This is a space to share mullings and work in progress – things that I’m thinking about and learning in and beyond my work as a lecturer in Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, UK.
I have come to realise that my engagement with many of the questions I’m interested in resembles going round in circles more than a journey from a to b to c to d. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing I’ve left behind, or that the questions have taken the same form at different times, or that my responses to them have been the same. But still, they’ve been there, sometimes at the forefront, sometimes on the backburner.
I have come to realise, too, that my preferred approach to exploring them has been that of conversations in which I am a participant, whether in reading/writing or face to face. I prefer writing and reading texts in which the authors are present, and I have never been very keen on disembodied academic texts that are couched in objective language and do not reflect on their own assumptions and values. I feel similar about teaching, too – I’d rather create a space that raises questions and encourages conversations than perform the role of the expert at the front (though I know that sometimes, that is what’s expected and needed).
One of the things I like about my work is the chance to talk and connect with interesting people from all over the world. When we manage to make enough time and space for good conversations, I find myself learning as much as I might be trying to teach. Those are the moments in which I feel least alienated and most connected to my work.
I feel, increasingly, that we need more and deeper conversations about questions that matter – both because there are so many issues in the world today that need a different kind of engagement and because I know that conversations can help to build connections between people, and that such connections are one of the things we need in difficult times. I think such conversations matter, and that most of us don’t have enough of them.
In academic settings, a commitment to dialogue can feel counter-cultural. Expectations – including a culture of framing academic exchanges as ‘debates’ -, inequalities and pressures to perform can get in the way. It is encouraging, though, to know that there are others working in higher education – and in many other settings, of course – who are similarly interested in cultivating approaches to teaching, learning and collaboration that are more dialogic, more exploratory, more creative. If this is you, I hope you’ll enjoy and engage with this blog.
I am hoping that this will be a space that both grows out of and encourages conversations – online or offline, written or spoken.