Moving Toward Transitional Pedagogies: The Second Sight of Graduate Students of Color in the Neoliberal University

Ezekiel Joubert III

The world has changed since the last time I engaged with this essay. By the grace of God and community support, I obtained a tenure-track assistant professor position. During the second semester of my first year, the coronavirus pandemic demanded educators of every kind to adapt our pedagogical practice. The remote response revealed the inequality at the core of our education system. Anyone who has taught during this time can tell you about the dehumanization and stratification they have witnessed. Now that we have returned to campus where the aftermath lingers, we have been asked to forget what we have seen. This happens often to those of us who envision the possibilities of the university—the place that told us we were not fit to be there, the place where we found belonging despite feeling unknown, a place anchored in the machinery of settler colonialism and racial capitalism, a place where shared criticism and action against racialized violence and accumulation is often nurtured. As graduate students of color preparing for our role in the orchestration of the neoliberal university, we first become entangled in its refrain. We play our parts, all while imagining ways to transform the tune. Another duality we learn to live with.

In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois builds on his mediation about what it feels like to be a problem by proposing that African Americans possess a double consciousness—two opposing lenses for viewing the world. For Du Bois, these “unreconciled strivings” not only engender a “peculiar sensation,” “a two-ness,” “two souls,” they also foster a “gift of second sight,” that gives oppressed communities the social analyses to observe and confront the hierarchies and inhumanity produced within society. The second sight of racial, ethnic, gendered, and class minorities has been historically invisibilized. However, the social and political economic turn toward neoliberalism, specifically in education, sees value in multiculturalism (Melamed, 2011) and strangely sometimes in critiques of capitalism (Fisher, 2009). In this context, second sight, particularly in universities, is threatened by appropriation, co-optation, and commodification for public and private consumption and too often the transformational potential of second sight is managed by institutional structures that chain students of color, women, and queers to the ideologies of corporate anti-racism/capitalism/sexism. Nevertheless, struggle arises because the desire for democracy and liberation outweighs the goals to privatize, financialize, and marketize our lives and education.

My contribution to this special issue centers my developing understanding about second sight, drawing from my experience as and with graduate students of color, particularly those in the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies (CRES) Writing Group at the University of Minnesota (UMN), whose camaraderie and friendships are at the center in this special issue. For it was their stories of marginalization and commitments to social transformation that helped me form a pedagogical vision for something other than what the neoliberal university offers. Following critical education scholar Julio Cammorata: “second sight is only a vantage point for observing injustice and does not guarantee that young people of color will attain the critical consciousness necessary to identify social and economic forces fomenting oppression and initiate action generating change” (2016, 234). Rather second sight “must be raised to a conscious level, cultivated, and directed…The insight of the oppressed is neither innate nor inherent; it must be worked for, struggled for” (Holt 1990, 306 cited in Cammorata, 2016). To say with Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study—an essential text read and often cited by CRES members—critical consciousness and social action are developed through pedagogical engagements that help students study the formation of power and privilege as well as set out plans to change it.

While studying at UMN, I met and learned with and from graduate students of color in CRES and elsewhere who raised their second sight to a conscious level, cultivated it collectively, and directed it toward anticapitalist, antiracist, decolonial, and rehumanizing research and scholarly projects. Drawing from critical race theories, ethnic studies, and women of color feminisms— approaches that disrupt the social reproduction of race, class, and gender stratification that occurs in education—as graduate students of color in the neoliberal university we aimed to develop methodologies and pedagogies that challenge the pervasiveness of settler colonialism and racial capitalism, globally. In this conceptual essay, I explore the social and ideological function of the neoliberal university, in the contemporary context of a patriarchal racial capitalist state and how graduate students of color play a significant role in its educational project. Reflecting on what I witnessed, experienced, and studied, I outline the possibilities of a transitional pedagogy, a critical embodied materialist approach to sharing and engaging with community (in and out of the university), our lived experiences, research, scholarship, and our desires for social transformation.

What (if anything) is wrong with the Pedagogies of the Neoliberal University[1] I borrow from Social philosopher Rahel Jaeggi’s (2016) What (if anything) is wrong with Capitalism, where she discusses the need to view capitalism as more than a system, but a form of life.

To be honest, before graduate school I lacked a clear understanding of neoliberal capitalism. Despite growing up in the deindustrial Midwest and teaching at an urban charter, witnessing firsthand the ways neoliberal government and governance dispossess working class communities and their schools, my education did not put forward discourse to name the logics behind this destruction. When entering graduate school, almost ten years ago, I learned that after the 2008 recession the critique of neoliberal capitalism had steadily grown, in response to the unabashed expansion and dissemination of wealth and power by the state and corporate elite. Since I was already committed to an analysis of race, class, gender formation, structural inequality, and institutional discrimination, I sought spaces for further education and collectivity.  In reading and writing groups, classroom discussions, and (non) institutional organizations, I studied with other graduate students of color the ways in which neoliberalism as a guiding ideology of the state, prevents the advancement of poor working-class, Indigenous, people of color through privatization, financialization, marketization, austerity and by defaming and even coopting radical social movements. As a graduate student, I learned that the neoliberal university is inextricably linked to the long history of racial capitalism and settler colonialism, and together they function to maintain and preserve global white supremacist patriarchal capitalism (hooks, 2000). It is important to trace this historical development to conceive the neoliberal university’s pedagogical vision. In what follows, I briefly describe this vision, layering on and connecting them to the university context where I studied as a graduate student.

Investments in the modern university have long been tied to the racial capitalist system of slavery. Private east coast universities such as Georgetown, Harvard, and Yale have begun to acknowledge, through recognition and reparation, how slave owners used their capital to help found and sustain higher education institutions. Even midwestern universities like UMN have had to acknowledge its social and economic ties to the enslavement of Africans.[2]Swarns, R. L. (2016). 272 slaves were sold to save Georgetown. What does it owe their descendants?. New York Times, 16. And The University of Minnesota’s Historical Ties to Slavery. (2019, November … Continue reading

Not so long after the end of slavery in the U.S., racial capitalists again decided to help finance the university. During the period known as Reconstruction, where the paternal plantation system was transformed to the paternal industrial system, investors such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie saw an opportunity to cash in on a new crop of “free” workers—Black Americans in the South who attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Hampton and Tuskegee. Northern corporate industrial elites like them used philanthropic support of southern Black education to establish industrial capitalist socio-economic ideology and to assist in the recruitment of labor in their industries in the north (Watkins, 2001). The use of science and medicine was an important vehicle for expanding industrial capitalism. Scientific racism—the ideology that race is a biological feature that determines a person’s physical and mental abilities—gained currency in social and medical fields, not only as a way for explaining racial progress but also justifying new forms of racial exploitation. UMN’s former President Lotus D. Coffman[3]Campus Divided. (n.d.). embraced eugenics and scientific racism.[4]While I was in graduate school, this link was uncovered and challenged by student school groups and his name was removed from the student union in 2018.  Backed by corporate funding, their research agenda was thought to provide “genetic evidence” for explaining social issues such as ignorance, poverty, infirmities, and criminality. Their “findings” became central to racial discourses and practices that legitimized racism and white supremacy in university admissions, research, and state propaganda, and to this day exists in the rhetoric of the university.

Over time, racial capitalism and settler colonialism in U.S. universities have become less visible to the naked eye. During the long murderous twentieth century, indicated by mass global racial violence, the neoliberal approach has been to minimize its role and function in the exploitation and expropriation of racially marginalized groups (Gilmore, 2002). The embrace of liberal multiculturalism is used to persuade society that the university takes a strong stance against all discrimination and inequality. However, this discourse and practice buries the university’s participation in the theft and violence against minoritized peoples, in the U.S. and around the globe.

In this anything-goes social and economic system, one which we are most concerned with in this special issue, many universities not so secretly invest in prison and military industrial complexes. As all students of critical race and ethnic studies understand, prisons are not only designed to criminalize marginalized bodies, but are also the most aggressive and violent form of contemporary racial capitalism. Universities participate in racialized exploitation by teaming-up with state and corporate organizations to gain cheap labor for constructing some of campus’ most “state of the art” buildings, football stadiums, and recreational centers—three spaces essential for expanding institutional capital and power.[5]Hines, O. (n.d.). Prison labor responsible for some UMN furniture. The Minnesota Daily.

U.S. universities are dedicated to upholding the demands of and profit from the military-industrial-complex as well. Private investments in weapons development and training are crucial to the process of accumulating wealth for the U.S. government and capitalist elite. When universities are given funding from government and private corporations to develop military technologies, they are preserving a global racial capitalist system, which has always viewed parts of the world demarcated as “third world” or “ghetto” and the racialized subjects who live there as exploitable and disposable.

Last but not least, the neoliberal university sustains itself through the colonial logics of land expansion. La Paperson in A Third University is Possible (2017) writes “Land accumulation as institutional capital is likely the defining trait of a competitive, modern-day research university. Land is not just an early feature in the establishment of universities. Land is a motor in the financing of universities, enabling many of them to grow despite economic crises.” As such, camouflaged in the rhetoric of community-based research, affordable housing development, and educational access, the neoliberal university, particularly located in urban centers, is involved in revitalization and gentrification, both modern forms of colonization, territorialization, and dispossession.

Scholars across many fields have shown us that gentrification and other systematic social spatial restructuring has always had negative social, economic, and emotional effects on poor and racialized communities (Fulllilove, 2016). In effect, minoritized communities that exist at the peripheries of university campuses are restructured spatially, such as Black neighborhoods having freeways run through them, in order for the university to accumulate wealth in terms of property and social capital.

Universities and the racial capitalist and settler colonial state engender pedagogies that are rooted in ideology and practice that deepen structural inequality and that make neoliberalism a form of living and learning. Graduate students of color, especially those with commitments to rejecting and dismantling neoliberal educational projects, face the insurmountable task of working within, and even embodying a system that is invested in regulating the thought, labor, and land of communities we research with and care most about.

Seeing Double: Refusing the Pedagogical Vision of the Neoliberal University

When I arrived as a graduate student, I was awarded a four-year fellowship that included a safe space for professional development and community with other Black graduate students. This gave me additional time to study and build community outside of the university; enabling me to minor in African and African American Studies, the intellectual experience I deemed necessary to root my scholarship and pedagogical vision in non-western epistemologies. For most of my peers of color, who I wrote and studied with, this was not the case. Instead, every semester I witnessed them spend hours, days, and weeks, applying to university scholarships and assistantships and private foundation fellowships. This was a part of graduate students of color labor, mostly because we were getting our doctoral degrees in the social sciences and humanities rather than the hard sciences—disciplines valued and funded by the neoliberal university. CRES was a generative space to work collectively to complete these applications, giving each other critical and loving feedback that addressed the clarity of context, theory, and methodologies, negotiating our commitments and values alongside the neoliberal university’s adherence to western epistemology, positivism, and essentialism. I can distinctly remember being told that critical narrative research was in fact not research, not only by some of my peers in my research courses but also officially by the Internal Review Board. Although my critical narrative study on Black rural education was funded by the university, I understood this to be anti-relational (Gilmore, 2002), in that it was setting up the conditions to replicate the market driven competitive ethos at the heart of the institution. And under these antagonistic conditions, state policy, corporate funding, and even police are the tools used to manage and monitor research and pedagogical approaches that actively refuse the neoliberal vision of the modern university.

Invisibility, Multiculturalism, and Markets 

It is well documented that students in higher education from underrepresented communities face academic, financial, and social challenges. Amongst the many hurdles graduate students of color contend with is negotiating the politics of recognition. While student resistance pushes the university to attend to the needs of marginalized students, diversity, inclusion, and equity offices and committees, with use of their budgets and positional power, initiate and implement policies that determine university response to representation on campus. This includes policies that compel the university to change its discursive practices related to minoritized groups and that dispense additional funding opportunities for individuals from marginalized communities. Despite these ongoing and necessary initiatives, graduate students of color experience physical and intellectual invisibility.

To better understand how university’s liberal multicultural pedagogy reproduces racialized discursive and material invisibility, I remember engaging in readings with fellow graduate students of color, including Jodi Melamed Representation and Destroy: Rationalizing Violence in the New Racial Capitalism (2011), adapting her concept “neoliberal multiculturalism,” to critique racial liberal responses to educational inequality; Fred Moten and Stephano Hareney’s Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, taking up the call to be “in but not of the university”; and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1942) to think through the ways in which critical graduate students of color are invisibilized. These texts and many others mentioned throughout this essay had a profound impact on our thinking, and we often concluded—bridging the metaphors from Ellison—that to feel socio-politically invisible is to actually be hypervisible to the racial capitalist and settler colonial state and its repressive and ideological institutions, such as the neoliberal university.

Since graduate students of color are entangled in this process, simultaneously challenging and benefiting from it, they sometimes embody both the representational politics and market-based solutions of the university. The neoliberal state is interested in marketizing everything, to the extent that a key part of the messaging we receive today is to “market oneself.” We understand and often discuss the uneven conditions and competitive nature of the job market. However, we rarely interrogate, either within or beyond academia, the alternatives to this framing that may not involve marketing or selling oneself. Selling yourself is contradictory and dehumanizing, but it is also the norm. Women, queer folk, and people of color learn that selling and branding your marginal identities make you and your work marketable. In academia, marginalized groups become experts at identity-based discourse, tying them to current contexts and academic trends to build the case that their research is more novel or significant than their first-generation and historically marginalized peers.

The neoliberal university creates and reproduces institutional structures and practices that make competition between minorized individuals normative. In a sort of academic battle royale for jobs, assistantships, and funding, critical graduate students of color must find ways to reflect upon their invisibility and how liberal representational politics enables the university to institutionalize market-based ideologies, which in the end reifies educational hierarchies and institutional capital.

Panopticon, Movement capture, and Privatization  

Many students of color pursue careers in academia with hopes to transform their disciplines and fields and to actively engage in movements for social change, fully aware that the university is constantly figuring out how to architect institutional norms that can help it elude social change. Malamed (2016) writes, “we might see the disgust in the continuity of the university—the fact that the institution can recognize its racial capitalist colonial conditions of possibility, renormalize itself without denying, forgetting, or restructuring those conditions, and simply continue—as registering a shift in the institutionality of the university, or rather, a shift in the dominant mode of institutionality at play broadly, in the university and beyond.” In other words, the university acknowledges how it takes on the physical and metaphorical embodiment of the ivory tower by espousing critique of how it is cut off from the neighboring communities and how it must do better at creating community partnerships, while at the same time expanding its fortress, carrying the ideologies of the state into these communities and supporting increased campus security. As a form of doublespeak, it is easy to see how the university operates less like the noble in ivory tower but more like guard tower in a panopticon.[6]My understanding of the panopticon draws from Foucault’s (1975) articulation in Discipline and Punish

Reframing the ivory tower metaphor here allows us to see the ways in which the logics of the neoliberal police state are embedded in the fabric of the university, and how surveillance technology is pervasive there. During my graduate school experience, there was much debate and challenge to campus police alert emails because of the potential to racially profile students and nonstudents on campus. The architectures of the neoliberal universities still resemble western fortresses, and its security infrastructure is not only for policing bodies but also to manage and surveil intellectual thought. The latter primarily occurs at curricular levels by tenured professors who identify with and work to sustain the university, protecting and perpetuating courses that reproduce neoliberal ideology and practice, and western epistemology.

The neoliberal university has been in the business of policing intellectual thought related to radical social movements (Ferguson, 2012). The state, regardless of the party in power, agrees that there should be no alternative to neoliberalism. In fact, neoliberals have actively defamed state socialism and other alternatives (Fisher, 2013), in order to demonstrate how investments in global financial capitalism, meritocracy, and entrepreneurship will help everyone in our society prosper. The complete opposite has proven to be true. The economic and social ideology of neoliberalism causes the largest wealth gaps between the rich and poor, white and non-whites, and it continues to direct mass military violence and the exploitation of labor and land on a global scale. Since the university values privatization, it works closely with private foundations like Gates, Mellon, and Ford, just as it did in the past, to manage and surveil the intellectual work of marginalized students by funding the projects of minoritized scholars. Many of us applied to these funders because they offer fellowships that provide us resources to further our research and because they give us the time to work and collaborate in our communities. This support is not without ideological compromise and institutional concession.

Corporate philanthropy has been long noted as a political and economic vehicle that aims to incorporate people of color as middle-class laborers or even advocates for global racial capitalism (Watkins, 2001). Since the Civil Rights Movement, corporate philanthropy has invested heavily in the intellectual development of people of color. Megan Ming Francis (2019) identifies such investment as “movement capture—the process by which private funders use their influence in an effort to shape the agenda of vulnerable civil rights organizations” (276). Movement capture is one way that the neoliberal university silences the past (Trouillot, 2015) and conducts modern forms of epistemicide (Grosfugel, 2013). Critical graduate students of color should be wary about the ways our politics, projects, pedagogies are thwarted by corporate philanthropy.

Market driven competitive ethos and movement capture are not the only attributes of the neoliberal university that graduate students of color negotiate. However, these two aspects have the potential to drive a wedge in our efforts to build solidarity with each other and with our communities. Solidarity, in particular across minoritized and disenfranchised groups, cannot be expected under these conditions. It takes the development of strategies that reject meritocracy, individualism, and competition, which are values entrenched in the structures of the university. Creation of solidarity relies on spaces to reflect and build alternative ways of living and learning otherwise. As such, counter spaces for reading, writing, and working groups like CRES, that bring together graduate students of color from across the university to interrogate the pedagogies that shape our intellectual life and for exploring our desires to work with and in community are essential. This work requires an intentional engagement with our second sight. When we see how power is weaved throughout the pedagogical approaches of the university, we better understand how it trains us to reproduce oppressive rather than liberatory structures and discourse.

My reflection in this section does not mean to suggest that the neoliberal university is totalizing, all powerful. I wholeheartedly believe in student activism and organizing and have witnessed its possibility and successes. Nevertheless, there must be efforts to refuse the politics of recognition by developing pedagogies that prevent the neoliberal educational projects that are designed to deviate from the educational dreaming foundational to critical race and ethnic studies and to silo the thinking and research of scholars of color. The process of becoming a scholar of color in the twenty-first century involves the constant labor of unlearning neoliberalism. Since the neoliberal university is in the business of indoctrinating graduate students in the ideologies of the racial capitalist and settler colonial state, collective study and solidarity are necessary for retooling the pedagogies passed on to us.

Toward Transitional Pedagogies

I came across writer, activist, and ethnic studies educator Robert L. Allen’s Black Awakening in a Capitalist Society (1969) on a random visit to a local used bookstore. I was going through my own awakening regarding my perspectives on the political economy of racism and my commitments to critical race and ethnic studies pedagogy. I am so grateful that the ancestors led me to this book; it continues to have a presence in my writing. Related to this essay, Black Awakening provides insight into the enduring and pervasive nature of capitalism and how the Black radical activism that took place after the Civil Rights Movement was co-opted and de-radicalized by corporate and white interest groups, including the Ford Foundation. Allen’s study is a bridge to contemporary works by Megan Ming Francis and Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò, whose conceptions of movement capture (Francis, 2019) and elite capture (Táíwò, 2022) effectively articulate how the rich and powerful arrest and tamper current racial justice movements. Their writings are worth constantly engaging with because they offer critical lessons on how the development of alternative pedagogical visions are captured and entangled in the structures of and desires of today’s neoliberal landscape.

I am drawn to the concluding chapter of Black Awakening titled “Toward a Transitional Program.”  Here, Allen, building on Du Bois’s autobiography Dusk to Dawn, like myself, is both hopeful and pessimistic. He writes the “masses of Black people are not going to be integrated into the economy in the foreseeable future, as the reformers would have one believe, and since there are few signs of an imminent revolution in this country, contrary to the hopes of some radicals, it is necessary for the Black liberation movement to devise a transitional program, which will operate until such time as conditions develop that will make possible full liberation through social revolution” (274). Similarly, in the context of ongoing stratification, marginalization and dispossession, it seems wise that graduate students of color might work to generate their own transitional program. A program where the critique of current formations of racial capitalism and settler colonialism is not separate from the routine demand for the development of radical theorizing and movement building. Of course, this work emerges from what Robin D. G. Kelley (2002) calls the “radical imagination.” He states: “progressive social movements do not simply produce statistics and narratives of oppression, rather, the best ones do what great poetry always does: transport us to another place, compel us to relive horrors and, more importantly, enable us to imagine a new society” (9). Given this, I cannot help but think about what pedagogies might guide a transition program led by critical graduate students of color and what praxis is needed for moving between the world we live in and the world we imagine?

Throughout all my collective work with graduate students of color, especially in my participation in CRES, I realized how important our cooperation and collectively has been to the development of my critical pedagogical vision and praxis. Such spaces for imagining, healing, and joy are hard to recreate after we leave graduate school. The “free” job market forces us to move to where the jobs are, often away from our research and community contexts, in desperation and with little say in the process. Returning to this work has demanded deep reflection on my educational development in the academy, nonetheless efforts to archive and articulate the pedagogies of the university is a necessary task, particularly in times when the neoliberalization of education is intensified through austerity measures and attacks on radical pedagogy.

To this end, I propose we adopt a transitional pedagogy, that aims to build off our second sight, that helps us cultivate critical consciousness, and directs us toward rehumanizing movement building inside and outside of our classrooms. In this, we need to assess the social and political underpinnings handed down by the neoliberal university but also the relational dynamics which we have the authority and ability to change in our daily work, as both teachers and learners. As future and current tenure-track professors, adjuncts, graduate instructors, teaching assistants, public intellectuals, researchers, and organizers, it is worth developing embodied materialist pedagogies that help clear the muddiness that spreads across our eyes, which disables our second sight from working to its full potential. In order to see what is in “plain sight,” I offer these pedagogical frames inspired by the wisdoms of graduate students of color.

A transitional pedagogy begins with a commitment to the development of a critical  consciousness. The process of awakening the mind to injustice and inequality is heavy and burden laden. Becoming aware sometimes feels totalizing, and can even cause us to withdraw from our desires for social change. Paulo Freire (2014) in Pedagogy of the Oppressed explained that there is “fear of freedom” hidden within us that “makes us see ghosts” (35). These ghosts are vestiges of struggle and resistance, the afterlives of African enslavement, Indigenous genocide, and decolonial rebellion. Conjuring these ghosts puts us in communication with our shared and converging histories, triggering our fight and flight senses, reducing our ability to engage with our second sight. Learning from these histories requires a practice of continuous dialogue. Dialogue is not just communicating, it is a form of self and collective reflection that broadens our view of the material world. It is an alternative to debate and discussion, the normative and dominant forms of sharing intellectual thought and lived experiences in the neoliberal university. Debate is unidirectional and competitive and sees the ghosts as an enemy. While discussion generally invites all perspectives, it also avoids internal and external conflict to the degree that ghosts are never addressed. Dialogue is an intentional strategy, engaging with others and the self, for the purpose of theorizing and problematizing how relations of power in particular contexts inform and impact the development of critical consciousness. It builds relationships with ghosts in order to better read the material and ever changing world.

Second sight as a pedagogical principle encourages reflection upon how our lived experience informs our consciousness. Building upon this approach and taking notes from critical race and ethnic studies students, transitional pedagogies view learning as occurring in the mind, body, and spirit. Refusing the body, mind, and spirit split (hooks, 1994) is crucial for the development of liberatory teaching and practice. Social, political, and historical relations are formed and produced through, in, and on the body. We need a critical practice for seeing the ways our bodies move across geographies and how systems of domination use the body to govern social value, and how this historical value determines a sense of place that weaves the regulatory pedagogies at the core of, for example plantations and prisons (McKittrick, 2011), the logics of which appear in the praxis of the neoliberal university. The body, as a geography, reveals how the epistemologies, ontologies, methodologies developed in minoritized community struggle are remapped by state institutions. The dehumanizing embodiments of meritocracy, competition, and individualism cannot be assumed as natural and necessary. Creating relations and relationships, structures and practices that are nurturing and liberating requires a deep understanding of our bodies and how our labor interacts with the norms of institutions.

No movement for social change is done alone. An effective educational movement brings together political struggles across geography and social identity. International and intersectional movements are grounded in direct action and intellectual labor. While graduate students of color participate in movements and draw upon these histories for their scholarship and research, there is always attention needed to how social movement informs our desires to create liberatory structures and relationships in our future classrooms. Alongside movement building, imagining ways in which we can develop a collaborative critical praxis (Case and Joubert, 2019) is crucial for educational change. This involves engaging in critical reflection collectively to advance our thinking and imagining of what is just and transformative. It is the practice of centering study and planning (described by Moten and Harney, 2013) as educators in minoritized bodies, for the good of ourselves (collective care and coalition building) and our students, some of whom cannot see us beyond our race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality, ability, and geography. It is to center a pedagogical envisioning that guides how we might work collectively with students and our communities to build an alternative and counter university.

Therefore, I maintain that we turn to transitional pedagogies to improve our ways of seeing, and thus knowing and being in the world. As we take the short trip on the path to become scholars for social change, the question of teaching and learning in the university demands an embracing of dualities. While there are darkness and shadows within a neoliberal racial capitalist and settler colonial system, as scholars of color, the ability to transition from light to dark, and in reverse, is one way in which we can transform ourselves, the work with our students, and the world.


Allen, R. L. (1970). Black awakening in capitalist America: An analytic history. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Case, A. & Joubert, E.  (2019) Teaching in Disruptive Bodies: Pedagogies of Resistance and Embodied Knowledges. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

Cammarota, J. (2016). The praxis of ethnic studies: Transforming second sight into critical consciousness. Race Ethnicity and Education, 19(2), 233-251.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (2018). The souls of black folk : essays and sketches. UMass Amherst Libraries.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (2014). Dusk of Dawn (The Oxford WEB Du Bois)(Vol. 8). Oxford University Press.

Ferguson, R. A. (2012). The reorder of things: The university and its pedagogies of minority difference.

Fisher, M. (2009). Capitalist realism: is there no alternative? Zero Books.

Fisher, M. (2013). How to kill a zombie: Strategizing the end of Neoliberalism. OpenDemocracy.

Francis, M. M. (2019). The price of civil rights: Black lives, white funding, and movement capture. Law & Society Review, 53(1), 275-309

Freire, P. (2014). Pedagogy of the oppressed (M. B. Ramos, Trans.; Thirtieth anniversary edition.). Bloomsbury.

Fullilove, M. T. (2016). Root shock: How tearing up city neighborhoods hurts America, and what we can do about it. New Village Press.

Gilmore Wilson, R. (2002) “Race and Globalization,” in Geographies of Global Change: Remapping the World, ed. R. J. Johnston et al. (New York: Wiley-Blackwell), 261.

Grosfoguel, R. (2013). The structure of knowledge in westernised universities: Epistemic racism/sexism and the four genocides/epistemicides. Human Architecture: Journal of the sociology of self-knowledge1(1), 73-90.

hooks, B. (2000). Feminist theory: From margin to center. Pluto Press.

Jaeggi, R. (2016). What (if anything) is wrong with capitalism? Dysfunctionality, exploitation and alienation: three approaches to the critique of capitalism. The Southern Journal of Philosophy, 54, 44-65.

McKittrick, K. (2011). On plantations, prisons, and a Black sense of place. Social & Cultural Geography, 12(8), 947-963.

Melamed, J. (2011). Represent and destroy: Rationalizing violence in the new racial capitalism. U of Minnesota Press.

Melamed, J. (2015). Racial capitalism. Critical Ethnic Studies, 1(1), 76-85

Melamed, J (2016). “Proceduralism, Predisposing, Poesis: Forms of Institutionality in the Making. Lateral 5(1).

Moten F. & Harney. S, (2013). The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. Minor Compositions.

Paperson, L. (2017). A third university is possible. University of Minnesota Press (Manifold edition).

Sharpe, C. (2016). In the wake: On Blackness and being. Duke University Press.

Táíwò, O. O. (2022). Elite capture: How the powerful took over identity politics (and everything else). Haymarket Books.

Trouillot, M. R. (2015). Silencing the past: Power and the production of history. Beacon Press.

Watkins, W. H. (2001). The White architects of Black education: Ideology and power in America, 1865-1954. Teachers College Press.

Suggested Citation:

Joubert III, E. 2024. “Moving Toward Transitional Pedagogies: The Second Sight of Graduate Students of Color in the Neoliberal University.” In eds. José Manuel Santillana Blanco, Kidiocus King-Carroll, Naimah Zulmadelle Pétigny, and Kong Pheng Pha in collaboration with AGITATE! Editorial Collective. Seditious Acts: AGITATE! Special Volume with CRES:


1  I borrow from Social philosopher Rahel Jaeggi’s (2016) What (if anything) is wrong with Capitalism, where she discusses the need to view capitalism as more than a system, but a form of life.
2 Swarns, R. L. (2016). 272 slaves were sold to save Georgetown. What does it owe their descendants?. New York Times, 16. And The University of Minnesota’s Historical Ties to Slavery. (2019, November 25). The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.
3 Campus Divided. (n.d.).
4 While I was in graduate school, this link was uncovered and challenged by student school groups and his name was removed from the student union in 2018.
5 Hines, O. (n.d.). Prison labor responsible for some UMN furniture. The Minnesota Daily.
6 My understanding of the panopticon draws from Foucault’s (1975) articulation in Discipline and Punish

Article by: