Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Situated Solidarities and the Practice of Scholar-Activism

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Situated Solidarities and the Practice of Scholar-Activism

Article excerpt

Abstract. Drawing on an analysis of an ongoing collaboration with rural peasant movements in Bangladesh, we explore the possibility of forging solidarity through practices of scholar-activism. In so doing, we consider the practice of reflexivity, reconsider forms of solidarity, and draw on the concept of convergence spaces as a way to envision sites of possibility. We mobilize the notion of situated solidarities to propose an alternative form of reflexive practice in scholarship. We then posit that there are six 'practices' that provide a useful schematic for thinking through the opportunities for the construction of these solidarities.

Keywords: solidarity, scholar-activism, convergence space


In this paper we consider the possibility of forging solidarities through practices of scholar-activism. Scholar-activists are those who seek alignment between their academic work "and their political ideals to further social change and work directly with marginal groups or those in struggle" (Autonomous Geographies Collective, 2010). If done thoughtfully, scholar-activism practised through what Nagar and Geiger (2007) call 'situated solidarities' can be an effective strategy for producing knowledges that 'abide by' (Ismail, 2005) the struggles of marginalized communities in ways that reject, but do not ignore, the violent and imperialist histories of the academy. By way of illustrating how such solidarities might be achieved in the course of doing scholar-activism, we identify six practices: 'being moved'; 'dispersing power'; 'resourcing potential'; 'resourcing solidarity'; 'challenging assumptions and norms'; and 'sustaining collaboration'. We ground our analysis in recent work conducted by Routledge in Bangladesh with the Bangladesh Krishok (farmer) Federation (BKF), the largest peasant movement in the country, and the Bangladesh Kishani Sabha (Women Farmers' Association, BKS).

In an earlier paper (Derickson and Routledge, 2015), we suggested a 'politics of resourcefulness' as a guiding ethos for engaging in the process of doing scholar-activism. This entails commitments to channel the resources and privileges afforded to academics for advancing the work of nonacademic collaborators; designing research explicitly to ask and answer questions that nonacademic collaborators want to know; and engaging in research that explores barriers to sustained and active participation and activism. We also argued that we should engage actively with both sides of the hyphen, emphasizing scholarly work and interventions in scholarly debates as well as resourcing the activist realm. Our intention with this paper is to build on these foundational ethics by engaging the notion of situated solidarities as simultaneously a goal of and a strategy for doing scholar-activism.

Situating solidarities of scholar-activism

As social subjects, we act in "a world over-determined by relations of power exploitation, inequality and violence" (Juris and Khasnabish, 2013, page 371). Such relations are accentuated with respect to our location in a dominant institution, such as a university, that is enrolled in the process of (re)producing a particular social order. Scholar- activism must work in and against these institutional practices and processes by acknowledging that our lives are entwined with the lives of others--through the legacies of colonialism, through flows of capital and commodities, through modern telecommunications (Corbridge, 1993; Cumbers and Routledge, 2004; hooks, 1994) "and through structures of power and oppression and the cultural myths that underwrite them" (Juris and Khasnabish, 2013, page 371).

We agree with Badiou (2008), however, when he argues that to resist the current conjuncture (of crisis, austerity, accumulation by dispossession) we must recognize that all belong to the same world as ourselves. In so doing we make unity in terms of living, acting beings rather than the idea of a world "united by objects and signs" (2008, page 39). …

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