Yessica Garcia

For this public scholar project, I am returning to the public library that I attended growing up. I selected this place because I feel that I have a commitment to stay local and work with community members that I grew up with. As Professor Natallia Deeb-Sossa stated at the Public Scholars launch event that took place Winter quarter 2016, “The purpose of my research is guided by the intent, and the intent is based on who I am, on my desire to give voice to the voiceless and marginalized.” I personally do not categorize the community I work with as voiceless because they do have a voice, and use it on a daily basis to theorize about life, but in that statement I interpret professor Deeb-Sossa referring to the hierarchy of knowledge production that occurs in the academy, which prevents the University (and other institutions) from hearing what the public has to say. This hierarchy of knowledge production is highlighted in the “Introduction” of Presumed Incompetent,

“Methods of knowledge production that do not fit the model of the brilliant genius who works alone and possesses learning inaccessible to the masses, such as participatory action research, are marginalized or actively denigrated” (5).

My goal as a public scholar is not to be a “brilliant genius” but to be what Ruth Nicole Brown calls a “creative genius” who is able to recognize how art, music, and film are spaces where working-class girls and women theorize to make sense of life. In Steven Lubar’s essay “Seven Rules for Public Humanist” he states that rule #1 of being a public scholar is NOT making it about YOU. He states,

“Start not by looking at what you, your discipline, or the university needs and wants, but by what individuals and communities outside the university need and want. It’s not, “we’re from the university, and we’re here to help,” but, “What are you doing already, and how can we participate? How can we be useful?” It’s not about telling people facts. It’s a about a dialogue, a sharing of authority, knowledge, expertise”

I read this statement over and over again when writing this post, and every time I read it, this rule made it more difficult to answer the prompt of our assignment which was to “situate your public in relation to the readings.” Lubar’s rule #1 and this exercise forced me to think about my positionality, methods,  practice, and reciprocity. If it is not about me, should I have written this post collectively with my community partner?  After several weeks of thinking through this, I decided that I will re-do this activity  when I start the summer workshops. In fact, I will dedicate one workshop on exploring the question of “who are we.” My goal in this process will be to learn how to be what Lubar calls a “facilitator and translator as well as an expert.”  I look forward to learning from the girls and women I will be working with.