On Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m., the School of Education Building room 120, held the event “Queer Crossroads,” to discuss the intersections and divisions between queer activism and queer theory.
Sponsored by UNCG’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program and UNCG’s Queer Student Union, a crowd of about 30 people filled the auditorium, as panelists Zac Johnson, Morgan Carter, Carly Springs and Caitlin McCann began the panel discussion.
The primary question the panelist discussed was: “How can academic work focus as activist work and how do they inform each other?” The subject of how identity politics influence activism and academic pedagogies, as well as how academia and activism are often at odds and inform each other, were also questions panelists touched upon.
McCann first addressed these questions, and said, “Well, for me personally, where I bring in my activist work is through creative writing. And I don’t see that as, definitely bridging the gap between queer activism and queer theory in academia. But, I see it as a way to, sort of contextualize queer theory and make it applicable into a more mainstream audience… Creative writing as a form of activism can be useful for people with like, a lot of issues with anxiety, and like, maybe don’t feel as comfortable being out there, like on the ground, doing activist work that way. And that’s how I view academia and activism in that same way.”
Springs then said, “In my experience in activism work, I don’t think I’ve ever really seen much of a divide between academia and the goals and how organizers are planning like, future movements, and things like that. But I do think, that there is, apparent privilege in being in academia that I think is often not addressed… And I think that, while higher education is, and has been, historically inaccessible to many people that activism is trying to build community with, it’s something that, all the different struggles have been addressed; and, it is hard to address in the structures of the white supremacy in colleges we’re working with. But I think there has been a lot of work through students and activists, to really have these deep conversations.”
In turn, Carter responded, “I think it’s just stupid as anything, to try to put activism and academics in two separate categories, because the two fit so well together. And — coming from a discipline like WGS that is so interdisciplinary — [it’s important to] understanding that, activism and academics are present in everything that we do. I think, personally, I haven’t experienced any dissonance between activism and academics myself. But, I have seen resistance for trying to make activism too academic. Which, I think is very interesting, because when people say they don’t want to talk about things so in-depth, or they want to make activism accessible to all people, they don’t understand that, just trying to dumb it down or simplify it to encompass all people, is really just excluding those people, because they’re not adding that complexity to their argument, and they’re not trusting the intelligence of the activists.”
Johnson then concurred, “Resisting complexity and not wanting to get into these deep messy conversations, happens a lot. This happens because; these deep conversations do not work well for fundraising… For me, I just think that there are a lot of different ways that people can contribute to resistance projects. And for me, academic writing has been a way that makes me feel like I am contributing to a larger project overall, that’s about queer resistance, queer liberation and using queer theorists for me, has been really liberating in relation to how I see myself, and how I see myself in relation to the larger queer community. So, I think, academic work is definitely hierarchical, and, as Carly said, has a lot of problems about people not being recognized. For example, there’s this idea that you can’t have an intelligent thought unless you have a PhD or an MA behind your name, and I think those are definitely perceptions that need to be addressed.”
Discussion between panelists continued, until the event formally closed at 8:45 p.m.
Ultimately, what consensus was reached among both the activist and academic panelists, was that in order to form a successful queer politic, the ivory divide between academia and activism must be bridged, and that academe and activism must work side by side in order to do so.