Remi Joseph-Salisbury reflects on his experiences as an anti-racist activist
in the UK. As a Black mixed-race man involved in a number of community
groups, he considers what it means to be asked to condemn racially
minoritised communities generally, and Black communities particularly.
Whilst recalling specific incidents to illustrate his arguments, he suggests
that ‘calls to condemn’ are not always explicitly spoken but are constantly
felt. These calls, he contends, are an attempt to shift the focus away from
anti-racist critiques of structures and institutions and back towards
always-already-pathologised communities of colour. Focusing on his work with
the Northern Police Monitoring Project, the chapter evidences how despite
the organisation’s understanding of the complex ways in which communities
are placed under suspicion, the organisation was forced to condemn acts of
interpersonal violence outside of its remit, in order to ensure their wider
messaging would not be misunderstood. As cultural deficit arguments abound
in the vacuum left by ‘post-racial’ mythology, the work of anti-racist
scholars and activists becomes all the more difficult. Calls to condemn,
therefore, act to maintain White supremacy. However, in societies that have
already pushed people of colour to the margins, anti-racist actors must work
against rather than with White supremacist power structures. We must,
therefore, refuse to condemn.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.