Sunday, September 17, 2017

Note for academic partners: When you come to collaborate, come with humility and commitment

When working on culture-centered projects of social change, our research team is often approached by academic partners wanting to adopt the culture-centered approach or wanting to secure an entry into a collaboration with a community partner.



While in many instances, these relationships result in mutual learning experiences, and bring new insights into the work of the CCA, in some instances, academic partners in culture-centered projects have not really imbibed the basic principles of the CCA before approaching collaboration.

Some partners are eager to get a publication out on this or that marginalized community.

The work of our team then becomes one of building the ethos of patient co-learning. That this or that publication is not what one is targeting when embarking on a culture-centered project is the first lesson.

Academic partners are sometimes too eager to take this or that element of the CCA and market it as their own contribution. You forget that the hard work of cultural-centering is far removed from the academic circus of getting a publication out, which unfortunately is the way most of us are incentivized in the neoliberal academe.

The work of cultural-centering then is one of working with you on the idea of commitment, de-centering the neoliberal modality of insincere academic production.

If you expect to generate three publications within the first year of our collaboration because we have gathered so much data, it would serve you well to learn to listen to community voices who often feel that academics come in to extract data and make their careers, not to contribute to community-driven change.

You would do well to learn that after many years of culture-centered work, only at a point when our community partners feel this is a time to write, and often after achieving tangible community-driven change outcomes do we start writing. And there are times when we don't even write because the community partners feel the time to write has not yet arrived.

If you are of the belief that you could randomly just walk into a community and make cultural observations and write them in, the CCA would teach you that usually we don't even start the process of writing after a year of commencing on the project. Doing a few interviews or randomly walking into a community to have some conversations reinforce the imperial relationships that academics produce with communities, especially communities at the margins.

So be ready to show your commitment, that you would stick through this journey, even when the going gets rough.

In other instances, academic partners come in because they find writing in sensationalist terms about a marginalized community is the new catch word. The texture of our collaboration then turns to patient co-learning about the terms of conversation, with the power of the decision about representation turned into the hands of community members.

If you are unwilling to challenge your expertise or your mastery of this or that theory or this or that method, you would struggle with the journey of cultural centering, which is much more our own journeys of de-centering as academics.

When you come to collaborate because you quickly want to learn the method and then replicate it, you would be at a loss. There are no quick fixes to cultural centering. Often there are no quick success stories.

Cultural centering is a journey, one that is rife with failures, re-learnings, and re-centering the work of listening to community voices.

1 comment:

Debasis Dash said...

Sir, they are nothing but sick minds. No ethics. Publications are the steps of learning process not an object to project greatness