Pushing Back: The Publishing Hierarchy, Activist Scholars, and the Challenge of Solidarity
I will use my edited collection Taking Risks: Feminist Activism and Research in the Americas (SUNY 2014 & 2015) as the point of departure for this discussion. Taking Risks is a collection inspired by the researchers’ commitments to social justice. In it we use the frameworks of activist scholarship, transnational feminist theory, and activists as storytellers and organic intellectuals to situate studies of local social movements and feminist activism in the Americas. The individual cases, particularly as presented as one complimentary narrative attempt to circumvent traditional promotion and tenure committees’ biases against activist motivated and guided research by elevating the on-the-ground activists, the storytellers, to the position of expert. This well-intentioned framework, however, can only go so far in challenging the researcher-researched power imbalance present in even the most progressive scholarship. In short, as the authors/editors we clearly have the final say over the words of the activists we research.
There are several cases in this collection but I will focus on the ones that lend themselves most to discussing the risks confronted by scholar-activists when we attempt to circumvent the traditional university publishing hierarchy. Additionally, the selected chapters grapple with the power imbalances in the field and subsequent challenges of and strategies to minimize the imbalances. These cases include: a video archive project in Medellín, Colombia, the independent library movement in Cuba, and Chilean exiles in Canada.