Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: The objective of the session is to share critical autoethnographies of social justice oriented educational anthropologists. The point is to be self-reflexive (Lather, 1991) of our personal, educational, and academic trajectories to grapple with how we ended up labeled as social justice anthropologists by others and ourselves. Since Keith (1993) points out that identities are both assigned and invented, we concern ourselves with the interplay of structures and agency in our respective journeys vis-à-vis social justice. While two of the papers seem more overtly focused on race and ethnicity, each one of us will address the intersectionality of subject positions that moved us through our paths. The intent is to create a forum whereby our audience will join us in analyzing the multiple paths towards social justice in our scholarship, our work with communities, and our subversion of dominant narratives in a bid to understand the most creative ways to foster anti-hegemonic ways of being and action. Additionally, we want to overturn and shatter any attempts towards complacence in our initiatives towards resistance: what are the obstacles, internal and external, that stand in the way of efficacious fulfilment of social justice desires and dreams?
’I pointed to myself and said, “I want to study here,”’ writes Visweswaran (1994) about a student who has chosen to center her life as a postcolonial/neo-colonial subject in her dissertation. While auto-ethnography as a genre has finally seemed to come on its own (see, for instance, Hughes & Pennington, 2017; Bochner & Ellis, 2016; Chang, 2016; Adams et al. 2015; Boylorn & Orbe, 2014; Denzin, 2014; Jones et al. 2013), we as a group primarily draw our inspiration from feminists who mined their lives to produce sociopolitical analyses that resonated with our experiences (for example, Anzaldua, 1987; Lorde, 1984; Pratt, 1983). These feminists, mostly of color, were writing critical auto-ethnographies way before the term was coined. Like them we do not buy into the dichotomy or binary between evocative (Bochner & Ellis, 2016) and interpretive autoethnography (Denzin, 2014). We do write critically in that power relations are a central concern, but we juxtapose mainstream academic writing with more experimental and poetic manners of narration. Again, the goal is to draw in as many people as possible into our discussion of social justice anthropology.
What is it in our life, learning, and scholarly trajectories that led us to anthropology as we “do” social justice? Why is anthropology, basically a by-product of colonialism, even useful as a vehicle for social justice? How have we utilized and reinscribed anthropology to fit our needs? Where does it fall short? How do we compensate for these failures? What are our persisting dilemmas in our journeys? By sharing our stories and then posing these questions we hope to create a productive dialogue about social justice oriented projects in educational anthropology in particular, and anthropology in general. Our individual abstracts afford glimpses into our personal tales and particular dilemmas.