Tuesday, March 11, 2008

i'm only in the first chapter of conquest

but i appreciate dr. smith's style of writing so much.

i'm a little scared of group blogs because that's when the self-conscious part in me comes out to play. am i going to know what the others are talking about? will my writing sound stupid?

the reason i feel really connected to smith's writings is not only because of the subject matter of colonialism and struggle but because she writes in a way that's accessible to people. everyday people you see and know. people you eat with, drink with. people who live at the intersections of many -isms.

so many times with oppressed communities, at least from what i've experienced in the disability community, you have to prove yourself so much to the other people in the classroom, workplace, or organization that the mindset gets to be a competition for who can sound the most intelligent. an organization i work with made intellectual [words, thinking] accessibility a priority last year and it amazed me how controversial this actually was. a lot of members were offended with us revising documents to be on an eight grade level and taking the time to explain what words and acronyms meant. at that moment, i felt like i really understood what internalized oppression meant as people were more worried that they wouldn't be taken seriously as an organization or individuals instead of making their organization more accessible to their own people (and this is a disability organization so it was all people who wanted wheelchair accessible hotel rooms, alternative materials, ASL, but then didn't want to make it intellectually accessible so other people could participate).

i understand that people write for themselves, in fact i do, too. i understand that people love words and language and putting sentences together. me too. i defintely definitely get that. still there is a boundary between the love of writing and using big words to overcome a part of you (i.e. i might have a disability BUT i can talk so eloquently! or so and so might be latino BUT he's soooo damn articulate!). writing (especially and obviously in the academy) inaccessibly can be used just to appropriate a message and use it for individualist capitalist gain. so what is the purpose of writing if it is used this way? i mean how many people do you know, or at least in the academic world, that just love to hear the sound of their writing--- not writing from their heart, a message they believe in, or the ability they believe they have to reach people, but just the sound of big intellectual words?

it infuriates me and scares me that because smith wrote for people and not necessarily for the academy or the "ivory tower" she was denied tenure. what is the purpose of knowledge if it is to stay inside and only be used to discuss the "others"? finally, someone who gets us and is one of us and even writes in a way that includes us and she is disrespected and denied what is hers.

i think i finally understand the importance of tenure and it's breaking my heart to realize that we live in a society that dismisses people who write for people and celebrates the beauty of what often is just intellectual arrogance.


Tigera Consciente said...

i can't wait to get this started, and what a great note to start on! it was a scary thing for me when at some point i found myself caught up with the process and not the purpose of learning in academia. and i found that this form of "competition" to 'sound the smartest' or 'publish the most articles/books' was such a male-centric competition.

I think this is what happens when we become disconnected from our (authentic) selves and the people- and therefore the purpose. You've coined the term just right: "Intellectual ARROGANCE!"

Nadia said...

great post! i HATE the masturbatory writing style that is so full of complex words you have to have a phd to understand it. i love the quote from andrea smith in her interview in critical moment (www.criticalmoment.org), "don't underestimate what people will understand." this was refreshing to me because sometimes i feel like non-academics aren't given enough credit. she still uses complex words and descriptions but i feel like she places it in more of a context with the words around it.

like erykah badu says, what good do your words do if they can't understand you?

Aaminah said...

It's funny you would mention this because one of the things that has kept me from reading alot of feminist stuff is the fear that it will be over my head (not the only reason of course). And you're right, this book is pretty human rather than academic; it's very emotional for me to read it.