Author Archives: Janan Shouhayib

“Reflect, Recharge, Continue to Resist”

Readings (sent via email):

  1. Nicol, D. J., & Yee, J. A. (2017). “’Reclaiming Our Time’: Women of Color Faculty and Radical Self-Care in the Academy,”  Feminist Teacher , Vol. 27, Nos. 2-3 (2017), pp. 133-156. 

Please use the following prompt to guide you in your blog post:

Using any format (an image, a single word, a poem, etc.), please share 1 thing that epitomizes your Spring 2021 semester and 1 thing that epitomizes how you’re feeling right now.

We look forward to hearing your responses and synthesizing together!

Keshia & Janan

How to find creativity, radically imagine, and re-remember in an industrial complex? (Janan)

What happens when 
we organize our beliefs?
The more we say them, the more marshmallow they sound.

Do we believe in them any more?
Where can I find new words?
Center for X
Where can I use wild words to say what I mean, 
to find a new divine? 
to imagine a difference.
And do they have to be in English?

Language is clunky.
My favorite words no longer describe. I know them too well.

What happens when the cause that martyred my grandma becomes my research interest?
Everything is sliced and packaged,
and I have no words
Except relevant experience.

Chronology, Temporality, Linearity (Janan)

The (essential) distinction between settler colonialism and the colonialism that was made in Tuck and Yank’s introduction encouraged me to question the chronology of learning. For example, so often in our graduate level courses, my class and I are constantly unlearning and discovering the depth of knowledge we have to unlearn. It feels challenging to imagine an education system where the primary exposure one has to education was more critical and the “first learning then unlearning” chronology wouldn’t be so convoluted.

This feels connected to conversations we’ve been having in the previous weeks about queer studies and ethnic studies departments being tucked away in other disciplines. What does an institution look like structurally when liberatory, truthful, critical, indigenous knowledges are made a central crux of the general curriculum?

The authors’ below quote invited me to question that further:

“Decolonizing studies, when most centered in Indigenous philosophy, push back against assumptions about the linearity of history and the future, against teleological narratives of human development, and argue for renderings of time and place that exceed coloniality and conquest.” (xiii)

I’m so intrigued by this connection between temporality/linearity and indigenous/queer knowledges and hope we can discuss further! 

The Signals/Symbols We Give Students (Janan)

These were really great articles/podcasts/links! 

In Rivera and Nadal’s chapter, I was prompted to think about the different structural symbols that are given to students. For example, if an LGBTQ+ center was located in a basement, inaccessible, what would this tell queer students? The chapter encouraged me to consider environmental and structural cues that can play a huge role in making schools genuinely inclusive. I first thought of this when the authors were describing how course offerings can send overt and covert messages about which fields “belong in the family,” or are relevant to queer studies. This made me reflect on two examples from my undergraduate institution. 

First, I was a Psychology major, and while the issues of traditional psychology (therapy, personality theory) were what initially enticed me, I became exhausted by the lack of social context/political relevance taught in my courses. I eventually found out that the Human Development department taught courses on critical psychology and individuals in context. My eventual advisor was in the Human Development department, which houses the Education department, even though he has his PhD in Psychology. I found out later how problematic the Psychology department was, but it was wild to me how I had to leave my own department to study Psychology critically. I would have completely missed that if I stayed taking courses in my own hub. This makes me think about all of the queer and trans students and students of color who may have majored in Psychology who were systematically excluded from hearing their own narratives in class and were taught a “one sized fits all” model when talking about Psychology. I now fully realize the violence of this.

The second example is also from my college. Much of our student body majored in Economics – a lot of the student body was very wealthy, so it makes sense they may want to study finance. There were discussions I heard from my friends who were Economics majors, who were mostly studying things like global poverty, urban development, and neoliberalism, who were saying that there was a push in the Economics department to make two “tracks” in the major – one focused on Finance, and one focused on “Social Economics.” There was violence in this decision too – so many students studying economics would completely miss out on understanding how economic systems can perpetuate global poverty and systems of oppression. 

This article in particular encouraged me to think about the signals we give students, while designing a course or a syllabus. I loved how the chapter ended by encouraging work to be interdisciplinary, showing that queer studies is truly relevant to all. There’s a place to speak critically about social issues in every discipline, and I’m curious in seeing how this can be done particularly outside of the Humanities, such as in STEM, where I see a lot of this hesitance. 

Rehabilitative, Socialist Education: Week 9 (Janan)

Gilmore’s conversation with Scahill made the relationship between anti-capitalism and anti-racism inseparable, which she first attributed to her childhood and her family’s multigenerational labor struggle. This link seems to be easier to grasp as someone disenfranchised by the fangs of capitalism, so my question is: what are strategies to support anti-racist, anti-capitalist work in mostly economically privileged circles (such as many higher ed spaces)

>> I think about this a lot and would love to brainstorm with a collective. From what I’ve been seeing during social movements of the pandemic is a kind of slacktivism where a lot of my social media acquaintances (who mostly come from my mostly wealthy liberal arts college) will “spread information” on their profiles to “show support.” Things like “top 10 ways you can support x communities” infographics or profile banners that say “Black Lives Matter.” I feel complicated about such things – sure, they can be helpful, but they can also be sanctimonious. I believe in the power of knowledge but I don’t believe it more in the power of wealth distribution, which I wish would happen in its place. I also think there is a substantial lacking among wealthy classes of grasping how the legacy of slavery/colonialism in the United States directly disenfranchised communities of color nowadays and how American meritocracy is a facade and that ignorance directly inhibits anti-racist work that is intertwined with socialism. I wish our education system would be able to fill in these gaps, to contextualize history & to redistribute resources to students. 

What are ways that we can introduce rehabilitation into our school systems in order to reduce harm and support students?

>> When I think of this, I think of initiatives for higher education within prisons – I think because the idea of rehabilitation is often linked to alternatives to prisons. I watched a documentary about Bard Prison Initiative, a program that educates incarcerated people at a Bachelor’s level, at a previous internship and was amazed by the amount of support (professionally, financially, emotionally, socially) it provided for individuals re-entering society. I also think of pedagogical strategies that give space to students whose social positioning/personal lives may affect their presence in class – for example, Matt’s chapter on poor queer mothers. At a structural level, I think of sufficient health care and leaves for teachers and student loan forgiveness. I would love to keep thinking about this. 

How can Bambara’s model of a “very little academic distance” between teachers and students be employed to affect students’ mental health and students’ learning beyond academics (e.g. social consciousness and liberation)?

>>I loved Bambara’s work and was inspired by the ways that it made education seem holistic, active, and connecting. It made me think about how a lot of educators act as authoritarians, particularly with communities of color (I’m having flashbacks to the powerful Simon Says spoken word). It seems that education, like social science, has a fear of the subjective/personal, creating boundaries between students & teachers/administrators. It seems like the more this wall dissolves, the more education can affect the lives of students. Bambara’s work made me also think of the idea of neutrality in schooling (like in social science) and the ways that breaking through that standard can affect restorative justice, support students, and create educational pathways that are actually rehabilitating. 

Poor Queer Studies Ch 4: Semantics, Personal/Political, and Physical Distances from School (Janan)

The fourth chapter of Poor Queer Studies truly blew me away; it was rich and thoughtful, and I found myself connecting many sentences to wildly different personal experiences I’d had and I wanted to use this space to air some of them out.

: this chapter reminded me a lot of Ahmed’s work and attention to words, especially in relation to justice. The first time this struck out to me was when it was written that “these students can’t invite dates inside their own homes. But their mothers are not homophobic.” I was taken aback but his quote, especially thinking about our immense failure as a country in naming racism and homophobia. But this example seemed different and nuanced the ways that words are related to lived experiences and our understanding of concepts like queerness. It also made me think about how the word queer has crossed linguistic lines. For example, in Arabic, many queer activists have pushed to find an equivalent of the word queer in English, hoping to move away from homophobic translations in the Arabic language. Such words have the power to create space but also invade space. I also really enjoyed the anecdote about spelling and the multigenerational education and creative, spontaneous Poor Queer Studies pedagogies.

: of course this is a common topic of conversation in spaces with similar commitments to our classes. I loved the tunchz quote that opened up readers to the connection between both worlds. I felt that the chapter spoke in very specific  examples about how the personal/political link affects one’s educational development. For example, the idea that many young women, especially queer women and women of color, may value education for their ability to exercise autonomy. This example reminded me of how a lot of my peers in Lebanon will view education globally, leaving the country to get a graduate education but more importantly, to emigrate. This topic has encouraged me to think about education not only as a means of individual intellectual/professional growth, but the ways that it is linked to community/cultural values. I truly hope that our educational systems can think deeply about how students’ personal lives are deeply related to their academic success.

Commuting/dorming college: relatedly, I  was interested in the class dynamic underlying commuter colleges and the way the commute can create the same sense of autonomy and psychological/physical distance that (I think) youth need to feel. It’s interesting when thinking about this topic because I’ve been debating how the pandemic, which caused many millennials to move home temporarily, made me question the relationship between American families and multigenerational homes (of course, class matters a lot here). Additionally, in Zoom courses, this distance is gone again for many low-income students, who may be uncomfortable talking about specific topics while their parents are in the same room. This also reminded me of a video I saw about a week ago which explained that dorming colleges are such a cherished part of typical American youth experiences because they give individuals a sense of community, social network, and a safety net that our neoliberal society has not afforded us.

I have a lot of thoughts on this chapter (clearly), but I’m grateful it probed me to think more expansively of how our systems are set up and how to effectively queer them. 

Is there a relationship between introspection and fighting racist systems? (Janan)

I distinctly remember sitting with my two roommates last March, in grief and in shock about the state of the world, wondering if the mandates to stay at home, isolated and indoors, would inflict some sort of worldwide introspection at a deep level. 

While may be take much time before any of us realize the extent in which the pandemic has affected us psychologically, one thing that I have just begun to realize is how much lays beneath the surface. As a psychologist, I’m mostly interested in “what lies beneath the surface” in emotional/conscious ways. 

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been thinking a lot about repression, not just individually, but on a scale of societal structures. As someone raised in the United States, I have begun reflecting on how much accepted, internalized, and neglected in our mainstream culture. There are so many unspoken rules and norms (and of course, spoken ones, too). 

The readings of this week allowed me bring my interested in the subliminal to my curiosity for higher education and structures of inequality. I was particularly interested in the infographic on characteristics of white supremacy culture. So many of these characteristics were deeply psychological: defensiveness, fundamental attribution errors.

This may be a big leap, but the conversations in these articles made me question the role that internal reflection may have on healing a racist society. 

This is not at all to say that white supremacy is merely caused by unresolved psychological issues – I don’t think that’s the case, but I wonder the ways that our inability to connect with others collectively, untangle trauma, take ownership emotionally, and work toward healing have affected our unjust systems. More importantly, I’m curious about the ways that resolving these internal issues can help us bring about a more inclusive society. 

Semantics of DEI Work/Gaslighting the Oppressed (Janan)

I enjoyed the Brian Lehrer show’s interview because it gave me a new framework to engage with the issue of inclusion work in diversity. I’m realizing more how linked it is to the gaslighting of people of color (particularly women of color) working in academic spaces. Lehrer mentions that DEI work often falls disproportionately on faculty/staff of color, even though they make up a minority of positions in universities. This is what I’m connecting to gaslighting.

This pattern effectively treats DEI work as POC issue that needs to be solved by people of color, rather than a pervasive system with history legacy and widespread detriments. I see the connection to language here as well. For example, “cultural sensitivity” is a phrase used by so many professionals, such as academics and therapists, and it’s used to convey a commitment to DEI. However, even the word sensitivity in itself implies a sensitivity (read: over-sensitivity) of those (read: poc/woc) who may comment on their experiences of racism. I’ve seen a switch by critical scholars to push for the phrase “critically conscious” instead. I like how this shift puts the accountability on those in power, demanding a consciousness that is informed and inclusive, rather than gaslighting those who may be “over-sensitive” to racism (and sexism and ableism, etc). 

Sub/conscious Forgetting or Liberal Empty Accountability?

I wanted to highlight a specific line from Harris’ article: 

“Americans learning today of the relationship between universities and slavery respond in differentt ways, but the most common response is simple surprise. This response bespeaks many things, not least the nation’s continuing failure to come to grips with slavery’s scope, scale, and historical significance.”

This line encapsulates so much about how racism is DEEPLY baked into our society and consequentially our educational systems. Harris emphasizes the reach of slavery while also referring to the historical amnesia of Americans who use the notion that slavery was “in the past” as a way to forget (both consciously and subconsciously) its lasting damage. I’m thinking Gone with the Wind. 

It’s clear that non-Black Americans typical resolve slavery as an issue of history that we’ve overcome, not seeing its connection to our capitalist organization. This becomes clear when people argue against things like reparations or affirmative action, showing that they see education as an equal playing field rather than acknowledging how slavery’s oppression of Black communities has multiple descendants that disadvantage Black communities in education, healthcare, social mobility, and more. 

It is clear that the United States has this amnesia, but with reading about universities’ public acknowledgements/apologies of their complacency, it makes me question whether insincere/empty apologies are any better all, or perhaps even more harmful. It’s frustrating that some of the most elite schools are at the forefront of this conversation.