Reviewed by: Council on Anthropology and Education
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Social movements
Secondary Theme: Resistance
The current political moment and the conference theme invite us to reconsider the ways we as anthropologists study and contribute to social change. Within the anthropology of education, the use of research to promote racial and social justice has been part of our mission since 2007, and has received new attention since the presidential elections of 2016. But often these discussions position anthropologists as brokers between “communities” (everyday people whose lives are affected by oppressive policies) and power-holders/policymakers, and call on anthropologists to use their research and knowledge about these communities to influence policy changes. Overlooked and undertheorized are the communal spaces—often autonomous and apart from formal educational institutions—where everyday people come together to learn from their experiences, build community, and find ways of making change on their own terms. With traditions in popular education, participatory action research (PAR), and grassroots organizing, these collective spaces of consciousness-raising have animated social change movements of the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s, environmental and indigenous movements, and have produced several well-known radical educational projects— for example, Freire’s peasant critical literacy circles, Highlander Folk School’s workshop spaces, the Cohambee River Collective. Indeed, such projects have often served as inspirations in our field for more codified and usually more institutionalized YPAR projects (e.g. Cammarota and Fine, 2007). But organic, non-institutionalized, non-formal projects take shape all the time in community and movement spaces, as people come together to make sense of structures of power and find paths to healing and liberation.
This roundtable aims to center the “forms of knowledge production utilized by everyday people in the struggle for social change” (Dyrness, 2011, p. 202), exploring the kinds of critical consciousness, identity and community formation, and acts of resistance that are nurtured in these spaces. We call theoretically and historically on the transformative approaches of Grace Lee Boggs and Chicana/Latina feminisms to take seriously the spaces of everyday revolutionary social relations that, we believe, are indispensable for radical politics. The participants have engaged ethnographic and participatory research methods to study pedagogies in the borderlands, processes of autoformación (self-formation or self-directed learning) among Latina feminist activists in Madrid and teachers in Chiapas, Mexico, Zapatista indigenous organizing, and farmworker organizing in California. We consider the tensions and possibilities of research partnerships in these incipient spaces to foster shared knowledge production and action for change. Within these often marginalized, liminal spaces (Sepulveda 2011), particularly in “counterpublic” spaces that take shape outside institutions and away from the public spotlight, researchers might join with communities to reimagine the terms of teaching, learning, and research, to “not only say ‘No’ to the existing power structure but also empower our constituencies to embrace the power within each of us to create the world anew” (Boggs 2012, p. 51).
Our discussion will be structured as a dialogue that includes framing questions posed by the organizers, brief presentations by each of the presenters with reflections from their work around these questions, followed by dialogue facilitated by the discussant.