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The token African

goats int eh villageThe invitation to deliver the presentation arrives unexpectedly, and with very little lead time to the event. Has the research to which she devoted almost two years attracted a following in this crowd as well? She devotes precious time to writing her speech and preparing a stunning Prezi presentation, asks for a second, third and fourth opinion on whether the Prezi animations are over the top. ‘You’ll be fine! Don’t worry. The animations will bring the statistics to life.”

She catches a taxi to the airport in the wee hours of the morning, just in time for her flight and barely makes the connection to the final destination.  “We’re so excited you’re here! Thank you so much for accepting the invitation”. The excitement is a bit excessive, she thinks. What are they expecting and how will she live up to it? No way to disappoint, she realizes, when the motivation for the invite reveals itself. It’s not because the meeting organizers believe the research findings are an amazing contribution to knowledge production. They were looking for someone ‘different’.

Not to be deflated, she takes the new revelations in stride. The big day arrives several hours later. She goes over the technical details with the technician who, despite the quizzical looks that yours truly here IS the keynote speaker, provides top-notch support. He hooks up her notebook computer to the projector and ensures her microphone is working fine.

The big moment arrives. After a pompous introduction she walks to the podium. The audience appears to be as quizzical as the technician, but willing to give her a chance. Some minutes into the presentation, she becomes aware of a shift in the room. No longer are they simply looking at her, they are actually listening and actively engaging with the ideas she is presenting.  The intellectual debate that ensues evidences a genuine grappling with the ideas. Forty-five minutes later, the moderator calls the discussion to a close with a comment “that doctorate was well-earned”.

Activists of all hues, what is your verdict?

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Dare to object to prejudice

dare to object to prejudice and injustice - Gloria Ray Karlmark

“Dare to object to prejudice and injustice” – Gloria Ray Karlmark.

Feminist standpoint epistemology theory has crystallized for me in a whole new light. I am no longer surprised that individuals, and indeed institutions, can profess to be ‘progressive’ yet remain unable to recognize systemic injustice. Standpoint epistemology explains to me the inability of an individual differently located to recognize identity-based oppression and discrimination occurring in their immediate environment. How does one explain to a different ‘other’ that talking through what the ‘other’ believes to be a ‘personality conflict’ will not lead to real or lasting transformation? Should one even try?

Well, this past week I resolved to follow Gloria Ray Karlmark’s exhortation. I dared to object to prejudice, to call discrimination by name and say yes, it was on the basis of racism, sexism and ageism, at the very least. To my surprise, my objections evoked yet another intersecting explanatory variable – a remnant colonial mentality; in a different era, my ‘oppressor’ (if we were to call him that) and myself would have had a colonizer/colonized, exploiter/exploited relation. A refreshing analysis indeed from a ‘different other’ but with whom I share the female and feminist identities. My proposal for a structural solution – to put in place an explicit institutional anti-discrimination policy – was well received and accepted.

There is hope that those in positions of epistemic privilege can help willing others in different social locations ‘see’ – perhaps not ‘understand’, but nevertheless ‘acknowledge’ – prejudice, oppression, discrimination – in hues they cannot experience.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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