Collective Knowledge; Collective Action

Quite frankly I was blown away by three of the readings for class this week, digesting them like an overly anxious puppy. The nature of the two longer texts, in their collective voice, was quite fascinating in how these author collectives were able to co-author texts. I was personally enraptured by the work of the Sangtin Yatra collective. The immense amount of resilience was more than impressive. One line that particularly resonated with me as it pertains to this was the understanding that their voices merge together as a “blended we” and “emerge as a chorus” (pg. xxxiv, xxxv). I find this imagery of a chorus interesting, as it signals an understanding of a solid voice, together in solidarity in the message, but in different registers; a beautiful and apt image.

The Sagntin Yatra’s coming together in realizing one another’s strengths and skills in what they brought to the group was a powerful image, that in origination probably didn’t mean much, but in the end, with a project fraught with controversy, likely added to the success and resilience of the group. This long-standing act of solidarity is one of the most organic demonstrations of a diverse cast of individuals coming together, for in the end, seemingly truly mutual benefit. Part of this benefit is too for the reader, a truly well-levied critique of the NGOization, or the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, and its oft continued marginalization of target communities.

The Sangtin Yatra collective state that NGOization has a vested interest in the reproduction of “the very hierarchies that they are ostensibly interested in dismantling (pg. 144). This work by the Satin Yatra reminded me of a US-based collective the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, which edited a volume which resonates with this text, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: beyond the non-profit industrial complex. In this text, an eerily similar quote regarding NPIC “as the institutionalization of a relation of dominance and attempt to disrupt and transform the fundamental structures and principles of a white supremacist US civil society, as well as the US racist state” (INCITE, 2007, pg. 39). More and more progressive minded people are lining up to do good, and this doing good leads them into careers within non-profits, which have become victim to the needs of a racist capitalist state that expects something out of nothing, as well as reports that line up with the bottom line for these funders. This is too something that the Sangtin Yatra struggled with. This development hegemony, which enables/requires NGO’s to “serve the interests of global capital” runs corollary to a truly progressive politic of emancipation (pg. 147).

“For many youngsters, mathematics is a game of signs they cannot play” (Moses, Kamii, Swap, and Howard, 1989, pg. 433). Much like mathematics the subaltern often believe that they alone do not possess the agency to engage in transnational conversations of self-worth. While the Sangtin Yatra engaged in the important work of telling their stories and were amazing at this power, so too was a community of color able to find their agency through The Algebra Project. But much as I spoke to before, this was only possible through a “MacArthur ‘no strings attached’ Fellowship” and that this project struggled after this five-year grant expired (Moses et al, 1989, pg. 441). Funding is often the demon to progress. Philanthropic organizations turn into philomisanthropic organizations when NGOs do not meet the prescribed outcomes that they often enforce with draconian measures. While “activist research also contains a built-in inoculations against the excess of radical relativism (‘all knowledge claims are equally valid and justifiable’) and nihilistic deconstruction (‘all knowledge claims are reducible to the underlying power moves’)” we must remember that when we as activists are reliant upon funding, there will always come a time when we must pay the piper (Hale, 2001, pg. 14). As activist researchers, we too have to balance our commitments to social justice with our commitments to the process that we are chained to within the institutionalization of higher education.

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