Dangerous Liaisons - UW Libraries

December 7, 2017

A Recap of the UW Critical Pedagogy Summit

Chloe Horning

Recap of the UW Critical Pedagogy Summit

This past Saturday, December 2, I travelled down to the UW Seattle campus to check out the Critical Pedagogy Summit, which was co-hosted in the UW Libraries Research Commons and the  wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ-Intellectual house and sponsored by the Information School.  This Summit brought together faculty, staff, and graduate students from across all three campuses to address pedagogical and technological needs of intersectional feminist and indigenous communities.

The summit was primarily organized by Ivette Bayo Urban, a doctoral candidate at the Information School.  I was immediately struck by the care and concern for all of the Summit participants that Ivette infused into all aspects of the event planning.  From making arrangements for childcare, to ensuring that there was a published code of conduct for participants, Ivette seemed to think of everything.  Primary among the values of the day were 1) Care is a feminist technology 2) There are no observers, only participants.

If you aren’t familiar with Ivette’s work, check out this piece on Medium.

Or her TED Talk.

Or this OpEd on Net Neutrality.

The day began with an invocation, including song and payer, from Jen Ten Bears, a Native American Elder. There were also introductions from various members of the planning committee, including Research Commons Librarian, Elliot Stevens.

A more complete list of the folks who helped put the Summit together is available on the iSchool website.

Image by khoin on Pixaby. CC0 License and no attribution required, but its a good picture so I just wanted to!


Many of my Libraries colleagues led discussion groups at the event. UW Bothell was particularly well represented; Nicole Gustavsen and Penelope Wood led a discussion titled “Emotional Labor and Mental Illness/Health in Academic Spaces.” Caitlan Maxwell and former UWB librarian Dave Ellenwood led a discussion/roundtable called “Interrogating Whiteness in Higher Education.

Nicole Gustavsen, who attended the “Interrogating Whiteness” session remarked that, “we discussed different ways that whiteness manifests itself in higher education and libraries and archives. Many attendants of the group are going to be getting together to read and discuss a chapter from Topographies of Whiteness, written by former UWB/CC librarian Megan Watson.”

Of the Emotional Labor and Mental Illness/Health in Academia discussion, Nicole said “We talked a fair amount about what emotional labor looks like for people in different positions, and because there were several students in attendance we were able to get into what emotional labor looks like for them. They have to do a lot of work negotiating the power differentials between themselves and faculty or instructors, who may or may not be willing to hear or address concerns from students about mental illness or other oppressions.”

For my part, I attended the session by iSchool PhD candidate and instructor, Sandy Littletree,on Indigenous Systems of Knowledge in the Curriculum. I was not able to take the Indigenous systems of knowledge course at the iSchool when I was a student several years ago, so I was really interested in how Sandy structures the course and how she teaches these concepts. True to Ivette’s promise that we should expect the unexpected at this conference, our group was having such a great discussion that we decided to go on through our session time, and the next session as well. It was great to have the freedom to not be constrained by the conference format, and I learned a lot from the other folks in my group. It was interesting to get a window onto Sandy’s research, and I found myself furiously scribbling down lots of items from her bibliography that I want to be sure and check out!  In particular the book “Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples,” by Linda Tuhiwai Smith was mentioned by several participants.

The Research Commons is an amazing space for an event like this. The group was able to convene in the Presentation Place, then break out to various other spaces for the small group discussions. The flexible spaces and rolling furniture meant that we could expand our group as needed. However, at 1PM the RC opened to the public for the day, and the Summit moved to another wonderful space on campus, the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House. Participants who stayed for the second half of the day mentioned that there was a fantastic demonstration of an art piece which brought together the concepts of indigenous creative expression, and women’s technological labor with a quilt woven with optic fibers that lit up. I’m really intrigued by this and sorry I missed it! If anyone knows the artist(s) and can provide credit with a link or more info, please let me know so I can update!

Another entity co-sponsoring the event was FemTechNet. FemTechNet was established in 2012 as a self-organizing scholarly network that investigates topics in feminism and technology.  FTN is a think tank for the emerging field of feminist digital scholarship and pedagogy.  “FemTechNet is committed to making the accessible, open, accountable, transformative and transforming educational institutions of our dreams.”

On Friday December 1, the Summit hosted a by-invitation-only visioning session with FemTechNet and indigenous women scholars and leaders, to do some creative thinking around technology and justice. One of the outputs of that session is a Net Neutrality statement.

To learn more about FemTechNet and read their full manifesto please visit their website (https://femtechnet.org/)

Net Neutrality was key a theme that emerged from the conference.  As Ivette said in her press release after the event: “The Critical Pedagogy Summit was convened by leaders in our community to have conversations with information professionals, educators and leaders around understanding the issues related to Net Neutrality.  The event yielded some of the best and brightest minds thinking about the issues surrounding net neutrality and systems of knowledge.”

Overall, this was a unique professional development experience that challenged my expectations of what a conference or “summit” could look like. I would love to see more flexible, interdisciplinary events like this one hosted at UW Libraries.
If I’ve gotten any details wrong, or you have some to add, please let me know.