CAUSing a Commotion: Reflections on Third Space Academic Labor

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Carmine Perrotti
prabhdeep singh kehal
Georgina Manok
jesús j. hernández
Adam Bush


In this paper, we reflect on a collective set of challenges, critiques, and questions occupying our academic and professional experiences as community-engaged scholar-practitioners learning and working at various United States (U.S.) higher education institutions. Specifically, we engage questions that emerged through our reading group—the Critical/Abolitionist University Studies Edification (CAUSE) Group—where we sought to learn from others’ experiences to create new practices for our own work at our respective institutions. We reflect on the nature of CAUSE (itself a third space), our professional experiences, and the questions that arose from our collective grappling with community-engaged scholarship and/in the current model of higher education. We combine first-person reflections that synthesize the various ideas we have encountered in our readings on and engagement with critical and abolitionist university studies under three topic areas: 1) the ambiguity of third space labor; 2) community-engaged scholarship as a third space; and 3) the institutionalization and professionalization of third space labor.

Article Details

Academic Labor in the Third Space
Author Biographies

Carmine Perrotti, Providence College

Carmine Perrotti (he, him, his) is an incoming Assistant Professor of Public and Community Service Studies at Providence College, his alma mater. He formerly was Assistant Director of Community-Engaged Scholarship at the Swearer Center for Public Service and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Education at Brown University. Carmine also frequently partners with College Unbound. He holds a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and a Master in Public Policy from American University.

prabhdeep singh kehal, University of Wisconsin-Madison

prabhdeep singh kehal (they, them, theirs) is a Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and formerly a Graduate Community Engaged Fellow at Brown University’s Swearer Center for Public Service. Their research uses queer and Du Boisian methodologies to explore the politics of inclusion and organizational change through equity policies addressing racism, cisheterosexism, and colonialism. They received their Ph.D. in Sociology from Brown University and a Master of Public Policy and a Master of Arts in Higher Education from the University of Michigan.

Georgina Manok, Brown University

Georgina Manok (she/her/هي) is Senior Director for Strategy and Assessment at Brown University’s Swearer Center for Public Service. She enables community engagement through building sustainable infrastructure, co-creating assessment and continuous improvement mechanisms, and mentoring graduate students through fellowships and a learning community on engaged scholarship. Before joining the Center, she lived in Lebanon and was affiliated with the United Nations Development Programme, Lebanese Economic Association, and International Labour Organization. She holds a Master of Public Affairs from Brown University.

jesús j. hernández, Brown University

jesús j. hernández (he, him, his, i) is Director of Community-Engaged Learning at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University, where he is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of American Studies. He received his Ph.D. and Master of Arts degrees in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. jesús previously taught at USC, Williams College, and Mount Holyoke College. At the Swearer Center, he collaborates with students and faculty who are interested in connecting community action to academic knowledge production towards collective liberation and eudaimonia.

Adam Bush , College Unbound

Adam Bush is the co-founder, Provost, and President-elect of College Unbound. A Ph.D. in American Studies and Ethnicity, Adam is a jazz oral historian by training who thinks about improvisation and engaged listening as institution-building principles. Over the years Adam has also worked closely with a variety of organizations at the intersections of higher education and social justice, including Imagining America, Artists and Scholars in Public Life, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and the American Library Association.