Recent News


Democratizing Knowledge Member Dr Paula Johnson in Huffington Post

Maintaining the Audacity of Hope

Jan 17, 2017 | Article by: Paula C Johnson

The next week will be momentous for our country as we recognize a monumental public figure who challenged the U.S. government and society to create the more perfect union that the Constitution demands. On Monday, January 16, the nation remembered Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the official holiday that commemorates his legacy.  Notably, too, on Friday, January 20, we will mark the end the President Barack Obama’s two-terms as the first African American president, and begin the presidency of Donald Trump. 

Many citizens find this transition in U.S. presidential leadership more portentous than promising and have mobilized multiple demonstrations, not in celebration, but in protest and anxiety that the incoming administration portends to undo the measured progress has been made to realize the constitutional promise.  These bookended events should give us great pause to think deeply about what – and perhaps even more important, who – is America, and the continuing relevance of Dr. King’s vision in answering these questions.

In my work as co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University College of Law, I am intimately involved in the racial and social dynamics of the civil rights era of the 1960s and 1970s, in which the U.S. was steeped in discord and violence, as Black people sought full civil rights and were frequently met with hostility and death.  Many victims of the violence of this era remain unidentified, cases remain unsolved, and perpetrators remain unpunished.  For these reasons, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act was passed by the last Congress and signed by President Obama to continue to seek justice in these cases.  These earlier cases continue to resonate in the present as the calls for justice bellow in the spate of racially motivated killings by law enforcement and private actors of mostly unarmed Black and Brown people.

Read more at Huffington Post.

Democratizing Knowledge Summer 2016 Institute In The News

Mellon-funded DK Summer Institute focuses on knowledge production to create more 'just academy'

Oct 17, 2016 | Article by: Rob Enslin

LeConté Dill’s grandparents were part of the Great Migration
 of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North and West, where, during the 1940s, they put down roots in South Los Angeles. Today, the once-vibrant neighborhood is plagued by gang violence, riots and poverty, causing many Black families, including hers, to pick up and leave. Read more at ASNews.


Democratizing Knowledge announces a new Honors Course

Oct. 17, 2016  Post By: Hayley Marama Cavino, DK Program Coordinator

HNR 360: Understanding the Power of Place meets SPRING 2017 Weds 12:45 - 3:30 PM.

Open to Honors Students & others as space permits. Contact Carol Fadda or Himika Bhattacharya for further information.


Chandra Talpade Mohanty Awarded Angela Davis Guest Professorship at Goethe University in Germany

Feb 5, 2016 | Article by: Rob Enslin

Photo of Chandra Mohanty

Chandra Talpade Mohanty 

A professor in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences has returned from a prestigious appointment at Goethe University (GU) in Frankfurt, Germany. 

Chandra Talpade Mohanty—Distinguished Professor and chair of women’s & gender studies (WGS), as well as Dean’s Professor of the Humanities—spent part of December as the Angela Davis Guest Professor for International Gender and Diversity Studies at GU’s Cornelia Goethe Center. While there, she gave two public lectures and taught an intensive graduate-level workshop.

Mohanty was the second holder of the chair, originally occupied by its namesake in December 2013. (Davis has ties to Syracuse, as well, having served as Distinguished Visiting Professor in WGS from 2007 to 2010.) Mohanty is considered one of today’s most important post-colonial researchers and activists.

Kira Kosnick, professor of sociology at GU, says Mohanty’s “challenges to white, Western feminism and her passion for transnational feminist politics,” particularly in the Global South (i.e., Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia, including the Middle East), were deciding factors in her appointment.

Photo of Angela Davis

"Chandra Talpade Mohanty has produced an extraordinary body of writings on transnational feminism, radically changing the way we think about ... ‘third-world women,’ ‘women of color,’ and globalization,” says scholar-activist Angela Davis (above).

“[Mohanty’s] work and her understanding of teaching and scholarship exemplify the spirit with which Angela Davis engages the Academy,” says Kosnick, adding that Mohanty’s landmark essay, “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses,” is required reading for GU gender studies students. “Not only is Chandra concerned with the articulations of racism, gender, and global capitalism, but she also sees one’s work as part of larger emancipatory political projects within and outside of the Academy.”

Mohanty described her time in Frankfurt as “intellectually challenging and deeply satisfying.” She also was quite busy. Hundreds of people turned out for her two lectures: “Wars, Walls, Borders: Anatomies of Violence and Postcolonial Feminist Critique” and “Neoliberal Projects, Insurgent Knowledges, and Pedagogies of Dissent.” Both events took a hard look at what Mohanty referred to as "racialized and gendered violences enacted by neoliberal goverments, 
corporations, and institutions of higher education in constructing normative definitions of citizenship." 

She also led a workshop on “Colonial Legacies, Neoliberal Hegemonies, and Insurgent Feminist Praxis,” drawing students from as far away as Cologne and Berlin.

Rounding out her stay were back-to-back meetings with grassroots activists. Among the issues they discussed were asylum and refugee seeker rights; institutional racism and racial profiling; feminism and migration; domestic and gender violence; anti-capitalism, anti-war, and anti-gentrification; and leftist feminism.  

“It was 10 days of intense dialogue, discussion, and learning about the social, economic, and political contradictions facing Germany—and Europe—at a historic time,” says Mohanty, citing the recent flood of migrants and refugees into Europe from war-torn Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iraq. “It deepened my understanding of how coalitions and solidarities are built in social movements in a landscape that’s different from the one I’m familiar with in the United States.”

Mohanty says that, despite the language and cultural challenges that come with teaching abroad, she found Germany to be “pedagogically rich and creative." She also was honored to be at GU, which is the birthplace of the "Frankfurt School" of Critical Social Theory, and has been a formative influence on her intellectual development as a socialist feminist scholar.

“We cannot understand or adequately address current economic and social crises without an anti-racist, gender analysis that pays attention to the ways women, men, queer, and transgender people are impacted differently in similar situations,” says Mohanty, adding that colonial legacies and normalized racial practices vary from country to country. “It’s time Europe acknowledged and confronted its own history of colonialism.”    

A self-avowed “anti-racist feminist,” Mohanty is an expert on transnational feminist theory, post-colonial studies, analysis of imperialism and racism, anti-racist pedagogy, and anti-capitalist critique. Most of her writing explores the role of power among colonialism, race, class, and gender.

Mohanty is the author and co-editor of five books—notably Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Duke University Press, 2003), which has been translated into a half-dozen languages and analyzed in numerous essays and articles. Also, she is an internationally sought-after speaker, visiting professor, and activist, with two recent honorary degrees from Lund University (Sweden) and The College of Wooster (Ohio).

“Decolonization is a critical examination of colonial inheritance at all levels,” says Mohanty, who also holds appointments in Syracuse's Department of Sociology and the Cultural Foundations of Education program. “It’s an issue of extreme intellectual and political importance.”

Mohanty is a founding member of Syracuse's Democratizing Knowledge (DK) Collective, and is co-principal investigator with Linda Carty, professor of African American studies, of the Mellon-funded DK project, “Just Academic Spaces: Creating New Publics Through Radical Literacies."

Kosnick says that the “positive energy [Mohanty] set free” was virtually palpable, calling her a “huge inspiration” to students of color and those engaged in anti-racist politics. 

“Chandra managed to engage people in local issues of concern, encouraging them to organize and build alliances and to understand their concerns as part of wider political struggles,” she adds.

Mohanty hopes some of her students and colleagues from GU find their way to Syracuse, via a fellowship or scholarship. “It would be great for some of them to be in residence in WGS,” she says. “This is the kind of transnational feminist scholarly collaboration to which the WGS department at Syracuse aspires."

Carol Fadda-Conrey and Dana Olwan Recognized for Abroad Course "Global Perspectives, Local Contexts: Women and Gender in the Arab World."

Oct 14, 2015 | Article by: Staff Reports

SU Abroad Course in Lebanon, Jordan Solidifies Transnational Pedagogies, Practices

Photo of students in Arab World

Professors Dana Olwan (far left) and Carol Fadda-Conrey (far right) pose with students during "Global Perspectives" 

A new study abroad course, titled “Global Perspectives, Local Contexts: Women and Gender in the Arab World,” was launched this past summer in the College of Arts and Sciences. Taught by Carol Fadda-Conrey and Dana Olwan, professors of English and women’s & gender studies (WGS), respectively, the course took place in Lebanon and Jordan, where students directly engaged with issues pertaining to the study of feminism, gender, and sexuality in the Arab world. 

Hosted by the Lebanese American University (LAU) and University of Jordan (UJ), the course consolidated relations between the University and these well-established academic institutions. Prior to conducting the course, with support from Fadda-Conrey and Olwan, the University signed academic exchange agreements with both institutions, thus broadening its relationships with public and private academic institutions in the Arab Middle East. 

In Beirut and Amman, to which Fadda-Conrey and Olwan are tied personally and professionally, students met with teachers, scholars, lawyers, human rights activists, and students from other institutions to discuss and learn about the main debates around gender, citizenship, civil rights, and sexual health that are particular to Lebanon and Jordan, as well as the Arab world, more generally. 

“I have taught a version of this course on the SU campus, but team-teaching it as a study abroad course and travelling with students to these different sites turned it into a whole different experience” says Fadda-Conrey, who teaches a variety of courses on Arab and Arab American studies, as well as critical race and ethnic studies. “It was a delight to see students grapple with complex topics from within the Arab spaces they were reading about. They got to see, first-hand, the complexities of Arab societies that are more often than not overwhelmingly portrayed through an Islamophobic and Orientalist Western lens.”

Steeped in the humanities and social sciences, the course is cross-listed in two academic departments (English and WGS) and in two interdisciplinary programs (Middle Eastern and LGBT studies), all based in A&S, but with ties to other units, including the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. 

As part of the course, students familiarized themselves with related feminist, literary, cultural, and sociopolitical texts. 

“We support our students in developing the tools they need to address widespread assumptions and stereotypes about the Arab World,” says Olwan, whose work focuses on transnational feminism, as well as sexual and gendered violence. “It’s important to frame debates about gender politics in the Middle East, as in elsewhere, within proper social, cultural, and historical contexts.” 

The course kicked off with a weeklong stay in Beirut, where students were hosted by the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) at LAU. In addition to attending an IWSAW conference on women as “agents of change,” students visited the Marsa Sexual Health Center, KAFA (an organization aimed at eliminating all forms of exploitation and violence against women), and the Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts. They also attended lectures by Samira Aghacy, professor of English and comparative literature and director of IWSAW; Mona Harb, associate professor of urban studies and planning at the American University of Beirut; and Dahna Abu Rahmeh, a renowned media artist and activist.

Photo of Professors Olwan, Dababneh, and Fadda-Conrey

Professor Abeer Dababneh flanked by Olwan and Fadda-Conrey

The following week, students traveled to Amman, where they were hosted by the UJ's Center for Women’s Studies. While in the ancient capital, they visited the contemporary art museum Darat al-Funun, The Jordanian National Commission for Women, and Tammey for Youth Development. Their guest speakers included Abeer Dababneh, associate professor of law and women’s studies, as well as director of the UJ’s Center for Women’s Studies, who discussed gender rights and Jordanian law. 

The rigorous academic schedule in each city was rounded out by visits to a number of natural and historical sites, including the picturesque Cedars of Lebanon, outside of Beirut; the ancient Jordanian city of Petra; Mount Nebo in Jordan, where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land; the Jordanian city of Madaba, known for its large Byzantine mosaics; Wadi Rum; and the Dead Sea.
 These visits helped students connect what they learned in the classroom with the world outside of it.

“It was an incredible collaborative pedagogical experience for us both,” confirms Fadda-Conrey and Olwan. "We truly enjoyed working with the students, with one another, and having the opportunity to direct our first SU Abroad experience.”

Photo of Students in Desert

Students at Wadi Rum in Jordan

Farrell Greenwald Brenner ’17, a Coronat Scholar majoring in WGS and citizenship & civic engagement (CCE), says the course triggered hard, but important questions about community, violence, and survival. “I am so tired of hearing about violent [Arab] men and oppressed, veiled [Arab] women,” states Brenner, adding that veiling has as much to do with religion and culture as it does politics. “These stereotypes usually occur in the context of war and conflict, so there’s a political investment in negative, racist tropes of Arab people.” 

Daryl Bunyan ’17 echoes these sentiments, saying the reason she enrolled in the course was to better understand the cause of such profiling. She blames the U.S. mass media for propagating many such misconceptions, particularly in the wake of 9/11. 
“Most Westerners think that the Middle East and the Arab World are the same thing, but they’re not,” she says, explaining that the Middle East is a rather fluid geographical concept, whereas the Arab World consists of 22 members of the Arab League. “Veiling is also something that many Westerners can’t grasp. After 9/11, when the United States acknowledged the Taliban as this force that makes Muslim women wear burqas [a loose garment covering the entire body, with a veiled opening for the eyes], many Americans saw the veil as a form of oppression.”

Students are quick to praise Fadda-Conrey and Olwan for incorporating rigorous and relevant instruction into their study abroad experience. 
“During my stay, I met some of the most hospitable people in my life, who offered me different perspectives on so many things,” says Adriana Curto ’16, a dual major in international relations and CCE. “Just because people deal with day-to-day grievances or security concerns because of their political climate, doesn’t mean we should fear them. I’m sure any open-minded person who spends time getting to know someone from [the Arab world] would walk away with a different perspective.” 

Adds Bunyan: “Traveling overseas was an experience in itself. But having Carol and Dana as professors took it to the next level. They encouraged me to push further into certain topics and to question everything. If I could, I’d do this class again in a heartbeat.”

Fadda-Conrey and Olwan believe that such experiences and encounters are essential for solidifying transnational pedagogies and practices that emphasize ethical, nonhierarchical, and relational ways of learning about ourselves and those constituted as our others.

Marcelle Haddix recognized for Writing Our Lives 

Writing Our Lives Fosters Community of Writers

Student writing at desk

Young writers participate in the Writing Our Lives Conference 2012.

For the past six years, the Writing Our Lives conference has been helping young area writers share their stories and listen to the stories of other young people. But the event also brings about a wider impact.

The conference—being held Nov. 7—is continuing to strengthen and build a vibrant local community of writers.

That was always part of the goal for Marcelle Haddix, the conference founder.

“The Writing Our Lives conference provides a space for Syracuse youth writers to share their stories and to share their writing practices with one another,” says Haddix, Dean’s Associate Professor and chair of the Reading and Language Arts Center in the School of Education.

“And it’s an opportunity to engage with community writers, poets, artists and educators who bring their talents and gifts to the conference to share with today’s youths.”

Marcelle Haddix

Marcelle Haddix

The learning between the young writers and mentors is reciprocal.

“We are trying to foster and create a community of writers that is inclusive of adults and youth across backgrounds, race, class, gender, sexuality and religion,” Haddix says. “It really is to create a space for all of us who love to write and who have stories to share. It’s a way to tell those stories and learn how to listen, receive and bear witness to others’ stories.”

This year’s conference will be held at Danforth Middle School on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The event is open to middle and high school students, grades 6-12. Pre-registration is recommended, but those interested can sign up that day.

The conference is an opportunity for young people to give voice to the relevant issues in their lives and each year has a different theme.

“This year’s focus is #BeFree. It is about freedom in terms of freedom of expression and being an individual,” Haddix says. “But it’s also about connecting to broader political themes around liberation, and feeling free in your school environment, in your community, and not constantly being under surveillance or being controlled.”

Since the conference first started in 2009, Syracuse University graduate students have also taken part in the conference.

“Another great thing about Writing Our Lives is that I’m able to mentor and support a lot of graduate students who want to do this kind of community engaged work and will be facilitating workshops,” Haddix says.

Genres for the conference and its workshops include songwriting, fiction, journaling, comics and illustration, poetry and digital literacy.

Writing OUr Lives.2012.1

Workshop facilitators, many of whom are graduate students, guide young writers through various activities during the Writing Our Lives conference.

Along with Syracuse University students and faculty members, local artists, such as members of the Underground Poets, who do spoken word poetry, and community poet Georgia Popoff will be doing a workshop. Popoff is a faculty member and workshops coordinator of the Downtown Writer's Center, the Syracuse chapter of the YMCA Writers Voice. Her work includes a Saturday workshop with young people, many of whom will also be participating.

The conference draws between 100-150 students every year from the City of Syracuse and surrounding communities, as well as from places further away such as Utica and Skaneateles.

“Young people can engage with other youth who they might not usually have the opportunity to engage because of where they live,” Haddix says. “They get to see both their similarities and their differences in terms of their experiences.”

Since the conference began, Haddix has developed further programs: an afterschool program at Danforth Middle School and a summer institute at the South Side Communication Center, where students continue to explore their writing and substantive subject matter. They have focused on raising awareness about issues in their communities, such as food justice, teen pregnancy, community violence and educational equality.

Plans are also in the works for Writing Our Lives in New York City at the University’s Fisher Center.

Working with all of the writers at the conference and at the other programs has been an inspiration to Haddix, who has discovered her own aspiration to write young adult literature.

“I’m an academic and do scholarly writing, but I do want to write more creatively and to create characters and share stories that appeal to a younger audience,” Haddix says. “Writing Our Lives has such a positive, contagious energy. I love being in that space.”

Democratizing Knowledge Project to Host Planning Retreat for Mellon Summer Institutes

By Dellareese Jackson

Democratizing Knowledge Mellon Graduate Assistant

             The Democratizing Knowledge Project (DK), a Syracuse University interdisciplinary collective of faculty and graduate students, was awarded a four-year, $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a series of summer institutes titled Just Academic Spaces: Creating New Publics through Radical Literacies. This week, a planning retreat with colleagues from Institute partners Rutgers-Newark and Spelman College will begin preparing for the first institute in the three-year series. 

              The Democratizing Knowledge (DK) Summer Institute, Just Academic Spaces, will contribute to efforts to map the current state of higher education institutions, explore knowledges that community activists and scholar-activists in the academy can learn from each other, and use these collaborations among diverse publics to forge strategies to create a just academy. Each year’s Institute is designed around 5 days of workshops involving 15-20 scholar activists from across the US and diverse local community members, followed by a two-day conference in which community members and participants convene to engage in that year’s theme.

              The October 1-3, 2015 project planning activities are sited at Syracuse University and will focus on the SU 2016 Summer Institute.  The planning retreat will include the SU DK collective members and partners at Spelman College and Rutgers-Newark.  Colleagues from Rutgers and Spelman will bring expertise on issues that are key to discussions about the value of diversity and the liberal arts at this time at Syracuse University. For instance, our Rutgers colleague Dr. Shirley Collado (below) has served as the executive vice president of The Posse Foundation where she significantly grew the organization and managed operations on a national level.   The Posse Foundation is a not-for-profit organization and one of the most comprehensive college access programs in the country.  The Posse Foundation identifies, recruits, and trains outstanding youth leaders from urban public schools and sends them in diverse teams, called “posses,” to top colleges and universities around the country.  Last year, Posse was the subject of student protest at Syracuse University that resulted in reinstating SU’s support for Posse students from two cities—Miami and Atlanta.   The increasing social and economic inequity in the U.S., is mirrored in higher education and Syracuse University students are aware of this both in their classes and curriculum.

                Dr. Shirley Collado joined the Rutgers University — Newark community, in January 2015, as executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer. She continues her research and teaching pursuits at RU-N as a faculty member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology with an affiliation in the Department of Psychology.

              Prior to her appointment at Rutgers University - Newark, Collado served as vice president for student affairs and dean of the college, and associate professor of psychology at Middlebury College where she oversaw and supported a dynamic student body and academic community and managed numerous departments and offices across the institution. During her time at Middlebury, she successfully led transformative initiatives including the development of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, the development of forward-looking sexual misconduct and judicial policies, and the establishment of faculty diversity and retention initiatives.  Collado is currently developing and leading the Creating Connections Consortium (C3), one of the most innovative faculty diversity initiatives in higher education.  Under her leadership as co-principal investigator of C3 and with a major grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, C3 is building a dynamic partnership to strengthen diversity and innovation and to broaden the pathway to the professoriate through enhanced interactions between liberal arts colleges and research universities. 

               Spelman partners include one of the foremost Black feminist scholars internationally, Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall:

              Dr. Beverly Guy- Sheftall is founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center (since 1981) and Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College. Guy-Sheftall has published a number of texts within African American and Women’s Studies which include the first anthology on Black women’s literature, Sturdy Black Bridges: Visions of Black Women in Literature (Doubleday, 1979), which she coedited with Roseann P. Bell and Bettye Parker Smith; Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought (New Press, 1995).  She has also completed with Johnnetta Betsch Cole a monograph, Gender Talk: The Struggle for Equality in African American Communities, which was published by Random House in February 2003.

              Guy-Sheftall is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, among them a National Kellogg Fellowship; a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for dissertations in Women’s Studies; and Spelman’s Presidential Faculty Award for outstanding scholarship.  She has been involved with the national women’s studies movement since its inception and provided leadership for the establishment of the first women’s studies major at a historically Black college. She is also past president of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA). Beyond the academy, she has been involved in a number of advocacy organizations which include the National Black Women’s Health Project, the National Council for Research on Women, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, on whose boards she serves.  In her role as Director of Spelman’s Women’s Center, she has also been involved with the development of student activism around misogynist images of Black women in hip hop as well as a broad range of social justice issues, including reproductive rights and violence against women. She teaches women’s studies courses, including feminist theory and global Black feminisms.

              Dr. Sherri-Ann P. Butterfield is Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty of the Newark College of Arts & Sciences and Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University - Newark. Her scholarly interests are immigration, race and ethnic relations, sex and gender, identity development and culture, and urban education within the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Dr. Butterfield’s research specifically explores how race, ethnicity, class, and gender impact Afro-Caribbean immigrants and their children within the metropolitan contexts of New York/New Jersey and London.  Her work has appeared in numerous journals and edited volumes that include the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy and the Research in Urban Sociology Series. She has served in numerous academic and administrative capacities which include: a Visiting Academic Fellow in Nuffield College at Oxford University, Faculty Fellow in the Office of the Chancellor, Acting Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Associate Director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience, an American Council on Education Fellow at New York University, and former Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department.  

              Erica Lorraine Williams is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned her Ph.D and M.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University, and her B.A. in Anthropology and Africana Studies from New York University. Erica’s research has focused on the cultural and sexual politics of the transnational tourism industry, and Afro-Brazilian feminist activism in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Her first book, Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements, winner of the National Women’s Studies Association/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize, was published in November 2013. She has also published articles and book chapters in Transatlantic Feminisms: Women and Gender Studies in Africa and the Diaspora (Rodriguez et. al., 2015), Gender, Place, and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, Policing Pleasure: Global Reflections on Sex Work and Public Policy (Kelly and Dewey 2011); Taking Risks: Feminist Stories of Social Justice Research in the Americas (Shayne, ed. 2014), the Encyclopedia of Globalization (2012), and The Feminist Wire. She teaches courses on issues of gender, sexuality, globalization, and the African Diaspora, and she received the Vulcan Materials Teaching Excellence Award in 2013.

             In addition to principle investigators Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Linda Carty, the DK SU collective is made up of Hayley Cavino, a Ph.D. candidate in education; Carol Fadda-Conrey, Associate Professor of English; Marcelle Haddix, Dean’s Associate Professor of Education; Paula Johnson, Professor of Law; Dana Olwan, Assistant Professor of WGS; Stephanie Fetta, Assistant Professor of Spanish, Silvio Torres-Saillant, Professor of English, and Jackie Orr, Associate Professor of Sociology. It is the intellectual, collaborative work of the DK Collective since 2009 that has been recognized by the Mellon Just Academic Spaces award.

             Our Rutgers and Spelman partners will join the SU collective for a two day planning retreat. The first Institute will be hosted by Syracuse University in 2016, followed by Rutgers University at Newark in 2017 and Spelman College in 2018.  The siting of the institutes at a private university (SU), a diverse, urban, public university (Rutgers-Newark) and an HBCU (Spelman College) will provide important comparative data in the overall project of re-envisioning a “just academy.”  The 2016 Institute will feature local community projects such as La Casita Cultural Center, the Dunbar Center, and Art Rage Gallery – projects that produce social justice interventions, validate marginalized experiences, and create radical literacies to empower their communities.  This retreat will prove to be the foundation for an institute designed as a transformative vehicle in knowledge production. The 2016 Institute will communicate the message that while the academy is perceived as the hub of knowledge production, that knowledge is incomplete if it does not include the multiplicity of knowledges produced in communities of which the academy is not a part.  As such, among other objectives, the Institute will examine curricular formation and relevance in the Liberal Arts to meet the needs of an ever changing and ethnically diverse society. Ultimately, it is about the kind of intellectual and pedagogical project that is necessary to build an inclusive academy.

Syracuse Professor Recognized for Contributions to Latina/o Studies

Silvio Torres-Saillant is recipient of Frank Bonilla Public Intellectual Award

May 28, 2015 | Article by: Rob Enslin

A professor in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences has been internationally recognized for his service and intellectual contributions to Latina/o studies. 

Photo of Silvio Torres-SaillantSilvio Torres-Saillant, professor of English and Latino-Latin American studies, is the co-recipient of the 2015 Frank Bonilla Public Intellectual Award. Named for the late Puerto Rican intellectual trailblazer, the award was recently presented to Torres-Saillant at theInternational Congress of the Latin American Studies Association(LASA) in San Juan. 

He shares the award with Ana Celia Zentella, renowned linguist and professor emeritus of ethnic studies at the University of California, San Diego. 

“I am both excited and humbled to share in this prestigious award,” says Torres-Saillant, who directed the College’s Latino-Latin American Studies Program from 2000 to 2009. “Frank Bonilla personified service, mentoring, and innovative pedagogy. I am proud to have my name associated with his, especially since his legacy has offered me an invariably compelling model.”

The award was one of several given out at the LASA congress, whose theme revolved around social and labor issues in Latin America, the academic workplace and education, and modalities of knowledge exchange—all areas of personal interest to Torres-Saillant.

That he taught alongside Bonilla in New York City during the 1980s and ‘90s gives the honor added significance. 

“Frank devoted his life to studying the political and economic forces that engender exploitation and injustice,” Torres-Saillant adds. “He also was at the forefront of community struggles against racial and ethnic oppression, especially in education.”

Both have proven track records in teaching, with Bonilla having held faculty positions at MIT, Stanford University, and Hunter (where he rose to the rank of Thomas Hunter Professor Emeritus), and Torres-Saillant, at Hostos Community College, City College, and Syracuse. 

And both men have won LASA’s Public Intellectual Award—in Bonilla’s case, it was subsequently named for him. 

“I’ve always been interested public scholarship, particularly where scholars, activists, and policymakers are concerned,” Torres-Saillant says. “Like Frank, I thrive on collaboration steeped in the liberal arts, including the humanities and social sciences.”

Torres-Saillant has held a variety of faculty and administrative posts at Syracuse, since his arrival in 1999. They include the William P. Tolley Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Humanities (2009-11), chair of the Humanities Council (2012-14), and co-founder of La Casita Cultural Center (2011). A prolific scholar and social commentator, he is an expert on Caribbean and ethnic American literature; Latino texts; diasporas and migration studies; intellectual histories; and the place of race as a factor of modernity, stemming from colonial transaction marshalled by the Christian West. He is the author or editor of nearly a dozen books, including The Advent of Blackness (forthcoming) and the critically acclaimed Intellectual History of the Caribbean (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). 

Torres-Saillant has held visiting appointments at Harvard University, the University of Cartagena (Colombia), and the National University of Colombia; has been knighted by the president of the Dominican Republic; and has been featured on PBS’ Black in Latin America series, hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. He earned a Ph.D. in comparative literature from New York University. 

LASA is the world’s largest association for scholars of Latin American studies.


Dana Olwan receives Meredith Teaching Recognition Award

Thursday April 9, 2015

Meredith Teaching Recognition Awards

The Teaching Recognition Awards program was established in 2001 through an expansion of the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professorship Program. The Meredith Professors themselves proposed that the Teaching Recognition Award program recognize excellence in teaching by non-tenured faculty and adjunct and part-time instructors. Recipients are selected for teaching innovation, effectiveness in communicating with students and the lasting value of courses. To be eligible, candidates must have completed two years of service to the University and not yet received tenure. Each recipient is given $3,000 to further his or her professional development.

Dana Olwan

Dana Olwan
Assistant professor, women’s and gender studies, College of Arts and Sciences

As a teacher, Olwan aims to create an environment where students learn to formulate strong arguments, develop thoughtful positions and articulate different perspectives with clarity, evidence and conviction. She listens carefully and tries to engage students in ways that don’t foreclose debate or inhibit the challenges of analysis and exchange. As a feminist professor, she says, “I seek to make feminism matter to my students by showing them how it can help illuminate their own realities and the realities of others.” She tries to emphasize the ways in which racism, classism, homophobia, ableism and imperialism work locally in order to make students realize that these things don’t just take place elsewhere. One of the ways she does this is through inviting speakers to class who, “through their work in a variety of disciplines and fields, show students how to link the theories they learn in the academic classroom with the material worlds they inhabit.”

For full article see SU News


Marcelle Haddix and Dark Girls Project featured in Daily Orange

Students explore topics of black girlhood, self empowerment in after-school workshop

Komiyah Butler, a sixth-grader at Danforth Middle School, participates in a writing activity at the Dark Girls after-school workshop. The girls were asked to journal about how they see themselves in the mirror and draft manifestos for the program.

Margaret Lin | Web Developer

Komiyah Butler, a sixth-grader at Danforth Middle School, participates in a writing activity at the Dark Girls after-school workshop. The girls were asked to journal about how they see themselves in the mirror and draft manifestos for the program.

That’s what Marcelle Haddix, creator of the program and the director of English Education Programs at Syracuse University, insists they call each other as a way of establishing mutual lines of respect and communication between Danforth students and program volunteers, including SU students who are there to mentor the girls in grades six through eight.

The workshops began last week and will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays through April 14. In the program, the girls engage in activities including art, poetry, yoga, dance, writing and reading literature focused on representations of black girlhood and topics of self and female empowerment.

“Dark Girls is about really honoring and celebrating black girlhood in a positive light, and understanding the intellectual history and tradition of black women and black girls in our society,” Haddix said.

In 2013, Haddix worked with the Community Folk Art Center and participated in a panel discussion for a screening of the documentary film “Dark Girls.”

Haddix said she found the film powerful in that it raises awareness around issues of colorism among women, specifically within African and African-American culture, and discusses ways that society determines what counts as beauty.

“We wanted to extend that to think about how black girls’ self development and identity development are impacted by societal representations of beauty at a very important time of their life — during adolescence,” Haddix said.

Last Tuesday, the first day of the program, Haddix asked the girls to journal about what they see when they look in the mirror. The girls were then able to read their entries aloud or share it with program volunteers privately, and discuss what they wrote.

“It’s important to celebrate our bodies and body image,” Haddix said. “We want to reimagine a different narrative for what matters and what counts as beautiful and define that for ourselves.”

The girls also worked in small groups to create Dark Girls manifestos, said Gloria Gyakari, a sophomore information management and technology major and mentor in the Dark Girls workshops. The manifestos were meant to understand how the girls were feeling about themselves and each other, she added.

Gyakari said that as a mentor, it’s most important to be emotionally open with the girls. The mentors in the program also help the girls discover what they may want to do with their futures and give them the pathways to do it, she added.

“When I was growing up I wish I had had this,” Gyakari said. “It’s important to be a leader and take some time out of your busy schedule. You should never keep your motivation to yourself.”

Blair Smith, a doctoral student in SU’s School of Education, said the mentor aspect of the program is a valuable way to have SU women of color involved in important conversations.

“Students on campus don’t really go out and see the reality of people’s lives in the Syracuse community,” she said. “It’s a mutual relationship of growing and learning.”

Smith said the program also gives the girls tools to navigate what can be difficult school and social situations for students of color. They hold role play situations in which they help the girls respond to these potential conflicts.

“They’re brilliant and they get told every day that they’re not,” Smith said. “It’s something that needs to be unlearned. There’s a way we function because of what we’re told to see; we often see ourselves or each other in the eyes of racism.”

Reba Hodge, a doctoral student in the School of Education, said that it’s also important for the girls to have mentors now so that they don’t have to wait until high school to be exposed to the possibilities that higher education can offer.

Many of the mentors may share similar stories or histories with the girls in the program. They help the girls to create vision boards for what they may want to do with their life in the short term and long term, Hodge added.

“So far I’ve felt like we were successful,” Hodge said. “We really aim to create a space for the girls to come and just be young girls. We don’t give them enough of those opportunities,” Hodge said.

Haddix, the creator of the program, said that another important aspect of the workshops is developing student-teacher relationships at Danforth. Haddix said that when the students are in school, student-teacher relationships can often have a particular tone due to the demands of curriculum and discipline.

“We’re trying to create a different kind of experience and environment for the girls to be seen in a more authentic light,” she said. “It’s important not to only see students in one way and limit their possibilities.”

Though the program is still in its very early stages, Haddix said she can already see relationships developing and a safe open environment being created.

Haddix shared the progress of one such relationship with a young girl in the program who is extremely shy and very serious about her participation. One day, Haddix was teaching the girls yoga, an activity that is very personal to Haddix and one she said she feels very passionate about.

“Our mats were side by side, and she was mirroring everything that I was doing for the entire 45 minutes. Afterward she showed me other poses she is able to do,” Haddix said.

Haddix explained that, for the adults in the program, it’s important to be vulnerable and willing to share their passions, as she did with yoga, in order to encourage the girls to do the same.

Slowly, after connecting with the students, be it through mental or physical activities, a relationship begins to develop with the mentors where the girls may feel safer and more willing to share, Haddix said.

Following the activity, the girl felt comfortable enough to share a poem with Haddix that she had written.

“Within the span of five minutes she composed a poem that was unbelievable,” she said. “There’s these ideas and experiences that are certainly within each of the girls. I’m excited to have those moments where they finally unleash, let it out and share those things.”


Syracuse University’s Democratizing Knowledge Project receives $500,000 grant from the Mellon FoundationDK Logo

The Democratizing Knowledge Project (DK), a Syracuse University interdisciplinary collective of faculty and graduate students, has been awarded a four-year, $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a series of summer institutes titled Just Academic Spaces: Creating New Publics through Radical Literacies. Co-directed by Professors Linda Carty and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, the institutes will bring together faculty, advanced doctoral students and activist-scholars from the Humanities and Social Sciences across the US to understand the current state of US higher education, explore productive dialogues between community organizations and activists, and scholar-activists in the academy and build collaborations and strategies to create a more just academy.

“For a number of decades now, higher education in the United States has been shifting under the influence of market principles, focusing on cutting costs and increasing profits, while distancing itself from communities who do not have access to its resources,” says Carty, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Sociology. “Correspondingly, the humanities and humanistic social sciences, which are often viewed as less profitable than STEM or industry-specific fields, have been devalued. Our goal is to figure out how collaborations among diverse publics may be used to forge strategies to create a just academy.”

15-20 scholars from across the country will participate in five days of workshops and site visits. The institutes will begin with an intellectual, pedagogical and curricular orientation using humanistic readings to situate the current state of higher education institutions and the communities in which they are located. Participants will partake in skills-building workshops along with visiting different community centers and sites with the goal of producing a final project that will create pedagogical and curricular responses to challenges at other institutions. The institutes will culminate in a two-day conference that will bring in community members to dialogue with participants and allow participants to reflect on bringing their new knowledge to their home institutions and communities.

“We will bring together activists—academic and non-academic, alike—to articulate how these collaborations can build new, sometimes unexpected, kinds of publics in the borderlands between critical academic scholarship and community-based knowledges and organizations,” says Mohanty, Distinguished Professor of Women & Gender Studies (WGS), and Dean’s Professor of the Humanities, “In the process, we’ll seek to identify the ‘radical literacies’ that are generated in these borderlands, understanding them as place-based ways of reading power relations and generating alternative possibilities for making knowledge, history, and community.”

Linda Carty
Linda Carty
After a year of planning and preparation, the first Institute will be hosted by Syracuse University in 2016. The 2017 Institute will be hosted by Rutgers University at Newark and the 2018 Institute by Spelman College. Syracuse participants in 2016 will likely visit La Casita Cultural Center, the New Dunbar Center, and Art Rage – projects that produce social justice interventions, validate marginalized experiences, and create radical literacies to empower their communities. “These centers have faculty ties to the DK Project and, thus, share our mission and vision,” says Carty, whose activism encompasses labor and HIV/AIDS issues.  

Movements to democratize American institutions of higher education in the 1950s and 1960s led to open admissions policies that admitted more poor and minority students and helped create many ethnic and gender studies departments. However, the rise of neoliberal policies of privatization, corporatization and commercialization created the current neoliberal, profit-driven university that values STEM over the Humanities and that excludes its neighboring community, which stands to benefit most from the university. Syracuse—one of the nation’s poorest cities, with a poverty rate of more than 33 percent—will serve as a natural laboratory for the DK Summer Institute.

Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Chandra Talpade Mohanty

“This neoliberal restructuring [of higher education] has created an exclusionary, unequal environment where everyone competes for resources and political power. Thus, only knowledge with a guaranteed quantifiable outcome is deemed to have value. For instance, humanities and social justice oriented curricula are being increasingly devalued, and seen as economically irrelevant, thus alienating neighboring communities and further marginalizing poor minority students and faculty of color” adds Mohanty, an expert in antiracist and transnational feminist theory. 

Carty hopes that the DK Summer Institute will inspire participants to return to their home institutions and organizations and implement similar programs. “We want them to use the DK Collective as a model of collective, sustained community engagement that can be shared with different publics who are interested in community and academic knowledges and activism,” she says.

An expert in antiracism, Black feminisms, and Marxism, Carty is an advocate of Black women’s labor in the Americas and of Black women’s health care in the United States and the Caribbean. Carty has contributed essays to books and journals all over the world mostly on the topics related to her activism.

Carty enjoys a close association with Mohanty, whose work encompasses anti-capitalist praxis, anti-racist education, and the politics of knowledge. Mohanty is the author and editor of five books, including Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (Duke University Press, 2003), and is series editor of Comparative Feminist Studies (Palgrave/Macmillan). She has published more than three dozen essays, including “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses,” which has been used in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies courses worldwide for more than two decades. She works with various grassroots organizations, including the Municipal Services Project, a transnational research and advocacy group seeking alternatives to privatization in the Global South.

The Democratizing Knowledge Project collaboration with UC Davis (L to R, DK Members asterisked): Suzy Zepeda, Dana Olwan*, Paula Johnson*, Chandra Talpade Mohanty*, Amina Mama, Linda Carty*, Margo Okazawa-Rey
DK Collective Group Photo

Conceived as a Chancellor’s Leadership Project, DK prides itself on fostering a more open, inclusive, democratic culture in higher education. Since its inception in 2009, the collective has become a space for faculty members and students to showcase scholar-activism and to hold conversations about how to create a just academy, how to ensure recognition and respect for various bodies of knowledge, how to build awareness of and interrogate the hierarchical structure of knowledge production, and how to make knowledge production accessible to all.

The Democratizing Knowledge Project Collective: (L to R) Mario Rios Perez, Stephanie Fetta, Hayley Cavino, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Jackie Orr, Linda Carty, Silvio Torres-Saillant, Marcelle Haddix, Mary Rose Go
DK Collective Group Photo

In addition to Mohanty and Carty, the collective is made up of Hayley Cavino, a Ph.D. candidate in Education; Carol Fadda-Conrey, Associate Professor of English; Marcelle Haddix, Dean’s Associate Professor of English Education; Silvio Torres-Saillant, Professor of English and Latino/Latin-American Studies; Paula Johnson, Professor of Law; Dana Olwan, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies; Jackie Orr, Associate Professor of Sociology; Mario Rios-Perez, Assistant Professor of Cultural Foundations of Education; Stephanie Fetta, Assistant Professor of Spanish, and Mary Rose Go, DK program assistant.  The late Sari K. Biklen, Professor Emerita in the School of Education was a key member of the DK Collective for many years---she is sorely missed. 

Source: SU News


Democratizing Knowledge Receives Mellon Grant

The Democratizing Knowledge Project (DK), a Syracuse University interdisciplinary collective of faculty and graduate students, has been awarded a four-year, $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a series of summer institutes titled Just Academic Spaces: Creating New Publics through Radical Literacies. Emphasizing the role of the university as a public good, the DK Project (formed in 2009) demonstrates the public value of university scholarship and fosters collaborative projects with community leaders and activists to improve local conditions in the public schools, the environment, public health and other areas.

The DK collective uses tools of the humanities such as public ethnography, documentary filmmaking, and critical pedagogy to learn how the framings by community activists of problems and challenges relating to the presence and impact of the university in the broader community constitute valuable forms of knowledge and latent political and ethical critiques that can and should be incorporated into curricula. We argue that these framings and representations which are perhaps unique to the overlapping and intersecting spaces between communities and universities are often ignored or subject to being dismissed by the academy because they don’t emanate from or serve the university’s interests. Instead DK scholars have built and promote a model for engagement with local communities that eschews the notion of the scholar as sole legitimate expert who, inevitably following academic-disciplinary protocols, dictates how problems can be “fixed” and they reject related understandings of universities as singular, pre-eminent sites for what can be known about problems and solutions. We contend that using the methods of critical pedagogy leads to a more democratic approach to community- university partnerships and can result in the constitution of community groups which, through collaborations with scholar-activists, become newly empowered to engage the university and their own community challenges on a more equitable footing.

The Democratizing Knowledge (DK) Summer Institute, Just Academic Spaces, will bring together faculty, advanced doctoral students and activist-scholars from the Humanities, and Social Sciences across the US to understand the current state of US higher education, explore productive dialogues between community organizations and activists, 

and scholar-activists in the academy and build collaborations and strategies to create a more just academy. The first Institute will be hosted by Syracuse University in 2016, followed by Rutgers University at Newark in 2017 and Spelman College in 2018. The 2016 Institute will feature local community projects such as La Casita Cultural Center, the Dunbar Center, and Art Rage Gallery – projects that produce social justice interventions, validate marginalized experiences, and create radical literacies to empower their communities.

Principal Investigators Linda Carty, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Distinguished Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Dean’s Professor of the Humanities have long histories of bridging activism and scholarship. Both have published extensively on topics of race, feminism, labor, politics of knowledge and U.S. higher education, and are currently engaged in multiple collaborative scholar-activist projects.

Source: SU News