Active Alignment

This week’s readings were engaging on a very practical level by attending to what appeared to be a rather simple question: What does it mean to be a scholar-activist? The responses by Lipsitz, Pulido, Vargas, and Tang unearth the complexities and, at times, outright contradictions, of being in the academy and doing activist work. I found the readings particularly useful, because the collection of essays offers a litany of principles for activist scholarship: reciprocity, flexibility, humility, reflexivity, and accountability, among others. The authors’ also urge us to question not only our own epistemological and ontological positionings, but also those of the academy. What types of knowledge and ways of being does the academy promote, dismiss, or even anticipate only to eventually appropriate? How can we as scholars employ alternative ways of knowing and being (much of it learned from and with folks engaged in struggle) to challenge the academy? Or, conversely, create an undercommons at the university? I have been checking out these blogs for more information on the movement toward an undercommons and/or autonomous universities: http://www.edu-factory.org/wp/about/ and http://beneaththeu.org/Beneath_the_University/home.html

With regard to my own work and internal dialogue around these issues, I found that the readings were cause for serious reflection. I have been immersed in an ongoing conversation with a good friend around issues of ethical research. Specifically, whether it is possible for a white person to ethically conduct research with/in (predominately) communities of color. While my thoughts on this point go beyond the scope of this blog post, suffice to say this is a deeply troubling question for me given the historic and continuing logics and material manifestations of white supremacy, structural racism, capitalism, and genocide (*I don’t wish for the “and” here to signify a completed list – not by any means). Is it enough to follow the principles suggested by the readings? I want to engage in research that is anti-racist, anti-capitalist, that makes visible the logics of white supremacy, is principled (see above), and examines the intersection(s) of state power, everyday life, and resistance in the hopes of transforming our ways of being and knowing (or at least suggesting alternatives). On the other hand, I think a lot about putting down my pencil, closing the books, and fully committing myself to working along side those in struggle, learning to “steer the ship.”

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