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Getting smart in a time of change: finding our critical voice in our work, at ARLG19

Slides for a workshop presented at the Academic and Research Libraries Group (ARLG) conference, June 4 2019, at University of Teesside.

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Getting smart in a time of change: finding our critical voice in our work, at ARLG19

  1. 1. ‘Getting smart’ in a time of change Finding our critical voice in our work Andrew Preater, University of West London (He/him) Rosie Hare, The Northern School of Art (She/her) ARLG Conference 2019 #arlg19, 4 June 2019 @preater and @RosieHare
  2. 2. Chatham House rule “Participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” — Chatham House, 2018
  3. 3. Workshop outline What is critique, in five minutes! Activity: reflective question Small group work Reflection and action 5 mins 8 mins 20-25 mins Remainder
  4. 4. Learning outcomes Understanding of practitioners’ and peers’ critical responses to shared challenges in our sectors Extended self-knowledge of motivation for developing critical responses, and its limits and risks Sharing of reflective analyses in-depth about our real-world workplace issues
  5. 5. What is critique, in five minutes! Critique is a process which informs and directs actions which carry social and ethical implications, beyond the technical execution of library work.
  6. 6. Critique, power and critical insight We mean to focus on power We mean analyses of established authority and dominant means of control We use critique to develop insight to inspect our work, as a foundation for reflective practice
  7. 7. Work and practice is political Patti Lather theorizes practice as politically grounded, “The requirements of praxis are theory both relevant to the world and nurtured by actions in it, and an action component [...] that grows out of practical political grounding.” — Lather (1991, p.12)
  8. 8. We locate hope within spaces of struggle bell hooks guides us to understanding, “When we only name the problem, when we state complaint without a constructive focus or resolution, we take hope away. In this way critique can become merely an expression of profound cynicism, which then works to sustain dominator culture.” — hooks (2003, p.xiv)
  9. 9. Activity: reflective question Michel Foucault wrote that, “Critique doesn’t have to be the premise of a deduction that concludes, ‘this, then, is what should be done.’ It should be an instrument for those who fight, those who resist and refuse what is. Its use should be in processes of conflict and confrontation, essays in refusal.” — Foucault (2000 p.236)
  10. 10. Activity: reflective question Think about yourself in a position of being one who “refuses what is”. Think and write about: what you wanted to say, but felt that you couldn’t, about not being able to to provide a service due to a constraint outside your control. Consider your thoughts and feelings about the situation, without trying to work out how to solve the problem. Be descriptive about your thoughts, and do not feel pressured to reach a fully-formed conclusion.
  11. 11. Activity: finding our critical voice “What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say?” — Lorde (2007 pp.41-43) Discuss and analyse as far you can the power structures in your organisation or community. Think about the positive and negative forces which support or restrict you in having these conversations. Think about why it is that you were prevented from saying what you needed to say.
  12. 12. Structured questions 1. What ideas do you have about changing what we do, to transform practice? 2. Are there opportunities within the system? What opportunities are there outside the system? What opportunities are there to change the system? 3. What is stopping you from doing things differently? 4. What do you need to (un)learn before you can do this? 5. Can we productively redirect the narrative of ‘proving our value’ and ‘doing more with less’?
  13. 13. Reflection and action
  14. 14. How can we support each other’s learning? Sara Ahmed teaches us that, “Critical theory is like any language; you can learn it, and when you learn it, you begin to move around in it.” — Ahmed (2017, p.9)
  15. 15. References Ahmed, S. (2017) Living a feminist life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Chatham House (2018) Chatham House rule. Available at: (Accessed: 17 February 2019) Foucault, M. (2000) ‘Questions of method’, in Faubion, J.D. (Ed.), Power. New York, NY: New Press, pp.223-238. hooks, b. (2007). Teaching community: a pedagogy of hope. Abingdon: Routledge. Lather, P. (1991) Getting smart: feminist pedagogy with/in the postmodern. London: Routledge Lorde, A. (2007) Sister outsider: essays and speeches. Reprint. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

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Slides for a workshop presented at the Academic and Research Libraries Group (ARLG) conference, June 4 2019, at University of Teesside.


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