Los Intersticios! Or, in Defense of Carbon-Free Unicorns

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Marisol Cortez


Let me start by saying that the only way I know how to approach this subject is by telling a story. A rambling story that risks nonlinearity and disjuncture. But a story nonetheless of how I came to graduate with my Ph.D. in the most obscure, unknown, nonquantitative, unprofitable, anti-profit humanities field in existence during the worst year on the job market ever. The story of how I moved from there into a paid organizing position, from there returned back to academia, from there to another job as a paid organizer in an cultural arts nonprofit—and from there to an even scarier, more precarious and uncharted space of practicing cultural studies unaffiliated with, and unpaid by, either university or nonprofit. In the short biography that follows the writing I now do, I describe all these shifting locations as an attempt to occupy the impossible interstice between academic and activist worlds, and to work on questions of environmental justice as a creative writer, a community organizer, and a liberation sociologist. In choosing to pursue knowledge work beyond academia, that is how I’ve come to think of my training in cultural studies these days—as a kind of liberation sociology. But why does that in-between space feel impossible? Uncomfortable, okay. But impossible?

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Doing What We Can from Where We Are: Personal Histories and Case Studies