When I was young(er), I wanted to grow up to be Jamie Robinson. When that proved difficult, my ambition changed to something slightly less fanciful—transnational feminist scholar activist.
No, I didn’t use that term until years later, when I needed to name it for the grad school application. And now, it’s the end of the year, and I’m in a reflective mood. Transnational feminist scholar activist? It sounded good enough to get me back into school, but I’m struggling to get my bearings.
* is about having a question or questions you need to answer. Not want, need to answer. For you or for the world. Not for your tenure committee or to fill out your vita. To inform the world. To change the world. To find the truth. Your truth, whether continent or eternal.
* is about watchfulness, about seeing the detail that changes the meaning of the picture.
* is about seeing the big picture. Your big picture, no one else’s.
* is about telling people who need to know. They might not be the people who “matter,” but they still need to know.
* is about integrity, about craft, about fashioning a perfect thing.
* is about joy, about the delight in watching the mind work, about delight in watching the minds of our interlocutors work, about delight in the process of seeing students’ synapses–or our own–connect and lightbulbs go on.
* is about power. Power to determine what is real, what is important. Power to tell our OWN stories as we see fit.
I’ve been thinking about this for the past week, especially in the context of combining teaching and research here in the US when my heart is with Filipina women back home. I’ve been thinking of all this in light of the growing corporatization of the University of the Philippines, my alma mater—a corporatization that, despite key challenges, many others are uncritically welcoming.
I’ve been thinking power and truth, and women in the academe. Ten years ago, the (formerly?) radical and progressive New School for Social Research failed to offer tenure to M. Jacqui Alexander, author of Pedagogies of Crossing. This year, the same thing happened to Andrea Smith at the University of Michigan.
At the University of the Philippines, Sarah Raymundo—committed professor, scholar, and critic of university corporatization—was also denied tenure. Aside from having met and exceeded all the requirements for tenure, Raymundo’s dismissal is more surprising because it comes from the Department of Sociology, a discipline that is, or should be, emancipatory at heart. As Arnold Alamon notes:
a purge has taken place. Perpetrated not by the usual suspects but by strange bedfellows who have found a common enemy in a young faculty member who found her own Sociological voice distinct from the established personalities and their Sociologies of Capitulation.
If scholars are purged from universities, where could we go? What becomes of the university and the students?
For iskolars and those who aspire to be scholars, especially my kasamas at home, wherever home might be:
What is the question you need to answer?
What is your big picture?
What perfect thing are you hard at work crafting?
And because this is the last post of the year, let’s end on a high note. Yes, there is joy in this. Earlier this year, a former sociology student at Career University emailed to “complain” how he keeps seeing concepts like race and power at work while watching television. How he can’t watch tv “like a normal person” anymore. I was grinning for days. (Do I get a t-shirt at the next ASA conference?)
So a final question, mga kasama. And I ask this with much respect and love. What kaligayahan lies in being a scholar? And are we crazy to find such joy in this?