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.
Aniccha Arts premieres a performance installation inside a seven-level parking garage. The project asks questions about transience, migration, and stability in a space that temporarily stores cars and is home to nothing. Performers pervade the parking structure with their bodies, working against the visible slant of the ramp to find their individual verticality. Questions we asked in creating the work: How do we find softness in a landscape of concrete? What anchors us on these alternating planes? How do we connect across such a complex landscape?
Our story began with a conversation between two friends, Ghadeer and Sara, walking back to the university library after a quick dinner in Dinkytown on a cold evening in December 2017. Fueled by the crisp air that filled our lungs, our feet rushed through crowded pavements and across busy streets, making their way through a fog of breath exhaled by warm bodies and buildings. Soon enough, our minds wandered away in denial, escaping the painful one mile walk under the cloak of another harsh Minneapolitan winter. Naturally, we both started thinking of home: Bahrain, or should we say: Bahrains?
Collaborative writing isn’t easy. In the fall of 2017, Juliana and I (Ericka) took a class on ‘Ways of Knowing: Approaches to Knowledge and Truth in Development Studies and Social Justice’ that encouraged us to write together. Even though our fields are very different, we discovered we had a love for nature and our homelands in common. We took the opportunity to write on what threatens the vitality of our countries’ environments, and to write in a way that also reflects our people’s struggles to maintain sovereignty over their lands.
Caste, Race, and Indigeneity Collective: How does one navigate the uneven terrains of scholarly recognition within academic work? What happens when no matter how loud you speak, certain bodies and the collectives they signify are not engaged, entirely dismissed or ignored within the academy, or within dominant intellectual and political institutions more generally?
This conversation, built around themes and questions discussed in Dia Da Costa’s book Politicizing Creative Economy: Activism and a Hunger Called Theatre (University of Illinois Press, 2016), analyzes the terrain of the “creative economy” and explores its ethical implications for national belonging, epistemic justice, and academic knowledge production through the politics of academic journeying. Exploring the possibilities, limits, and risks of the creative economy across multiple personal trajectories and political realms, we offer perspectives on the creative economy as a landscape where colonial histories of violence, academic privilege and positionality, and possibilities for progressive politics become especially visible and critical.
What follows is a series of letters between the two of us – Julie and Keavy, two friends and agitators – that meditate on how we, as graduate students, step into the academic world inevitably carrying prior knowledges with us and must continually agonize about how to do justice to and with them in academic life. As we write to each other, we also write to you, in the hope that these reflections might help to remind you of the prior knowledges you also carry.
AGITATE! is excited to share with you this conversation between Dayamani Barla, of the Munda adivasi community in India, a journalist and tribal rights activist; and Cante Suta-Francis Bettelyoun, of the Oglala Lakota in North America, coordinator of the University of Minnesota Native American Medicine Gardens.