Attending Knowledge on Revolutionary Terms: Anti-Colonial Futures in Higher Education

allisonI came to the Graduate Center a year ago to begin my PhD in Geography. Excited about walking in, what I identify as my indisputable calling, I found out very quickly, that there was a universe of things I would need to know. There remained to be so many books (and other texts) that I would need to both read and re-read, paradigms I would need to study, merge, operate within, shift, unsettle and even shatter. Additionally, I had to be mindful of all the relationships that I would need to strengthen, erect and perhaps dismantle as I carry on in this journey.

Thinking about all of this was engulfing, however, I have found my power in converting the above, along with the expectation of utter perfection into both the character of not only my thrilling intimidation, but also my insatiable motivation and my impatience. While I must resist the intimidation lodged within perfection, and contrarily embrace it’s motivational command that assists in the fueling of my excitement, I am continuing to articulate a dream-led, yet restless solace, in the role of the liberation-concerned Black woman visionary that I have been called to be. I see, and I also feel that I am finding grace in knowing that one must attend the various sorts of knowledge in order grow. I am learning, that it is this very attendance, and not solely the product of it, that eventually yields what might proximate us to what we define as perfection. I’ve showed up, not only to the academy or to what some might describe as the “Ivory Tower,” but I am also attending the vast and prismatic assemblages of all forms of knowledge and knowing, unbounded. With this, I am joyfully compelled to move forward in my balanced optimism, into the future and all other timescapes.

With these sentiments, I join the Futures Initiative as a research fellow, ready and excited to begin the work of revolutionizing how we currently experience, not only formalized education, but also how we radically attend all knowledge. Holding a spirit of collaboration, I will be working closely with the larger community in an anti-colonial and critical posture. As an ardent believer that knowledge production occurs at various sites and also one who relentlessly respects that these various productions and formations occur indirectly or unaffiliated with the academy, I am excited about possibly collectively finding ways that the academy and academics can further resist the trend of colonial appropriation and tendencies towards extraction. Firmly rejecting these urges will allow others to question the limiting notions of academic productivity. Resisting this gross inclination towards the accumulation of non-academic knowledge(s) and their products, means that we have to honestly and boldly scrutinize the structure of higher education on very revolutionary terms. This is why I am excited to have been chosen as a Futures Initiative research fellow. I am elated to have an opportunity to question the equity within higher education, think alongside and in partnership with the larger community, all while upholding that education is a public good and to that end tackle questions about academic labor as it relates to shallow definitions of scholarly production.

Thus, the academic year that waits is already stirring and I am enthused about the innovation that is coming forth from an impending and co-contributed network. It is my pleasure to be a part of this Initiative.



Allison Guess is a PhD student in the program of Earth and Environmental Sciences (Geography) at the Graduate Center at CUNY. Her research interest include Black peoples’ relationships to land, migration, anti-Black racism and capitalist structures. You can follow Allison on Twitter at @AllisonGuess1


The Futures Initiative
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