Becoming a Footnote

An Activist-Scholar Finds His Voice, Learns to Write, and Survives Academia

By Sanford F. Schram

Subjects: Autobigraphy, Political Science, Social Problems, Memoir
Series: SUNY series in New Political Science
Paperback : 9781438447742, 237 pages, July 2013
Hardcover : 9781438447759, 237 pages, July 2013

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Table of contents

1. How I Had Four Majors in College
2. Going Postal, Getting Drafted: How I Ended Up in Graduate School
3. How I Learned To Read
4. I Went Down to the Crossroads: Activism and Scholarship
5. Standing on Shoulders: Scholarship as Networking
6. Theory and Practice: Research and the Court
7. Is Anybody Listening? Testifying before Congress
8. Calling Out Racial Bias: Images, Words, and Numbers
9. The Deep Semiotic Structure of Deservingness: Enduring Identities in Dependency Discourse
10. Three Heads Are Better than One: Collaboration, Mixed Methods, and Disciplining the Poor
11. Moving On: Turning To Europe
12. Making It Matter: Real Social Scene in the Neoliberal Academy
Conclusion: A Postscript on Writing

Humorous and witty recollections of the author's journey from insecure graduate student to noted activist/scholar.


How does a graduate student acquire the skills necessary to define a clear research agenda and write meaningful contributions to the scholarship in his or her field? Can the requirements of professional advancement in the ivory tower be reconciled with making a difference in the bare-knuckle world of policymaking? Can even a celebrated activist-scholar survive the seemingly relentless neoliberalization of higher education? Becoming a Footnote takes the reader on an inspirational journey through the experiences of researcher Sanford F. Schram, illuminating how he overcame his early insecurities and limitations, particularly about his writing, to develop into someone cited by both scholars and people involved in the policymaking process. With wit and humor, Schram illustrates how his award-winning research on race, poverty, and welfare emerged from the political struggles in which he was immersed, and how we all have something unique to contribute if we commit ourselves to making it happen.

Sanford F. Schram is Visiting Professor of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College. His many books include (with coeditors Bent Flyvbjerg and Todd Landman) Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis.


"For those who know of the author's work, this book provides a revealing glimpse into the man behind the reputation. But, even for those unfamiliar with it, Becoming a Footnote is a highly readable and engaging account of a life's work that would be of interest to anyone pursuing an academic position, including those who wonder how to remain real and relevant from inside academia." — Vicki Lens, Columbia University

"This book drew me in and works as a narrative on two levels. First, it is disarmingly and convincingly self-deprecating about the struggle to become a critical thinker, to write well, and to devise research programs that would shed light on major questions. Second, it is a valuable history of the central debates around social welfare policy, neoliberalism, and racial stigma." — James Scott, author of The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia