Anti-racist scholar-activism raises urgent questions about the role of contemporary universities and the academics who work within them. As profound socio-racial crises collide with mass anti-racist mobilisations, this book focuses on the praxes of academics working within, and against, their institutions in pursuit of anti-racist social justice. Amidst a searing critique of the university’s neoliberal and imperial character, Joseph-Salisbury and Connelly situate the university as a contested space, full of contradictions and tensions. Drawing upon original empirical data, the book considers how anti-racist scholar-activists navigate barriers and backlash in order to leverage the opportunities and resources of the university in service to communities of resistance. Showing praxes of anti-racist scholar-activism to be complex, diverse, and multifaceted, and paying particular attention to how scholar-activists grapple with their own complicities in the harms perpetrated and perpetuated by higher education institutions, this book is a call to arms for academics who are, or would like to be, committed to social justice.
Opposition to anti-racist scholar-activism within the academy
Chapter 4 explores the tension between the values of anti-racist scholar-activists and the dominant logics of the neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist academy. The chapter considers how anti-racist scholar-activist work comes to be devalued within the academy, and how this is entangled with the matrix of domination, which makes backlash particularly acute for some. Importantly, however, it also explores the strategies scholar-activists employ to navigate backlash within academia.
Anti-racist scholar-activism and the neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist university
The introductory chapter offers a theoretical and historical exploration of key themes that underpin the book: anti-racism, anti-racist scholar-activism, and the (neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist) university. The chapter also includes discussion of the research undertaken for the book and its participants, along with the structure of the book.
The concluding chapter offers a manifesto for scholar-activism that distils some of the key principles from the book into a ten-point manifesto for scholar-activism. Departing from a traditional academic conclusion, the manifesto format points to the explicitly political nature of anti-racist scholar-activism. Representing broad guiding principles, this manifesto is not intended to be prescriptive but to offer a primer for future conversation and action.
Chapter 1 considers ‘scholar-activist’ as a term, label, and identity. Through the accounts of participants, the chapter explores problems with the term, and with its constitutive elements (‘scholar’ and ‘activist’). Whilst recognising some value in scholar-activist identifications, the chapter argues that it is more useful to think of scholar-activism as a form of praxis – something that one does, rather than something that one is. Relatedly, the chapter considers the danger that scholar-activism, as a term, is susceptible to institutional co-optation, as well as overclaim by academics, both of which threaten to hollow out its radical potential.
Chapter 3 introduces the concept of ‘reparative theft’ in order to consider how scholar-activists can utilise their positions within the university to service communities of resistance. The chapter builds upon Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s seminal work on stealing from the university. Adopting a reparative justice frame, and recognising the vast wealth and resources of the university, the chapter argues that there is justice in stealing from the university.
Chapter 5 looks at the ways in which anti-racist scholar-activism can take place within the university, particularly through teaching and critical pedagogy. In this regard, the chapter introduces the concept of a classroom-to-activism pipeline. The chapter also considers wider acts of resistance in the university setting, particularly in relation to involvement with trade unionism. Throughout the chapter, consideration is also given to how the university, particularly through its neoliberal character, threatens to limit and curtail anti-racist scholar-activism.
Chapter 6 unpacks the concept of ‘constructive complicity’ in order to illustrate the complexities, contradictions, and complicities that arise from working within neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist universities. Arguing that reflexivity is of vital importance, the chapter suggests that anti-racist scholar-activism involves mitigating and manipulating complicities in service to communities of resistance and anti-racism.
Chapter 2 considers the notion of ‘working in service’ to communities of resistance and to anti-racism. Tracing these ideas through the work of Ambalavaner Sivanandan and Patricia Hill Collins, among others, the chapter argues that ‘in service’ provides an anchoring, or radical reorientation, that can guide anti-racist scholar-activist praxis. Showing that working in service to anti-racism pushes against the dominant logics of the neoliberal-imperial-institutionally-racist university, the chapter considers how the notion of working in service impacts upon questions of accountability, usefulness, and the accessibility and reach of anti-racist scholar-activist work.
The conclusion draws together the overall themes of the book, looking at individual experiences of inequality, the problem of shared experiences that obscure structural inequalities, and the long-term and long-standing nature of inequalities. The conclusion defends the book’s project of making inequalities visible in order to tailor appropriate solutions. Making inequality visible suggests the need to develop appropriate theories of inequality and culture. The book concludes by thinking through what strong and weak theories of culture and inequality might look like, and what solutions they might suggest to the problems we have made visible in our analysis. Ultimately the conclusion restates the value of culture, and the need to challenge inequality so that everyone can experience the way that culture is good for you.