lurked #critlib tonight ISO (in search of) #radlibchat

Gotta get these live chats on the calendar so I plan for them, instead of stumbling upon and lurking after the fact, so to speak.

Tuesday’s #critlib chat led me to #CLAPS2016 and David Hudson’s keynote, just as the last #radlibchat led me to Spencer Lilley’s keynote address from Vancouver, which in turn led me to a wide range of background reading at my library, as I suspect the Hudson talk will as I pour through tonight’s tweets.

There is a lot to be said about either, or both. The “critical” path takes me back to critical theory itself, its limitations, and discussions about the need to push original critical theory beyond its “native” boundaries to address current and present concepts and manifestations of power and domination, up to and including LIS discussions of diversity and inclusion.

Before things get too serious, let me share with you all a photograph of my garden plot:

garden week 0

It’s tiny compared to the plots I had last spring in Cullowhee, and I only get the front half of the box. But I have grandiose plans to fill my half box with compost and rock dust, and after the final frost (a lesson I learned from last year’s experience of planting too soon), to plant a row of beets, a row of turnips, a row of okra, and a dandelion perimeter.

Back to the subject.

Again, the chat from two weeks ago drew me to a careful reading of Reiland Rabaka and his coverage of Amilcar Cabral (and of Franz Fanon, but that will be the subject of a subsequent post), one of my favorite thinkers. Cabral’s development of Africana critical theory (as described by Rabaka, particularly in Concepts of Cabralism) is itself a critique of and an evolutionary advance of critical theory, raising it (critical theory) from a Eurocentric philosophical construct with Marxian roots to a trans-disciplinary human science level that we, as librarians, can deeply appreciate and even relate to (at its foundation, library science is a social and hence, a human science, isn’t it?).

That was more than a mouthful.

Tonight’s #critlib live chat, similarly, along with the diversity and inclusion aspects of Hudson’s keynote, drew me back to Amilcar Cabral, especially his speech, National Liberation And Culture, delivered at Syracuse University on February 20, 1970, where he addressed issues of colonial cultural domination and power.  He wrote,

“Culture, the fruit of history, reflects at every moment the material and spiritual reality of society, of man-the-individual and of man-the-social-being, faced with conflicts which set him against nature and the exigencies of common life.  From this we see that all culture is composed of essential and secondary elements , of strengths and weaknesses, of virtues and failings, of positive and negative aspects, of factors of progress and factors of stagnation or regression.  From this we can also see that culture – the creation of society and the synthesis of the balances and the solutions which society engenders to resolve the conflicts which characterize each phase of its history – is a social reality, independent of the will of men, the color of their skin, or the shape of their eyes.”

Hudson alluded in his keynote remarks to the tendency of diversity and inclusion work to result in increases to neither diversity nor inclusion in the library profession.  Perhaps it is sufficient that awareness is raised and transmitted.  The presence or absence of non-white librarians, to paraphrase Cabral above, is a culturally derived social reality.  Having members of the profession flail themselves at conferences may or may not change the numbers. Raising awareness may be a temporary phenomenon, or may have a lasting effect.  Chatting about it on twitter and/or posting about it in blogs, similarly, may make a short-term or a longer-term  difference.

For critical social theory (including #critped and #critlib) to be effective in the 21st century, it has to become trans-disciplinary.  It has to cut across previously siloed disciplines of history, philosophy, sociology, political science, economic, post-colonial studies, gender studies, queer or LGBT studies, racial and ethnic studies, and cultural studies.  It has to reflect the material and spiritual reality of society, in both a descriptive and a normative way (I was so thrilled to hear Hudson mention his participation in a poetry slam!). Finally, and maybe most importantly, critical social theory that underpins both #critped and #critlib must marry theory to practice and to praxis in a harmonious, mutually reinforcing way.


late for #radlibchat today

It’s been a long time since my last blog post. So let’s do a bit of a reverse chronology…

I got the defibrillator inserted in early December. It was half a day in the hospital, followed by a couple of days in bed at home to let the outside wound heal. No more blackouts and no more arrhythmic episodes, hopefully!

A week later we travelled to Lisbon and on to Guinea-Bissau for the holidays. Filomena said the African sun would help the healing process and I think she was right. Good times with the family, good food everywhere, especially the seafood!

I lived in Guinea-Bissau in the 90’s so it was a type of homecoming for me. I have had (and continue to have) a special historical and academic interest in Guinea-Bissau’s two founders, its first African governor, Honorio Barreto Pereira (left, below), and the theoretician of its independence struggle, Amilcar Cabral (right, below).  We will return to these two later, but as a spoiler alert, my father-in-law, Pedro Pinto Pereira, told me lots of stories about his great-grand father on vacation trips to Lisbon, so I was prepped.

The mango trees decided to pollinate in late December and I developed a hay fever reaction that I still haven’t quite shaken, coughs, intermittent fevers. Tropical living. But no malaria. We have that to be thankful for.

We returned home after the holidays. I picked up a few extra hours at the reference desk, and we plowed through the January snow storm that hit the region. The big news of February was a short day trip to Philadelphia for World Information Architecture Day, and a return to the beautiful mountains for a library meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee, The Library Collective. My lightning round talk proposal was rejected for LOEX but I still plan to go in early May.

This week I gave what will hopefully be my final Congressional testimony. Ever.  It wiped me out a bit, as the questions both forced me to open up old wounds and to reconsider events that I’d prefer to be buried in the now distant past.  I was scheduled to attend the WRLC (Washington Regional Library Consortium) annual meeting, but went home instead after the testimony.

Which brings me to #radlibchat.  I hadn’t focussed on the date and quite by accident stumbled across some tweets towards the end of the livechat.  It was ok.  It gave me an opportunity to follow up on some of the tweeted links, the most interesting of which was the presentation by Dr. Spencer Lilley at UBC, “To Decolonize or To Indigenize.” I found it to be an interesting set of infinitives, and I am anxious to check out some of his other writings and sources.  But I’d like, for a moment here, to address a particular aspect of his talk.

I understand “indigenize,” i.e., to allow a formerly colonized people to return to their own cultural standards and norms, their “pre-colonial,” if you will, way of doing and looking at things.  And I understand “decolonize.” i.e., directly from Dr. Lilley, “how hegemonic systems and epistemological violence associated with hegemony can be dissected and restored to its indigenous state.”  That’s all good.  But what happens to the client class the colonizers developed, the locals who were assimilated, by culture and by blood, to carry out the colonizing process in the place of the colonial masters.  What happens to them?  They may be in a place where they can neither decolonize nor indigenize.  What happens to their cultural institutions, their archives, their research institutes, built over several generations to preserve their place and justify their existence in the colonial ecosystem?

Amilcar Cabral wrote that this strata of society should ultimately commit class suicide:

“This situation, characteristic of the majority of colonized intellectuals, is consolidated by increases in the social privileges of the assimilated or alienated group with direct implications for the behavior of individuals in this group in relation to the liberation movement. A reconversion of minds–of mental set–is thus indispensable to the true integration of people into the liberation movement. Such reconversion–re-Africanization, in our case–may take place before the struggle, but it is completed only during the course of the struggle, through daily contact with the popular masses in the communion of sacrifice required by the struggle.”(1)

This may well be beyond the ambit of radical librarianship.  But it may well be right smack in the middle of it. It brings to my mind lots of examples, in collection development, in what I like to call “meta-information,” in various aspects of community outreach, even in scholarly communication.

To be continued.


(1) Cabral, Amilcar.  National Liberation and Culture. February 20, 1970; Eduardo Mondlane Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.  Accessed March 8, 2016 at