Things that Work

Go home, 2020, you’re an apocalyptic cascade of oppressive systems freshly exposed (again) by a global pandemic, worldwide #BLM protests, and a corresponding surge in public conversations about Racial Justice and Disability Justice.

In other news, I haven’t been blogging in awhile. I have been active on Twitter (@nrhelms), and I’ve been quite busy with the turn to #PandemicPedagogy. Also, after eight long years, I am finally off the academic job market! I have luckily landed at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire as a Assistant Professor of British Literature. I cannot emphasize the luck of it all enough. The current state of employment in higher education is toxic, and collective action is needed now to avoid an apocalypse of higher ed. Or, as my new colleague Matthew Cheney put it recently:

What can we do? How might we reshape our feelings of powerlessness into a sense of possibility? How might some ideals survive?

In this space today I want to quickly count my academic blessings, the bits of work and conversation that are bearing fruit during this trying year.

First, thanks to support from PSU English and from the Open Learning and Teaching Collaborative at PSU, I’ve launched Intersectionality Talks, a new digital speaker series at PSU.

I’ll also be on the Saul O Sidore Lecture Series committee at PSU, where I especially hope to bring to bear my contacts in Racial and Disability Justice. There’s so much exciting, powerful work being done right now in #ShakeRace and #RaceB4Race, for instance!

I’ve restarted the official PSU English Blog, now called The Ellen Reeder (after the Ellen Reed House on PSU’s campus, home of English faculty offices).

I’m also active in the Disabled Academics Collective, a blog and mutual aid network for everyone in higher ed from undergraduates to faculty & staff to independent scholars. We run a Discord server that’s proving to be a great space for building community and swapping strategies. I’m also on the editorial and social media teams, so if you’re looking to publish something short on disability and higher ed, hit me up.

Finally, I’m working on OER materials for all of my courses at PSU on an ongoing basis. For the Fall of 2020, that means my Rethinking Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Currents in Global Literature courses are all online (including syllabi, assignments, most readings, and all student work). These are explicitly anti-racist and anti-ableist courses, and it’s ongoing work at the level of pedagogy, primary and secondary texts, and student assignments. Collaborative advice welcome, as always!

My goals in all this are straightforward: I want to channel my own rage into collective action; I want to showcase the excellent work of students and scholars in my orbit; and I want to focus on possibility.

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