I currently define my area of academic interest as class and culture, specifically as it relates to contemporary United States. As is revealed in my personal biography I am interested in the way class works in our daily lives, our scholarship, and most importantly our activism. My teaching and research interests focus on the politics of social constructs such as class, race, nation, sexuality, and gender; the interconnection of social and ecological justice and sustainability; issues of oppression and resistance; and the potential created by coalitions and solidarity. She does her best to include these concepts in her creative as well as her scholarly writing. Joan is also interested in theories of leadership and change that incorporate transformation and spirituality and which are based on productive relationships built on trust. Her research in leadership informs her writing and teaching, as well as her work in higher education administration and governance.
Throughout my scholarly journey I have come to be interested in the process of defining and constructing academic disciplines, the concepts of interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity, as well as cross-disciplinary and non-disciplinary approaches to learning. Consider this from Emerson’s essay “Nature” as a metaphor on the concept of interdisciplinarity (forgive the 19th century pseudo-generic use of the masculine): “The charming landscape which I saw this morning, is indubitably made up of some twenty or thirty farms. Miller owns this field, Locke that, and Manning the woodland beyond. But none of them owns the landscape. There is property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all parts, that is, the poet. This is the best part of these men’s farms, yet to this their warranty-deeds give no title.” It is the poet in each of us who can see beyond the constraints of academic as well as agricultural fields, and who will make immeasurable discovery from such diverse, holistic, and inclusive examination.
Social and Ecological Justice
Issues relating to social and ecological justice and the history of resistance and struggle have long been considered as part of a broad and balanced education. In recent years the need has grown for leaders who can take positive action to effect change in the world relating to justice and equity. More adult students are seeking degrees that concentrate specifically on social justice, human rights, environmental justice, and sustainability as it relates to both social and ecological communities and systems.
MA students earn a master of arts in humanities with a primary focus in an academic discipline such as social justice or environmental justice. Generally this is done using the methods and framework of cultural studies or history. Social justice students often direct their work toward some aspect of human social and cultural life, such as the socio-political dimensions and dynamics of culture and power, or the social constructs of race, gender, and class. Enviromental justice students may concentrate on justice relating to the environment, food, and health and consider them as they are affected by race and class. Students in the MA program may design a program to study the history of social activism, or consider the concept of being in service to social justice, social sustainability, solidarity, and coalition building.
The possibilities for a program in justice are extensive. Social or environmental justice may be the primary concentration for a humanities student, or it may be the specialization included in a program focused on women's or gender studies, economics or global relations, language and literature, environmental studies, or any discipline that would benefit from including an overview of social justice issues and practices. These areas can be carreid out as specific programs or can be completed as part of a program in social justice. In the MA program a concentration in social justice can be incorporated into any of the five degree programs.
The need exists for professional, non-profit, education, government, and other leaders who make priorities of justice, equity, and peace. At Prescott College students can create a plan of study specific to the knowledge needed for that kind of leadership.
Solidarity Studies is a nascent interdisciplinary program involving the study of social justice movements, coalitions of action, and solidarity as it relates to activism and justice. It has evolved out of my own research in class and culture and my dissertation, which develops a critical theory that incorporates the principles of solidarity and sustainability. I am indebted to Victor Lewis who, after a wonderful conversation about his work with alliance building and my work developing solidarity theory, suggested to the MAP community that the best thing we can do is start a solidarity studies program at Prescott College. I hope this program honors Victor's vision.
It is often said that in the trilogy of race, class, and gender, that class is the piece we don't see or discuss. The fact that other aspects of identity, including race and gender, are used to marginalize people or communities and turn them into second-class citizens, makes class a critically important aspect of identity needing careful consideration. In a nation that wants to see itself as being class-less, yet where the average gap between the highest and lowest paid employees of corporations has grown from 20% to 400% in forty years, an understanding of class has become crucially important to our nation's social and economic sustainability. Like gender or ethnic studies, a program in class studies will focus on the social construction of class and the historical, social, and political context of class in the United States.
“Working-Class Studies is an interdisciplinary field that emphasizes the political and cultural meanings of working-class life, highlights the relationship between class and other kinds of cultural difference, and is committed to bridging the usual gap between the humanities and the community.” Through the limited-residency Master of Arts Program at Prescott College learners can create a program in Working-Class Studies, or a program in an area such as literature, history, or culture, with a working-class emphasis.