Activism as a way of life – both inside and out of the Ivory Tower | Halas Časopis studentů Fakulty sociálních studií. 32. ročník

Activism as a way of life – both inside and out of the Ivory Tower

Do rubriky Okénka napsal Nadya Jaworsky (Čtvrtek,  5. duben 2012)

If you’re like me, a big part of the reason you became a social scientist was, well, to help society. I’d like to think my work makes a difference in the world. As a teacher, I plant many seeds – seeds of critical thinking, seeds of inspiration and even seeds of dissent – that I hope will blossom. As a researcher, I address a topic that is relevant all over the world – immigrants’ rights movements.

But even though sociologist Craig Calhoun says that the best way to practice “public sociology” is through the topic that you choose to devote yourself to, I believe it takes more than that. I believe it takes activism.

Dictionaries describe activism as a policy or practice of vigorous action to achieve an end, especially a political or social one. They mention demonstrations, protests or militant actions. But I want to step away from this literal meaning or denotation of the word and offer a different connotation, in other words, my subjective emotional association.

I will occasionally take to the streets, but my activism consists mainly of speaking to people and helping people speak to other people, especially those who might not otherwise engage in conversation, from different cultural or political stripes. I do this every time I step into the classroom, and to be sure, it’s exciting to watch the connections form. But let’s be real – in academia, I’m often convincing the already convinced that open dialogue and mutual understanding are crucial in today’s globalized world. That’s why I carry my activism with me wherever I go and I encourage my students to do the same.

Let me give you an example.

This weekend, I celebrated Norooz, Persian New Year. It began with the screening of Persepolis, a film about a young girl growing up in Iran, followed by a public discussion. One of the results of that conversation was a commitment by two students from “enemy” nations, Iran and Israel, to collaborate in a project to show that “Friendship is Revolution.”

Can these students make a difference? Well, stepping out of the ivory tower is a step in the right direction, whether toward lay people whose main source of news about how society works is corporate mass media or toward politicians whose main source of news about how society works often seems to be nothing at all! Both need to hear from us.

I’ll give the last word to anthropologist Margaret Mead: „Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.“

blog comments powered by Disqus