Editor's Note: This article is special to AS News and was written by Dellareese Jackson, graduate assistant in the Democratizing Knowledge project.
Last year, the Democratizing Knowledge Project (DK), an interdisciplinary collective of faculty and graduate students at Syracuse University, was awarded a four-year, $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a series of summer institutes titled “Just Academic Spaces: Creating New Publics through Radical Literacies.” Linda Carty, Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies, and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Professor and chair of Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS), as well as Dean’s Professor of the Humanities in Syracuse’s College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) are the co-PIs on the grant.
Later this week, the Syracuse DK collective will host a planning retreat with colleagues from its institutional partners: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-Newark and Spelman College, the oldest historically Black college for women. They will begin preparing for the group’s inaugural institute, slated to occur at Syracuse in 2016. Additional institutes will take place at Rutgers-Newark in ‘17 and Spelman College in ’18.
The DK/Mellon institute is designed to foster a model of exchange between community- and scholar-activists, in hopes of creating a more just academy.
’Just Academic Spaces’ will contribute to efforts to map the current state of higher education institutions; explore knowledges that community activists and scholar-activists in the academy can learn from each other; and use these collaborations among diverse publics to forge strategies to create a just academy.
Each annual institute will consist of five days of workshops involving 15-20 scholar activists from across the United States and diverse local community members, followed by a two-day conference in which community members and participants convene to engage in that year’s theme.
Carty and Mohanty point out that the siting of the institutes at a private university [Syracuse], a diverse, urban, public university [Rutgers-Newark] and a Historically Black College and University [Spelman] will provide important comparative data in the overall project of re-envisioning a ‘just academy.’
Colleagues from Rutgers and Spelman will bring expertise on issues that are key to discussions about the value of diversity and the liberal arts at this time at Syracuse University. For instance, Dr. Shirley Collado (see bio below) has served as the executive vice president of The Posse Foundation where she significantly grew the organization and managed operations on a national level. The Posse Foundation is a not-for-profit organization and one of the most comprehensive college access programs in the country. The Posse Foundation identifies, recruits, and trains outstanding youth leaders from urban public schools and sends them in diverse teams, called “posses,” to top colleges and universities around the country. Last year, Posse was the subject of student protest at Syracuse University that resulted in reinstating SU’s support for Posse students from two cities—Miami and Atlanta. The increasing social and economic inequity in the U.S. is mirrored in higher education and Syracuse University students are aware of this both in their classes and curricular.
The 2016 Institute at Syracuse will feature local community projects, such as La Casita Cultural Center (housed in A&S), the Dunbar Center, and Art Rage Gallery—projects that produce social justice interventions, validate marginalized experiences, and create radical literacies to empower their communities.
According to Carty and Mohanty, this planning retreat will serve as the foundation for an institute designed to be a transformative vehicle in knowledge production. The 2016 Institute will communicate the message that, while the academy is perceived as the hub of knowledge production, knowledge is incomplete if it does not include the multiplicity of knowledges produced in communities of which the academy is not a part.
The Institute will also examine curricular formation and relevance in the liberal arts to meet the needs of an ever-changing, ethnically diverse society. Ultimately, it is about the kind of intellectual and pedagogical project that is necessary to build an inclusive academy.
In addition to Mohanty and Carty, the Syracuse collective is made up of Hayley Cavino, a Ph.D. candidate in Education; Carol Fadda-Conrey, Associate Professor of English; Marcelle Haddix, Dean’s Associate Professor of Education; Paula Johnson, Professor of Law in the College of Law; Dana Olwan, Assistant Professor of WGS; Stephanie Fetta, Assistant Professor of Spanish; Silvio Torres-Saillant, Professor of English, and Jackie Orr, Associate Professor of Sociology.
It is the intellectual, collaborative work of the DK Collective since 2009 that has been recognized by the Mellon “Just Academic Spaces” Award.
The following scholars will participate in this week’s planning retreat:
Beverly Guy-Sheftall serves as both the founding director of the Women’s Research & Resource Center and the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College. She has published a number of texts within African American and women’s studies, including the first anthology of Black women’s literature, Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature (Doubleday, 1979), co-edited with Roseann P. Bell and Bettye Parker Smith, and Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought (New Press, 1995). Guy-Sheftall has collaborated with Johnnetta Betsch Cole to complete a monograph titled Gender Talk: The Struggle for Equality in African American Communities (Random House, 2003). She is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including a National Kellogg Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for Dissertations in Women’s Studies, and Spelman’s Presidential Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship. Guy-Sheftall has been involved with the national women’s studies movement since its inception, and has provided leadership for the establishment of the first women’s studies major at a Historically Black College. She is also past president of the National Women’s Studies Association. Beyond the academy, Guy-Sheftall has been involved with a number of advocacy organizations, including the National Black Women’s Health Project; the National Council for Research on Women; and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, on whose boards she serves. As director of Spelman’s Women’s Center, she has been involved with the development of student activism around misogynist images of Black women in hip-hop, and a broad range of social justice issues, including reproductive rights and violence against women. She teaches Women’s Studies courses, including feminist theory and global Black feminisms.
Sherri-Ann P. Butterfield is a senior advisor to the chancellor and Senior Associate Dean of faculty of the Newark College of Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers-Newark. Her scholarly interests include immigration, race and ethnic relations, sex and gender, identity development and culture, and urban education within the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Butterfield’s research specifically explores how race, ethnicity, class, and gender impact Afro-Caribbean immigrants and their children within the metropolitan contexts of New York/New Jersey and London. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and edited volumes that include the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy and the Research in Urban Sociology Series. She has served in numerous academic and administrative capacities, including a Visiting Academic Fellow in Nuffield College at Oxford University, Faculty Fellow in the Office of the Chancellor, acting director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, associate director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience, an American Council on Education Fellow at New York University, and former chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department.
Erica Lorraine Williams is Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Spelman College in Atlanta. She earned a Ph.D and M.A. in cultural anthropology from Stanford University, and a B.A. in Anthropology and Africana Studies from New York University. Her research focuses on the cultural and sexual politics of the transnational tourism industry, and Afro-Brazilian feminist activism in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Her first book, Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements, won the National Women’s Studies Association/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize, and was published in 2013. She has also published articles and book chapters in Transatlantic Feminisms: Women and Gender Studies in Africa and the Diaspora (Rodriguez et. al., 2015); Gender, Place, and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, Policing Pleasure: Global Reflections on Sex Work and Public Policy (Kelly and Dewey 2011); Taking Risks: Feminist Stories of Social Justice Research in the Americas (Shayne, ed. 2014), the Encyclopedia of Globalization (2012), and The Feminist Wire. She teaches courses on issues of gender, sexuality, globalization, and the African Diaspora, and has received the Vulcan Materials Teaching Excellence Award in 2013.