Freire, Escobar, and Analzdúa- ongoing reflections from Wisconsin

We’ve just wrapped up two weeks of class reading for “Becoming a Community Engaged Scholar.” Students within the course each shared a text that has significant meaning for them and their desires to become a community based practitioner (myself included) and provided narrative and discussion for the text. Some texts were what I expected out of such a course, passages from Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” a community literacy essay titled  “‘White Guys Who Send My Uncle to Prison’: Going Public with Asymmetrical Power” among others. Yet two pieces that my classmates brought forward have been causing me to reconsider the work we do here in public engagement.

One of my classmates selected Arturo Escobar’s “Thinking Feeling with the Earth.” One quote in particular left me stunned and contemplating the work needed to be done out of institutions like UConn and through our Public Engagement. Escobar claims:

“Perhaps the best starting point for our purposes here is the saying that the contemporary conjuncture is best characterized by the fact that we are facing modern problems for which there are no longer modern solutions.”

As we are called to tackle the grand challenges of our present world, I find myself calling for a deeper level of creativity needed to do this work. The training many of us received through the scientific method, the so called “gold-standard” may be too rooted in a drive toward modern solutions that we’re missing important knowledge and ways of knowing coming from our community partners and the questions our scholarship can and should be solving.

I read this work in tandem with the Gloria Anzaldúa’s seventh chapter of “Boarderlands,” which among the many important reflections, examines the power of the Mestiza’s lens in building an inclusive, whole world. Based on my own background and education, I’ve often felt as though the lens of “Community Based” teaching and research has often deemed too “radical” for the work of the academy. Anzaldúa’s chapter reminded me that there are many people that already view the world this way and have been for generations. It is the world of academia, that has negated these understandings that are needed for our our research to be Relevant, Responsible, and Reciprocal.