Acknowledging (My Own Pseudo)Academia

Though I sometimes use academic references as shorthand or as a means of articulation, I try to remain critical of the infrastructures of academic legitimisation and status of the circulation of academic ideas. I began to use (pseudo)academic (pseudo)authoritative language to ‘prove’ my ‘worth’, to gain ‘recognition’ and ‘respect’ (of a certain kind), in order to counteract a number of daily experiences of delegitimisation and disempowerment: as female, part-Arab, Queer and with psychiatric conditions; from being catcalled and groped in the streets outside the university, to repeated racism and Orientalism in British and international news media, being rendered invisible in Queer representations, to the material realities of psychiatric conditions as unstable and disabling. Though I am also keenly aware of my privileges as a person who passes for White, with a middle-class background, with British citizenship and a British surname, as there are many individuals and groups who suffer from much greater inequality and marginalization, and how academic or other (pseudo) authoritative languages have benefitted me over the years. I know I am stating the obvious here, but the idea of academic ‘objectivity’ often contains an implicit bias in its gaze onto the object of study, that excludes, flattens and reduces the multiplicity of lived experience to that which is deemed to be of academic interest. There are of course many alternative forms of research and writing that critically question and de-construct these modes of thinking, but having just graduated from an academic institution where ‘alternative’ and ‘experimental’ forms of research are nominally accepted, I have also seen how this does not play out in reality as the underlying logic of ‘academic rigour’ seems to be still rooted in a certain forms of articulation.

The continuing need for Identity Politics (as an active engagement rather than merely academic inquiry) resurfaces in so many of my daily interactions, however much it may be dismissed by certain art critics and academics. Whenever I ask who is ‘we’ in response to someones’ broad generalization, I get a sigh and a ‘seriously?’ expression etched in their face. I wholly understand this in the context of someone being disproportionately pedantic (when you know the person is aware of the context and has given qualifiers), or using it as a performative demonstration of their apparent knowledge in a public lecture setting, but it is still important to insist and not be apologetic, or reclaim as Sara Ahmed calls it being a ‘killjoy’ (as one of the many dismissive remarks that people raising issues of identity politics get). It is important to continue irrespective of other peoples social reactions, to continue to be angry and not be censored by social norms, whilst being self-reflexive of the interpersonal dynamic (though to be honest, I am thinking here of white cis men sermonizing, raising their voice, interrupting other people, mansplaining marginalization to the marginalized, and instrumentalising their ‘knowledge’ to uphold an unequal power dynamic and most likely being completely unaware of it).

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