Activism and the Academy

Nicole Rogers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


While attending a conference in 2006, I was struck by a question directed towards a panel of activists from an audience comprised almost exclusively of academics. A member of the audience asked earnestly what she and others could do, as academics, to support activists. I was puzzled by her assumption that academics and activists fall into two distinct categories but then, in my view, any distinction between academics and activists is an artificial one. Yet, artificial as it may be, an ‘apartheid of knowledges’ is ‘deeply entrenched’ in the academy.1Conquergood describes this as ‘the difference between thinking and doing, interpreting and making, conceptualizing and creating.

I have always been quite clear on one important point: an academic career is far more compatible with activism than is employment in a mainstream law firm. I became an academic because I was an activist. In 1991, I was retrenched from a conservative country law firm shortly after participating in the Chaelundi forest blockade. I was at the blockade on a week’s holiday when the police arrived in late July, and the confrontation commenced in earnest. I regarded this as a fortuitous coincidence; my employers, at least one of whom had connections to the National Party, appeared to view my involvement quite differently. In 1992, I sought refuge in academia. At the Southern Cross University School of Law and Justice, which was established in 1993, I and a number of others have managed to incorporate activism into our academic careers, and retain a strong commitment to social justice principles and environmental ethics in our teaching, research and service to the community. In this article, I draw on my own experiences at the university’s School of Law and Justice to explore some of the diverse ways in which the legal academy can support and accommodate activism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-208
Number of pages9
JournalAlternative Law Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


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