(4) Radicalizing scholarship

[ix] Individual and collective scholarship

Academic scholarship frequently means adhering to certain conditions, such as working as an individual researcher. The experiences that participants presented at IGJ reveal a degree of collectivity, in which “the scholars” were not only working collectively amongst themselves, but also in collaboration with other groups with diverse composition in terms of disciplinary background, demographics, and classes. How can collective conditions be built into scholarship? How can public scholarship be better linked to collective practices, throughout the process of research, from design to publishing? The session revealed an existing desire to move in this direction amongst participants, regardless of whether the experience was regarded as successful or the aim was accomplished; at this point the fact that many participants had an experience to share on collective approaches can be regarded as an indicator amongst scholars around this as part of a particular notion of what is radical. Furthermore, this discussion takes place in the context of academic publishing practices which reinforce individual ownership and characterize conservative positions. Whilst these practises are counteracted by groups and projects defending notions like “the commons”, the operational question is whether those situating themselves for the commons have developed (or rediscovered) tactics, methods, and team assemblages to understand and act differently. Can these projects, in this time of increasing neoliberalisation of universities, resist and create more collaborative projects, within the current system?

[x] Public scholarship “deliverables”

Academic work within the academy requires outputs. How can we problematize this presupposition and requirement to produce specific sets of academic outputs, which are required in order to be validated within the current system. Items like “the paper” and “the book” are commonly regarded as standard outputs, to be presented to symposia, seminars, conferences, etc. It takes considerable effort to defend incorporating a theatre play, a poster campaign, or the script for a neighbourhood-produced soap opera for scholarly purposes. The suggestion here is nevertheless not simply to divert resources for these “unorthodox” methods, but rather to put an emphasis on the process rather than merely a “final” deliverable. In other words, engage in a kind of scholarship in which should a standard deliverable not come to fruition (e.g. a book not published, a paper rejected), a socially-relevant intervention embedded in the process remains (e.g. a play staged, a poster campaign completed)–and a lived experience remains not only for the benefit of the researcher but in the collective memory of a constituency. A public scholarship would demand a very different set of strategies if aiming for different outcomes, it would also make it possible to respond more to what a public actually wanted. An academic output too often doesn’t benefit a local community group, so is not part of co-creating a “useful” project for them. How can we collectively make a radical and engaged public scholarship when we still have to deliver certain outputs from our projects?

[xi] Radicalizing scholarship

This work is projective, in the sense that we hope for a future in which scholars won’t find a way of engaging in their work if not within collective initiatives; if not deeply embedded within groups directly affected by the issues at stake; or if not useful for ongoing long- or short-term social dynamics. A point at which research in seldom done in isolation, where the scholar transcends the popular identity of a know-it-all yet unintelligible character and becomes an actor commonly regarded as accessible and useful. This dialectically affects the production of new knowledge (savoir as well as connaissance) and new interventions; a different way of acting through a different way of understanding. Research should be radically reframed if it is to remain as the core task for emerging radical scholars; the trilogy of reading-writing-teaching/lecturing needs to be exploded so as to reconstruct scholarship as a wide array of modalities through which a renewed and diverse breed of scholars could operate. This does not equate to disregard for disciplinary (“traditional”) ways of undertaking scholarship, but a process of radical restructuring would be needed for it to find its new (more adequate) place as only one out of many other ways to perform as (at least radical) scholars. This endeavour cannot become narcissistic in nature (i.e. merely to make our work “relevant” or “more interesting”), but rather ought to be outspoken in that the aim of finding new modes of understanding is intrinsically embedded with projective socially-necessary engagements within collective structures. In this way it could hold better chances to expand the existing cracks, inform and potentiate anti-systemic movements, shed light on, and help pave, alternative pathways, in creating its new “publics”.

Next – (5) The projects

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