An Accidental Academic
I am about to retire from a small public university as a full professor. I’ve been here for more than twenty years and yet everyday I ask myself how I made it. Even after several books, journal articles, anthologies…even if younger scholars now ask to interview me for their dissertation or thesis projects…even if I have been directing a nonprofit organization…even if I have received numerous achievement awards…I still think of myself as an accidental academic.
When people ask me: how did you survive as a woman of color in white academe, my answer has always been: I did my work just under the gaze of imperial surveillance so that not many folks on campus notice me or the work that I do. This way, I avoided the disciplining and policing that usually befall people like me.
But over time my dossier showed enough merit in my scholarship, university service, and community service that I sailed through the various steps of review without any hiccups.
You see, I started grad school with the sole intention of replacing my therapy sessions. As a newly arrived Filipina immigrant in an interracial marriage and as a colonized subject (which I didn’t yet name at that time), I didn’t anticipate the feelings of non-belonging and alienation. I started seeking therapists and when none worked for me, I decided to go back to school and create my own interdisciplinary program so that I can answer the questions that therapists couldn’t.
When I finally published my dissertation on the process of decolonization it dawned on me that I was tapping into a collective silence that needed to be voiced and shared.
In finding my voice and a language to articulate a conceptual framework for healing postcolonial trauma, I wrote and published on my own terms. I created my work in the liminal spaces, in the cracks of academia — where other scholars wouldn’t even engage my work because in their view, it didn’t really meet the unspoken criteria of serious and rigorous scholarship.
Some call me an organic intellectual and scholar/activist. But the labels don’t really stick to me. I do my work at the bidding of my inner calling, in answer to Questions being asked of people like me, in response to the prompting of Spirit.
So I leave the campus as I entered. Invisible. Quiet. Unnoticed. I like it this way. But I do have a very public profile. You can find me online.