*Post for the week of 4/10/17*
I started writing this post after I’d finished all my interviews, but then was knee deep in creating our lovely poster! So, here is a recap of the interview and poster-making process.
The week before Festival of Scholars was when I put almost all of my time into swooping in on people who might be willing to have a conversation about their activism. And I was successful! I managed seven formal interviews (recorded, took notes) and had a plethora of other more casual conversations, that helped me organize my approach.
I mostly talked with members of SEED, A little insight into the interview process: I would open up with very broad questions – “Can you give an account of a specific action or movement that you feel attached to and has meaning? Or, you could also talk about your role in activism more generally.” And man, they would talk. That was when the pretty juicy stuff came out – “I really do this because I’m an extrovert and like being with people, but the fact that I’m helping something makes it more meaningful” (not a direct quote), or “If we just go at the institution and don’t make personal changes, then we’re hypocrites.” I would follow up with more context specific questions, and only occasionally bring my own perspective into it. I wanted to listen, and prod. Topics of scale, progress, motivations (personal? obligation?), passion, hope, materialism vs. idealism, efficacy, and opposing approaches (are activists anti-institution? Who is anti-activist? The fatalists? What even makes an activist, anyway?) all came up, along with many other topics and trends. Further, five of the seven people I interviewed brought up the dichotomy between the activism we do in our own time and the type of critical thinking we develop in the classroom.
It was really interesting to see these people, only three of which were environmental studies students, talk about activism almost in terms of the scholarship I did not immediately present to them. To clarify, I didn’t immediately bring the scholarship into conversation because I didn’t want to continue trying to force a square peg in a round hole, which was the way Divest Fest went. But, people were eager to engage with these ideas, and other more critical approaches, during interviews (and the poster session).
I’m getting frustrated with the number of directions I could go with inquiry. Applying Grid-Group theory has allowed some important insights as to why activism is understood in such fragmented ways, and could potentially shed light onto some of these conflicts.
This is kind of an aside, but something else I learned during this interview process is that I need to be better about documenting my thoughts! I carry a notebook around all the time and do jot stuff down, but somehow that isn’t enough for me and my “live in the moment” tendency. Thoughts are so fleeting and so dependent on moments and distractions. I need some more tangible continuity. I cannot just be a bystander, or a witness to the flow of my thoughts! I want to harness them! I think there’s a dam metaphor in here somewhere.