Faux radicalism and career academics: Embodied risks

A critical component of the social justice work of CARE is the work of communication in imagining and working toward structural transformation.

Structural transformation in political, economic, social, and cultural formations is explicitly intertwined with the work of co-creating communicative spaces in working with the margins.

To work toward co-creating these communicative spaces is to perform "embodied risk." The formation of communicative structures at/with the margins embodies risks to the material and symbolic formations of CARE work.

These risks, expressed in the form of various strategies of repression directed at the work of culture-centered approach, are indicators of the very transformative nature of culture-centered projects. Because and when the work of CARE co-creates infrastructures of participation at the margins, various forms of power and control are directed at the work.

These risks, experienced on the body as the corpus of social justice work, test the faux radicalism of career academics for whom social justice is a branding strategy, a strategy for drawing in grant monies and building CVs. For the career academic, the performance of faux radicalism is expressed in various forms of claims in academic jargons about their radical nature, all the while collaborating with the authoritarian structures of capital accumulation.

A wide range of local, cultural, particular terms are invented as alibi for this faux radicalism, all the while keeping the structures of oppression and capital accumulation intact.

The career academic will wax eloquent about the Umbrella movement while her students put their bodies on the line. A career academic will build a long CV out of pretending to be on the side of social justice, all the while not contributing materially to the calls for justice.

The career academic makes her career writing about change processes, all the while maintaining a safe distance from the everyday contingencies and vulnerabilities of change work. She will go even further to justify her absence from the struggles of justice or even worse, her collaborations with positions of power as a strategy for change.

The career academic will even go as far as to tell you resistance is meaningless or dead.

Having written off resistance, she will continue to build a CV that lays claims to the symbols of radicalism.

The career academic is fundamentally antithetical to the everyday work of communication for social change, co-opting the language of social change to serve her agenda.

For a culture-centered project to take root in the ethos of social justice, an explicit commitment to structural transformation is fundamental. The co-creation of communicative infrastructures is the first step toward building resources for social justice.


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