Academic work can be isolating and insular, sometimes leaving me wondering if what I’m doing is going to make any difference. The continuing social and political climate of racism, misogyny, trans- and homo-phobia, ableism and classism mean that impacting the lives of people facing injustice today matters immensely. It is difficult to balance the professional expectations and demands of an academic career while still remaining active in community activism; it is equally challenging to find ways to cultivate a type of academic scholarship that has public reach and impact.
A colleague recently reminded me that the work of constructing knowledge, of building critical theory, and of unpacking the nuanced and complex social and cultural layers of our chosen (or perhaps imposed, dictated) problem spaces also matters. I know that this is true in the long-run, but with so many pressing social justice issues it can be challenging to stay motivated to that life long task which provides only incremental returns. And yet, it is in my experience always the case that the more involved I am in my communities, in social movements and activism (broadly defined), the more refined my view into research and scholarship can be.
The University is and always has been a political space. The documentary “In Pursuit of Social Justice” highlights some of the political history at the University of Washington.
Sadly problems around racial injustice and other forms of inequity and exclusion persist at UW, as elsewhere in North America and globally. I was inspired by faculty, staff, and students at the UW Teach-In We Stand Together! on Friday, January 13th. There are some great resources available through their website for those who want to continue participating in the conversation. There are also some important upcoming events listed here. These are spaces, activities, and events supported, organized, and facilitated by people who are balancing the tensions of being part of an institution like UW that is complicit in various forms of racism, sexism, and heteronormativity while at the same time employing and enrolling people working to dismantle these structures.