Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


InterActions is an open access journal hosted by the eScholarship initiative of the California Digital Library, edited and managed by graduate students, based at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. Our publication’s authors foster an open and critical dialogue with readers and colleagues through applying diverse social justice frameworks to the discussion of pressing issues in the fields of education and information.


Recognizing and Escaping the Sham: Authority Moves, Truth Claims and the Fiction of Academic Writing About Adult Learning

This paper seeks to explore the meaning of the sham with regards to academic writing. It challenges the fundamental assumptions that underpin conventional academic writing and suggests that such writing is actually less honest than the other forms of writing that it sets itself against. It is precisely the reliance on what Laurel Richardson calls the “authority moves” (1997, p.167) of academic language that undermines its claim to represent reality in an open and honest way. It is, in fact, a sham.

The rejection of the superior truth claims of academic writing is illustrated with reference to two interview transcripts from a completed study and the issues raised are explored theoretically in the light of the work of Hélène Cixous. It is argued that the adoption of Hélène Cixous’ notion of l’écriture feminine provides a way out of the dilemma. Inspired by Cixous, it is argued that it is possible to escape the limitations of conventional academic writing firstly through the incorporation of a kind of writing practice which has more in common with poetry than rational argument and secondly through the incorporation of generically diverse texts within the social science research text.

'Class'ifying Ethnicity/Race and Gender: An Intersectional Critique of Bachelor's Degree Completion Research

Over the past fifty years, postsecondary retention-oriented theory, research, policies, and programs have focused on the effect of singular demographic characteristics in isolation, namely gender or ethnicity/race. Given that this approach has not yielded significant decreases in completion disparities, this paper proposes an explicit incorporation of social class. Drawing on Tinto’s Theory of Student Departure, and using data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students (96/01) data set the author shows that lack of attention to social class background (via socioeconomic status) may be severely inhibiting higher education’s ability to conceptualize and improve completion rates. This paper introduces critical race feminist theory as a paradigmatic perspective for use in models of degree completion and retention-related practice, and subsequently reviews extant research on bachelor’s degree completion, highlighting the clear, but complex relationship between ethnicity/race, gender, and socioeconomic status with a descriptive analysis. The author discusses the pervasive role of socioeconomic status for all ethnic/racial and gender groups in relation to six-year graduation rates, and how notions of intersectionality should be used to promote and reflect more demographically complex approaches to improve completion.

Special Section Articles

Featured Commentary: Nelson Mandela, Memory, and the Work of Justice

Verne Harris uses the 18th Alan Paton Lecture to reflect on the roles of memory in the reconstruction of South Africa in the wake of the apartheid era.  He addresses three interlinked questions: has post-apartheid memory work only scratched the surface of the country's pain and alienation; does the really hard work remain to be done; and to what extent are the failures of the post-apartheid project failures of memory?  These questions are addressed along five lines of enquiry: metarrative, access to information, healing, reconciliation and learning.  For each Harris suggests a deconstructive interrogation.  While focused on South African specificities, the enquiry speaks to global questions of transitional justice and reckoning with oppressive pasts.

Implementing a Social Justice Framework in an Introduction to Archives Course: Lessons from Both Sides of the Classroom

Using the reflections of both the instructor and students on lesson plans from three course sessions, this paper argues that a social justice framework can be practically implemented in an introductory archives classroom such that students are imparted with both the rationale for classical Western archival concepts and functions and the modes to critique such functions from a social justice perspective. After a brief introduction summarizing course logistics and the action research methodology employed, this paper proposes a working definition of social justice and discuss in detail what constitutes a social justice pedagogical framework in archival education. Next, this paper describes and analyzes a small group exercise on the concepts of record, provenance, and creatorship, detailing ways in which students can be both taught prevailing archival concepts and encouraged to critique these concepts from a social justice perspective. This paper then addresses a group discussion concerning power, marginalization, and listening for whispers in the archives, revealing how records can be used in the classroom to illustrate complex theoretical concepts. This paper then discusses the effectiveness of an exercise using three real-life human rights case studies to impart the importance of ethical action in archival practice. In conclusion, the challenges of implementing this framework will be discussed as well as suggestions for future research.

Silence, Accessibility, and Reading Against the Grain: Examining Voices of the Marginalized in the India Office Records

This paper deals with issues of power and silencing of the “Other” within colonial archives, particularly regarding British East India Company records of an attempted mutiny of Bengali sepoys and Javanese aristocrats in 1815, now housed in the India Office Records of the British Library. It recommends incorporating a postcolonial approach and reading records against the grain in order to recover these marginalized voices. The body of this paper is broken into three sections. The first section introduces the historical context of the attempted mutiny, questions the incomplete nature of archival and colonial records, and discusses the archivist’s responsibility to present as complete a record as possible. The second section discusses the introduction and importance of postmodern theory to the archival field. Particularly significant are arguments by practicing archivists who advocate reading records against the grain to recover voices of the marginalized, how this can be incorporated into archival practice, and the ensuing difficulties which may emerge. Finally, the third section discusses problems of access to colonial records such as those held in the India Office Records, and how the practices of digitization, international cooperation and preservation, and reading records against the grain are able to produce a plurality of voices.

Book Reviews

Review: Human Rights, Suffering, and Aesthetics in Political Prison Literature edited by Yenna Wu and Simona Livescu

Human Rights, Suffering and Aesthetics in Political Prison Literature is a collection of essays seeking to explore political prison literature from the vantage point of the beauty and symbolism of the writings. The essays deals with the experiences of political prisoners from countries as diverse as China, Egypt, Syria, Uruguay, Morocco, Romania, the United States and Canada with varying amounts of success.

Review: Archival Anxiety and the Vocational Calling by Richard Cox

This book review covers Richard Cox's exploration on issues of ethics in the archival profession. He suggests that digital technology and information exchange across archival professions can foster change in the field.