Giwa Onaiwu, M. (2022). Bringing Fire to the People: Activist Scholarship, Creative Collaboration, & International Advocacy Through the Lens of Black Disability Studies. University of East Anglia.
(It is published on ProQuest, etc., but I also wanted to link it here for anyone who is interested in reading it. There is a plain language version embedded if you’d prefer that. It’s still long, but written in more accessible language.)
This PhD thesis is a distinct contribution to the existing knowledge and practice of inclusive, intersectional stakeholder leadership within key contemporary research advocacy and human rights movements (namely neurodiversity and racial/HIV/gender/disability justice). Moreover, it champions as well as models innovative, transdisciplinary methods and responsive, accessible, culturally affirming techniques to prioritize engagement and equity in scholarship, practice, and pedagogy.
Informed by critical theory produced by Black public intellectuals including bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Patricia Hill Collins, W.E.B. DuBois, Wole Soyinka, Patricia Williams, Sami Schalk, and E. Grollman, among others, this qualitative study is a disability-justice inspired heuristic inquiry. In addition to amplifying the voices of influential historical and contemporary interlocutors of color and disabled activists, the thesis highlights diverse, multimodal strategies (including integrative learning, public digital humanities, narrative theory, participatory and action research, etc.) as tools of public intellectualism, engaged pedagogy, and disability justice that center underrepresented perspectives.
As a framing device, I invoke the fire tetrahedron—fuel, heat, oxygen, and fire—as an analogy for the distinct categories of the selected work (activist scholarship, collaborative practice, and international advocacy). This analogy also elucidates emergent overarching themes including aspects of identity, individual and/or collective action, and burnout. Via the portfolio and exegesis, the narratives and actions of marginalized community leaders of color and/or with disabilities compose anthems of survival, resistance, growth, and progress in the context of disregard, disadvantage, and disenfranchisement, thus illustrating the reality of resistance and resilience. Despite alarming disparities, incessant denial of justice, and systemic inequity, those who—because of race, disability, gender, and/or other intersections—are (mis)perceived as “at risk,” “vulnerable,” or otherwise “impaired” consistently find innovative ways—collectively and individually—to defy the most dismal odds to not only survive, but to even dare to thrive.
Plain language summaries (in Appendix A), lay abstract summaries, images, and other augmentative resources for this thesis are provided in the appendices for the purposes of increasing accessibility of this material as well as paying homage to this topic.
KEYWORDS: Black disability studies, public intellectualism, bell hooks, heuristic inquiry, gender, race, neurodiversity, engaged pedagogy, intellectual activism, Black feminism, disability justice