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Peter K. Austin
Linguistics Department, SOAS

The issues of the engagement of social science researchers in direct involvement in community activism, integration of activism with research and scholarship, and ways to ensure wider communication of our research results were topics of a one-day meeting held in Chicago last week. The Interdisciplinary Institute on Engaged Scholarship and Social Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) organised a workshop entitled "Engaged Scholarship and Social Justice: Transcending the Campus, Transforming the Academy" on 12th September.

The topics explored at the workshop were:

  1. How do we translate our scholarship and research findings into an accessible language that allows us to then engage in discussions and debates with a diverse range of communities? Can we write books and dissertations that working class friends and relatives can actually read?
  2. How do we reconcile notions of 'objectivity' with our own passions for and commitment to issues and communities? Can you love a subject and still analyze, research and assess it as a scholar? Should we be accountable, responsible or concerned with the application and outcomes of our research?
  3. How do we forge creative new methodologies that help us ask new questions and get at new insights and information? How does pedagogy reflect politics? What's the connection between what we teach and how we teach it?
  4. Where does 'utopia' and imagined futures fit into our work as social scientists and scholars in the humanities, and as teachers and students? Is our job to help students acquire skills and to better understand the known world, as well as to 'dream' of what we can only imagine?

Discussion of these topics will probably be familiar to linguists who live and/or work in Australia (and to a lesser extent, Europe), but they are rather rarer for the US, and seem to be virtually non-existent in mainstream American linguistics. It will be interesting to see if they eventually work their way into forums at meetings of professional societies like the LSA, and even more interesting to see if these topics turn up in teaching and training for linguistics.

Hat Tip to Lise Dobrin


There are a couple of LSA workshop proposals for next year that are relevant to this. The preliminary program should be up pretty soon.

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