Guest post: Richa Nagar on the need for politically engaged scholarship today

nagarIn the following post, Dr. Richa Nagar discusses the importance of politically engaged scholarship for scholar activists in the post-election climate. Dr. Nagar is a professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies at the University of Minnesota and is the author of Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Through Scholarship and Activism.

The precarity of current political times throughout the world challenges us in hitherto unforeseen ways. It requires us to deeply reflect and rethink our responsibility and modes of engagement with the issues, lives, and people around us. It demands that we think collectively across our locations and differences to work through our disagreements and to build trust in order to embrace new visions and practices for a just life that can be co-owned by many.

Muddying the Waters: Co-authoring Feminisms across Scholarship and Activism gives us critical and necessary tools for embarking upon this path.  Dismantling the walls between the expert and the lay-person, on the one hand and between story, theory and strategy, on the other, Muddying the Waters offers reflections and concepts that are embedded in political and intellectual journeys across not only academia and activism, but also across languages, genres, and geographical locations. By taking us along on journeys where the self and Other as well as singular and the collective learn to accompany one another and to emerge together as part of committed intellectual and political partnerships, Muddying the Waters confronts some of the toughest and trickiest questions in the politics of knowledge production: it demonstrates how co-authorship can become a mode of co-owning authority across locations through a politics without guarantees.  Rather than deriving its power from absolute and unshakeable Truths that can be fixed on paper, such co-authorship generates its contextual and contingent truths through a radical vulnerability in which people come together to co-create an ever-evolving praxis for justice.  Such co-authorship requires us to dissolve our egos in order to move from suspicion and division toward trust and hope. It mobilizes critique in ways that insist on building conversations through a non-stop grappling with questions of ethical responsibility. It commits itself to alliance work across unequal locations through an ongoing methodology of engagement that hinges on trust, love, and the creative possibilities of situated solidarities.