Fantasy spaces and emotional derailment: Reflections on failure in academic activism

Jamie Callahan, Carole Elliott

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Against a backdrop of contentious political landscapes of Brexit and the
Trump victory, we reflect on our own experience of an attempt to
engage in an activist event for academics that failed. We contend that
our experiences of failure in this event, revealed by fantasy spaces and
emotional derailment, serve as lessons for reinvigorating possibilities for
academic activism. To provide background, we describe an event
designed to form a policy as a collective response to the populism of
Donald Trump. We then reflect on our role as critical scholars in this
event that failed to meet our objective, and taught us other important
lessons. Our analysis leads us to address three orthodoxies: diatribes
decrying the awfulness of Trump and his administration cronies create
fantasy spaces that might ‘feel’ good, but are actually counterproductive;
academia itself is a site for activism that has far-reaching implications;
and that hiding failure is a form of collaboration with performativity. Our
provocation is, in part, to resist the ‘heroic’ and grandiose success story
narrative – both in academia and activism. We do this by foregrounding
vulnerability through sharing our own story of failure and reflecting on
some of the devices that derailed our attempt at academic activism.

© 2019, The Author(s). This is an author produced version of a paper published in ORGANIZATION uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link below. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

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