Beyond Scholar Activism: Making Strategic Interventions Inside and Outside the Neoliberal University The Autonomous Geographies Collective
AbstractThis paper is an honest, reflexive account of action research with activists. Through a two year project called ‘Autonomous Geographies’, a team of researchers undertook case studies with three groups: self-managed social centres, tenants resisting housing privatisation, and eco-pioneers setting up a Low Impact Development. The original aim was to explore the everyday lives of activists as they attempted to resist life under capitalism and build more autonomous ways of living. The paper reflects on the messy, difficult and personally challenging research process of the project, with the failures being more instructive than the successes. By recounting this experience we provide lessons for the complex but necessary process of doing what is known as scholar activism in what we see as difficult, neo-liberal times. In particular we focus on how we can better formulate and implement strategic interventions with activists and social movements. We need to reject the false distinction between academia and wider society in conceptualisations of valid sites of struggle and knowledge production, and to find ways to research and engage collectively and politically, rather than individually.
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