e., disengaging with colleagues while remaining engaged with their scholarly activities) to remove themselves from negative environments; Working Harder to prove themselves, counter exclusion, and create positive visibility; and Disengagement (i.e., removed effort from work). Our analysis suggests that a lack of control over one’s (in)visibility is problematic for FOC. In response, FOC may attempt to increase or decrease their own visibility to counter such experiences, often with some positive effects.