February 17, 2017 | 4 Comments https://enigmaweb.com.au/personal-academic-website/ https://www.theodysseyonline.com/problem-with-trendy-activism Research or Represent Can an academic, searching for their place in a professional community, with all of their concerns and responsibilities also represent themselves as influential activist? How can one engage in professional research, produce journals and texts, maintain their academic reputation and appearance, as well take part in activism ranging from protests to blogging and social media posts. Also, if it is possible to do both, should it be done? Being an Activist Paul Rogat Loeb has written a fantastic book that contains convincing accounts of how persons of all backgrounds and resources can become influential activists. One statement Loeb (2010), makes that I found influential to those considering activism is “Yet for all the frustration we expect, when we do get involved, we get a lot back: new relationships, fresh skills, a sense of empowerment, pride in accomplishment” (p. 21). Loeb challenges preconceived notions of who fits the mold of an activist with varied accounts ranging from an account of Virginia Ramirez who started out as an eighth grade dropout to becoming an influential activist with the COPS organization, to Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell who refused to teach until hiring practices for women changed. Central to Loeb’s writing is the message that anyone can stand up for what they believe in, represent others struggling from a challenge, make impactful change, and in doing so become an activist. Anyone considering the academic and/or activist debate would do well to read Loeb’s Soul of a Citizen Text. Being an Academic Academics, from tenured established professionals to aspiring, graduate students engaging in research for the first time, have unique concerns when considering a role in activism. Academics is an elite institution, composed of formal relationships and formal methodologies, centered on forwarding academic knowledge and tradition. For established academics involvement in activism can appear as unprofessional, a waste of time, something younger less experienced engage in, and a smear on the academic community and tarnish a reputation among colleagues. Less experienced academics potentially damage their future academic opportunities, engage in unscientific activity, and place themselves in the company of public audiences-certainly not a scholarly crowd some would say. Indeed as stated in Flood, Martin, and Dreher’s journal (2013), “these and other forms academic activism can be risky” (p. 17). Academics, as an example public sociologists, considering activism have additional concerns exclusive to their profession. In Support of Collaboration-Be an Academic and an Activist (*additional readings) Combining Academia and Activism From the University of Wollongong, there comes validity and support for academics to engage in activism. From Flood, Martin, and Dreher (2013), “Academics can engage in and contribute to activism in various ways” (p. 17). Martin and colleagues in their article discuss challenges associated with academics engaging in activism, such as threats, peer pressure, and silencing tactics, and in response include methods to address these challenges (Dreher, Flood, Martin, 2013). Flood, Martin, and Dreher’s article reference four examples of the interface between academia and activism, including: Means to produce knowledge that connects with progressive social change Engaging in research that directly involves social change Progressive teaching strategies Reconstruction of institutional relationships (Dreher, Flood, Martin, 2013). Dreher, Flood, and Martin’s conclusions perhaps provide the most relevant information for a basic understanding of academics and activists. Mentioned is the important consideration that those academics seeking to engage in activism should not act alone but rather consult with others in their community that have experience in activism. Dreher, Flood, and Martin (2013) recommend “Talking to others facing the same dilemmas, and building friendships and support groups can be immensely valuable” (p. 25). In addition it is advised that there is not a single plan of action that applies to all situation but rather that academics should consider multiple pathways to activism that will reduce their level of risk. 2. Toward a Self-Defined Activist-Academic Career in Sociology Dr. Eric Grollman contributes to the debate regarding academics also acting as activists with personal accounts as well as references to academic professionals who double as activists. Dr. Grollman (2014) states “Let me start by removing the question — “can one be an academic and an activist?”—from the table. Yes it is possible”. Grollman in this statement is eluding to the rhetorical nature of the question, and even more so leading to the question “should academics also be activists?”. Dr. Grollman includes in his writing an interesting section that debates whether or not activism and science mix, which is an important consideration, especially knowing the arguments for and influences academics has on keeping to themselves. The topic of publish or perish is discussed, along with the academic community’s desire to maintain a level of prestige that may be tainted by professionals engaging in activism. Dr. Grollman includes the mention of sociological academics, both past such as W.E.B. Dubois and C. Wright Mills, along with contemporaries such as Patricia Hill Collins and Kimberle Crenshaw, all of who were also activists. Dr. Grollman (2014) concludes with support for academics and activism, especially in concern of young, minority academics “Seeing the doubt that students from marginalized backgrounds experience, particularly in graduate school, makes it particularly important to support activist-leaning academics”. 3. STEPS-JNU Symposium Elisa Arond, a doctoral student at Clark University has also contributed to the debate about academics who consider and/or engage in activism. Elisa discusses two main points, one, the individuals role in contribution to social change, and secondly, to the apparent division between knowledge production and social change. In discussion of the latter, Elisa speaks about those who are involved both in knowledge production and social change, and in my opinion her tone of writing eludes to it being a relatively easy task. A quote from Arond (2014) “These ardent activists were, and continue to be, integrally involved in knowledge production ….—and see activism and knowledge production as complementary or integrated pursuits” provides support for the collaboration between the two. Arnod’s writing mirrors that of others in terms of risk factors, such as establishing an academic career before risking opportunity but also includes information about how institutional structures discourage activism. Most impactful from Arond’s writing in my opinion are the comments regarding the purpose of knowledge production and the tie to social change. Arnod (2014) makes a great point in the statement “but also to unearth the creativity and alternative institutional structures or ways of doing that allow for more fruitful links between knowledge producers—wherever they may be located—and the spaces where knowledge may shape, transform, sustain or stimulate meaningful change”. Reference(s): Barlow, L. (2016). Academic vs. activist? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FygCFU-3pbo Dreher, T., & Flood, Michael, Martin, Brian. (2013). Combining Academia and Activism.55(1), 17, 25. Grollman, E. A. (2014). Toward a Self-Defined Activist-Academic Career in Sociology. Retrieved from https://conditionallyaccepted.com/2014/01/09/activist-academic-career/ Kallis, G. (2014). STEPS-JNU Symposium: “are you an academic or an activist?”. Retrieved from http://steps-centre.org/2014/blog/arond/ Loeb, P. R. (2010). Soul Of A Citizen: Living With Conviction In Challenging Times. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.