Teaching & Diversity Statement
“only partial perspective promises objective vision” -Donna Haraway
Donna Haraway, working at the intersection of feminist theory, science studies, and a decolonizing methodology, reminds us that objectivity is unattainable. There is no truth to be taught or learned, but instead new areas to question, critique, and inquire. As I approach the classroom, I remind myself of the power dynamics inherent in the vertical ontologies of the university, and I believe that, in order to learn more effectively and freely, we must deconstruct these hierarchies and envision a flat and horizontal architecture of power (and) difference.
Donna Haraway’s discussion of partial perspective also explains the ACRL Framework. If a class of students were to sit around a laptop, we would all see and perceive the laptop differently. We could all explain it from different angles because we’re all approaching it from different positions. Similarly, the ACRL Framework asks us to recognize that we see information from different positions and approaches. “Objectivity” demands of us a single position—the hegemonic one of the cis, straight, able-bodies, white male. However, by discussing and sharing our partial perspectives, we are able to approach a different objectivity, constructed out of pieces and parts like Frankenstein’s creature. Knowledge-making becomes in itself a collective action, representative of the goal of recognizing scholarship as conversation. It is the piecemeal of partial perspective rather than a hold to objectivity.
I retain a personal and professional attachment to the first of the threshold concepts in the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy, Authority is Constructed and Contextual. This notion is important for understanding IL, but it’s also a useful concept to think through other facets of our daily lives. The ACRL Framework itself is an act of authority, constructed by the Association of College and Research Libraries, a professional organization connected to the American Library Association. The Framework is presented in its attachment to the ACRL Board, but this doesn’t mean that it is infallible. Similarly, my position as an instructor, educator, or librarian is dependent on the construction of authority provided to me by titles, institutions, and a degree. All of these things reiterate my professional and practical connection to both the ALA and ACRL, and hence this Framework to teach with/in. These multiple modalities and layers are with me as I teach students and are expressed in my identity and positioning.
I’m naturally a pessimist, but I take an optimist turn to approach students. To borrow from my Starbucks training, I assume positive intentions whenever interacting with students and give them the benefit of the doubt. There is no productivity in an instructor believing themselves to be “duped” by students. We are on the same team. To this end, I engage with feminist pedagogy and believe that students come to us as whole people with context and emotions that must be positively engaged to create a successful classroom. I believe that there are histories and genealogies of violence against certain groups of individuals, and we continue to enact and experience those violences while also feeling the tremors of past actions. The classroom is a reparative space, both in its ability to build students up again—in their own image, not the image of the state. To this end, I engaged a decolonizing methodology/pedagogy to deconstruct the colonial logics of the classroom. Critical pedagogy, critical theory, and critical information literacy guide my life, my work, and my teaching. We must be aware of various systems and what they ask of us in order to confront and deconstruct them. These theories attempt to explain the world and are thus important to how we interact with the world. Criticality is demanded of us, and I expect it of my students; though, I realize that this must be developed as a lens. We live in a world of bureaucracy and systems that nudge and control us, so we must be aware of them in order to make informed decisions. This extends from working with university administrators and faculty, to working with publishers, to “working with” the government and other state entities. Power relations surround and engulf us, and it is unhelpful and detrimental to be unaware of how they impact and define us and our interactions.