I am very grateful to the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) for sharing this great honour with me. Martin Diskin was first my teacher and mentor, then a research and teaching colleague, and always a friend. Not so long ago, I was thinking about Martin a great deal as I read his brother Saul’s moving memoir (Diskin 2001). Here one can learn what it takes to face the life-threatening illness that was looming behind Martin’s smile for so many years, unbeknown to all but family. Like so many defenders of human rights, he sustained an intense commitment to justice for all, in spite of an ever-present arbitrary threat to his own existence.
I’d like to begin by recognising some of the many different ways of bridging scholarly and activist commitments. Martin’s own trajectory reflected many of them, including his deep commitment to teaching (outside as well as inside the university), his behind-the-scenes contribution to building progressive organisations for the long haul (as reflected in his service to Oxfam America), not to mention media work, fundraising, as well as creating free spaces within the university itself.
Here, I’ll focus on some of the lessons that emerge from one specific approach to bridging activism and scholarship – the collaborative research partnership between scholars and activists. I will try to get to the point – without being ‘merely academic’ – by framing my points in the form of ten propositions for discussion. What these lessons share is a focus on recognising difference in order to bring people together.