Stay courageous, disobedient, and self-critical

Lukuaika: 2 min.

Kirjoittaja: Johanna Ennser-Kananen

After being on the ETMU board for 3 years, I took on the role of ETMU chair from 2021 to 2022. Today I look back at this intense time with mixed feelings. There was always more to do that could be done, there was never enough time, and rarely enough money, and great ideas and initiatives were often met with the harsh realities of neoliberal, racist, and otherwise dehumanizing academic and societal structures. But, in the end, the good things outweighed all of those. I offer two examples here: ETMU taking a stance and ETMU creating humanizing spaces. 

My time as chair was quite a restless one, both in Finland and globally: To name only a few, COVID, restrictive migration policies, and wars and violence (e.g., against Palestinian people, Ukraine, and people in North and East Syria) changed many lives and places forever. In the face of these major crises, ETMU did not look the other way: Whenever possible, we took a stance (often in writing), dealt with the topics on our blog (e.g. this piece on the COVID crisis

or the one on the Ukrainian refugee crisis, and made space to work through our experiences in events and meetings. I hope these initiatives will continue and develop further. Like Desmond Tutu reminded us, there is no neutrality in the face of oppression, so I hope ETMU will continue to use its voice in nuanced, clear, and courageous ways. 

ETMU taught me many things, and one stands out as particularly crucial. The people I met in my active ETMU years included many who understood what I was only beginning to learn: that universities are fundamentally nationalistic, colonial projects, and the hierarchies within them are not a coincidence or an accident, but very much part of how the system was designed to work. But, importantly, I learned that, in this context, it is possible and necessary to carve out spaces for resistance, solidarity, connection, and activism. That people are often better than their institutions, and if given the opportunity, they will build and maintain these spaces. In today’s Finland, and today’s academia, we need these people, the ETMU-type, the builders, connectors, resistors, humanizers, more than ever. Thank you, ETMU, for all the experiences, lessons, and connections. Stay courageous, disobedient, and self-critical. Happy birthday! 🎉

Johanna Ennser-Kananen (Ph.D, dos.) works as an Academy Research Fellow at the Department of Language and Communication, University of Jyväskylä researching the intersections of language, knowledge, and racialization in schools.