Popular education methodology, activist academics and emergent social movements: Agents for environmental justice (Action Note)
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Scandrett, E. (2014) Popular education methodology, activist academics and emergent social movements: Agents for environmental justice (Action Note). Interface: a journal for and about social movements, 6 (1), pp. 327-334.
University-based activists constantly find themselves at an interface between the institution that employs them and the social movements to which they are committed. The university is itself a site of struggle and contestation over pedagogy, curriculum, academic freedom, intellectual property, labour processes and political economy. In recent decades these processes have been subjected to the demands of capital in new and intensified ways. Universities throughout the world have faced outright privatisation or various forms of commodification, individualisation, labour discipline, managerialism and curriculum controls. Within these constraints however, academics still enjoy a degree of autonomy for political action not experienced in many other forms of public sector employment. For social movement activists employed in the sector, this brings opportunities (but also considerable risks, that the social movements themselves become embroiled in contestations that can serve to weaken their engagement in political struggle). Moreover, academics also have the opportunity to be critically self-reflective in public on their endeavours, through publication and conferences. The contested role of activist academics within - or outwith - the university is certainly not new and remains a perennial discussion, constantly responding to changing contexts, especially as universities mediate a neoliberal political economy in diverse cultural and policy contexts (see, for example Cresswell, Karimova and Brock 2013). This paper is a short and critical reflection on the author's engagement with attempts to use pedagogical skills and curricular resources for the benefit of social movements by drawing on popular education methodolog