Introductions: Thoughts on accountable scholarship

27 Nov

Hi, pull up a seat and join me. You know those pictures of ancient buildings, where all you see are the foundations? Much like this one, where there is a foundation, there is always opportunity to create something new. That is what my first two posts are about. But since I’m big on understanding context and this is my first post, let me tell you a bit about who I am and where all this comes from.

My name is Jonathan and I’m a full time partner, father (to two boys, 1 & 4), older brother, son, and friend – nice to meet you. Professionally, I coordinate violence prevention and discussions about men’s relationship to patriarchy at a liberal arts university in the Pacific Northwest. I am also a (graduate) student of oppression, spending my “free” time with intersectionality theory to critically analyze the lives of white men who are working class and Appalachian. I want to not only understand my own life better, but the fluidity of power that Patricia Hill Collins spoke of when she said that we are all both oppressor and oppressed. In short, I’m writing here as an activist and scholar.

Whether working with students, colleagues, or writing here, I strive to share a unique perspective gained in asking difficult and sometimes painful questions of what may seem a “normal” life. I firmly believe that the political is indeed personal. My ultimate goal is to help prompt the kind of solidarity that honors the differences in our oppressions as a source of strength and strategic knowledge in creating a more equitable existence for all of us. And I’m in a hurry.

You probably already noticed that I’m not writing this in a way you’re probably used to in an “academically sound” discussion. While I intend to offer just such a perspective, there is also a political motive here in what may be a mild irritation that I want to be clear about as I begin. All too often, those of us who imagine ourselves as “intellectuals” or perhaps worse, as “academics,” present what we claim is liberatory in language that even we have to read several times to understand. Watering down the personal in the political strips our work of the power in our stories. Audre Lorde said it well, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

While there are often complex concepts to describe, we must communicate in a way that anyone can understand or we risk participating in oppression. There are lots of examples to help, from both academics and activists. At a deeper level, it also voices our collective assumption that the four other people with enough time in elite educational circles to speak our particular dialect of academese are the only ones “smart” enough to understand liberation. Bigotry takes lots of forms, and we’re all guilty of some. I offer this as something that I struggle with, even more so because I am one who has never felt I belonged in academe.

My next post will be about how we take care of ourselves so that we can continue being effective at creating change, which is inherently hard work. Are there things about gender equity and social justice work that you struggle with? Have any tips about how you manage to keep your authentic self, or voice, present? Please share your thoughts, because we can’t do this alone and I sure don’t have all the answers. Thanks for stopping by!

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