On Being Social

It’s been a few months since In Progress has featured new content. What can I say? My last post was April 14, two days after police arrested Freddie Gray on the 1700 block of Presbury Street here in Baltimore. Somehow musing about doctrinal maps under construction suddenly seemed less than urgent. In the weeks after my last post, Gray died from his police-induced injuries, simmering protests boiled over, Baltimore rose up and then authorities cracked down. The situation was — and is — both inspiring and awful.

Though things are certainly quieter around these parts nowadays, nobody believes that the conditions underlying the uprising have meaningfully changed. Quite the contrary. However, the respite in daily protests and activist actions gives us a moment to pause and reflect. Personally, I have been wondering just what “social justice” means to me as a law professor and scholar. Is social justice an object of study — one to be examined with academic detachment? Or is social justice more of a process and practice — a praxis through which the very notion of academic detachment is challenged?

My strong hunch is that social justice is a praxis. My intuition tells me that you can’t really understand social justice without being social. Social justice requires social research, social teaching, and social learning. Though I have no data to prove it, my hunch leads me to wonder whether researchers and professors interested in social justice really should collaborate more. As in, collaborate all the time.

Now I realize this realization is neither new nor nuanced. It also is a little worrying. Anyone who has ever sat through a faculty meeting or a committee meeting or almost any kind of academic meeting knows that professors don’t often play well with others. Law professors are a particularly ornery breed and so the prospect of collaborating with these creatures should give any sane person pause. Yet still I can’t escape the feeling that WE all need to be doing more TOGETHER if we want to teach and learn about social justice.

To that end, I’ve spent the last few months trying to be social. Turns out I’m not so great at it.  (No surprise there alas given my professed profession). Nonetheless, I’ve taken some baby steps and am now part of a small handful of of projects involving collaborative teaching, research and learning. The projects don’t follow a blueprint or 10-point plan; they are more free-form social experiments. All the projects are very much in progress. Since that is the name and spirit of this blog, it seems only fit that I report on these collaborative efforts on these e-pages over the next few days. Stay tuned.

Next time: Social teaching and ChartaCourse.

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1 Response to On Being Social

  1. Peggy Cooper Davis says:

    I take issue with Colin’s assertion that he’s not a good collaborator. He’s quite good! Inspires the best kind of social action.

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