A Scholarly Manifesto

Photo by James Douglas, CC0

My dissertation will become a symbol of my brand as a scholar. I am about to design the color, shape, content, and meaning of my scholarly tattoo. Granted, a tattoo that could be lasered off at some point or even touched up and morphed into something new, if I so chose. But still something somewhat permanent. It’s a big decision.

So when I ask myself questions like…

What will my scholarship be?
What will my scholarship do?
Who am I as a scholar?  What do I care about?
What do I want to say?  Demonstrate?
What will it look like when I am “doing” scholarship?

…I think I am really asking myself about my values.

Per my disclaimer, I do change my mind a lot as I learn more. But lately, my reflective state of dissertatorly self-inquisition has highlighted for me some values and beliefs that have held their stand over the course of my scholarly studies, being now in my 11th year of higher education (wowsa). Below I set forth a public declaration of those values, because that is important for my process right now.

My Scholarly Manifesto

  1. Genuinely appreciate difference. Do your best to check yourself, so that you don’t inadvertently shame difference.
  2. All should be welcomed at the table for conversation. The language of conversation should not be exclusive.
  3. Scholarly ideas should be as accessible as possible. Erudite text can be elitist and perpetuate an unnecessary and harmful hierarchy that lays groundwork for excluding voices and perspectives.
  4. In-process work is as complete as “complete” work. Sharing the process, not just the product, helps normalize this. [Hence this post.]
  5. Labels/categories of identity must be simultaneously utilized, scrutinized, and celebrated. Utilized for their potential to mobilize political action against the oppression they have caused through their use (until this oppression is gone, they remain). Scrutinized for their made-up nature and origins in practices of exclusion, and potential to further perpetuate that exclusion. Celebrated for their efforts to make a positive perspective of difference possible, for their provision of community as a source for building strength among those who have been excluded, and for their shaky boundaries that allow for difference within difference.
  6. It is important to demonstrate the complexity of things that get taken for granted as simple, or things that are under-complexified. Questions/problems are just as, if not more, important than answers/solutions.
  7. It is important to play in scholarship. Play (with unexpected inputs, processes, and/or outcomes) encourages seeing and thinking of things in new ways to push through old, troublesome boundaries.
  8. Pushing through old boundaries is important work because (1) Boundaries allow for categorization and sorting, and hence hierarchy.  Hierarchy provides the opportunity for harmful flows of power and control (alongside less concerning productive flows of power/control); (2) Old boundaries are just that — old.  If they are tightly kept, the new has trouble emerging. New is not always better, but I have experienced it to be better more often than not.
  9. Learning has more than one legitimate form and purpose.

This list will evolve, of course. Like a tattoo, it will fade over time and maybe even get drawn over. But it is my guide of the moment.

Some of these points deserve further elaboration, #5 and #7 feeling the most pressing for me. I might take them up in future posts. In the meantime, back to dissertating…


Photo by James Douglas, CC0