Why We Need Interdependence

Do you ever feel too exhausted to write?

Let’s be real. Internalized academic oppression exhausts us.

Traumatic experiences in our fields and on our campuses can lead many of us to ruminate:

Do I even have the right to be in academia?

How is my critique any different than others who have already published on this topic?

I always have the voice of someone who critiqued one of my conference papers in my head.

I feel deeply unmotivated.

Many underrepresented scholars become habitually concerned about what others think—gatekeepers or our more privileged colleagues—than what we believe about our work. This makes sense, given the pressure of deadlines and promotions, especially for junior scholars.

Yet becoming sponges in academic spaces can allow the hierarchical, no-accountability culture of academia to seep into our very being.

When we internalize unhealthy dynamics that do not belong to us, we take the critiques of others (or our interpretations of them) personally.

Our thought patterns no longer serve us.

We emotionally over-function to make it through each day.

Adding to this, many of our BIPOC communities value relational forms of selfhood, making emotional boundary-setting extra hard. 

Suad Joseph says that for relational selves, the family and its bonds are valued more than the individual, making it hard to determine where the line between the self and the other begin and end.

In trusted relationships, relationality gives us powerful connections and support. In academia, it can set us up for anxiety, imposter syndrome, and burn out.

How are we supposed to survive and thrive without throwing our ancestors’ relational ways of being out the door?

The practice of interdependence teaches me how to protect myself from taking on everyone and everything around me (the porous sponge) or wrapping a rigid boundary around myself (the self-absorbed individual).

For Victoria Albina,interdependence is giving and receiving while believing each member of a relationship is autonomous.

Adrienne Marie Brown says we would take from each other what we needed, what we lacked, and offer to each other from our abundance.

Maryam Hasnaa reminds us to stay in our power, our light and our shine, without flowing into other people’s spaces.

I practice interdependence to…

  • Align myself with my inner-power while taking in feedback
  • Notice when I am in overdrive
  • Clarify what belongs to me and what belongs to others
  • Receive from others without taking it personally

I take breaks and meditate to foster an ever-deeper relationship with myself.

When I manage my boundaries, I can take life in while being of service to others with more clarity and strength. And I feel more rested and motivated to write.

For more information on Nadine’s Liberate Your Research workshops, contact: info@nadinenaber.com

Nadine Naber

Nadine Naber is professor of gender and women’s studies and global Asian studies, and interim director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author and/or co-editor of five books, including Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism (NYU Press, 2012) and Color of Violence (Duke University Press, 2016). She is a TEDx speaker, board member of the Arab American Action Network, co-founder of Mamas Activating Movements for Abolition and Solidarity, founder of Liberate Your Research, founder of the Arab American Cultural Center, and co-founder of the Arab and Muslim American Studies Program (University of Michigan). Nadine is a Public Voices fellow, columnist for the Chicago Reporter, recipient of the American Studies Association Carl Bode-Norman Holmes Pearson Lifetime Achievement Prize and the YWCA's Y-Women's Leadership Award.

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