Intellectual activism and social change

For some time I’ve been studying a topic that I’ve labeled “intellectual activism,” the practice of using scholarly research and writing to inform, shape, and influence social change initiatives. This fall, I’ve been the fortunate recipient of a Dean’s Faculty Fellowship at Suffolk University Law School to support this course of study, which will culminate in a variety of publications during the coming years.

In addition to collecting and reviewing new materials on intellectual activism, I’ve been looking at my past writings on relevant subjects. For those of you interested in thinking about how we can harness our research to promote positive change, perhaps this material — some of which I’ve mentioned previously — will be of interest:

“If It Matters, Write About It: Using Legal Scholarship to Promote Social Change” (2013)

This piece has just been published in the inaugural issue of Bearing Witness: A Journal on Law and Social Responsibility, a new student-edited periodical at Suffolk to which I serve as faculty advisor. Here’s a brief abstract:

This essay centers on the concept of “intellectual activism,” discussing how legal scholarship can be used as the foundation for social change work. It recounts and reflects upon the author’s ongoing work in advancing issues such as workplace bullying and the rights of student interns. It concludes with advice on how to be effective in an intellectual activist mode.

Although the full issue won’t be online until later, you may download a pdf of my article here.

“Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Practice of Legal Scholarship” (2010)

This law review article, published in the University of Memphis Law Review, explores how legal scholarship can be used to make a deeper contribution to academic and public dialogue and to social action. Here’s the abstract:

The culture of legal scholarship has become preoccupied with article placement, citations, and download numbers, thus obscuring a deeper appreciation for the contributions of scholarly work. This article proposes that therapeutic jurisprudence (“TJ”), a theoretical framework that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of the law and legal practice, provides us with tools for understanding and changing that culture.

More prescriptively, the article applies a TJ lens to: (1) identify a set of good practices for legal scholarship; (2) examine the TJ movement as an example of healthy scholarly practice; (3) consider the role of law professors as intellectual activists; and, (4) propose that law schools nurture a scholar-practitioner orientation in their students to help them become more engaged members of the legal profession.

You may download a pdf here.

“The Adult Educator as Public Intellectual” (2009)

This book chapter was published in Andre P. Grace & Tonette S. Rocco, et al., Challenging the Professionalization of Adult Education: John Ohliger and Contradictions in Modern Practice (2009). John Ohliger was an iconoclastic adult educator, writer, and political activist, in addition to being my dear friend. In my piece, I discuss the typical role of the public intellectual and contrast it to ways in which John modeled a different approach that included a variety of non-traditional writings, a devotion to public community radio, and extensive, personal interactions with people who traversed his many paths.

You may download a pdf of my chapter here (free reg req’d).

Short paper

Here’s a short paper I presented at CUNY Law School in New York:

Law Professors as Intellectual Activists (2013) (free reg req’d)

2013 blog posts

I’ve been writing a lot about intellectual activism and related topics this year:

Insiders, outsiders, and change agents

Inspiration in Amsterdam

The social responsibilities of intellectuals at a time of extraordinary human need

Setting agendas for positive social change

10 ways to make a difference: Advice for change agents

Intellectual activism

Mary Pipher on Writing to Change the World

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