I am collaborating with several organizers for the Ohio Student Association (Malaya Davis, James Hayes, Stuart McIntyre, Molly Shack) and fellow geographers Guillermo Bervejillo and Meredith Krueger (both founding members of OSA, now grad students at UBC and UW respectively) on an action-research project in 2015-2016. We just received news that the project is supported by the Institute for Human Geography, publisher of Human Geography. I’ve adapted the following short description of the project from our successful application.
The action-research project – Breaking Consent, Making Space for Racial and Economic Justice – aims to create spaces of collective subject-formation as part of OSA’s 2015 Fellowship Program, and to deepen and extend analysis of OSA organizing strategies through dialogue with radical geographical practice and scholarship. This year’s iteration of the Fellowship Program will provide emerging young leaders an opportunity to develop strategy, political analysis, and organizing skills. At the core of the Fellowship Program will be a relational process of “breaking consent” that is essential to our broader vision of political practice. This is because OSA organizing demands critical engagement with existing political institutions and structures, but also, more fundamentally, building networks of relational power grounded in personal and collective transformation. Action-research alongside Fellowship Program retreats will examine how “breaking consent” configures space wherein young people’s capacities for leadership in social transformation, so often denied, can be realized.
The OSA Fellowship Program consists of a six-month-long process of political education, capacity building and training. Fellows develop and organize social justice campaigns in their communities with sustained mentorship from senior OSA members. The Program emphasizes a process of breaking the consent implied by individual accommodations of injustice, and accordingly constructs a collective political subject for long-term struggle. The Fellowship Program channels anger and grief around injustice and violence (like the murder of John Crawford in Beavercreek, Ohio) toward political analysis and strategic campaigns. By building trust-based relationships and co-producing knowledge around shared experiences of capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, OSA fellows create a space that facilitates action for the social transformations they envision.
OSA’s first iteration of the Fellowship Program in early 2014 expanded OSA’s statewide network and allowed OSA teams to respond to new challenges and pursue new opportunities for mobilization. Key moments in OSA campaigns are detailed on the Ohio Student Association blog. The schedule for this specific project is as follows:
Four statewide retreats will provide the time and space necessary to build relationships that will drive the breaking consent process. These retreats will serve as the venues for much of the action-research as well as for statewide strategizing. Our project will involve a broad circle of organizers beyond the core team in documenting their experiences with collaborative political education. A still broader circle, including the 2015 fellows, will contribute to the flow of ideas and questions.
- By the end of June 2015, we will have selected our fellows. Between June and August we will convene to clarify our goals with action-research, review the methodology, and establish an open-access, online data-management system where participants can share reflections during the Fellowship Program.
- From August through December, alongside each of four Fellowship Program retreats, we will hold open-invitation meetings dedicated to reflection on group-centered leadership and the “breaking consent” process. Four fellows will journal on both their experience of OSA programming and all that brought them to this point. Self-writing will not only be important for data construction but will also facilitate political subject formation. Each member of the core team will also journal at least once per week during these months.
- From December 2015 through May 2016, we will co-produce our analyses of breaking consent. This collaborative work will implicitly challenge a tendency in relevant scholarship to treat social movements as objects, and not as producers, of knowledge. Readers of the blog can expect to find links to these analyses here as well as through OSA’s website. The core project team will hold two open-invitation meetings with 2015 Fellowship Program participants to open the analyses to critique. We will also convene six projected meetings of the core team to focus on data analysis and writing.
Publications resulting from the action-research will not only serve to report on the 2015 iteration of “breaking consent” through OSA’s Fellowship Program. The core project team will also use the publications to generate conversations through which to enrich our racial and economic justice work in 2016 and beyond.