Global South Scholars in the Western Academy: Harnessing Unique Experiences, Knowledges, and Positionality in the Third Space

By Staci B. Martin and Deepra Dandekar

This book was conceptualized at an international conference on refugee studies in Germany in 2018, where the editors, Staci Martin and Deepra Dandekar, first met. At the time, Staci wanted to explore a pedagogic practice of teaching that co-creates spaces of critical thinking and hope in the classroom, resulting in social action or change. Deepra was focused on questions of migration, gender, and belonging outside the bureaucratic-administrative purview of citizenship. Their mutual interests in belonging and hope assumed centre-stage for this volume.  

One of the things strongly realized in their meeting was the need for more co-authored books by Global South and Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities that describe their experience as junior scholars in Global North institutions of scientific research, heavily dominated by the West, and by senior, White, and often masculine scholars. Too often books are written ‘about’ scholars and researchers from the Global South. The editors of this book, instead, aim to co-create spaces where Global South scholars can talk about themselves, as well as engage with the history of the Global North from a Global South perspective. The volume also intends to allow Global South junior scholars to talk with and about their communities from the inside, share stories of frustration, and discover solutions and actions to problems through collective solidarity. The editors want the volume to build spaces for scholars and academics to cultivate and nurture their own hope and knowledge and/or critically address barriers that obstruct it.

In this volume, almost forty scholars as, and in solidarity with, marginalized scholars from the Global South from across the globe (the US, the UK, Europe, Asia, and Australia) describe their unique positionality in Western academia and the Global North that produces knowledge about both the Global North and South – but now not from a Global North perspective. Each author discusses a deeply competitive and precarious academic environment in the West that redefines their identity, private lives, choices, values, and indeed their self-image and dignity in relation to the demands of the Global North. This is not limited to racism, as contributors also note encountering influential, senior gatekeepers from their own backgrounds, and places of origin, in Western Academia who over-represent knowledge production in their fields. And finally, authors recount their own resistance to academic bullying as middle-level scholars who are treated as junior, despite acclaimed publications, and the attainment of professorships, or other secure positions in their respective fields, being seen as ‘favours’.

The book is divided into four parts: Transformative Pedagogy and Scholarship; Barriers and Disruption; Between Spaces; and Cultivating Third Spaces. These sections explore the struggles and institutional instability experienced by Global South scholars in the Global North, accompanied by feelings of despair and systemic and structural barriers. They also delineate of how junior scholars ultimately embody their own hopes, and celebrate their future accomplishments.

The Transformative Pedagogy and Scholarship section delves into the ‘third space’ in scholarship, cultivated and navigated from spaces that already exist, and/or spaces that needs further recreation and cultivation. Each author demonstrates how pedagogy could become representative and hopeful, when constituting a critical space, one shifted and reoriented to answering questions about power and privilege (e.g., the contexts of historical, social, and political influences). These shifts, when accompanied by empathic responses and action, are shown to generate and strengthen connectedness and solidarity.

Barriers and Disruption explores the experiences of scholars from the Global South arriving in Western academia. The chapters in this section focus on the scholars’ evolving identity, as they navigate between being insiders and, simultaneously, outsiders to the Academy. As each author demonstrates, even as their identity moves towards assimilation with Academy culture, their choices are often considered wrong and faulted, no matter what they do. And yet, the third space created – not always by choice – has the potential of serving as a healthy space for individuals influenced by two or more cultures, providing them with resources necessary to navigate a predominantly White academia.

Between Spaces considers the systemic production of instability, insecurity, and suffering that seeks to improve systems by introducing more diversity within their fold. Each author addresses how they handle complex layers of externalized and internalized experiences, ones that cannot not be explained through the simplistic binary of North and South, White and Black, West and its other, or for that matter, the colonizer and colonized. Each author offers suggestions and actions to demonstrate how they navigated the complexity of these layers.

The last section, Cultivating Third Spaces, divulges how third spaces become strengthened to build new communities, which function by listening in and sharing everyone’s stories. This individual and community articulation generates hope, internal change and insight, and self-determination towards finding solutions that subvert systemic oppression. Each author writes of their own experience as a model or method for others to replicate, so as to facilitate the co-creation of third spaces with actionable results.

This volume was a pandemic product, though lockdown did not make writing easier. As the editors emphasized joint authorships as the strength of the volume, authors of Euro-American backgrounds desisted from writing descriptive papers ‘about’ the Global South by using concepts that were perhaps unidentifiable to the people they were describing. Each article, when not written directly by an author from the Global South, is co-authored with contributors located in the field that suffered differentially from the pandemic. And understandably, language plays an important role here. This is not just differences between the languages of authors, but languages that articulate third space experiences as knowledge – knowledge about the Global North and South, produced collaboratively by Global South scholars, and written from the prism of a history of being colonized. The editors refer to this knowledge production as self and other-making, where authors with a colonized past assume agency in the world of the colonizer.

This bottom-up approach made for different history-writing about the colonized, as well as the colonizer’s own world, constructing a different self-image for both, one that is mutually imbricated. This image is not necessarily antagonistic. The acceptance of colonialism, the editors argue, produces a meta-discourse between the colonizer and the colonized self that is at the core of a collaborative knowledge-making enterprise, demonstrated in the co-authored articles. Implicit in this is the acceptance that knowledge about the colonizer’s world always remains incomplete unless co-written with collaborators from the prior colonized world – the Global South.

Scholarship in this volume, hence, deliberately prioritizes this middle zone of dismantled histories and languages that explores loopholes in knowledge production and the power to address the Global South in the North and the Global North itself in the North, as written by Global South scholars. The authors focus on hope and the emergence of the knowledge-making self, despite their feelings of being treated as imposters in the West, and that, too, in spite of their achievements, which go unrecognized as knowledge. The editors remain grateful for the bravery, honesty, and care with which authors and co-authors co-create knowledge from the Global South in this volume as a rare third space of hope that can be embodied – a space wherein contributors feel heard, seen, and valued. This book constitutes the first step in making liminal space no longer an exception, but the norm.


Staci B. Martin. Photo: private.

Staci B. Martin (EdD) studies critical hope and despair, co-researching, and peace-building. She is a community-based action researcher who is committed to co-creating practical solutions that are culturally responsive and led by, for, and in partnership with communities, especially those of refugees. She has designed and implemented psychosocial peace-building educational programs in four countries: South Africa, Nepal, Jamaica, and Kenya. She was a Rotary Peace Fellow (2020) and is currently a Fulbright Scholar (2021–2022). She is a faculty member at Portland State University, Oregon, USA.

Deepra Dandekar. Photo: private.

Deepra Dandekar (PhD) works as a research fellow on an independent project funded by the DFG at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin. A scholar of contemporary history, Dandekar explores subjects such as gender, conflict, conversion, and migration in 19th and 20th-century India. Her current research explores Muslim vernacular history writing in Western India. Her book Baba Padmanji: Vernacular Christianity in Colonial India was published by Routledge (London) in 2021.


Citation: Staci B. Martin and Deepra Dandekar, Global South Scholars in the Western Academy: Harnessing Unique Experiences, Knowledges, and Positionality in the Third Space, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 24.03.2022, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/34655

 


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