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Going public: Reflections on predicaments and possibilities in public research and scholarship

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Abstract

On the afternoon of 14 May 2011, only minutes before a Paris-bound flight departed from Kennedy Airport, officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey boarded the airplane and arrested Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Several hours earlier, Naffisatou Diallo — a hotel housekeeper and asylee1 from Guinea — had reported that Strauss-Kahn had sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her when she went to clean the Manhattan hotel room where he had been staying until earlier that day. Almost instantaneously, news media outlets began salivating over the sordid details of the alleged scandal involving such a high-profile figure as ‘DSK’, as he is known (Goldfarb, 2011), the media initially, sympathising with Diallo (Dickey and Solomon, 2011). Before long, however, attention turned to scepticism as private details and uncertainties about Diallo’s character and her past were catapulted into full view as fodder for public consumption. Headlines splashed accounts of seemingly shady connections, questionable financial transactions, and alleged mistruths and misdeeds by the woman who brought charges against DSK (Italiano, 2011). Many of the news stories and exposés replayed what Welch and Schuster (2005) have described as the ‘noisy’ discursive construction of asylum seekers. This account draws on Cohen’s (2002) discussion of moral panic theory.