I tweeted out this quote from a response to a Hypothes.is annotation of mine (check out this month’s article on healing and trauma in the classroom btw):
— ℳąhą Bąℓi, PhD مها بالي 🌷 (@Bali_Maha) October 31, 2018
The idea of Taylor saying “more Bali (i.e. global perspectives)” made me first of all, really proud…but later also really pensive…and thank you Taylor for using me as an example…and for making me think deeper about this.
Yes, we all need global perspectives
Of course we do. Whether they have immediate benefit or not. One of the things I absolutely hate is reading research done in a v narrow context and authors concluding “even though our sample was [insert v narrow non-diverse sample] we expect our results to resonate [insert absurd universality]”. Similarly, any team of people aiming to make change for a wide range of people who have none of those people on their teams cannot possibly achieve this properly. They may do research and try to imagine, but nothing beats equitable participation from start to finish.
Yeah… I'm not sure what it will take to get folks to realize that diversity matters. Not in some fluffy feel good way but like a hard built in your product kind of way.
You can't build a tool with dreams of equity for all and then design with perspectives from only a few.
— Autumm Caines is a liminal space (@Autumm) October 31, 2018
But…we also need local perspectives
However – local matters. Every global South scholar knows that all the global scholarship is enriching, but sometimes you need to focus local and construct local knowledge…which brings me to…
Who has the privilege to choose to have global or local perspectives
Those of us (at least English speaking educated people especially academics) NOT in the global centers (aka US and to a lesser extent Europe) are, by default, “global”. We cannot be otherwise. The definition of what it means to “be” educated, intellectual, scholarly entails English fluency, familiarity with scholarship coming from English-speaking countries in English-language journals under control of the publishers and editorial boards from…yeah..you got it…that part of the world. What comes out of our part of the world is…less. Less recognized. And you either follow the dominant standards or your approach is seen as less scholarly, less rigorous…the works.
But if you are in the US, your career will survive completely even if you never read a single article by someone not from your culture, not in your language.
For global South scholars, our local perspectives will always be slightly informed, influenced or even colonized by the Western perspective. Resisting this is a huge effort. Specific to me: I read Arabic fluently but reading academic Arabic is extremely difficult for me. Thankfully (ha?) lots of important local scholarship is published in English. Sigh.
Would a journal accept my article if it had ZERO references by Western canon?
But would a journal ever reject an article for lacking diversity of references? Huh?
Case in point: all the horror stories on indigenous people that had 100% white speakers.
Another case: a CfP about inclusion/equity in edtech that cited exclusively white male authors.
Can someone from US have a career while never attending a conference in a different country keynoted by someone from a different country?
Now can an Egyptian scholar have a career like that?
Who bears responsibility to make the effort for global perspectives to be heard?
By now, I will stop referring to global from both perspectives. I will follow the spirit of Taylor’s comment. I believe he meant “we (Americans?) need to (listen to?) perspectives of Others”.
The fact that he chose my name per se signaled something significant that I don’t think he intended. And it is this: the reason my name comes to mind for some people is what a friend once said about me as the “token international”. And this is nobody’s fault, really, but it needs reflection.
Thinking about the guilt I carry by being a loud voice in my community (niche open ed and digital pedagogy and edtech) comes from my knowledge that many others do great work in these areas but are less heard than me. I am heard because I play the game. I blog, I tweet, I publish, I f*%$ing invade conferences with Virtual keynotes and presentations and conversations and I join and initiate collaborations and I speak that language and I build those relationships. So you can all *see me* and you can all *hear me*. And I write and speak in ways that bridge the local and global so that you can *understand* and *value* what I am on about. I perform. All the time. I took it upon myself to live this way. But global South voices should not need to do all of this to get noticed.
There is so much wrong with how academic reputation works that works against global North scholars feeling like listening to and incorporating global South voices is necessary, required, or even desired in recognized ways.
I do not call it “diverse” if I keynote a conference that has 5% or less minorities of any visible kind (total) present.
Whose fault is it that global perspectives are not heard?
I am not saying anything earth shattering here. But, just for clarity
- Structural inequalities baked into academia prevent global South voices and scholarship from gaining prominence. Where conferences are held, how expensive registration is (as if travel alone wasn’t a deal-breaker), who is constantly chosen to speak at plenaries. What if journal quality was measured by how international its authorship was? How would that affect editorial board diversity? What if conferences were not allowed to be called international unless 40% of participants came from more than 10 other countries? How would this work financially?
- Individual scholars can resist this by actively seeking out obscure work by global South scholars. It will take longer to find, they may be harder to read and understand…but once there, it opens a whole new world…and you can cite them. Heck, I am a global South voice and I am very intentional about citing minorities of different kinds regularly in talks and writing. And yes, I cite myself because sometimes I have said something before…but to a different audience…sue me.
- Global South scholars can help themselves and each other. So many ways to resist together
What do “global” people do?
I have been told that MozFest is among the best at fostering equity. Already, they offer loads of travel stipends which presenters can apply for. They have large signs onsite about community guidelines and what do if they are breached. The team of people working on Mozilla Open Leaders and those chosen to be mentored is extremely diverse. The requirements allow for diverse financial and technical abilities. So so rare in a tech environment, even within open culture. I know there were other strong Arab and Muslim and POC voices there and even though I could not go this time, I am pretty sure it was quite a diverse conference all in all.
So anyway. I need to publish this post, and I want you to think of this (particularly if you are global North, as the majority of my audience is…uhhhh). How much effort did I make for you to be able to listen to me? And how much effort did you make? Can you make more effort to listen to more people *like me* (or at least *not like you*) in terms of profile and background but who are not as active in channels you already frequent? Is it worth it? What do you need to do differently in your practice to make yourself more actively and intentionally hospitable towards this?