Scholarship, Activism, and Solidarity: Reimagining the Academy with the Place + Space Collective

An interview with Claire Shapton, Natalia Perez, and Trevor Wideman
Transcribed by Kaitlin Findlay

This is the first instalment of the Scholarship & Activism Forum’s zine project​. Over the past year, we have developed a collection of conversations, essays, and artworks that connect to the themes of the S&A Forum. Among these pieces, “community” emerged as a central theme. The zine will launch in early 2021.

The Place + Space Collective is an interdisciplinary academic solidarity collective based at Simon Fraser University, located on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, also known as Vancouver. The collective provides a space for members to reflect on their geographies, engage each other and with departments, and present and publish as a collective. The collective leads with solidarity for each other and works within a non-hierarchical model of consensus, friendship, empathy, and care. In committing to the collective model, members help each other navigate competitive neoliberal policies and experiences in academia. The collective believes in the power of working in solidarity across disciplines, intellectual ideas and diverse backgrounds, and hopes to inspire other graduate students to form their own solidarity collectives to enhance their graduate school experience and academic careers. 

Claire Shapton, Natalia Perez, and Trevor Wideman are all members of the Place + Space Collective from the Department of Geography at SFU and they joined Kaitlin Findlay on July 9, 2020 in a conversation around scholarship and activism. Teleconferencing from their homes, they discussed the value of the collective, solidarity and friendship in academia, and the work of the collective in practice. They describe a campaign, which was bolstered by the momentum of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, to hold their home department accountable to its commitments to decolonization and anti-racism.

ORIGINS

Kaitlin: Thank you for joining, especially during this hectic time. Could you tell me about the origins of the Place + Space Collective?

Trevor: It began with a graduate student who sent out an email wanting to form a reading group to try and get some folks together and think about broad readings to go through throughout the semester. This would have been about fall 2016. What happened was that there were various responses to that email. One came from one of our founding members, Diandra, who was like, “What if we make this more than just a reading group? What if we form an academic solidarity collective? Where reading could be part of it, but also we could collectively write, we could do other creative projects.” The idea was really like, “let’s get together and think about this maybe just more broadly than just a reading group.” 

That call went out and we organized a meeting to see who would show up. We got together for that first meeting, booked a room, and it was also cool because we were able to get some students from Urban Studies at SFU to join with us. Being a grad student collective, we were able to start doing things like book rooms for group events and things like that for free through the institution. It gave us a bit of an advantage in terms of how we framed ourselves and how we were able to get resources from the institution.

At that first meeting, I remember our main conversation was around, “What does solidarity mean to us?” And so everyone had their own kind of interpretation of what that meant, but through that first meeting we came up with a collective definition of what solidarity meant to us as a group. It was a really neat experience to grow together like that. I think that grounded us because it was a very personal meeting and we started to set some group rules. Not rules in terms of “inclusion” and “exclusion”, but the people that were there were already committed to being in the room. What we said was, “If we’re committed, then other people that want to join should be able to, but also should be able to show the same kind of commitment.”

A lot of these guiding principles of the collective formed in that first bit. That was how we formed. It was at first very informal, and it still is — in many ways — very informal. 

Kaitlin: It sounds like it would be exciting. What made you interested in joining the collective?

Trevor: I think because SFU Geography, being up on the mountain and stuff like that, people aren’t always there. At the time it was sometimes hard to get students to get together for group things, because rarely were they ever in the same location — they might be working from home or in coffee shops or wherever. So, it was another way to bring us together. And I needed a group of people to be with, I didn’t want to be sitting in my office all the time and just going there. I do that a lot anyway — I wanted to have an outlet beyond that.

Natalia: I recall all these things that Trevor mentioned. However, it seems like it happened a long time ago. I share with Trevor this idea — when we first started to put the collective together, the need that we had to connect! [Laughs] To hang out, to be together, to try to make out of this experience, of being a graduate student, something more than this idea that we had to be isolated and that we only had to work on our research. That’s so common here in the North American academy, and I guess other places. I have a friend who did a PhD in England and she complained that it was even worse there. 

We wanted to counter that. To counter those imaginaries of academic life as life in solitude, [laughs] a dry life in solitude. That was a big part of the motivation. 

Kaitlin: Claire, you mentioned that you have been part of the collective since March. What brought you to the group?

Claire: Well, I heard about the collective from both Natalia and Trevor when I was applying to SFU and thought it sounded really exciting, especially because one of the things that I was told by different grad students that I knew at the time was that you want to look at what the grad student culture is in different spaces — if it’s really individualistic, if it’s hyper competitive, those types of things. Natalia really assured me that that’s not how SFU is, partially by bringing up the collective. And so far that’s felt really true. 

At SFU, the first year you do your course work and especially the first semester, and then you’re sort of less and less encouraged to be with other people the further you are in the program. With the pandemic as well, it’s felt really helpful for me, for lack of a better word, to have these spaces of coming together in solidarity, even as my work is less and less entangled with other people at SFU. 

Something that I’m struck by hearing that history again, is also that when I joined the collective, I learned that history but it wasn’t presented to me as, “This is what the collective will always be going forward.” So, there are conversations that I know happened about what solidarity means I also got to participate in them later, and talk about how the collective thinks about solidarity, how I’ve felt about solidarity in the past. So, I think of it as something also in formation, which is really special when you join something years after it was created. 

DEFINITIONS OF SOLIDARITY

Kaitlin: Does the collective have a working definition of solidarity right now or is it more of an ongoing conversation?

Natalia: As far as I recall, we don’t have one unique definition. Solidarity is definitely at the core of what we are. Often, for ourselves, we have meetings in which we say — “Oh! What is that we meant by this?” And we go around [saying] what solidarity means to us. I think that has also been part of the conversation. The idea of having a unique definition. I think it’s also very problematic, that idea of having it super fixed. And the collective has always been about being fixed but flexible. It came in the first meeting that we had, that we would embody that contradiction. With the solidarity thing, even though solidarity is definitely what brings us together, it also has different meanings for us. For some of us, it means something more personal, like how we act with each other. For others, it goes further, it’s about everywhere, it’s about the world, global issues and how we care for beings that are beyond our immediate realm and immediate roles. So, it varies, I think, and I think that’s part of the beauty of the collective. And every time we have a member that joins, we ask that question. We had a social, not that long ago, in which we went around, talking about that. 

The other thing that we organized very early on that was fascinating was a mini-conference– Trevor, how was that we called it?

Trevor: We called it the “Strategies for Solidarity Mini Conference.”

Natalia: Yes! And then that was the question that was going around. And we invited all the attendants to share what they thought and the way in which they were approaching solidarity.

I’m personally part of a union, and now I’m part of the exec of the union and everything. And, even though my union is great, I feel that the way in which unions usually see solidarity is much more limited than the way that we at the collective see that. I think it’s more expansive here, and I can see the difference, the contrast. I welcome the way in which the collective keeps an open space for that, to be really redefined. 

Trevor: I found one document where I had written down what my personal definition of solidarity was around the time we did the mini conference in 2017. I had said, “Solidarity meant friendship and mutual support in a group. It is based in anti-oppression, taking sides with the oppressed. It has respect for difference which can make us all collectively stronger.”

PLACE + SPACE COLLECTIVE IN PRACTICE

Kaitlin: In a way it sounds like you’re constantly checking in about intention, also, of the group: “What exactly are we doing here and what do we see ourselves accomplishing by coming together?” Something that you said, Natalia, I thought was a nice segue to my next question, because you mentioned both solidarity as coming together as a group yourself, but also looking outwards to other movements or other groups. Using that as a springboard, I was wondering what the work of the collective looks like in practice. 

Trevor: It’s looked very different at different times. The mini-conference was a very practical example of what we’ve done, in terms of building solidarity across a broader spectrum of the grad population at SFU, but then also we had folks that weren’t from SFU at that conference. We had inquiries from abroad — England and all kinds of places — to come to this conference, because we had thrown it out on some listserves. We were like, “We don’t know if you want to travel all the way for this conference, I’m afraid. It’s very small!” [Laughs] But we had a really good time and built a lot of connections through that. So that was one of our first, big practical things. 

Then I would say, also, we’ve presented collectively at different conferences. One at UBC, one at UNBC, SFU Grad Research Day, I think. 

Natalia: And then the other research day we had with other departments. We have also organized solidarity campaigns, in a more traditional way. We supported one to support the Venezuelan migrants. Calling them “migrants” is per se controversial — some people prefer to call them refugees, which I think is the way they should be called. Anyways, we organized this campaign to support the huge influx of Venezuelans coming into Colombia because of the Venezuelan crisis that wasn’t being recognized or acknowledged in most of the world. We had that going on. We have also supported other solidarity campaigns. I’m Colombian, so I have counted on the support of the collective to run this type of campaign. 

What happens with the collective is that everything is very organic. We gather together every month, usually, twice a month. At one of our meetings we discuss the projects, or types of initiatives we want to put our energy on, and in the other meeting, we socialize, we just hang out, we want to bond and to create friendship also and to promote the idea that this collective is about friendship also. 

And then if one of us wants to push for something, or has any idea — we took part in a photography contest that was running in our university. It’s always very beautiful, the way in which — it doesn’t matter who has the idea, and brings it, then everyone jumps in: “Oh, I can do this!” or “Oh, why don’t we do that?” You know, it’s very organic. Whoever feels like joins that little group, that initiative. So, if any of us is overwhelmed with, like, let’s say comps, preparing for the comps, or preparing for anything, and feels like taking a little time and not putting in too much energy, that’s also perfectly fine. So, the collective is a space in which all these projects take form and then is super organic. You can be part of the collective without feeling that you have to be part of absolutely every project that emerges out of the collective. And then you can contribute in the way that you feel more comfortable. That’s also really cool. 

DECOLONIZING THE ACADEMY

Trevor: Yeah, so, the photo competition — It was a competition called “Decolonizing the Academy” that was run by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Natalia, myself, and another collective member went up and what we did was took a photo of a wall. In our department, there’s this wall of professors emerita. And we ended up taking a picture of that and Natalia wrote some text that went over the photo that was basically an apology from these men for taking up so much space in the academy for so long. It was really brilliant. At the time we got some private backlash from it from the department. 

Natalia: But everyone contributed to the text! Do you remember? And the idea of the photo came after a few meetings. Like initially, we wanted to take down all the photographs from the space, but then we realized that we might be accused of, you know, violation of private property or something — vandalism, or something like that. And then we thought, “Oh perhaps that’s a bit tricky.” [Laughs] But all of those ideas were circulating — what to do, what type of art, how can we enter into this competition. And then we decided to take this photo and to work with the photo without touching the photos on the wall itself. That was an idea that I think none of us could have ever produced on our own. That’s what was really cool. 

And also, in relation to the text, the text plays a bit with the idea of the territorial acknowledgement, you know, that’s a text that we repeat and repeat. We used that format: it starts with a territorial acknowledgement and then it becomes an apology. It was interesting for me because I see this society as being always apologetical, but then nothing gets done. [Laughs] So we played with that idea of these white dudes offering an apology and asking themselves, asking for their removal from the wall. So, it was cool. 

But then what was beautiful was that as a non-English native speaker — you know, I can write and whatever — but people like Trevor or Diandra or all the members of the collective who are native speakers, they write beautifully! So, it was really cool because they could polish the text and the text ended up being very, very powerful. And that was the result of our collective work. Trevor is super modest. He wouldn’t say, “I write super well” but he does, [Trevor: You’re sweet] he always takes any text and edits it in a way that’s like, “wow!” [Laughs]

Trevor: Claire, would you like to maybe speak to what’s happening with the wall now?

Claire: Sure. So, that was a couple years ago that the photo contest happened. And despite this really strong statement, the department didn’t address it publicly in any way, although we’ve heard that there have been some internal conversations among professors about what the wall means. It’s a very central space, I want to underscore that as well. It’s in your face, it’s something that you see every time you go to the mountain. 

Recently, we’ve been wanting to address that again and push them more. So, we wrote a letter asking them to take action on removing the wall. We talked about, “Should it be replaced with something?”, “Should we think of something else to put there?” But, ultimately it’s just important that it gets taken down right now and then we can start talking about what gets put there later. 

We wrote this letter that draws on a lot of the work of professors at SFU and a lot of citations of their work or different people who were based at SFU. I thought that it was sort of cool, for me at least, to acknowledge that while I’m disappointed in people at this moment, I’ve also learned from their work and can push them to do more. So, we sent that a couple weeks ago and since then we’ve heard that they scheduled a meeting to discuss it more. We’ll see what happens from that and what sort of escalation might be necessary. 

But I would love to go back to campus at some point — who knows when — and not see those photos. [Laughs]

Trevor: We gave them a deadline to respond to our demands, and the chair convened a special mandatory department meeting around this. And we know this because the department rep for our grad association is also part of the collective. [Laughs] 

Natalia: It’s hilarious! [Laughs]

Trevor: It’s actually a bit funny. So, that’s how we know. It was nice because we were able to build on that earlier photo contest action to push it further. That was nice to see. 

Natalia: I want to mention one detail. Our department — the Department of Geography — recently issued a statement that is relatively direct in relation to anti-racism and de-colonization, in support of both things. So, we took advantage of that, and this momentum, to try to push the department to take action about something that was ongoing and that’s been ongoing for the last two years. We saw that little crack and tried to … 

Claire: As well, for thinking about monuments — I hadn’t been thinking about it as a monument to white academia previous to June, but then I think that that cultural context also has been useful for pointing to how important it is for something like this to be removed and what it means to reify a history like that [when the photos are up].  

STANDING TOGETHER 

Natalia: Something that is important about the collective — now that we are talking about race — is that it is composed by different types of students, you know. Most of the collective is kind of white, but then there are also other types of bodies. What I have felt is that if I wasn’t part of the collective, it would be much more difficult for someone like me to say something. The tendency is always there to look at you as the one that is always making the complaint, who is the only one unhappy. “Everyone in the room is happy, how is it that we’ve been doing things so great here! And then you come to tell us that we have not? Who do you think you are?”

Instead of your complaint to be framed in those ways, what the collective does is that it creates a new space for these complaints to be framed as a collective matter. In that way, it tries to depersonalize the matter. It’s a move. I think it’s a very important move for people like myself in a department that’s predominantly white. That’s something I want to say. 

I’ve shared this with other friends who are non-white and who are part of other departments of geography that are also predominantly white. If they don’t have a collective — they usually don’t — they feel that their voices cannot be out there because there will be repercussions against them. So, I’ve been trying to encourage many of my friends to form collectives, and — I don’t know if this sounds too harsh, but — every-time I say, “You need to bring white people into your collective!” [Laughs] Because even if [only] racialized students are part of the collective, it can be a disaster for all of you. 

But it’s not only racialized students. I heard from a friend of mine who is in a different department, I’m not going to say where, that has a person with a disability and this person has now been cast as “the one who complains” and it’s been very costly for them to assume this role. So, I was thinking, why don’t you create a collective around that, also, to bring up these issues as a collective issue, as a thing that matters for all the students in the department, and not only for this person. That’s why I think the collective is also extremely important for graduate students. 

Trevor: Yeah, the idea that it really takes a lot of pressure off of any one person, it diffuses the risk. We are able to speak up as a group and not feel that any critique of that action is coming directly to any particular one of us. And then that critique can be dealt with in a collective manner as well, which I feel has also been really important. It’s like, “Oh no, we’re getting attacked now for something. How do we respond?” Is a lot easier than, “Oh no, how do I respond to this…” It’s empowering. 

RESPONSES TO THE PLACE + SPACE COLLECTIVE

Kaitlin: That sounds really powerful, using the collective to amplify. To demonstrate that something that affects an individual is a broader issue, and not just one person complaining. Could you tell me about what have been the reactions to the collective and some of the actions that you’ve taken, both good and bad?

Claire: I can speak to the most recent round of emails. Along with knowing that there’s been a meeting scheduled, it’s also been interesting to see which professors responded to our letter, which ones didn’t, and what those responses have been. It’s interesting to see who else has critiques of how our department is running, who — even in their positions as professors — might not have felt the urgency to bring those up without us. 

Trevor: Other reactions to our previous initiatives have been relatively positive because they’ve had positive effects for the department in general. They’ve gotten publicity for the department. In general, our organizing work has looked pretty good. Even in the traditional academic sense — we did presentations at conferences, we organized our own conference, we did this and that. 

Natalia: And we won an award for our essay!

Trevor: That’s true. We had written a very short essay for a group called Supporting Women in Geography, which is a sub-group of the American Association of Geographers. They have an essay competition, it was just a little three-page essay. We won this competition. Me and Sam and — we you there Natalia?

Natalia: I was there! [Laughs] We received the award. Only women. 

Trevor: I was the only dude there. Everyone was looking for ideas for how to organize in their department, and it felt great to be able to contribute some ideas. That was a cool thing.

I think reactions to our work have been mostly positive, but, again, because they haven’t come against any specific person. Going back to our work with the “white wall ”and our actions around the photo contest, it wasn’t even about those professors that are on the wall, as much as it was about the monument of what that wall represents and turning the space into a decolonized and anti-racist space. But that pushes some buttons. That’s been challenging. But maybe Natalia remembers a push back we had in other senses, I’m not sure. 

Natalia: I want to say two things. One, is that another thing that I think has been great for the collective, as a collective, is to have the possibility of accessing certain funding that would have never been possible without the collective. We got a little funding for our conference, but also for a series of podcasts that we also put together. That was through identifying these sources of funding and applying as a collective.

I would say that when we won the award for this photo contest on decolonization, what happened was that we asked the department to post it on their website. [Laughs] Our award, for our photo that was talking about this wall! I think perhaps that was a bit naive. We thought, “Oh! The department is full of cool people — critical geographers! Of course they will put it up there!” 

That wasn’t well received. It was tough. We were told that we were being disrespectful with these legacies, with tradition — I don’t know — with the important work that these people on the wall had done. And that many of them had been progressive. I don’t know. But, then what we did was that we responded by putting together an artist statement, like framing that as a piece of art and making sure that it wasn’t personal, it was political, it was about the way in which a space was being used. Which should be obvious to geographers, but you know how these things go. You might claim that you’re critical like crazy in your theories and whatever, but when it comes to your own practices then it is often the case that people don’t like it and there is a rejection of that and a backlash. We received a strong backlash. Even from people we believed were supporters of us, from critical geographers. And I think that that’s not uncommon. Not only in our department but in our field in general.

Trevor: I would say that’s true. Natalia mentioned the podcast, which is a thing that has been evolving for about two years, it’s been percolating. We got a grant from the graduate student society at SFU, an interdisciplinary group grant. It was small, but we were able to fund our podcast series. We used the equipment at the Vancouver Public Library. It was great. 

We eventually put it together as a series — it took a long time. Again, a lot of the projects that we do are long term projects because one of the guiding statements has been around slow scholarship and the idea that things don’t actually have to happen really fast. Sometimes action needs to be taken in a rapid manner, absolutely, but I think in a lot of projects the ideas are better if you take the time to let them percolate. I think with this podcast that’s what has happened. What it turned into was actually quite rich, I think. It’s a short series of four or five episodes. It will be hosted at societyandspace.org, which is the website of the journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. They’re going to host the podcast, which was a really positive outcome too. 

So the slow scholarship thing — I just wanted to highlight it as something that is a big part of our practice. Things don’t need to happen right away. People can have the time, because they don’t always have time. 

FRIENDSHIP

Kaitlin: I think that’s such a valuable perspective. I’m thinking about your collective as making this supportive and enriching cocoon for you as scholars in face of the individualizing, neoliberal university. I’m wondering — how does the university push back?

Natalia: I want to mention something — we are friends. More than a collective, we are friends. Our friendship comes at the heart of what this collective is about. Also, coming together in a formal meeting or the social — I don’t relate to that as a burden or an extra thing. Those meetings give me a lot more than what they take. They take two hours a month, but they give me hope. I have gone through — I think we have all gone through many different things, throughout our academic life — but, at certain points I have been in really bad places, facing difficulties. Through those meetings — I think that the cocoon you were describing is exactly how I feel. Going to the meetings is something that I look forward to! In that way, the relation to that changes completely if you are going to see your friends and, on top of that, you’re going to get things done — fantastic! But then, if you’re in a bad place and you cannot commit with anything, the collective is going to be there also to support you to do that. No one is going to make you feel bad, or blame you, or require anything else out of you, other than your presence. That care that the collective provides, organically to all the members is super beautiful. I’m very grateful for that. I don’t know how people can survive their PhDs without this. [Laughs]

Trevor: Something you’ve said there about friendship too is extremely important for me. I remember at the first meeting when we were talking about solidarity, I realized that it was a group of people that I wanted to be open with. We came up with these guiding principles about how people might join the collective, because there’s so much trust built into it. Basically we want to meet you and see your face, and have you articulate some sort of commitment to the collective before we’re like, “Yay! Everybody join!” Because of the personal and friend nature of everything. It’s like, “Do you want to be our friend?” [Laughs]

Natalia: “Do we want to be your friend!?” [Laughs]

Trevor: It sounds silly, but it’s also really real for me in that I don’t want to be open with some of the things in my life with people that I’m not already feeling close to. Until I get to know you, you’re probably not going to get to know a lot about me. It takes a lot for me to trust people! Where the friendship aspect is, is a massive part of this for me. 

Claire: Friendship in the collective is a new way that I’ve experienced friendship in academia. I generally think of those things are quite separate, and part of that is that academia and other neoliberal institutions have a way of monetizing and packaging everything that you hold dear. [Laughs]

My senior year of college I lived with my best friend while we were both completing theses in geography and we never talked about our theses because we were like, “That’s not here, we don’t do that in the apartment.” That’s because we were in the same department and trying to be conscious and trying to make our friendship and different kind of space. I’ve gotten better at seeing how I can bring these different things together without feeling like the friendship is going to be made productive by the academy.

Trevor: That’s cool. Kaitlin your question was kind of around how the neoliberal academy tries to push back or take: SFU can’t commodify our friendship, so that’s great. Already that’s us pushing back — [laughs] SFU can push back in a way, they can take our achievements and tout them as something that they can plug into some metric somewhere. But in a general sense, they can’t have what we have, so that’s nice. But, I also think that the push-back of — I just think that there’s a refusal in general from our group to conform to what might be asked of us. They don’t ask much of the collective, but in terms of us as individuals going outside of our collective and our work, I hope that the collective gives us some space to think about creative ways of resisting in our own work too. We can actually take on practices like citing people of colour and women, using citational practices to give currency to others that may not be given as much of a voice in other ways. 

And there are other academic collectives that are really doing cool stuff that I think I’ve learned a tonne from. Some of which are in geography, and some from other disciplines. Just some of those general practices around resisting neoliberal practices in the academy that I think are really useful.

Claire: Yeah, I’ve thought a lot about the difference between being a professional critical academic and being what Harney and Moten call “criminal academic.” I think that there’s a way that critical spaces can be co-opted, but I also think that there’s a way to exceed that and exceed those professional critiques. 

Trevor: Yeah, that’s cool. 

A SPACE FROM WHICH TO ACTIVATE

Kaitlin: My last question is a tricky one. It’s one that we’ve asked with the S&A Forum before. And it’s a broad question. How do you see the relation between scholarship and activism?

Natalia: I think I have talked about this before, many, many times. First, I want to say that the way in which many people here in North America and the North American academy approaches academia and activism as if they were separated, they way in which activism is conceptualized and the way in which activism is understood, and the idea of the Ivory Tower and the way in which all of those things are embedded in our understandings, are very problematic and are not universal. Not all academics see themselves as separated from activism, and I  think that naturalization of that role of academia is a bit tricky. 

I come from the Global South, I come from Colombia. If you ask any Colombian academic, “How do you see the relation between activism and academia?” They would say, “What?? What are you talking about?” [Laughs] Of course, if you were an academic you would do what you have to do — it’s part of your role. It’s not optional. Especially — well, not for all academics — but for academics that are meant to be critical, and that are working in the social sciences. I mean, of course! What else are you going to do? If you are in touch with communities and social issues that are so pressing, so urgent, and that require action, and you have a privileged voice which is the other thing we need to acknowledge, being in academia gives you a lot of privilege, and your voice has more authority, in principle. There is all the reputation of science, the way in which science is regarded and those things. So, in my country, there is a lot of stigma against people who are part of the left and who are pushing for social justice, and any kind of justice — climate justice, energy justice, mining justice — academia has been really important as a platform to talk about these matters and to try to deal with the stigma. So, academics often make alliances with people in the field, non-academics who are doing very important work, and they work together to bring these matters to the public debate in ways that are better framed than it would be the case if only the activists were doing the work. 

Trevor: I think in general they are inseparable. I think that the scholarship allows you to be activist and activism allows you to do good scholarship. I think they have a reciprocal relationship. I remember a professor in our department once, when we were talking about that relationship between scholarship and activism, very emphatically claimed not to be an activist. But I find, in my own work, that I don’t think they can be separated. I was thinking about how, even though I’m not a student anymore (it’s hard to get out of that mindset [laughs]) — it’s the idea that in these institutional spaces, as students, it still gives you a space from which to activate, if that makes any sense. For us, we’ve created the collective to do activist work within our department. You have many more resources within the institution to be able to launch yourself out. So, I think we draw on that. There’s a privilege to being able to study in the way that we do, and to me taking that privilege and being able to speak up is essential.

Post-script, 4 August 2020:  In the weeks following this conversation, the SFU Department of Geography unanimously decided to remove the wall of portraits. 

Other References

Ey, M., Mee, K., Allison, J., Caves, S., Crosbie, E., Curtis, F., Doney, R., Dunstan, P., Jones, R., Baker, T., Cameron, J., Duffy, M., Dufty-jones, R., Hodge, P., Kearnes, M., Mcguirk, P., Neill, P. O., Ruming, K., Sherval, M., … Wright, S. (2020). Becoming Reading Group: reflections on assembling a collegiate, caring collective. Australian Geographer, 0(0), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/00049182.2020.1759181

Harney, S. & Moten, F. (2013). The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. New York: Minor Compositions. 

Mountz, A., Bonds, A., Mansfield, B., Loyd, J., Hyndman, J., Walton-Roberts, M., Basu, R., Whitson, R., Hawkins, R., Hamilton, T., & Curran, W. (2015). For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University. ACME, 14(4), 1235–1259. http://www.academia.edu/12192676/For_Slow_Scholarship_A_Feminist_Politics_of_Resistance_through_Collective_Action_in_the_Neoliberal_University

Pascoe, S., Sanders, A., Rawluk, A., Satizábal, P., & Toumbourou, T. (2020) Intervention–“Holding Space for Alternative Futures in Academia and Beyond”. Antipode Online, https://antipodeonline.org/2020/04/22/holding-space-for-alternative-futures-in-academia-and-beyond/

Place + Space Collective (2018) Care-full friendships: Resisting the neoliberal university through solidarity collectives. Pennsylvania State University Supporting Women in Geography, http://sites.psu.edu/swig/files/2018/02/Place-Space-Collective-21zgaig.pdf

Follow the Place + Space Collective on Twitter @_pscollective

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