Editorial Introduction – Vol. 1

Introducing AGITATE!

The perspectives incarnate in this labor – those which radically survive the dredging across colonial and settler-colonial cartographies – do not belong to any place . . .  In radical vulnerability and radical togetherness, we find for each other a new kind of home and reaffirm the importance of home-making for ourselves beyond the academy.
-Caste, Race, Indigeneity Collective, “Collective Anti-Disciplinarity”

I open my eyes and see the subtle light that passes within the valleys… My name has been forgotten, erased from time, but I remember…
-Ericka A. Lara Ovares and Juliana Vélez, “Not Everything that Shines is Gold”

I saw how broken eyes rearrange heart strings/ make it strum differently/ … / I saw through deceased eyes/ how lonely they felt/ … / You told me before you left/ your curiosity when you kept your eyes with me/ In your eyes rust cried to hear every verse/ but they never felt the poetic kiss.
-Ahmed K. Ali, “أبصار”

Folks reasoned that since she refused the embrace of the earth, maybe the sea could quell her. And as she was laid upon the shifting azure alter, a deep and soft breeze rushed across the island. A sound not unlike a great sigh.
-Colin W. Wingate, “Fast and Out of Place”

My heart weeps as this gentle giant, who is too big to slay with one cut is hacked with loud machines. Portioned into manageable slices. Each branch is waiting in line … I will take today to mourn for you … Tomorrow though, I have your stories of connection to tell … Tomorrow, I have some gardening to do.
-Janani Eswar, “A friend is passing on today…”

Palm frond baskets/ she weaved/ roughened hands/ dark fingertips/ burnt from tawa morning bakings/… / Mashmoom flowers/ stories and songs/ decorated her rooms, walls, hallways/ My grandmother left/ her mashmoom withered away/ but echoes of her stories/ rhythms of her songs/ stayed.
-Ghadeer Alkhenaizi and Sara Musaifer, “The Octagon”

It’s risky to excavate the folds of layered memories, because precious things lie inside – doing second lines down Esplanade and cooking gumbo until the early morning … but really scary things lie there too – abandoned homes and deep wounds that cause painful unkindnesses to ourselves and to those we love . . .
-Keavy McFadden and Julie Santella, “Sites of Contestation”

We come together to write this inaugural editorial of AGITATE! after journeying as a collective for almost two years. Along this path, members of our group — including our contributing writers, artists, and activists — have joined in and advanced this vision and work at different times. Sometimes this coming together was planned and at other times it was sheer coincidence. Speaking with, alongside, and against each other, we are motivated both by what we share and what we do not, by moments when we sing together as well as those when we discord. We embrace the unforeseen joys, pains, and paradoxes that desires for collectivity come with.

As we begin to interweave our voices, we feel strong resonances across the pieces that make up this first volume. These resonances — across voices, verses, geographic and linguistic borders, performances, artwork, and dreams — also make AGITATE! a patchwork of frictions and fractures; of holes, gaps, and silences; and of places and times that are not transparently rendered. The words and worlds that this volume holds together sometimes appear harmonious and at other times, tense or dissonant. This publication advances our shared dream of nourishing evolving modes of being as an ever-growing community of editors, writers, artists, activists, and thinkers. At the same time, we learn to become increasingly attentive to that which simultaneously fractures our multiple conceptions of wes. For, it is through an attention and openness to fractures that a collective can thrive without stifling the individuals who make it.

In subverting institutionalized scholarship and unsettling established boundaries of discipline and form, we hold a space for what traditional structures of knowledge-making deem as tentative, disorderly, incoherent, or disruptive. Unsettling, in this context, echoes the political sense that drove the collective to think beyond institutions and norms that discipline us into a hegemonic and unilateral knowledge production. Our move to “unsettle knowledges” not only troubles the epistemology of knowing and the ontology of being, it also makes a commitment to embrace critical spatial and temporal analyses of such processes as settler colonialism, settlement, place and space, and (re)location, to think against fixity and borders.

The works we feature in the AGITATE! journal embody an intimate collaboration among authors, translators, and editors. At the same time, the AGITATE! blogFragments-In-Process, reserves space for works in-process whose messages refuse or challenge rigid notions of ‘revision.’ Together, our journeys as agitators and co-travelers become intertwined on this shared platform, without compromising our distinctive tones and textures. We commit our labors to the liveliness of critique and the fluidity of creativity that are necessarily rooted in the needs and demands of specific places, times, and encounters.

In line with these commitments, this first volume of AGITATE! stitches together dreams, nightmares, and everything in between. While many of our contributors offer profound reflections on home and place-making (Aniccha Arts; Alkhenaizi and Musaifer; Barla, Bettelyoun, Bharath and Kumar; Caste, Race, and Indigeneity Collective; Lara Ovares and Vélez; Ponce de León), others linger with grief and recovery (Ali; Eswar; Wingate), friendship and collaborations across unequal worlds (Alkhenaizi and Musaifer; Eswar; Lara Ovares and Vélez; McFadden and Santella; Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan) and the possibilities and perils of all creative economies, including academia (Caste, Race, and Indigeneity Collective; Da Costa, Nagar, and Saddler; McFadden and Santella; Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan; Wingate).

Individually and together, the works strike a graceful yet critical balance among what to ‘show’ or ‘tell,’ when to do it, how, and how much. Through the journal and Fragments-in-Process, we engage with the poetics of scholarship, with songs of sensing and placing, with joyful stories and agonizing ironies of friendship and co-traveling, all of which frustrate and agitate dominant modes of articulation and circulation that tend to homogenize affect and stifle creative transgressions of normative and hegemonic grammars and scripts. In other words, AGITATE! navigates the terrain of aesthetic decisions that are also political. AGITATE! is an insistence and an invitation — to invest in imagining other modes of collectivity for ever-forming and transforming ethics, aesthetics, and justice.

The shared labor of AGITATE! has helped us recognize that the process of building strength cannot be defined in advance. Rather it demands a frequent return to, and a reassessment of, our own commitments in varied forms at different junctures. It reminds us that wanting to belong need not become a retreat or refuge from discomfort, or even a desire for respite and rest. It is a creative expansion that takes trust and vulnerability. It involves both softness and sharpness, both motion and attentive stillness.

In such an unfolding landscape of co-creativity, any claims to a singular vision of ‘a different kind of publication’ become not only implausible but also tangential. We have come to an in-process ethic that redirects our energies away from desires for all-encompassing registers and singular claims to authority toward partial, tentative, and contingent knowledges. This ethic calls into question the values attached to ideas of expertise, originality, and authenticity.  It is guided by a collective commitment to a political and poetic praxis that is grounded in dynamic relationships of mutual enrichment among creators, performers, reviewers, and editors. Articulated in different forms and expressions of knowing and refusing, such praxis echoes in the contributions that comprise this first volume.

Honoring the labors and inspirations of all those visionaries and creators who have worked in similar agitational spirit before us, we offer the first volume of AGITATE! as our effort to embrace a search and a hope — for what agitating together can be, what it must continue to become, and what difficult paths that becoming might take. We recognize both the radical power in moving together, as well as the historical and ideological violences associated with hegemonic and dominant collectivity. We — an inclusive pronoun — can signify a nation (“We the People”), a collective (we all are in this together), and/or a movement (we unite); and yet, ‘we’ can also become an exclusive pronoun that reminds ‘you’ — the readers, the audiences, the addressees — of your displacement. Within this tension, we agitate the taken for granted meanings of building solidarities, coalitions, and collaborations, to remind all of us that we must make spaces for both dissent and assent within the movement. AGITATE! is a proof of how such spaces can be created in the academy without being of the academy.

-Rita Ponce de León, “S/T”

The AGITATE! Editorial Collective

Beaudelaine Pierre
Hale Konitshek
Julie Santella
Keavy McFadden
Khoi Nguyen
Richa Nagar
Sara Musaifer

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At the University of Minnesota, we acknowledge the support of the University Libraries; the Digital Arts, Sciences, and Humanities (DASH) program; the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC); and a Beverly and Richard Fink Professorship provided to Richa Nagar by the College of Liberal Arts.

A special thanks to Karen Brown, Nancy Ching, Shane Nackerud, and Benjamin Wiggins for all that you have done to make it possible for us to AGITATE!

Rita Ponce de León, please accept our sincere gratitude for blessing this inaugural volume of AGITATE! with the gift of your powerful artwork.

May 2019