cmari008

The readings this week have made me think with more care about the intersecting identities of public activist and scholar. What are the responsibilities of both, what are the risks, and is it perhaps better to leave academia altogether and become a scholar not of public discourse, but within them? In the introduction to Activist Scholarship, Sudbury and Okazawa-Rey tell of the general reaction to Canadian antiracist feminist Sunera Thobani’s analysis of US foreign policy and the mass death it caused post-9/11. Her work was met with resentment and hostility. What this provides an example of, then, is the inherent risk of presenting to the public alternative narratives that call into question national histories. While presenting such alternative narratives is indeed important, can it be done in such a way that creates a space for the public to engage with the information without becoming angry or hostile? Or is such a reaction necessary in the production of public knowledge?

On another level, public scholars likewise must contend with peers in the academy. While Hale, in the introduction to Engaging Contradictions, argues that the coming together of public scholarship and the academy can be productive, there is a sort of crisis of identity among scholars who also are public activists, nothing that the authors who contributed to that particular work feel “completely at home in his or her discipline or in the university setting where he or she works,” and that “commitments to activist scholarship can leave one feeling torn (if not mildly schizophrenic), stretched too thin, and resentful, especially toward the larger academic community, whose reaction generally ranges from indifference to outright hostility,” (Hale 14). Both readings therefore demonstrate how the identity of the public scholar as living in two worlds must contend, at varying degrees with the criticisms of both the public outside of the academy, and the academy itself.