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:
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.