Imagine! Different in academia. is the recording of a talk presented at the International Symposium on Poetic Inquiry in Cape Town in May 2022.
Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has become somewhat of a buzzword within the context of higher education. Frameworks such as Athena SWAN, the Race Equality Charter and the Business Disability Forum standards as well as publications like the books Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education, Ableism in Academia: Theorising Experiences of Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses in Higher Education, or Lived Experiences of Ableism in Academia: Strategies for Inclusion in Higher Education have helped raise awareness for the challenges disabled, chronically ill and/or neurodivergent staff and students encounter in higher education. Whilst these theorisations, presentation of recommendations and strategies have been appreciated and well-received, many disabled academics feel that they do not reflect their experiences accurately or deeply enough.
For the International Symposium on Poetic Inquiry, I present my Practice As Research, a scholarly endeavour that sits at the intersection of research, pedagogy and activism. I commence my presentation with a brief overview of what it means to be a researcher-pedagogue-activist to further the plight of marginalised voices in higher education. I then share poetic renderings. “Imagine!” focusses on authenticity, rawness, and emotionality of being disabled, chronically ill and/or neurodivergent, while “Career(ing) in academia” highlights the difficulties of navigating an academic career within the precarity of contemporary higher education. In my concluding critical commentary, I use my poem “Poetic Inquiry” to emphasise the role poetic inquiry plays and indeed must play if we are to bring about long-standing social change.