A Duo-Ethnographic Conversation on Social Justice Activism: Exploring Issues of Identity, Racism, and Activism with Young People
Lund, Darren E., Nabavi, Maryam, Multicultural Education
I have been thinking about starting this conversation1 for a long time, and I am excited about using a "duoethnographic" method (Norris, in press) to get this going.
The principal belief underlying this approach is that we inevitably learn more about something by talking about it with another person. I acknowledge Bill Pinar's explorations of understanding self, expressed as currere and extended by Rick Sawyer and Joe Norris (2004) to notions of our dialogic self.
A few years ago I attended an interesting presentation at an academic conference (Sawyer & Norris, 2005) and have since begun to explore this avenue of research. Perhaps we could call it a conversation, but I hope by focusing our dialogue in this way we can move it beyond a simple discussion. I appreciate the view taken by Carolyn Ellis (1997) about scholarly narrative writing, and auto-ethnography in particular; it can be "emotional, personal, therapeutic, interesting, engaging, evocative, reflexive, helpful, concrete, and connected to the world of everyday experience" (p. 120).
If you think about it, we probably began this dialogue some years ago when we first started working together on the Youth Reach Out Against Racism (ROAR) team (Youth ROAR, 2007). I remember seeing you as a very capable and committed youth leader, and it was great working together.
The purpose of this dialogue is to share our thoughts in a reflective conversation that opens up new insights into our topics, which can be as broad or narrow as we like. What if we start by thinking of the field we're in-collaborative anti-racism education and activism with young people-and how our own identities are part of that work? Each time we meet or talk about our research I'm sure we touch on these issues in some way, so hopefully this will seem more like a natural conversation than a formal writing project.
I know you have learned fairly recently of the accidental nature of my own initial involvement in this field, and of my rather narrow upbringing within a family that didn't exactly promote human rights or anti-racism. Should I get into the whole White redemptive discourse about my coming late to social justice? Might a few drastic anecdotes from my childhood help initiate this? I remember our recent conversation about your multiple and shifting ethnic/racial identities as they've formed and changed over the years. Any thoughts on where you imagine or hope this writing might take us?
Finally, I'm taking the time to write about my experiences in antioppression work. It is certainly not by accident that it has taken so long for me to get to a place of writing.
I find that I really have to go deep within to find the roots of where this drive came from-this is a difficult exercise as I feel that experiences, insignificant at the time, have been instrumental in shaping who I am as well as my work in this area.
I approach this work with great interest both politically and personally. I find that my politics have been woven into my multiple identities. As an immigrant, "woman of color," academic, activist, and educator, I find that I wear multiple hats and can be a chameleon when and where I choose. This is advantageous but also incredibly confusing. Although the distinction is subtle, I feel that we are all part of the relationship between oppression and resistance.
I work to reclaim my multiple identities and become more aware of both the challenges and advantages that I carry. Finding a middle place to the extremes, as constructed by dominant rhetoric, is an ongoing process that I embrace through transformative approaches to social change and always being counter-hegemonic.
A theme that has been prevalent in the past couple of years has been the notion of existing in the "middle space." It came about when I attended a talk with a friend of mine in Toronto and, as the speaker-a self-identified Iranian and woman of color-was being introduced, my friend turned to me and asked if I, too, as an Iranian woman, identified as being a person of color. …