This duoethnography weaves the experiences and perspectives of disabled activists, poverty scholars, community scholars of color, and university-based scholars partnering on a teacher preparation professional development project that (re)centers disability and its intersections by (a) reconsidering who creates knowledge, (b) positioning disabled activists, poverty scholars, and community scholars of color as experts with pedagogical authority, and (c) providing opportunities for teacher candidates (current and future teachers) to learn from activists and scholars in accessible, online spaces. The experiences and perspectives of multiply marginalized disabled youth and adults are often ignored and/or discounted in teacher preparation programs. However, one way to re-zone and re-people disability studies in teacher education is by teaching and learning at the intersections of critical race studies and disability studies through cross-coalitional community-university partnerships.
(Re)centering the Knowledge of Disabled Activists, Poverty Scholars, and Community Scholars of Color to Transform Education
Multiply marginalized disabled individuals and communities experience stark inequities in every sector (e.g., education, health care, housing, employment) across the lifespan. However, the experiences and perspectives of multiply marginalized disabled youth and adults are oftentimes ignored in teacher preparation programs. Furthermore, disability and its intersections (e.g., class, gender, race) are (de)centered. One way to re-zone and re-people disability studies is by teaching and learning at the intersections of critical race studies and disability studies in PreK-12, postsecondary, and activist spaces through cross-coalitional community-university partnerships focused on anti-ableist and anti-racist teacher education. Yet, community-university partnerships like this are largely absent from university-based curricula.
Community-university partnerships are becoming increasingly more common in teacher preparation programs (Adamuti-Trache & Hyle, 2015; Zeichner, 2010; Yull et al., 2014). Teacher educators connect with community members to learn how to best work with and support youth, families, and communities as part of teacher development (Barnes, 2017). However, mutually respectful, trusting, and beneficial partnerships take extra time and effort and can be messy (Ishimaru et al., 2019). As such, they are not the norm in teacher preparation (Zeichner, 2020). Recent scholars and teacher educators have tapered their focus on community-university partnerships using a community-engaged model wherein such collaborations are community-specific (Cipollone et al., 2022). As such, community members engage with teacher candidates as cultural mentors (Lee et al., 2013). Cultural mentors induct teacher candidates into the values and funds of knowledge of the community, and facilitate relationship building with other community members (Cipollone et al., 2018; Zygmunt et al., 2015). The DCCSPs Project expands this positioning of community members as essential mentors by positioning disabled activists, poverty scholars, and community scholars of color as teacher educators.
The Disability-Centered Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies Project (DCCSPs Project) is a community-university partnership grounded in disability critical race theory (DisCrit; Annamma et al., 2013) and culturally sustaining pedagogies (CSPs; Alim & Paris, 2017; Paris & Alim, 2014). As such, the DCCSPs Project seeks to (re)center disability and its intersections by (a) reconsidering who creates knowledge, (b) positioning disabled activists, poverty scholars, and community scholars of color as experts with pedagogical authority, and (c) providing opportunities for teacher candidates (current and future teachers) to learn from activists and scholars in accessible, online spaces (Brown et al., 2023). In other words, this community-university partnership situates the knowledge, wisdom, and experiences of disabled activists, poverty scholars, and community scholars of color as essential for all educators.
Nurturing access-centered spaces for teacher candidates to (a) learn about disability and its intersections from disabled activists, poverty scholars, and community scholars of color and (b) orient teacher preparation towards a racial history of disability is reflected by one of our project collaborators here:
We often say that our ancestors and those who have died are resting in peace, but many of our disabled ancestors cannot do so because their stories are incomplete. How can our disabled ancestors rest in peace when many of them, especially those who lived before the disability rights/arts movements, did not have the opportunity to talk openly or act creatively with their disabilities in an open and free environment? Even in death, our ancestors' disabilities are erased. This is why many disabled writers today, like myself, are putting disability back into our history, and in so doing, are learning from our ancestors (Moore, 2020, p. 20).
Importantly, this re-zoning and re-peopling ought to occur in educational spaces wherein disability is oftentimes responded to through deficit frameworks and/or left out of social justice and/or equity and diversity conversations (Cosier & Ashby, 2016). Thus, this community-university project combats beliefs and practices focused on disability and culture as deficit and dispensable (Baglieri et al., 2011).
This dialogue was originally proposed for this special issue as a critical and collaborative autoethnography (Chang et al., 2016; Marx et al., 2017) written and spoken by the authors (community- and university-based scholars/partners from the DCCSPs Project) at a panel presentation at the 2021 Society for Disability Studies (SDS) Annual Conference titled "Recentering the Knowledge of Disabled Community Scholars of Color to Transform Teacher Education." While an ongoing dialogue (e.g., about partnership, transparency, labor, co-opting community knowledge) between university and community scholars has held an important presence throughout the life of the DCCSPs Project, we used our panel presentation at the conference as a catalyst for this paper. As our individual narratives came together in this collective project, we pivoted our methodology to duoethnography, "a collaborative research methodology in which two or more researchers of difference juxtapose their life histories to provide multiple understandings of the world" (Sawyer & Norris, 2012, p.9). This slight methodological shift was important as we were not just combining self-stories to allow ourselves, and possibly others, to think more deeply about our experiences in the work of the DCCSPs Project. But rather, our dialogue, which began at the conference and continued in a shared online document, was premised on/reflected several tenets of duoethnography (Norris, 2008). Specifically, the tenets of currere, being polyvocal and dialogic, disrupting metanarratives, and researcher difference as necessary were utilized (Sawyer & Norris, 2012).
Currere occurs when one's life is viewed as a curriculum. Duoethnographers "recall and reexamine that emergent, organic, and predominantly unplanned curriculum in conversation with one another" (Sawyer & Norris, 2012, p. 12). In this way, authors learn with and from one another. For the polyvocal and dialogic tenet of duoethnography, "dialogue within duoethnography functions as a mediating device to promote researchers' development of higher forms of consciousness" (p.13). Thus, each of the perspectives in a duoethnography is given equal status versus in a collaborative autoethnography wherein a researcher would endeavor to construct one story out of two or more (Ellis, 2004). This tenet of duoethnography also informs the conversational structure of the paper here, a conversation which embeds theory, data, and analysis (see also: Nusbaum & Sitter, 2016; Deckman & Ohito, 2020). Furthermore, the team did not work to reach consensus in the form of an agreeable conclusion at the end of this paper. Instead, according to the tenets of duoethnography, we made our disparate experiences explicit. Moreover, by articulating these differences, we demonstrated how multiple individuals experienced the same phenomenon (e.g., our work within the DCCSPs Project) in different ways. Duoethnography is also about making explicit how people "can experience the same phenomena differently" (Sawyer & Norris, 2012, p. 17), which is evident in the varied locations, identities, and positions that each of us comes to the DCCSPs Project with.
Our collective conversation directly responds to this special issue of Disability Studies Quarterly through our critical and duoethnographic examination of teaching at the intersections of critical race theory, critical disability studies, and poverty scholarship. We are guided by Kohli and Picower (2017), who provided a model of how dialogue between critical colleagues can work to undo racism (and racism, ableism, classism, ethnocentrism, and linguicism in this project) in teacher education and, in doing so, generate collective strength and support. As critical friends, Kohli and Picower (2017) used a conversational dialogue to describe the challenges of working to confront racism in teacher education spaces. Kohli relays a challenge to Picower who talks through the issue providing a mix of support and guidance. Ultimately, they both arrive at a solution that is co-constructed from their discussion.
Kulkarni et al. (2020), for example, described the importance of collaborative discussions among interdisciplinary colleagues to move toward shifting teacher candidate understandings of disability and race. Employing a collaborative self-study, the authors used their collective dialogues and roles as critical friends to address the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and the appointment of secretary of state Betsy DeVos. In both of these examples, the authors illustrated the importance of shared conversations and dialogue to (re)imagine teaching and education among collaborators. This paper moves one step further, by engaging collaborators from diverse roles as academics and community scholars coming together to engage in the duoethnographic process.
The SDS virtual conference panel was structured with questions posed by Emily to Lydia, Tiny, and Holly (three of the community partners). Saili, Amanda, and Emily responded to what Lydia, Tiny, and Holly shared and asked clarifying questions. Following the SDS conference, a Google doc was made from the transcript of the panel discussion and all authors continued the dialogue electronically. Brianna and Lateef were part of the electronic dialogue, although they could not attend the SDS virtual panel. Anything in italics was developed from the SDS panel transcript.
The dialogue here uncovers the ways the authors understand teaching and education as an inherently political act, which must center that which has historically been marginalized and ignored (e.g., the experiences and wisdom of those living in poverty and disability and its intersections as curriculum content). Also evident are the ways that the authors here emphasize the need for allies working within the (fundamentally flawed) education system, as it currently exists, in order to do this centering work. Finally, the silos that exist within PreK-12 education as well as higher education (e.g., special education which relies on medicalized and deficit-based notions of disability in order to provide legally mandated supports to students) are identified as a source of tension and limitation for educators wanting to pursue the possibility of liberation through education; or as one author described it "a community I didn't know I was missing."
Question 1: This is a project that centers the knowledge of disabled people of color and engages with teachers. How do you engage with teachers, work with teachers, and engage within K-12 education systems?
I am a poverty scholar…what I teach on (is informed by) what Dr. Wade Nobel, and my Momma Dee, and other powerful Black, Indigenous, and poor people. (Teaching about) the ways in which people take their class and race, but deeply class privilege and make decisions about our houseless lives and our poor lives and our Black and Brown and Indigenous lives. And in doing so make decisions to separate and destroy family systems. So, one of the key parts about teaching this, I would say, is that there is a flipping of the lens and real integration of poverty scholarship. This is essential. Rich people have trouble redistributing to poor people directly. We're a movement aligning ourselves with other landless people movements across mother earth…(Decolonize Academy) is a small school. All of our youth are folks that have been lost in the system of punitive detention and expulsion…that are created by teachers. (This) power dominance becomes the way in which families are criminalized, and not held, not supported, not listened to, but criminalized.
I don't teach on anything I haven't lived, struggled with, or manifested…the answer is not to look away or dismantle the public school system. Rather it's to support it, lift it up. Oftentimes it's the only meal, warm room, or jacket that you're going to get when you're in poverty. And it absolutely intersects with disability. Not only are our children oftentimes struggling with different forms of disability, but also our parents and our mommas and our daddies- albeit undiagnosed, unseen, unlistened to. Equally important is deep classism and racism. The way these all intersect is absolutely at the nexus of the classroom. I do children's books specifically because of this emergency- that's how I see it- the emergency of shame that is also promoted within American school systems. The shame around poverty, homelessness, the shame around disability, and the subsequent mantle of criminalization, detention, and expulsion. I (did) a book called "El Trabador / The Hard Worker," which centers a disabled, houseless, gentrifucked elder as the protagonist, and a momma and a child as the solidarity workers. It centers a different liberation story and a different protagonist and is bilingual. That story is barely ever told and so many families deal with evictions. Another one (book) is "When Momma and Me Lived Outside." This is from when me and my mom were (living) outside and dealing with the violence called "sweeps." Many children and youth are struggling with that in the school system and the silencing and the shame mantle is huge.
I also want to go back to our theory and why poverty scholarship is urgent. It is a different way to not only think about education itself, but also about thinking of the role of teachers and systems that support teachers…I want to challenge the notion of talking about us without us.
When I think about our education system I think about the ways in which most of us fail to recognize that it is part of a broader structure and (set of) systems. The education system literally sets up students to be surveilled and have families targeted by the family regulation system, by the criminal legal system, and to be placed into disability incarceration. The education system isn't neutral. Most of us have, I think, some grasp of that concept- that our education system is not neutral and that its aims are much broader and deeper than ostensibly to education. And that the system itself entrenches capitalized racism and ableism. So for me, thinking about how to engage with teachers is a twofold question: on the one hand, most people I know who got into teaching do so because they are genuinely committed to education…but even accounting for teachers who actually care about anti-oppression work, who are a subset of all teachers, they are (still) operating within a system that does not have any incentive to address its own harm or violence. No white supremacist system is incentivized to take itself apart and never will be…(we need) other means to try to do work, to the extent it is possible, to address harm within inherently harmful institutions.
I believe very much that there is a role and a need for people to be playing the inside game, but we can't confuse playing the inside game with doing the work of liberation. We can't confuse playing the inside game for doing the work of dismantling the structure of those institutions. However, if we don't have people who are doing the inside game, then we've actually precluded whole possibilities for doing harm reduction…for me, as an organizer and as somebody who is here multiply marginalized and (who has) privilege at the same time, I want to know how we can do work in two sets of strategies and tactics…If we don't dream of and build alternatives for the next world to come, then it doesn't matter how much harm reduction work we're attempting to do. No matter how much work we do for immediate harm reduction and interruption of the most directly impactful violences of our systems, that is not going to mean much and not going to move us closer to justice if we don't have a vision we're working toward.
Lydia, when I have re-read your words here about working "the inside game" and not confusing this with the work of liberation and doing work outside of/separate from institutions, as they are, I think a lot about the structure and nature of this project. Something I've talked with Saili and Amanda about (and also Leroy and other mentors) is wanting to do this "work" outside of the K-12 system, but in the community with disabled youth and their allies. Building in-community knowledge that way and creating space(s) that can grow outside of K-12 education. What you describe here is a real source of tension for me, after working in university-based teacher education in a range of roles for 20 years and not seeing any real change in the school-lives of kids labeled with a disability (or in other marginalized places), despite hard, hard work. Based on what you say here, what are ways you imagine "dream(ing) of and build(ing) alternative for the next world to come?" How can we imagine this project as a part of that imagining, and what kinds of changes would you want us to make?
I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Anthropology and Social Change department at California Institute for Integral Studies. As an adult my primary contact with the K-12 educational system is in the form of a guest lecturer, talking to a class or a school auditorium about my primary school experiences being black and disabled. The goal of these encounters is to make the students widen their perception of what people with different bodies, minds, and abilities go through on a daily basis. Although this was important work, I now have my critiques of these encounters…did they have the intended effect on the students? For one thing, when I am a guest in the school it is seen as a special occurrence and students may infer that disability is separate from their everyday life. So, the question becomes how do we educate students so they are not only aware of disability, but are actively anti-ableist as well as being anti-racist and anti-sexist?
Lateef you hit the nail on the head here— how do we move beyond the "one-off" guest lecture, but embed kind of work—knowledge-sharing, knowledge-production, into curriculum, and within broader diversity work in our schools— within the current structural barriers that exist (largely the special education/general education divide and the "ownership" of disability by special education in P-12 schools)? As someone who has done these guest lectures, aimed at widening students' perceptions of disability, what are ways that you could conceive of doing this work in a school differently? I currently teach pre-service general educators and my courses focus on curriculum across content areas, so I use that opportunity to center disability and its intersections in our work creating curriculum and developing accessible learning opportunities for elementary school students. I typically require students to purchase texts from people like Tiny Garcia, Leroy Moore, and your poetry in my classes, but lack access to the funds to engage with folks like you as teaching partners in these spaces. In most of my experiences as a university teacher, institutions are not willing to make the kinds of structural and procedural changes necessary to really engage with community scholars in ways that honor and center their knowledge via equity in compensation.
As a disabled person of color, my knowledge and my experience often within these systems is (also) usually being asked to speak to teachers to tell a personal story. Which is an exploitative and reductive practice that serves to uphold and legitimize racism and ableism…and I find it very uncommon to be asked to collaborate as somebody who actually has something to offer besides trauma porn for the benefit of people with privilege and resources.
I can weigh in a little bit…One of the reasons that we came together for this project is that we noticed that traditional teacher preparation programs in the university setting were not offering this sort of connection with all of our collaborators, were not offering anything about what ableism actually meant in the context of special education or teacher education. Even with a teacher education program of maybe a couple of years, teachers are still not getting some of this information that is critical.
And I think this (is a) tension, for folks in the academy, this idea that you are supposed to work alone or stay siloed and do your own thing. For me, it's been sort of eye-opening and exciting to be able to connect with so many folks- not doing this in a silo. For a long time as a teacher educator and a teacher, I was like "I'll do my own version of whatever resistance looks like." It is not sustainable to do any of it alone. That is where teachers also experience burnout and the fatigue from not being able to do this alone. So, part of this is also trying to build a community of folks who are wanting to do this work, this resistance work.
Saili, this siloing and burnout is so real. On university campuses, everything is siloed and there is so little opportunity in most higher ed spaces to think dynamically, fluidly, build coalitions across traditional boundaries/disciplines. I wonder how we think about trying to provide support and community to teachers—- and also keep pushing them to think about how to "play the inside game," as Lydia put it earlier. Without making burnout happen faster, without the very real fears that teachers have about keeping their jobs when they try to work around the "system," and given the power of traditional thinking in special education. (besides starting our own school!). I've also shared with you before but think deeply about the ethical tensions in doing this work with teachers who teach in segregated settings with multiply marginalized kids and their families. What are our expectations when we teach disability history and activism to these teachers? And is it ethical to then want them to teach this to kids who live segregated educational lives and have no real power in the system of special education and labeling that keeps them there? I want to keep thinking and talking through this to help me at least feel more settled in this tension, even if we don't have a specific answer.
Thanks for these questions and tensions Emily! I think it's worth a both AND approach. We know that we cannot dismantle the existing system overnight, therefore it is still important to support and work with special educators currently working in segregated settings AND also inform them that the setting in which they are working is problematic and worth dismantling. Showing them how to work towards dismantling the system they are in is also part of the dismantling from within. It is then only through this collective refusal that we can generate enough pressure to say maintaining current segregated settings is unacceptable and inappropriate.
We cannot dismantle a system overnight, but I think it is our duty to guide people to conceptualize how systems of oppression can be undone. Sometimes people do not see how societal barriers can be changed and need to be shown the different opportunities. I think it is our job to illustrate how these different opportunities can be utilized. In education, I see that we need to focus on developing that curiosity for learning in everyone and finding what an individual is interested in. Everyone has at least one area that they can be excited about and I think that is part of the mission of the educator.
I agree and wanted to reiterate that we want to reposition who is considered knowledgeable in the academy through this project - and center disabled scholars of color. Teacher candidates often learn about disability, disabled people, houselessness, and folks experiencing poverty from textbooks. This learning is often without context and connection, void of intersectional experiences and solutions. It goes back to what Tiny was saying about folks learning about poverty from people who don't know the experience. Leroy talked about it with last year's cohorts from this project too. In the context of special education, teacher candidates may go into the field without ever knowing someone with disabilities, without learning about disability from disabled people (youth and adults). Their view of the disability experience as well as their views of houselessness and poverty are more constrained and narrower. This inevitably impacts how they think about youth and act through their pedagogy.
Agree, this focus on special education as for people with disabilities rather than with people with disabilities renders so many teachers without these critical experiences to highlight the importance of lived experiences and the knowledge that they bring!
My thoughts are all over the place here, but a few things come up reading others' responses to this question and thinking about this question. Something that Emily said in response to Lydia about imagining made me think about how so often the system isolates stories and people- like Lateef talked about- in one-time lectures. I often feel very isolated, filled with all the tensions that everyone is talking about here. This project for me offered a reimagining of collaboration and a pushback against the isolation, bridging work inside and outside, but for me more importantly bridging the gap the system creates between people. This project offered me a community I didn't know I was missing
Me too, Brianna— the community part. I think that any ways we can build these kinds of spaces has the possibility of imagining something new, while doing the "inside" work. I think that "systems" benefit from keeping people in isolation. I'm reminded about this when I see segregated special education classrooms, programs, or school sites and the isolation that students in these classrooms, their teachers, and their families experience for their entire P-12 school lives.
"A community I didn't know I was missing" is such a beautiful and powerful sentiment, Brianna. What an incredible opportunity to build community in these ways! In addition to the isolation associated with special education that Emily speaks of, I also think about educational isolation when I see faculty in their tiny offices with little space or opportunity for others to come in and join them, literally and figuratively. And then I think about how multiply marginalized communities, including but not limited to houseless folks, youth of color (with disabilities) and their families, disabled people, and racial, social, environmental, intersectional activists, have used social media and online spaces to create community and support, to reimagine community and support. At the same time, the digital divide is real, and online spaces (and navigating them) are not necessarily equitable or accessible.
Our reflective, collective dialogue identified several sources of tension when collaborating to (potentially) redefine boundaries and create new kinds of partnerships between university and community scholars. For example, Holly's words identify the double-bind of a project like the DCCSPs Project. It requires us to consider the implications of inviting multiply marginalized disabled folks as essential sources of knowledge and wisdom for teachers to the table to create the table (Cipollone et al., 2022). Yet so many of the teacher candidates participating in the DCCSPs project have not previously had sustained opportunities to learn from those outside of the academy in their teacher preparation programs (beyond the one-off guest speaker). We ask ourselves: What are the ways that we ensure that teaching and learning from and with multiply marginalized community scholars is not performative? Our dialogue also brought monetary compensation to the forefront and questions about traditional, academic research output and decision-making. We continue to ask ourselves questions like: What purpose will this serve or what is the value of this manuscript to community scholars? How do we compensate community scholars for their contributions to traditional, academic publications? How do we ensure parity in monetary compensation for all contributors to DCCSPs?
Question 2: Based on your role in the project, what are any tensions that you've experienced in this community-university partnership?
When we're working with future educators or current educators, in one semester or in three workshops, we are expected to unpack 20, 30, 40, 50 plus years of socialization. That is a lot to ask. I'm not saying that we shouldn't, but that is a lot to ask. And that is, I feel, getting to the limitation aspect of it. I know for myself I am the first Deaf, disabled person these folks have encountered. (In my own classes) it's like the first semester with my team of ASL interpreters to get them to get used to this "new normal." That is one semester to get used to "how do we work with Deaf, disabled, BIPOC, queer, plus ASL team." So, time. We know that we can't reclaim time, even though time is highly constructed.
The other piece I'll add is recognizing with the current system that we're operating within—the only way to implement change or only way to influence another is to the body and voices of someone who looks like them. So, I am heavily dependent on- while they are my allies and co-conspirators- I am dependent on my dean, my chair, my white colleagues who are able-bodied, who have full professor status, to facilitate awareness of why we need such language, such courses, and such pedagogy.
The topic of money came up in conversations in this project, too. Ensuring both that all of us who are a part of this project, who don't have full-time academic jobs, would be compensated for our work. And more than being compensated for the work of the workshops we would be compensated and recognized as collaborators and colleagues in any publications that come out of this project and any conference presentations. Because so often, even when marginalized disabled people are asked to be part of the research portion of a project, we're not part of what happens on the output end. We don't have a say where the research goes and what it is used for, what grants are applied for, what money goes to do, where research is presented, what is written about it, and how it is understood or analyzed. One of the only exceptions to that is when disabled people are a part of the organizing team of a research project to begin with. When we're not a part of the team to begin with, then we will always be understood and positioned as people to be extracted from, but not as collaborators.
The topic of money is a core part of that. Because we live under fucking capitalism, we need money to pay our bills. And the old model that presumed all academics were nondisabled, landed, wealth-privileged, white men, all tenured, literally is not true even if that category remains dominant in academic spaces. But so many people, whether they hold academic positions or not, are producing scholarship that needs to be recognized as scholarship- they are not in these positions. In this model of not getting paid for publishing, having to pay your own way to participate in any conference, and if you're speaking somewhere you are offered at most a tiny honorarium of $100- which, to be clear- might pay my electric bill, but it will not pay for someone's rent or food, certainly nothing for a whole family. This model does not hold anymore. So, academics who continue to do their work in accordance with that model, as if all of the people producing knowledge worth being respected and cited and held up as authoritative, are hyper-privileged, wealth-privileged white men who are being paid livable salaries by their universities—then we're going to continue extracting and exploiting knowledge from disabled people.
I would add that poor people create curriculum, poor people create literature, poor people create messaging and information, but it is not seen as educational. I think that part of this project is to flip that space. Going back to what Lydia was saying, what is considered valid publishing? What are considered valid sources of knowledge? If it's been published by AKK-gimmick presses, that makes you real? How is legitimacy defined? How is curriculum defined? And that is how 'about us without us" continues. It obviously goes back to the system, of who is supported, and who can even be there. And how the Safeway food cars, $100, or whatever stipend is considered adequate (for an honorarium). This just happened recently with us with a prominent university- that on one hand figures out how to pay rock star "educators" with a Ph.D. behind their name 5 grand minimum. Us poverty scholars get invited in, and we have to fight for one or two hundred dollars. It's funny, because in challenging it the answer is always "We don't have any resources." I'm just really struck by the hypocrisy of that.
From my position, I don't think some professors or teachers do not understand the time and work it takes to prepare to present for their class. I have to concur with Lydia's and Tiny's remarks that we disabled people sometimes are not properly compensated for our contributions to academic curriculums. Our knowledge creation may not seem as valued to some in academia. But our knowledge creation should be valued because it comes from our lived experiences, which become our research and scholarship.
I am struck by a few things. First, is the notion of transformation versus education. I suspect that many of us who "do" work (e.g., teaching, research, etc.) in universities and other institutions want what we are "doing" to be transformative. And yet then I'm sometimes pessimistic that it's impossible to be truly transformative when we're working within systems (like P-12 education) that are designed to do/be the opposite of transforming! How can/do we strive for transformation, while acknowledging the limitations, and do so in ways that honor and acknowledge the hard work of well-meaning people, but also let them know that the systems in which many of them work are broken and often violent and oppressive? I'm pulling from some of your words (Tiny - "…what I teach is how to live and how to hold each other in struggle."). And yes— this is what many of us are trying to do in our work with educators. Most recently I've started to wonder if and how this is possible in the context of the university and their work as teachers in systems that don't work. Because transformation means you cannot go back- to the way you were before. That you are changed- and with that change how you understand the world is changed.
Our collective dialogue continued to explore issues related to the knowledge and wisdom of the community and the responsibility of those based in universities to center the knowledge production of community scholars and to do so in ways that don't create or sustain "hierarchies of thought," as described by Lateef. What accountability practices can those based in universities utilize to ensure they are not co-opting grassroots, community sources of knowledge (such as poverty scholarship and disability justice)? And as university-based scholars engage in collaborative relationships and projects with community scholars, how can these partnerships support re-thinking structures, schedules, modes, and ways of working within the university that are previously unexamined?
Question 3: For community scholars: what is most critical for the university collaborators to keep at the forefront as they potentially capitalize on the knowledge of the community?
Something that I'd appreciate folks to weigh on- related to how academics and university spaces often co-opt the knowledge of the community and my/our desire to be extremely cognizant of this and aware of the ways that we might be doing this within our collective project- is how should we be thinking about the value of traditional academic work (e.g. publications in peer-reviewed journals, academic conference spaces) for community scholars whose knowledge, experiences, books, art, etc. is the basis of the academic work that is being generated? In what ways, if at all, is traditional academic work valuable to you? What can/should university-based academic scholars be doing differently, doing more of, or thinking about as they take community knowledge (in all forms and all that it encompasses) into traditional academic spaces?
So, I want to lift up that we (POOR Magazine and Press) have put resources out there. And there are other resources for curriculum development. Things like the street sheet (that exists) in every neighborhood across America. You don't have to look that hard for knowledge sources that are rooted in community….whenever we work (I'm speaking of we as fellow poverty scholars, indigenous scholars, disability scholars) we're talking about transformation, not just education for education's sake. I never teach anything that can't be used, applied, or support communities in the struggle…Look at poverty scholarship as a legitimate knowledge system. Recognize the connection between what is theory created by poor people means and how that can actually be changing the way that, for example, anti-social workers are trained to, how to become love-workers in social work schools. Get me in front of law school and med school where they perpetuate harm against bodies everyday…I don't say dismantle the institution, although that is another conversation…What I teach is how to live and how to hold each other in struggle.
When the community scholarship is furthering the academic discourse, it should definitely be included in the field of thought in that field. We should not have a hierarchy of thought but base the academic thought and the research on the relevancy it provides to the field.
I think you put this so perfectly, Lateef-- "hierarchy of thought." I've advised students and been on thesis and dissertation committees when their chair wouldn't allow them to cite "non-academic" sources. Even folks who think about themselves as critical, justice-oriented academics! I hope now this trend is easing- but I remember so clearly about 4 years ago- a student wasn't allowed to cite Sins Invalid DJ primer as a source for using a disability justice framework-- but instead encouraged to find peer-reviewed citations using a DJ framework to cite. It made me so angry and was something that I really pushed back on.
I am so glad that my school allowed me to cite the DJ primer then. The DJ primer is a primary source authored by some of the originators of the disability justice framework. It is ridiculous to not allow it as a citation.
Cultivating Joy and Sustenance
Finally, we shared how our individual experiences of joy are essential to our collective desire for transformation, and also the ways in which choosing this project was a form of sustenance for some of us. These concepts and practices of joy and sustenance are too often absent from research and practice spaces (Case & Joubert, 2020; hooks, 1994). We have also experienced the tensions and pressures that life during the pandemic has created, to varying degrees and in vastly different ways, for many of us. For example, the access potentiality of using an online platform like Zoom made the DCCSPs Project possible but also created highly impacted schedules as life/work boundaries blurred. Moreover, the life-threatening and debilitating impacts of current political, economic, and social worlds on multiply marginalized community scholars in the DCCSPs Project were real and could not be ignored. As such, the team leaned on practices of interdependence (Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, 2018) and a politic of care (hooks, 1994; Zygmunt et al., 2018) to support one another across this community-university partnership.
Question 4: Some things that we haven't talked about yet—but that are essential to this kind of work that we aspire to is where things like joy and choosing what sustains us and fits into our individual and collective desire for transformation. What are ways that each of you/us creates this?
Creative writing, whether it is poetry or fiction, gives me joy. I also find that it is a great teaching tool when I include my poetry in my academic presentations. I see that my poems give students more of a visceral way to think about certain topics that can be more memorable and impactful. In my field research for my dissertation, I am investigating ways in which people who use AAC like me can assist each other as mentors as we navigate this society.
Learning from and with everyone in this project brings me joy. So grateful to be in community with you all.
Me too, Amanda. So very much. Also, the kind of interpersonal engagement that happens. For example, Brianna and I have known one another for eight years- when they were in one of my classes and we developed a strong friendship and care for one another. And now- the opportunities I get to see them on the Zoom screen, to listen to what and how they connect with our participants about project content….that brings me so much joy, deep in my heart. When this project was first being conceptualized and Saili brought you and I together I was at a very challenging point in my life, being involved in litigation against an institution. What I had to do to prepare and be in that process, and the gaslighting that I experienced, created a level of anxiety that drove my always anxious self to deep depression and even suicidal ideation. I remember when communicating with Saili initially about creating this project I was also struggling so much- I had lost all of my sense of professional confidence and identity. And working to create this with all of you and to have a focus on this kind of community-centered work was one of the things that gave me purpose during that very, very low time. I have both such a deep appreciation for the community-based folks who so generously partner with us and lead us—- and also a sense of joy from how much better and bigger and more satisfying my professional (and personal!) life is when I can focus on projects like this one.
I agree with Amanda and Emily. The community and collaboration of this project bring me much joy. I very much enjoy working with the team, and my collaboration with Leroy. Emily, so many thoughts and feelings come flooding back. The continued community fostering this project has allowed and brings me happiness.
Definitely, this project and working with you all has brought so much joy over the past few years. It is amazing to watch the transformation of teachers as they work towards undoing both internalized and externalized ableism and racism as they learn from all of you! The deep engagement with the commitments we've all made to generating an accessible, relevant space has meant continued joy!
I see you, Emily. I know it isn't always done perfectly but I really appreciate how we try to hold space for it all. I think another component of this project that brings joy is the possibility and hope that it exudes. Maybe that's the answer to your question above. Copying here too so I can see it - What are ways that you dream/imagine this work at your institutions? How can those readers of this manuscript who are at universities full-time or with tenure pursue this kind of curricular inclusion? I dream/imagine this work, these ideas, these partnerships, these shifts in positioning who is most knowledgeable to be an integral part of teacher preparation. I brought it up last year as the division was (and continues to, to some degree) restructuring (for new state guidelines) programs and courses here but it wasn't picked up in any kind of integrating sort of way let alone a sustaining way (and I think that's on me too, I was new, etc.). It's a big shift from the categorical teacher licensing that happens in this state. But keeping it only at the university would be a disservice. I dream of the work moving beyond the institution, partnering and connecting with local school districts, state-level folks, policymakers. I would encourage faculty to connect with disabled activists of color in their communities, local organizations, perhaps folks that aren't local but who they know are engaged in this work. Make sure you can pay and compensate people for their time, energy, sacrifice, and labor. It's praxis. And it's process-focused. We're always growing and learning and changing. We stumble and need to be/are corrected. Remain open to that. It's messy and really important.
Amanda, this is beautiful. And captures so much about how I've felt since we all began this project together. The praxis that happens when we stumble, learn, correct, change, and grow. So much of what you describe and dream about above would be an anecdote to the kind of isolation that systems create and benefit from. I also dream of ways this can happen outside the institution- I've shared my dream of some kind of community-based organization with disabled youth and their allies. A space for learning, experiencing, teaching, and creating with folks like the community scholars in our project.
Responding to the call of this special issue for multiple disability studies genealogies, this duoethnography documents our different experiences collaborating within the DCCSPs Project. Importantly, duoethnography was an accessible and generative methodology for us to share with the readership. It details our varied pasts and the ways in which each of these shape our ongoing efforts related to knowledge production centering disability and its intersections. Moreover, duoethnography allowed us to position our perspectives equitably as we dialogued and reflected with one another consciously and with care.
We hope and believe the DCCSPs Project is an evolving collaboration that offers the opportunity to propound disability globally by (a) recentering the knowledge, stories, creativity, and experiences of multiply marginalized disabled community scholars within teacher preparation and (b) moving outside the confines of university classrooms and curricula and into accessible, online spaces as a core element of anti-racist and anti-ableist teacher preparation. We situate this (re)imagining project, of who and what "counts" within traditional academic spaces (e.g., licensure coursework, publications, conference presentations), as both part of the "inside work" mentioned above and part of the creation of something new. As such, this is a project that lives within tensions that offer generative, new possibilities. Although not exhaustive, as part of this "insider work," we are sharing relevant resources generated by some of the activists and community scholars we are in partnership with (see Table 1).
- Adamuti-Trache, M., & Hyle, A. E. (2015). Building university-community partnerships. In W. J. Jacob, S. E. Sutin, J. C. Weidman, & J. L. Yeager (Eds.), Community engagement in higher education (pp. 73-88). Sense Publishers.
- Alim, H. S., & Paris, D. (2017). What is culturally sustaining pedagogy and why does it matter. In D. Paris & H. S. Alim (Eds.), Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and learning for justice in a changing world (pp. 1-21). Teachers College Press.
- Annamma, S. A., Connor, D., & Ferri, B. (2013). Dis/ability critical race studies (DisCrit): Theorizing at the intersections of race and dis/ability. Race Ethnicity and Education, 16(1), 1-31. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2012.730511
- Baglieri, S., Valle, J. W., Connor, D. J., & Gallagher, D. J. (2011). Disability studies in education: The need for a plurality of perspectives on disability. Remedial and Special Education, 32(4), 267-278. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741932510362200
- Barnes, M. E. (2017). Encouraging interaction and striving for reciprocity: The challenges of community-engaged projects in teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 68, 220-231. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.09.004
- Case, A., & Joubert, E. (2020). Teaching in disruptive bodies: finding joy, resistance and embodied knowing through collaborative critical praxis. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 33(2), 192-201. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2019.1681539
- Chang, H., Ngunjiri, F., & Hernandez, K. A. C. (2016). Collaborative autoethnography (Vol. 8). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315432137
- Cipollone, K., Zygmunt, E., Robert Scaife, P., & Scaife, M. W. (2022). "Let's Create the Table": Reengaging Democracy in Teacher Preparation Through Radical Reciprocity. Teachers College Record 124(3), 61-88. https://doi.org/10.1177/01614681221086775
- Cipollone, K., Zygmunt, E., & Tancock, S. (2018). "A paradigm of possibility": Community mentors and teacher preparation. Policy Futures in Education, 16(6), 709-728. https://doi.org/10.1177/1478210317751270
- Cosier, M., & Ashby, C. (2016). Enacting change from within: Disability studies meets teaching and teacher education. Peter Lang. https://doi.org/10.3726/978-1-4539-1793-0
- Deckman, S. L., & Ohito, E. O. (2020). Stirring vulnerability,(un)certainty, and (dis)trust in humanizing research: Duoethnographically re-membering unsettling racialized encounters in social justice teacher education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 33(10), 1058-1076. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2019.1706199
- Ellis, C. (2004). The Ethnographic I. AltaMira.
- hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.3366/para.19184.108.40.2060
- Ishimaru, A., Bang, M., Valladares, M., Nolan, C. M., Tavares, H., Rajendran, A., & Chang, K. (2019). Recasting families and communities as co-designers of education in tumultuous times. National Education Policy Center; Family Leadership Design Collaborative.
- Kulkarni, S. S., Miller, A. L., Nusbaum, E. A., Pearson, H., & Brown, L. X. Z. (2023). Toward disability-centered, culturally sustaining pedagogies in teacher education. Critical Studies in Education, Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/17508487.2023.2234952
- Kulkarni, S. S., Stacy, J., Kertyzia, H. (2020). A collaborative self study: Advocating for Democratic principles and culturally responsive pedagogy in teacher education. The Educational Forum, 84:1, 4-17, https://doi.org/10.1080/00131725.2020.1679932
- Lakshimi Piepzna-Samarasinha, L. (2018). Care work: Dreaming disability justice. Arsenal Pulp Press.
- Lee R., Showalter, B., & Eckrich, L. (2013). Beyond the ivory tower: The role of contextually based course redesign in a community-embedded urban teacher preparation model. In J. Noel (Ed.), Moving teacher rducation into urban schools and communities (pp. 56-72). Routledge.
- Marx, S., Pennington, J. L., & Chang, H. (2017). Critical autoethnography in pursuit of educational equity: Introduction to the IJME special issue. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 19(1), 1-6. https://doi.org/10.18251/ijme.v19i1.1393
- Moore, L. (2020). Black disabled ancestors. POOR Press.
- Norris, J. (2008). Duoethnography. In L. M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (Vol. 2) (pp. 233-235). Sage.
- Nusbaum, E. A., & Sitter, K. C. (2016). Disrupting the able-bodied normativity of shared power in the duoethnographic process: A critical disability studies lens [Special issue]. Critical Questions in Education, 7(3), 306–317. Retrieved from https://academyforeducationalstudies.org/journals/journal/current-and-past-issues/volume-7-issue-3-special-issue-on-critical-inquiry/
- Paris, D., & Alim, H. S. (2014). What are we seeking to sustain through culturally sustaining pedagogy? A loving critique forward. Harvard Educational Review, 84(1), 85-100. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.84.1.982l873k2ht16m77
- Picower, B., & Kohli, R. (2017). Confronting racism in teacher education. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315623566
- Sawyer, R. D., & Norris, J. (2013). Duoethnography. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199757404.001.0001
- Yull, D., Blitz, L. V., Thompson, T., & Murray, C. (2014). Can we talk? Using community-based participatory action research to build family and school partnerships with families of color. School Community Journal, 24, 9-32.
- Zeichner, K. (2010). Rethinking the connections between campus courses and field experiences in college-and university-based teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1-2), 89-99. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487109347671
- Zeichner, K. (2020). Preparing teachers as democratic professionals. Action in Teacher Education, 42(1), 38-48. https://doi.org/10.1080/01626620.2019.1700847.
- Zygmunt, E., Cipollone, K., Tancock, S., Clausen, J., Clark, P., & Mucherah, W. (2018). Loving out loud: Community mentors, teacher candidates, and transformational learning through a pedagogy of care and connection. Journal of Teacher Education, 69(2), 127-139. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487117751640
- Zygmunt, E., Clark, P., Tancock, S., Mucherah, W., & Clausen, J. (2015). Books like me: Engaging the community in the intentional selection of culturally relevant children's literature. Childhood Education, 91(1), 24-34. https://doi.org/10.1080/00094056.2015.1001661
Author note: We have no known conflict of interest to disclose. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Emily Nusbaum (email@example.com).
|Lydia X.Z. Brown
|Tiny (Lisa) Gray-Garcia
|The Homefulness Handbook
The Hard Worker / Trabajador Fuerte
Scholarship: Poor People-Led Theory, Art, Words, and Tears Across Mama Earth
|A Declaration of a Body of Love
|Leroy F. Moore, Jr.
|Black Disabled Art History 101
Black Disabled Ancestors
Krip Hop Nation
Graphic Novel Volume 1
12/5/2023: Corrected Tiny (Lisa) Gray-Garcia's affiliation to POOR Magazine.Return to Top of Page