Real World Food Justice and the Enigma of the Scholar-Activist Label: A Reflection on Research Values
Engaging Kate Derickson and Paul Routledge’s set of papers on scholar-activism, this paper reflects on what sorts of research values inspire and accompany scholar-activist research. We draw on multiple examples from research in Colombia and the United States, each of which speaks to the theme of food justice, broadly conceived. We pay attention to research “wants and needs,” finding that specific outcomes (such as usable or compelling data) are only part of a wider array of desires and obligations that make scholar-activist partnerships valuable. Our examples demonstrate four distinct research values— supportive networks, active science, productive discomfort, and affective moments, —that form a vision of scholar-activism that blurs the boundaries between research, political realities, and everyday lives, and seeks to confront real world challenges. The emphasis on active science is as intentional as it is surprising; scholar-activism has been pigeonholed by mainstream academia as a kind of research that doesn’t square well with scientific outcomes. Meanwhile, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are being espoused as essential to solving contemporary problems. Thus, we emphasize that the knowledge, skills and values gained through broad engagement between scholar-activists and others in and out of academia can make scientific inquiry more socially relevant.
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