Week 12

by Jen

Thanks so much for including a reading from Knowledge Justice! This is such a good and important book for my own field of work; I guess, to step back for a moment from the substance of the chapter we read, there’s a lot that we could talk about simply related to the way this book is a manifestation of care: the fact that it exists as a project (a brilliantly POC-led writing project in a field flooded with scholarship that is really dominated by whiteness) attests to the care and dedication of its editors; the work inside it comes not only from the care of chapter authors but also from an editorial process that I know was filled with a lot of care; the fact that it’s open access also feels to me like a way we can show care for how knowledge exists and is shared.


There were some questions that came to me at the intersection of Cong-Huyen and Patel’s chapter and the Project Nia video; it was really interesting for me to reflect on whether the substance of the video, which felt like it was focused on bringing individuals into spaces of accountability and care, could also speak to Cong-Huyen and Patel’s writing, which calls for institutions/disciplines to be accountable.  One of the themes that came up for me throughout the video was the need to make sure that folks going through accountability processes have resources to care for themselves in the meantime: transportation, shelter, food, personal relationships. If we transfer this need for accountability processes to our professions and institutions, what are the resources that our professions and institutions need in order to care for themselves / feel supported while working towards accountability? I was reflecting on our conversations last class about dependencies, and my own fixation in that conversation on very material dependencies (lightbulbs, bathrooms). My profession, like many others, badly needs accountability for how its lack of diversity impacts individuals in the field, how are we supposed to work together as a profession towards being accountable and caring when we don’t have enough lightbulbs to light up the library? How are we expected to be thoughtful and reflective about systems of power and oppression in our field when we have to spend so much time fixing staplers?

It’s embarrassing that white supremacy can be perpetuated by a lack of basic resources; we should be able to focus on the big issues even while these small things need to be tended to. 

But also: is this how administrators make sure that systems of power don’t change? (I mean…I didn’t actually need to put a question mark at the end of that sentence…)  We are forced to spend all our time filling out forms for photocopier maintenance, and so we can’t engage with each other in meaningful conversations about what could improve the real substance of our institutions.

Reflecting then on how we could embody care, even in spaces where we aren’t being given the resources we need to attend to our basic needs: perhaps this looks like

  • sitting with someone while they fix a stapler, and having a real conversation while sharing the frustration of unmet resources.
  • sharing the resources we’ve scraped together with each other: in the context of Cong-Huyen and Patel’s piece, I’m thinking specifically of how myself and colleagues who have shared frustrations about dealing with immigration issues while working for employers who don’t understand that bureaucracy, have created networks and relationships to share information with each other to help navigate those isolating (and terrifying) processes.
    This might also look like: building relationships to share information about health care providers who actually accept the (often inadequate) healthcare provided by the employer. Or, sharing knowledge about personnel processes and experiences about navigating tenure and promotion processes.
  • prioritizing conversations about accountability, systemic injustice, and institutional care, when we can, even if / while acknowledging that we aren’t coming to the space individually with adequate resources to feel prepared/cared for.
  • recognizing that other people will experience care differently than we each do, and finding ways to attune ourselves to that

1 thought on “Week 12

  1. Katina Rogers (she/her)

    I think this is so important in a CUNY context. Another question that I have alongside this is how to work in a way that doesn’t lead straight to burnout. Those systems that deny fundamental resources—whether low-stakes but frustrating ones (staples), or those with critically high stakes (immigration support)—take a real toll on the people who are working day after day to help shepherd others through the processes. So thinking along the line of attunement, how do we key into our own needs and modes of working so that we can step back/ask for help/something else *before* we reach the point of total burnout?

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