The Knowledge Hustle: A Professor’s Path toward Productivity

María E. Torres-Guzmán, Ph.D.  email
Teachers College
Columbia University

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Never in my wildest imagination, as a working class, Puerto Rican, Spanish-speaking child, roaming the Detroit, Michigan Latino barrio, did I ever think my writing would help sculpt a field. It was not about my participation in the pioneering group of Title VII fellows[1], nor about being involved in language and cultural politics, but rather about stepping into naming injustices I saw and offering, through my writings, collective solutions for futures other than what I/we knew.

As I look at how I participate in sculpting a field through my writing, I ask: What were some of the contradictions I faced in writing and publishing? How did I live them? What were some of the resolutions? What were some of the lessons learned?

Throughout my life, from childhood to adulthood, knowledge and knowing were central to my being. I eventually came to understand them as my central hustle. My hustle is a malady of almost all members of one of my tribes —university professors. The tribe seeks out knowledge —generating, imparting, and negotiating it. It is a hustle that moves me, and my tribe, into passionate living.

The university professors’ tendency, as Neumann (2009) proposed, is to constantly engage in scholarly learning —whether it is in teaching, research or service. For example, when we go to a meeting, we leave reflecting upon it, generating theory about it, and filtering it through our theoretical lenses and world-view. This engagement comes from our intense desire, in the Deleuzian sense (Delueze & Guatari, 1983), to understand our world. We engage in “the scholarship of discovery, of integration, of application and of teaching,” according to Boyer (1991), while using our social imagination (Greene, 2000) to project unto the future through our work with students, community, and our thinking/writing.

When I think about my work life as a university professor, the concerns and conflicts of productivity, in particular, occupied a lot of space. At conferences, people talk about an article accepted to a refereed journal, about the pressure of publishing before going up for tenure, and about the gossip that someone did not get tenured because they were not as productive in writing as the institution they belonged to thought they should have been. All of these are productivity-encoded discourses in our conversations that indicate both quantity and quality of our writing and publishing activities.

While some of us grew up at the time that Boyer (1991) wrote his persuasive essay on teaching as scholarship and held a similar hope as he, today we find higher stakes placed on productivity. Both teaching and service have increased in importance but, concurrently, universities have become more demanding about publishing and more explicit about the criteria used to make judgments about the faculty members’ writing and publishing than in the past.

It is my belief that with the advent of the computer and the Internet, the proliferation of writing and of publishing outlets, and a more transparent publishing process, the historically based hierarchies and competition among journals have become entrenched. Discourse codes such as ‘premier journal,’ ‘blind review,’ and ‘refereed articles’ are heard in conversations amongst professors.

From a Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) framework, contradictions are seen as necessary sources for transformation and expansive thinking (Engeström, 2001). Thus, I focus within on naming the discomforts in writing and publishing in my 30+ years in academia so as to anchor the lessons learned that might serve a younger generation. From a Chicana/Latina feminist theoretical framework (Calderon, Delgado-Bernal, Pérez-Huber, Malagón, & Vélez, 2012), methodologically, I use my experiences as sources for exploring the historical tensions we, the tribe of university professors, face, as it is likely that my life taps into the social dimensions of our collective hustle for knowledge and can serve to theorize about the potential transformation of writing and publishing in our academic lives. I will extract the lessons learned as offerings to you, the reader, with the caveat that change is inevitable and that, even when embedded in a collective human activity, the life of an individual is limited.


When we are hired to teach, advise students, do research, engage in scholarship, and give service to the community, we understand that productivity will be measured by what we do in only a segment of our work. Productivity, for the most part, is not defined as broadly as scholarly learning. Rather, productivity is defined as publishing, being cited as author of published articles, being recognized for receiving honors and awards, and to a lesser degree for securing funding (“Top Research Faculty”, 2007).

The definition of productivity is codified as the highest ranking among the varied tasks university professors are asked to perform. It embodies what constitutes and generates the ‘publish or perish’ policy conflicts we face in our daily lives. As Neumann (2009) proposes university professors attend to the “political dynamics of colleagueship, learn… to navigate bureaucratic cultures… and gain… facility in the procedural tools and artifacts of organizational life” (p. 14), while also engaging in thinking strategically about how to maintain that which makes us passionate, the area of study that attracted us in the first place, in order to stay in these jobs. Given that these are the conditions of our work, and bringing in the concept of consequence in the world (Boyer, 1991), how did I manage to both comply with these policies while disturbing my experience of writing and publishing? Or, did I?

Within the world of publishing, the ill-defined concept of impact, which is usually measured as number of times cited, attempts —in a narrow way— to get at consequence. Nonetheless, I define consequence as going beyond being read to our ability to inspire, move, and influence the people we work with. I see consequence as the use of the pen as a sword —our luchas (Castillo-Montoya, & Torres-Guzman, 2012). I believe the printed word can emerge from, live in, and instigate acts of resistances that will help us become relevant to and an inspiration to the communities we serve.

My Taino roots serve as a source for continuing to think about my knowledge hustle. I ask —what within the Taino language could help me understand its legacy, help me think about the role of knowledge? What can I bring from this understanding into the present to create new possibilities and social imaginations other than what exist?

I found two words in the Taino language that spoke to the historical shifts of my relationship to writing and to my struggles to make my writing relevant to and in the world. The first Taino word is for knowledge; it is roco. It literally means remembering to know. The second word that struck and spoke to me was kai, which means nourishment. With these two Taino words, I decided to name my inner most desire and passion as kai roco. What kai roco made me understand was my object, as my professional writing and publishing had to be dedicated to nourish other people’s knowledge —by documenting how they have pushed against what has been and remember to know in the world as I have learned. What this adds to Boyer’s thinking is that consequence needs to be determined within and beyond the ivory tower. My desire was to make a difference in the world. My world of study were those that lived in and struggle against the symbolic violence embodied in the rejection of their language, their culture, and, thus, their souls. I saw my goal as changing a piece of the oppression of that world.

Within Vygotskian theory, however, nourishing other people’s knowledge is, in part, about mediating their development. The symbolic and constitutive triangle that helps us decipher mediation is important for thinking about writing and publishing as activities. It helped me organize my thinking, and the parts of this article, around the social aspects of the mediated activities, that is, the tools and instruments, the social rules, and the divisions of labor that we face as we engage in these activities.

The written word in a journal article can be both a tool and a mediator for learning. In other words, writing has a social dimension. Thus, I have to think about the social that accompanies my aching to name something I have understood, I am not just writing for myself —even though it may feel like that. The urge might be internal, as in and through it I create and recreate my evolving identities as an author, but as I engage with the word and the world, I am concurrently creating a social imagination. I am writing in and for the world.

The social dimension of the triangle was brought to us by Leontev (1981) and Davidov (1990), as they insisted on the need to contextualize learning within the rules and division of labor that govern the context of activity. The social dimension, as they made the case, is important as otherwise the learning process was understood only partially. These social dimensions actually situate the learning and provide the conditions of development.

Locating my thinking about writing and publishing within CHAT theory, I assert that it is in the social dimension that we can locate the genre of academic journal writing. The decisions we, as individuals, make are important —as this is where we decide what type of journal we want to engage with, who our audience will be, what voice we will reconstruct ourselves in, and how we want to be understood in the world— but it is a collective endeavor.

Engeström (2001) moves CHAT into its third generation by establishing a new set of criterion for analysis. He proposes that the unit of analysis must be a minimum of two activities, and that the object of the activities is partially shared. By collective partial object, the theoretical framework refers to the underlying motivation for the engagement, not just the immediate objective. Thus, my analysis is of the two activities —writing and publishing— because productivity requires both. Furthermore, even though the sustainability of the university professors job, by itself, may require our engagement in these activities, the object of productivity can and usually does go beyond maintenance of the job —it aligns and intermingles with our passion and deep desire to nourish other people’s knowledge and to make a difference in the world.

Within the activities, I identify the contradictions that were salient in relation to the tools, the rules, or the division of labor (Engeström & Sanino, 2011). Contradictions have been identified as dilemmas, conflicts, critical conflicts and double binds at individual and/or collective levels. Dilemmas are defined as the wrestle between incompatible alternatives that are resolved with either a denial or reformulation. Conflict, which is manifested as resistance, disagreement, argument and criticism, is resolved either in compromise, submitting to authority, or in aligning to a majority. Critical conflict, which is manifested as a paralysis stemming from being overwhelmed by contradictory motives in social interaction, and/or feelings of being violated and/or of guilt. Critical conflicts are unsolvable by the individual alone and there is a morally charged narrative that can only be resolved through the negotiation of new meanings. The double bind is the fourth type of contradiction where there are unacceptable alternatives in the activity system itself; it emerges as an impossibility that calls for the urgency to do something in a collective way. The resolutions are practical; they go beyond words into action.

Within, I examine the lived contradictions of facing productivity not just as a historically constituted problem that I personally face in my academic life, but also as a nexus and source from which I found ways to continue to participate in the struggle for social justice through my writing. My proposal to do so may show naiveté about how the field of higher education has studied the development of university professors’ writing. Nonetheless, I believe that my case can serve to study the collective process (Engeström, 2000) of engaging in writing and publishing in academic journals. I experienced dilemmas and conflicts that paralyzed me, and some will be mentioned, but only to the extent that they were integral to the more socially based processes.

I will limit the inquiry within to academic writing and publishing in the genre of the journal. Even though university professors write in other genres, it is within academic journal writing (in some fields other modes are included) that we live most fiercely with the struggle against narrow definitions of productivity and consequence.

The urges stemming from my kai roco are what have pushed me into and sustained my writing and publishing mode which gave me participation in sculpting the field of bilingual education, but they did not come without contradiction, lucha (Castillo-Montoya & Torres-Guzman, 2012), and creativity. What moves the object of writing and the writing/publishing in academic journals are not incompatible. Within academic journal writing we can resist subsuming to traditional forms of knowledge, while transforming ourselves from knowledge worshipers and catchers into knowledge creators and nurturers by writing about the ways of knowing that come from, and must at the same time, serve the communities we write about and for.

Lessons Learned

Understanding the Tools. In this section I identify lessons learned about dedicated time, believing in self, and using writing to think. I have chosen to address the salient contradictions that had both historical roots within broader social realms, but from the perspective of what shifts they required of me.

Dedicated time. If you understand the distinction coming from Butler’s (1993; 1997) notion of “performativity” and “agency,” you will understand that while there might be social scripts for us that we tend to follow, we are ultimately responsible for ourselves, and who we want to be in the world. I anchor my exploration of dedicate time through this distinction.

I remember that when I was considering employment at Teachers College, Columbia University, I found attractive the faculty members’ productivity. When I decided to join the faculty, in my mind, I was going to drink their water. I wanted what they had and I set out to find out where the sacred water was. Upon arrival, I began asking everyone how he or she established priorities, as I was experiencing the work as overwhelming —it wasn’t in the water to my disappointment.

By asking, I found many stories, pathways, and relationships to writing. I remember reading that Garcia Marquez put three roses in a vase every morning and during a period of the day he dedicated to writing, even if it meant just starring at the page. Ruth Benedict was said to write very early in the morning, even if most of her writing never saw the light of day. A colleague told me that he sat in front of the typewriter (at that time) and did not leave until he wrote three pages —and he wrote many books. Overall, what I got from asking was that while everyone had their formula, they all had a dedicated, sacred space for writing.

My being overwhelmed and not having time was broken down by Zibrowski, Weston, and Goldsmith (2008) in an article they wrote about the meaning the medical faculty gave to ‘not having time’ to write and publish. As I, they really meant (1) that time was interrupted and sporadic; it was fragmented and as such did not offer opportunities to work on writing; (2) that time for writing competed with other work responsibilities, including after-hours work and administrative workloads; exclusivity of time for writing required securing financial remuneration —Zibrowski, et al. (2008) called this prioritization; and (3) that the time invested in writing and publishing had limited immediate rewards —in recognition and support by both department and colleagues. In other words, when I voiced time as a problem, I was touching on a collective problem.

Boise, in Professor as Writers (1990), focuses on these three issues —motivation, prioritization, and fragmentation— but he starts with an assessment tool. Boise focused on what the individual could do. He guides the reader in locating the little voice inside our heads. He asked me to think about my historicity and that which anchored and stopped me from writing. I found its transformative power in that it helped me identify the part of the problem that I had control over —me.

Thus, a first step in the process of engaging in writing and publishing is to assume responsibility for your writing and decide a space from which you will tell the world what you know or feel about things, actions, and people around you.

When my daughter was small, I found the dedicated time at night, after she went to sleep and I could schedule an hour or so among the many other tasks. I later read that Ghandi had one day a week as his reflection time where no one was allowed to interrupt. I turned to Mondays, all day. Nonetheless, the day was long and I would often steal some time to do other chores. When I read Boise, I understood one additional thing —one has to think of every angle of one’s life and give time to each. Writing does not have to be more than two hours a day, but it has to be daily and systematic. I started to use the 6 to 8 am time and found it fabulous. I would get out of my house because I wanted to escape interruptions, which were likely because I had a family and I would go to a cafeteria or a corner in the college where I wrote.

Believing in myself. From the paralyzing messages I heard inside my head I understood some of the social messages in which the discourse of my little voice was embedded. I had linguistic insecurities with my second language; I had cultural messages that conflicted with my writing and publishing, and I had narrow conceptualizations about writing itself.

While I have spent most of my adult and academic life in English, I was educated from middle school through undergraduate in Spanish. I was in bilingual education so I understood the negative social messages children receive daily. Wow! My English was not good enough! Where would I find strength, if my inner voice repeated these social messages constantly? I personally found Rigoberta Menchu’s (1984) inspiring in this regard and her message became a mantra. It went something like this: “I have to learn the dominant language and try to do this well in order to speak for myself.” Speaking for myself and for others whose voices were not heard was important to me. She touched upon my kai roco. Thus, taking on the task of improving my writing and becoming more secure in writing in English was important for what I wanted to do.

My cultural struggle stemmed both from home and my lucha stance in life. I would hear my mother’s words, ‘Tienes que ser humilde/you have to be humble,’ which I later realized could be a double edge sword. From the perspective that humanity has said a lot before I came into the world, I had to humble myself. However, it became a form of paralysis rather than, as Barth’s proposed, of realizing that there is no such thing as a single author. All ideas, even if constructed anew, have traces of other human thinking.

As a critical person, I was likely to see problems in other people’s thinking. I would hear myself say, “that is not new, I have certainly thought that before, and/or so and so said that long time ago.” After many years of being critical of Freire, for example, I realized that what I ought to do was recognize that one of his greatest contributions was to speak about how the messengers were a problem when they spoke to, rather than with, the people. This shift coincided with my anthropological understanding that the local talk needs to be connected to theory and it helped me understand some of my internal paralyzing debates I had with the language of my writing. Eventually, Liberating Academic Writing, by Robert Nash (2004), became a significant book in my life. Speaking to a colleague about it, we concluded that our writing had to be submitted to even more editing than I would have imagined in the past. We need to make our ideas clearer in order to have an impact on the world around us.

My inner struggles were between my arrogance coming from a critical perspective, and my cultural construct of humility. Upon reading Boise, however, I could see that being humble or critical, for that matter, could also be constructed as an excuse, as succumbing to performativity and to fear (social messages are also tools) rather than assuming the responsibility of developing my ideas as offerings to others.

Using writing as a thinking tool. The third element connects to the distinctions in conceptualizations of writing (Villalon & Mateos Sanz, 2009): reproductive and epistemic. The reproductive orientation positions writing as a tool for communicating, and the epistemic uses writing both as tool for communicating and for constructing ideas. From a reproductive perspective as a worshiper and catcher of knowledge when it converged with the cultural construct of humility, I would ask, what could I, humble me, contribute to the world that might be significant?

My acknowledgement of the past and my desire to be humble, as my mother wanted me to be, became obstacles to my writing. My reproductive orientation persisted until the computer helped me shift my relationship with writing. The computer helped me see writing as playing with knowledge, trying ideas out, learning through writing, and finding out what constructions with which I felt most confortable.

The writing research (White & Brunning, 2005; Mateos, et al., 2009) suggests that an epistemic orientation towards writing generates more complex thinking. Extrapolating from it, I am tempted to add that when my writing implicates me personally and emotionally, I tended to entertain and emerge with more sophisticated constructs.

I have not, in any way, mastered all the tools, be they cultural or material, to participate in the activities of writing and publishing —but I do not feel I have to know them; I needed to know how to access them. My life in the academy depended on it; I owed it to future generations.

Making the Rules Visible. Acting within and on the writing and publishing worlds requires that we go beyond fragmentation, prioritization, and motivation to knowing the rules of the game, to learning how to write rhetorically for academic journals, and to developing strategies for sustaining our writing, among many other norms. I was a first in academia in my family and did not have the cultural capital that offered me ways of accessing this knowledge. I had to venture into dark hallways and stuffy closets to understand some of them. My hope is that my offerings within, in the spirit of remembering to know – kai roco, will serve as guidance for others.

Journal writing norms. Academic writing is a genre that has its structure and its audience(s) that we have to understand, but we also need to understand the stage of our field. When I was starting to submit articles, the field of bilingual education was more obscure than what it is today and had few avenues for publishing. In addition, academic journals lacked transparency about what they wanted and how to go about publishing with them. There were some subjects, like bilingual education, that were deemed to have a small audience and, thus, not of great interest. Even though I still think there are difficulties and critical bias on topics and methodologies in many journals today, I see the world of academic publishing as much more open and transparent than when I started.

Given my circumstances, I published anywhere that I was invited to submit. Nonetheless, I would not recommend, for today’s professors, non-discriminatory publishing decisions. The reality is that while there is a plethora of journals, university professors must attend to the hierarchy of quality of the journals. Therefore, I recommend that you research the journals, establish their hierarchies, and start submitting.

Silvia (2007) recommends that you start by submitting to the top journal in your field because they tend to offer invaluable feedback. While I do not think this is a bad idea, I feel it is important to first establish fit or linkages, as in hindsight I could see that many of the early rejections of my articles were about fit.

We are not always strategic in submitting our written work to places where they are likely to be published. I have seen this not only through my own submissions but also as a reviewer. In many cases, rejections occur because the authors’ theoretical framework, topic, and/or methodology do not coincide with the journal’s mission. My advice is to do research about the journals before submitting. Go to the publisher websites and look for the journals purpose, the topics, their formats, and more. Go to the “for authors” and/or “submissions” buttons, as this will give you information on length and formats. I would also recommend that you volunteer to review articles for the journals that you would like to publish in. If you participate, you are likely to get an intuitive, if not an explicit feel for the criteria the journal uses.

Ask senior colleagues in your field what journals you ought to aspire publishing in and expect different opinions. You will have to make your own decisions, but you will establish a range or a principle. Whatever you decided, remember, the process of writing is also about self-definition.

Storytelling rules. When I started, I remember hearing people talk about how they sat down to write from an outline that they either had in their head or wrote down beforehand. I would write down outlines, but I never felt disciplined enough. There was always something that I had not considered that came forth in the writing that would take me elsewhere. This goes back to the epistemological orientation of writing. But, eventually, I also realized that the academic journal writing had rhetorical moves that are particularly important for second language writers of English, like me, to understand.

Feaks and Swales, at University of Michigan, identified and developed a series around the rhetorical moves in writing in English. By rhetorical moves, they mean a discourse unit, a way to think about the structure of the argument or the segment of the text that will make your ideas clearer. They have one particular book that I particularly like; it is entitled, Telling the research story (2009). To understand that all research was telling a story changed my relationship to my writing. I was no longer partitioning myself to look at the ideas or the form; now I was focusing on the system of ideas as they come together while paying particular attention to the parts that brought those ideas to life.

While I may appear here as a norms pusher, I have to confess that I have always despised being boxed in; I have a creative streak that cannot be contained. So, if your instinct is anywhere like mine, this may be one of the biggest problems you will face. Nonetheless, if you grasp the role of rhetorical moves, you are likely to write more in line with the genre.

Another aspect that a co-author taught me was how to use backward planning for my writing. She would say, “Oh, how many words are we supposed to write?” This would be followed by a mathematical operation that would give us an idea of how many pages per section we had to write. An article of 6000 words, for example, would be divided by 250 words per page to determine that we had to write 24 pages. Two pages were taken away for references and the rest was divided between introduction (4), literature (5), methodology (3), findings (7), and conclusions (3). When broken down into chunks the parts were doable and the goal was to write as concise as possible.

Lastly, the process of jotting down ideas, investigating and reading what others have said, and sitting down to write, rewrite, and revise takes time and requires sustainability in writing. Silvia (2007) was key to understand how to keep track of the nature and quantity of writing/revising/editing I did daily.

My writing activities, however, had to be organized in relation to publishing. I continuously juggled a few articles at a time. The publishing process can take anywhere between 6 to 18 months. Rather than moving on to the next non-writing task, think of writing as engaging in different sub-activities. I could be writing one article, editing another, and engaged in the publication process of another at any given time. This kept me writing consistently, dealt with boredom setting in, and permitted each process a temporal space to mature.

I have only spoken about some of the norms that were important in my case, but there are many others. Nonetheless, I want to finish this section with a comment on author’s rights that I feel was also important for me to understand.

When I look back at the rejections or recommendations of my early writing, many were changes that could have helped me clarify my thinking. Some, however, stemmed from the reviewer’s lack of knowing about the population, the language, and or the needs of the community. These biases still seep into reviewer’s comments today, even if there is more vigilance for it not to happen. I believe that journals are also contexts for arguing for social justice and, when justified, we need to struggle to do so. It may require a bit of work on your part, but others depend on it.

Tensions in Division of Labor. The third corner of the CHAT triangle is division of labor. The most painful lessons to be learned about writing and publishing for academic journals, I feel, are located here as this is where we negotiate with others.

Theoretically, while we acknowledge Barth’s proposal that there is no such thing as an author, how do we materially negotiate acknowledgment of efforts and time and confinement in solitaire if not through authorship? What do individual efforts weight when the work is done collaboratively or when there are multiple authors waiting to be acknowledged?

From solitaire to social acknowledgement. We generally think of writing as an exercise in solitaire. I have heard many authors speak about going to their studio in pajama and not coming out until they were done for the day; I have done this myself. Like Ghandi, I isolated myself, accepting no human contact, in order to write. There is a part that must be done in solitaire. For those who are starting, and depending on your cultural upbringing, the solitaire space might be at odds with your being in the world. If you can bridge these worlds, after a while you will enjoy and look forward to it as ‘me time.’

Having said this, it is important to understand the solitaire as just part of the division of labor that is necessary to channel the actions, thoughts, dialogues you bring into the transformative act of writing, of putting it down on a page or a screen for others to see. To think about the whole process of writing and publishing is to understand its social nature. Others come in when we ask, how did other authors influence your thinking/writing? How did others, through dialogues or debates, help you further your ideas? How did a colleague help you clarify an idea in a conversation, in an email, or by guiding you to a particular reading or author? How did those around you —students, colleagues, families, etc.— organize their lives so as to permit you that ‘me time?’

There is always a ‘public dimension’ (Butler, 2004) to what we do. As Butler proposes when a person in a wheel chair wants to leave a premise, the opening of the door has a public dimension. It arises in the division of labor it may suppose. The act might generate an urge in others to help the person on the wheelchair, or it might create resentment in the confined individual because the assumption in the urge to help is embedded in a belief that he or she cannot do it alone. This public dimension creates what Vygotsky would call a double bind, which requires a social agreement in order to be resolved; it cannot be solved alone.

Similarly, when we define the audience for our writing, we are inviting others to participate. When we organize our family to not disturb during writing time, we create a public dimension to the task. There are many ways in which the solitaire reaches into the public domains in which we live. Thus, the act of writing in solitaire is social.

Even my fears of writing were social. I was afraid of the very thing I wanted to do because I felt I was unveiling my soul and was going to be found out. I gained confidence in writing as I listened to others speak about the significance of the ideas I wrote about in their lives. I also gained confidence when I realized that once I released my writing into the world it had its own life that I could not control —people would interpret it from their own sociocultural historical lenses.

I remember the social turn in thinking about my writing was accompanied by other emotions like the joy of writing to get something bottled up inside of my chest out and of savoring the relief disclosure brought me. Not all of my writing sees the light of day, as Mead’s story suggests; there is much that is an exercise in constructing, erasing, scrapping, carving, and giving finishing touches. It takes time if you want to say something of consequence to others —you have to read, you have to pinpoint what exact point you want to make, you have to publically acknowledge what others have said before you, you have to decide on the decibels of emotion you want to share with others— there are many, many decisions in writing that include others and make writing a social act.

Negotiating authorship. The social aspect of writing and publishing that has been most difficult for me to negotiate is collective acknowledgement through authorship. When I started out, I do not think I knew the rules, nor how to acknowledge the subtleties in the division of labor. There were occasions around negotiations of authorship that left sour tastes in my mouth.

Within academic institutions, we face the hierarchies of authorship —sole is higher ranking that writing with others. When working collaboratively, it is important to speak and negotiate authorship (meaning first authorship as well as sole authorship). Depending on the relationships with others, the conversation can be more or less difficult.

Embodied in fairness, I found distancing myself as important and taking other’s perspective as a way of thinking about the differentiated tasks within collaborative work and writing —Which exercised intellectual leadership in bringing the group together? What are the different activities embodied in the codification process? What are the important articles to be written collectively? Who writes the first draft? What role does depth of analysis and interpretation have on the production of the article? All of these questions needed to be addressed.

In a recent collaborative effort, and in the role of kai roco, I decided that the issue of authorship had to be discussed before the group had anything on hand to write about. We were seven faculty members, each with a different relationship to the activities of the project, developing curriculum, professional development, collecting data, and so forth. I knew, as the principal investigator, that issues about authorship would emerge and my desire to create collectivity in relation to the writing and publishing, while strong, went against what the institution pushed. When I saw the first signs of tension around authorship growing, my first decision was that the data was collective and could be used by all involved. I first spoke with each of the faculty members who were starting to make authorship claims; I wanted them to know where I stood and I wanted them to be clear that their efforts in activity building within the project were not only recognized, but also compensated in ways that perhaps they did not realize. Then the conversation went to the whole group, so as to discuss the conditions under which authorship was to be negotiated. Everyone was open to the conversation and we managed to work a delicate balance. We all recognized that sole authorship was desirable and possible because our institution required it and because we acknowledged that the dataset was so large that some of the chunks of the analysis and writing could be done in solo, but a requirement was that the solos would have to be discussed in, disclosed to, and approved by the group.

It turned out that I was the first to bring up the case of individual authorship, not because I made a claim for sole authorship but because when I had engaged in an in-depth analysis of a case for a joint writing piece, the analysis was so thorough that my co-author thought it could and should stand on its own. This revealed the respect my colleague was feeling in relation to my time and effort. It also points to the fact that authorship sometimes emerges organically.

In consulting with other colleagues that were principal investigators in other collaboratives, I realized that the authorship issue could be construed as responding to the hierarchy of tasks in the division of labor. In other collectives, not all the actors were writers. Within our project, some of the researchers were actors. This blurring of actor/researcher creates complexity, but we are banking on the honesty, respect, integrity, and good will we have experienced so far. I think there is room for all of us, individually to make claims, but I also believe that bridging from individual to collective thinking will provide richer thinking to the educational problems we are thinking about.

Bringing it back to CHAT

Writing and publishing systems were the two activities I considered through stories and reflections about my life as an academic. I established their relationship to the university professors’ knowledge hustle, but I also proposed that it was not just an issue of productivity but of consequence in relation to the communities with which we work. Today, academic publishing considers impact of an article, from a perspective of readership and quality of journal. The articles of traditionally unheard voices, I believe, are not likely to show up with the same frequency and force as the dominant voices and dominant educational themes until we begin to recognize the centrality of diversity in our globalized world. I see there is some movement in key journals to develop interest in topics relevant to minoritized, non-English speaking, and colonized worlds, but my sense is that the exploration of the non-dominant populations in education will be more important in the future than in the past. To arrive there, however, academic journals also need to be seen as places of struggle.

It is also my contention that by harnessing the struggles of writing and publishing as opportunities for social justice and transformation, be it kai roco or otherwise, we can shift our own participation in the activities of writing and publishing so that our object is not just about meeting productivity requirements that support our knowledge hustles but that they support “becom[ing] of consequence,” as Boyer (1991) proposed. The consequence, however, as I propose within, must go beyond understanding to enactment in how we negotiate writing and publishing within our institutions and within the communities we work with. The above is critical for colleagues to step out of their fears and into the need to speak in contentious fields, like bilingual education. Communities of various sorts want/need us to incite, through our writing, the social imagination that will take them/us beyond where we are to what is possible.


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