All posts by chriskoenig125

RBA Planning & Road-Mapping

Transcribed research question:
Can we develop a definition of love that is relevant and applicable to today’s political and social moment, and if so, what may that look like? Furthermore, what is the role of the other/self-oriented types of love in modern social justice movements – how do they compliment each other, what are their distinct functions, and why is each important?

Thesis moment:
Love has played a vital role in social justice activism throughout history but rarely receives attention today as a viable component of modern movements. While many might believe love does not have a major role in social justice, the lessons of history and modern day context indicate that it does. Based on the framework of injustice articulated in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire, I propose a definition of love centered on recognizing the humanity of another person and acting in accordance with the dignity and respect that humanity inherently affords. This definition is then used to analyze the role that both self/other-oriented love has played throughout history, bringing me to a position in which I view the two forms of love as complementary pieces of an essential love ethic that should be incorporated into every social movement.

Road mapping:

Points on definition
– Analysis of “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” to establish social justice movements as struggles for humanization. This is needed because oppression produces dehumanization, which must be combatted if a community it to achieve liberation. Love, then, is proposed as the recognition of another person’s humanity and action in accordance with that recognition, in forms both small and large. In this way, love is the medium through which resistance to dehumanization takes place, the vehicle that drives liberation.

Points on other-oriented love
– Argument for other-oriented love as essential to formation of bonds of solidarity and in driving moral change. Use of   Gandhi’s Satyagraha principles and MLK’s nonviolence principles, as well as comparison between the two and what that comparison reveals about nuances of other-oriented love.

– Argument that other-oriented love still has important role. Coverage of movements building off Gandhian/King principles, discussion of sources talking about love as a transformative force for the educational system, criminal justice system, leading to an imagining of what a vision of our systems built off love would look like.

Points on self-oriented love
– Argument for self-love as powerful tool of “political warfare” and resistance to dehumanization. Coverage of how self-love has been incorporated in contexts such as the LGBTQ pride movement to demonstrate identity-affirming role self-love has to play.

– Argument for extension of self-love beyond identity-building to community healing and building. Demonstrating how strength in identity/community translates to building up community resources and programs, such as happened with the Black Power Movement, to empower the community through opportunities such as quality education.

Reframing Research Focus Based on Feedback

Link to infographic:

Part of the general feedback I received on my written research proposal was the need for a bit more specificity with regard to my research questions, primarily due to the broad nature of love and its many definitions. I originally intended to track the evolution of love in social justice movements over time to see how definitions and uses of love have changed. While this will definitely still be a component of my research, I want to focus that endeavor within a framework of comparing the development of outward-oriented love and inward-oriented love in social justice movements. Evaluating whether or not this way of viewing love in social justice is a legitimate framework, and what such a framework can teach us about the role of love today, is a more feasible goal than the broad exploration of love and its definitions.

The feedback I got during my genre modes presentations seems to support this decision. People seemed to be engaged by the comparison between the development of outward-oriented love and inward-oriented love that was the main focus of my visual, and this focus helped me more narrowly channel my information, whereas before I simply had too much info stemming from so many possible directions I could explore. In light of this feedback, I’ve refocused my questions as follows: Is a dual perspective of outward-oriented love versus inward-oriented love a legitimate framework through which to understand the role of love in social justice movements? And what can such a framework tell us about the role love has to play in social justice today?

Based on material I have read thus far, my tentative thesis would be that the framework described above is an effective way to understand love in social justice, but that nuances of the framework are vital as well, such as the fact that the two forms of love are not mutually exclusive. Love, then, should play a prominent role in shaping not only activist tactics, rhetoric, and strategy, but in molding visions for the future that movements strive toward. This is of course still very tentative and will adapt as I continue to expand my research.

Language, Solidarity, and Challenging Foundational Systems: Research Topics

In brainstorming list of research topics related to activism, it was pretty difficult to narrow it down to just five. But after thinking it through, I chose the following:

  1. The no-borders movement – This movement aims at abolishing borders between countries, states, etc. in order to allow freedom of movement and human liberation. As scholar Nandita Sharma puts it , “the simultaneous process of granting more freedom to capital and less to migrants is far from a contradiction and is in fact a crucial underpinning of global capitalism and the equally global system of national states.” Led by organizations such as No Borders UK, I think it would be intriguing to see how no borders activists seek to legitimize their argument against such a crucial and seemingly intransigent component of nation-states in the eyes of politicians and the common populace.
  2. Anti-capitalist movements – This is actually in some ways related to the above, as many no-borders activists identify as anti-capitalist. Anti-capitalists, although often stigmatized in media and society in general, have found strong backers throughout history. Albert Einstein, for example, was anti-capitalist, arguing instead for democratic socialism. Martin Luther King Jr. too was a democratic socialist, and in fact planned to lead a Poor People’s Movement before he was assassinated in 1968. Anti-capitalists argue that capitalist is an inherently exploitative and unsustainable, and a just society can only be achieved through conversion to another economic system.
  3. The role of racial and class solidarity in social movements throughout history – From Bacon’s Rebellion at the inception of the U.S. to the populist movement after the civil war to MLK’s planned Poor People’s Movement, there has long been attempts to try to unite poor blacks, poor whites, and poor people of all backgrounds in attempts to achieve societal change. I think it would be interesting to analyze how perceptions of the importance and role of racial and class solidarity have evolved over time with regard to civil rights activism.
  4. The importance of language in activist movements – Many activist movements seek to either reclaim/reform language perceived as damaging or forge entirely new language to describe the specific oppression/injustice they are fighting. Kimberle Crenshaw, for example, came up with the concept of intersectionality to describe the experience of people with multiply marginalized identities, especially black women. What emphasis do modern day movements place on language? How are activists seeking to shape the words we use as a method of in turn shaping how we as a society think about issues?
  5. Mass incarceration/prison-industrial complex – This is the topic I’m thinking of doing as of now. In “The New Jim Crow”, Michelle Alexander makes a compelling case for the present day system of mass incarceration as the modern incarnation of Jim Crow oppression. The United States, although only five percent of the world’s population, incarcerates twenty-two (!) percent of the world’s prisoners, a staggering number. A disproportionate number of these prisoners are Black, a result of the highly discriminatory nature of the escalation of the War on Drugs by both parties of government. I would like to explore movements aimed at abolishing the prison system as it currently stands, and their suggestions for viable replacements/alternatives.

Culture Jamming: Using the Master’s Tools to Tear Down the Master’s House?

The concept I found most intriguing in this week’s readings was that articulated in the ending section, “Is There an Outside to the Empire of Signs?”, of author Tim Jordan’s chapter on “Culture Jamming”.  Having established the role activists – or, as Jordan refers to them, “semiotic terrorists” – play in opposing the advertisements and cultures produced by powerful corporations and the state, as well as the ways in which corporations and the state find ways to hijack the culture jamming efforts of these activists, Jordan closes with a discussion on the merits of the activists culture jamming efforts. In order for culture jamming to be rejected, Jordan argues, “there must be the possibility that a language can exist not dependent on or engaged with dominant cultural codes” (Jordan 116).

 The response of culture jammers, Jordan goes on to inform us, is clear; “there are no areas of life that the state or corporations (or both) do not touch” (Jordan 116). Because of the inescapable influence of the state and corporations, culture jammers cannot hope “that something pure exists in a media-saturated world. Rather, [they] hope that needs different to those that are currently dominant can be generated from our current world.”In essence, by sabotaging and subverting the language of corporations and the state, and revealing the nefarious motives underneath, culture jammers seek to create a new “language” of sorts, one that is purer and allows for focus on authentic human needs and desires rather than the manipulation of those needs and desires for power, control, or profit. However, because culture jammers must work from “inside the system”, so to speak, Jordan warns that “it will always remain an open question whether [culture jamming’s] attempt to work with the tools of its enemy fundamentally compromises it as a political tactic.” (Jordan 117).

While I found the entire chapter very interesting, this concept in particular stood out to me because it reminded me of a quote by 20th-century feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. This quote stemmed partly from her experience as a lesbian African-American woman in the feminist movement as she dealt with the strong heterosexual white bias in feminist academia. Although the feminist movement had many important aims, it still, consciously or unconsciously, carried some of the same principles that imposed oppression upon portions of its members, especially those such as Lorde with multiply marginalized identities. As Lorde explained, “the tools of racist patriarchy” cannot be used to “examine the fruits of that same patriarchy”.  While the context of culture jammers and Lorde’s actions are very different, her emphasis on the importance of not using the tools of the oppressors in seeking to fight oppression echoes the warning Jordan provides on whether or not culture jamming compromises itself by working, as he says, “with the tools of the enemy”.