After reading a new monthly issue of blog posts by a group of English teachers in Nepal earlier today, I had to get off my chest something that I’ve wanted to for a long time and pour it into a blog post. So, here it is, especially for friends and colleagues who have been told that you can’t produce good writing without perfect English or that good scholarship needs to meet a certain standard of quality and rigor and whatnot. The standards are usually local (often cast successfully as global and objective for a long time), they’re highly political (used for maintaining structures of privilege), and most of those who maintain the systems of privilege probably believe that it is all meritocratic (so, don’t be too upset with them!).
Scholarship and the Global Peripheries
The word “scholarship” brings to my mind another term, “scholar,” or a highly learned individual who writes to produce new knowledge, who publishes in prestigious venues, and whose ideas lead and shape his [yeah, I still can’t get rid of the male image in my mind] academic discipline. Growing up in one third world country (until high school) and then living and working in another (for more than a decade), I also never considered anyone in those parts of the world as producers of new and significant knowledge in the academic fields that I studied.
In fact, I still struggle in my mind to think about regular teachers (especially those in the developing world) as scholars and writers in the same way as those whose manuscripts qualify among the five or ten percent of total submissions made to established journals in their respective fields at the few global centers. Deep in my mind, the ideas and experiences of people in the global peripheries—outside of the hallowed institutions of knowledge at geopolitical and cultural centers where there are more resources, opportunities, and the power to define what counts as significant—don’t seem to carry as much value, even for their own contexts, even for their own work and lives.
So, yes, I am confessing that I can’t help feeling that the work of the five or ten percent of those who get published at the global centers (and that group is not “them” for me, I am part of it, however poorly, as I write), those who have doctoral degrees and are usually tenured at prestigious universities, those who have made it to the top of the professional ladders … best determine what counts as genuine scholarship. I automatically imagine that the extreme minority of seeming geniuses as the standard bearers of quality, novelty, substance, and significance with regard to content, method, and professional practice in any field. Continue reading