I find sometimes that when I am witnessing discourse between academic activists, semantics are at the forefront of the conversation. Rather than concentrating on the topic at hand, there is often an obsession with calling out other academics on their language and this is important no doubt, but there is a point at which it becomes the focus of the conversation. Also, the conversations become academic to the point where the message becomes shrouded in jargon and sector specific lingo making these circles inaccessible to most.
The discourse is great! As is identifying and labelling things such as the “industrial cis-white feminist”, “hegemony”, ‘white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy” . If you are an international development professional you are bound to know what these are: IMF, FAO, ILO, WTO, IAEA, UPU? but what about everyone else? How obsessed are we with semantics and jargon and how accessible is this dialogue to the people in question who are not from this background?
“In many cases the academic maintains institutional power above the knowledge and skill base of the community/ies in struggle.” (Great article defining the problems with being an “ally” http://www.indigenousaction.org/accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-ally-industrial-complex/)
Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy discusses the importance of “ordinary language” in social justice work in her speech given at Hampshire College in 2001:
“I think it’s vital to de-professionalize the public debate on matters that vitally affect the lives of ordinary people. It’s time to snatch our futures back from the ‘experts.’ Time to ask, in ordinary language, the public question and to demand, in ordinary language, the public answer.”
Why Liberal academics and ivory tower radicals make poor revolutionaries