Meaning what to do?, என்ன செய்ரது (enna seyrathu?) is a rhetorical question, reflecting anxiety, frustration, and/or resignation with a situation that must be accepted. I’m not fluent in Tamil, but I mutter it to myself in the face of oppression. When a teaching contract wasn’t renewed because I rejected the grade inflation myth: Enna seyrathu? When my appendix ruptured and no one believed me for nine months: Enna seyrathu? When I find myself engaging in exploitatively high amounts of university service and emotional labor, especially compared to my white colleagues: Enna seyrathu? When the Sri Lanka Easter bombing happened and a student mocked my grief and disability in my teaching evaluations: Enna seyrathu?
In her work on dismantling the carceral state, Mariame Kaba notes that “hope is a discipline.” She articulates the questions we must continually return to:
1. What resources exist so I can better educate myself? 2. Who’s already doing work around this injustice? 3. Do I have the capacity to offer concrete support & help to them? 4. How can I be constructive?We Do This ‘Til We Free Us, 2018
Enna seyrathu straddles the line between resigned pragmatism (there is nothing to do) and hope (what is there to do).
This is how I feel when I consider three frameworks that are intrinsic to my research, teaching, and service, but treated as lip-service or outright dismissed by academia.
We write land acknowledgments and do very little within our material capacities to further the repatriation of stolen human remains and artifacts
We write access statements at institutions that in architecture and policy fail to admit all bodies.
We reify traditional research writing—the default mode of academic scholarship—as the only genre available to critical, rigorous, theoretical research.
There is nothing to do in the face of oppression, but there is also always something that can be done.
My service and public writing transpires under these twin logics. These Notes include my personal creative philosophy, departmental service work, and disability activism.
I have thoughts about these subjects, but long-form writing is often at odds with what my bodymind can do. I try to honor both my cognitive and energy capacities and my desire to engage in and share knowledge by producing short-form action-oriented work on land, on access, on genre, on illness. It isn’t lost on me that writing Notes like these are perfect for my disabled way of being, but are deemed useless in academia’s final analysis. I hope they are useful for you.