Tempered radicalism in the academy: Scholar-activism in the neoliberal university

Jennifer Richter, Arizona State University
Flora Farago, Stephen F Austin State University
Beth Blue Swadener, Arizona State University
Denisse Roca-Servat
Kimberley A. Eversman

Richter, J, Faragó, F, Swadener, BB, Roca‐Servat, D, Eversman, KA. Tempered radicalism and intersectionality: Scholar‐activism in the neoliberal university. Journal of Social Issues. 2020; 1‐ 22. https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12401


Using a collaborative critical personal narrative methodology grounded in intersectionality, we interrogated tensions in identifying ourselves as tempered radicals and scholar‐activists who were involved in a local university‐community activist organization. We assert the value of informal activist spaces within the university and identify issues related to the lack of recognition of scholar‐activism as legitimate scholarship, including the paradox of universities as colonizing and liberatory spaces for community engagement and activism. Our themes highlight how mentorship affects scholar‐activism and how activism transforms and disrupts the neoliberal university. Yet, activism is rendered invisible, making homeplaces for scholar‐activism critical for students, faculty, staff, and the community to address structural inequalities within and outside of the university. We conclude with recommendations to improve mentorship for scholar‐activists, to revise tenure and promotion policies to include scholar‐activism, and to recognize spaces within the academy that honor scholar‐activism as a critical form of praxis informed by intersectionality.