In the post-truth world of Trumplandia there is a clear need for scholars to go public--as a form of resistance. This need is particularly acute in the social sciences in which scholars attempt to make sense of the human condition. Why is there discrimination and hate and cruelty in the world? Why is income and social inequality so historically persistent? Why do people not act in their best interests? What are the social factors that lead to needless suffering and premature death? Why have our politics become so mean-spirited?
As the inauguration of Minority President Donald J Trump is fast approaching, there has been a groundswell of support for mounting a resistance to his set of nasty, short-sighted and discriminatory policy initiatives--initiatives that a majority of Americans appear to be against. One day after Minority President Trump's inauguration, there will be well publicized public protests against his presidency --the Women's March on Washington as well as hundreds of Sister Marches Against Trump. Going back to the resistance of the 1960s scholars have scheduled Inauguration Day teach-ins on some of our university and college campuses. Indeed, these troubled times compel scholars to wade into the unpleasantly turbulent waters of public discourse in order to resist oppression, violence, political bullying, and intolerance.
What can scholars do to resist Minority President Trump?
A group of anthropologists is planning a virtual read-in on Inauguration Day during which they will read and discuss a chapter in the late Michel Foucault's collection of College de France lectures--Society Must be Defended. The two organizers of the read-In, Paige West and J.C. Slyer discussed their idea in a recent blog published in Savage Minds, perhaps the most important platform for contemporary anthropological blogging. In the blog they wrote:
This lecture strikes us as very good to think with at this present point: it demands we simultaneously consider the interplay of sovereign power, discipline, biopolitics and concepts of security, and race. In light of the current sociopolitical situation where the reaction to activism against persistent racism has been to more overtly perpetuate racism as political discourse, we need to remember and rethink the role of racism as central to, rather than incidental to, the political and economic activities of the state...
...While the latter part of this argument has been addressed by numerous scholars and activists who write and think about race, class, sexuality and inequality more generally -- with clear and compelling arguments about how this is not a 'new' political reality for many but rather a kind of contemporary culmination and re-entrenchment of the structures of power and oppression that underpin the entirety of the national political project -- the former part of the argument has been allowed to stand with little critique. Do we need to change what we do and not just how we do it? Not necessarily.
..."We worry that by focusing on needing to change what we are doing and how we are doing it we lose sight of what we already do really well. We work to understand the world through research, teaching, writing and reading. Along with this, we produce knowledge that allows others to understand the world and to work to change it.
The idea for a virtual read-in is an important one at the beginning of the Age of Trump. As West and Slyer rightly note, scholars should continue to do what they do: conduct rigorously designed research, read widely, think critically and produce authoritative "...knowledge that allows others to understand the world and work to change it."
Here's the rub, if that knowledge is produced but not consumed, it will have little impact on the quest for global social justice. Is research, thinking, reading and producing texts like the aforementioned blog going to make a difference in Trumplandia? Reading Foucault might provide a road map for resisting Minority President Trump, but the real work of resistance is down in the trenches--organizing, making phone calls, and printing flyers. For scholars the work of resistance also means constructing a sustained social critique in op ed pieces, in blogs, in films, in poetry, in drama and in multimedia installations--all in a language accessible to the general public.
The Inaugural Day Foucault read-is a great idea. Once it's over I would urge those committed reader-scholars to sign up for workshops that will enable them to transform their rigorously derived and powerful insights into texts that will inspire their aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons.
That makes for a more formidable resistance.
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