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When Yasmeen Met Abbie: Collaborations and Friendships in the Academy
Episode 1323rd February 2022 • Academic Aunties • Ethel Tungohan
00:00:00 00:46:43

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When we think about academic relationships, we often think of romantic partnerships between two academics. We might also think about the power relationships between, say, a supervisor and a student, or a dean and a professor. But we often don’t think about our research collaborations as an important kind of relationship. That’s surprising because research collaborations are, arguably, the most important relationships that you will ever have in academia. 

In this episode, we talk to Dr. Yasmeen Abu-Laban, a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta and Dr. Abigail Bakan, a Professor in the Department of Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. They are research collaborators, friends, and an inspiration for those of us who are doing work that is intensely contested and political.

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Thanks for listening! Get more information and read all the show notes at academicaunties.com. Get in touch with Academic Aunties on Twitter at @AcademicAuntie or by e-mail at podcast@academicaunties.com.

Transcripts

Ethel Tungohan 0:05

Race," which was published in:

Yasmeen Abu-Laban 1:47

Thanks so much. It's great to be here, Ethel, and, you know, congratulations on this awesome podcast, which I've been listening to since it started.

Abigail Bakan 1:56

Yeah, thank you for thinking of us and for inviting us. Thank you so much.

Ethel Tungohan 2:00

I'm so happy we're able to make this happen. And just to kind of set the stage for our listeners. Auntie Abbie actually took time out of her day. Normally, today, she's taking care of her grandson. So I don't know. Will we will we have a cameo appearance? Will we heare him? Maybe?

Abigail Bakan 2:18

Maybe, maybe. We'll see. He's trying we're trying to have him distracted at the end of the house. So we'll see how that goes.

Ethel Tungohan 2:26

Is it naptime now? It's like noon, right? Or does your grandson still nap?

Abigail Bakan 2:31

No, nap times is as soon as as soon as this is...as soon as we're done here. It'll be nap time. So we're scheduled perfectly. So yeah, that's wonderful.

Ethel Tungohan 2:40

So one thing that we are super, super excited to talk to both of you about is this notion of academic research partnerships and academic relationships. It is after all, the month of February. And one thing that we were talking about was what relationships matter to you the most in terms of your academic career. And when we were brainstorming, we said, you know what, it's your research collaborators, it's your friends, it's people who witness and walk alongside you in this academic journey. And so how did this magic happen? How did it first start?

Yasmeen Abu-Laban 3:15

article, I think, came out in:

Ethel Tungohan 5:54

Oh, no. Okay.

Abigail Bakan 5:57

I did. I did say No, at first.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban 6:00

I don't think I was wrong in interpreting this as a decisive No. So on my end, I just like, literally, I kind of forgot it ever happened. But then something later happens. So I'll, Abbie, you want to fill that part in?

Abigail Bakan 6:15

Yeah, so, Yasmeen called me it felt completely out of the blue. I recall that I was just overwhelmed. I was approaching a sabbatical--where I was at with that sabbatical, you know, Yasmeen and I have contested memories of--but I had so many unfinished projects that I couldn't imagine taking on something new. And I also knew, I'd heard wonderful things about Yasmeen from Daiva and I was really, you know, flattered that she would reach out to me. But I also knew that if I put my toe into academic work around Israel, Palestine, that was a big commitment. That was a serious commitment, a serious responsibility, and I couldn't do it halfway. I couldn't do it as one of 12 things on my desk. But what Yasmeen didn't know is that really, almost every day, I kept thinking about should I do this? Should I do this? And a year later, I called Yasmeen back and said, Yeah, should we do this? What we decided to do was one paper for the Canadian Political Science Association. And we didn't even know if it would be accepted. Because this was before the race, ethnicity, indigenous people in politics section had been established, which Yasmeen and I were later involved in establishing and that became a better, you know, sort of venue for us. But we decided to write a paper for CPSA. We weren't sure what section to go in. And then Bruce Baum contacted Yasmeento contribute something to a workshop with Charles Mills as the esteemed guest. And Charles Mills is the author of The Racial Contract. And so we started thinking, do we think we can make the Israel Palestine story as we want to write it--and we had a lot in common before we started working, we were both, you know, we had done work on critical race, we were feminists, we had a conception of power, we were disciplinary, but interdisciplinary. But I also knew that this was not, you know, I was at Queen's University at the time, and, you know, reasonably senior. But I knew that this was not going to be a great career move. You know, like, if we were going to be doing this work, it was going to have a lot of static electricity around it. Anyway, so we wrote the paper, and it worked. We worked really well on it. And then we presented the paper at the Canadian Political Science Association, we decided that we unusually, you know, we were, you know, I mean, critical political scientists, but you know, the discipline, it's kind of like feminism was not a big thing, you know, so, I mean, it's more now, but it was not a big thing. So our methodology was, basically it's got to be at arm's length to be taken seriously. And the closer it gets to yourself, right, the more you are working outside of the realm of traditional power structures, right. But we decided in this presentation that we had to self identify as Jewish and Palestinian at the outset. Yeah. And that was, that was a new approach for us. And so we named that in the paper, we prepared the paper, it actually went very, very well, they, you know, Charles Mills was incredibly positive about it. The people in the audience were, you know, our friends and allies as well as other people who, you know, we've never met before, who were just saying, finally, somebody is talking about this from the point of view of comparative politics and, and power, but it was emotionally quite a fraught issue as we approached the panel, so I'm going to leave that to Yasmeen, if you want to share something about that first paper?

Yasmeen Abu-Laban 9:50

No, I mean, I, I think there's an intensity around doing work in this area. It's intense. because this is point blank, one of the most fraught areas to cover, and where you see the real limits of free speech and academic freedom, even in Canadian universities, US universities, British universities. And, you know, we've seen numerous cases around that. And it's also really fraught, because what you're, what you're dealing with, on both sides is a lot of trauma and group based harm. That's, that's been experienced, you know, for me to kind of go into that area, and have to face a situation, I guess, where people have not really been exposed to or heard the Palestinian perspective that they don't understand, or haven't really followed, or they've dehumanized Palestinians to the point where they can only think of them as terrorists. It's it's really, it's really hard. And it's, it's, it's it's traumatic, and there's, you know, trauma that, that that is intergenerational around us. And so, I think this was the first time I, and Abbie will remember this because we were in this, I was staying in a very nice hotel. This was in Saskatoon. This was in Saskatchewan, I think, yeah, we were and I just started weeping. And that, you know, thought is, you know, not not the norm for how you approach a conference. It's a, it's a, it's a heavy, it's a heavy weight, of denial of experience, you know, trying to come to terms with being able to, to speak that in the setting and knowing that you can get shut down, it's incredibly difficult.

Abigail Bakan:

Yeah. So this was, you know, we had written the paper back and forth, figured out what we were going to say, you know, what you can only do in 15 years, who's gonna say what, who's gonna go first what the order was, and just as we were going to present it, and I just looked at Yasmeen, and I said, I said, Do you want to do this? We don't have to. Don't, you know, like, this is, you know, we're professionals. We don't, we don't have to go through with it. And Yasmeen said, no, it's okay, let's let, let's do it. And I just knew. I mean, for me, it was the first time that I had publicly identified myself not just as Jewish but as a serious critic of the State of Israel that and you know, without a doubt my my Jewish identity is unquestionable. It's not anything that I have any issues or doubts, or have to account to anyone. But as soon as you say that you're critical of the State of Israel, you know, I came under incredible criticism from the wider community. But I just knew that, at that moment, when we were doing that first paper, this was a really, this is a partnership like none other. And this was a serious commitment. I mean, every collaboration is a commitment, you know, and you have to think carefully before you enter into it, but it usually has less emotional, what can I say, you know, metrics associated with it. This one is full bodied, you know, first, anyway, and then the fact that the paper went, well, we decided to do another paper. Then the SSHRC grant came later, the book came later. The other SSHRC came later, all that stuff, you know, and each time we sort of look at each other and say, Are we still doing this? It's like, we both have lots of other things that we're doing. It's like, Are we are we still doing? Yeah, I guess we're still doing let's whatever. Let's put in the next application. Let's put in the next paper.

Ethel Tungohan:

That's awesome. And I think if I could just kind of go back to these emotionally fraught moments, how both of you identified how this is not something you did before. ie. this was a project that elicited a lot of emotions. And there were a lot of risks involved to in being part of this work, and also openly identifying yourselves as being critical of the State of Israel, but also bringing in your positionality and potentially also family histories. Right. So I guess, Abbie, I really, I'm kind of struck with this moment of checking in right before you were presenting and saying, We don't have to do this. It's okay. And I wonder, what has the role of check ins been in your research partnership for both of you?

Abigail Bakan:

Super interesting question, isn't it? Yeah. Yasmeen, maybe we can answer that by talking about the book.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

Sure. Why don't you start.

Abigail Bakan:

Okay, so we decided we were going to write this book that we did, we have finished, Israel, Palestine and the Politics of Race, and, you know, came out in 2020. We're happy with it. But it was 10 years in the making. And the way we wrote it was by a combination of, you know, conceiving of work that we'd already done and adding to it, and then also shaping future projects around it. And there was a certain point when we were nearing completion of it. And Yasmeen and I often would spend writing retreats together, we would like, you know, we live in very different places across two time zones.

Ethel Tungohan:

Do you?

Abigail Bakan:

Yeah, we do. Right. Yeah. So it's like, you know, what week? Can you come to Alberta? Can you come to Ontario? We haven't seen each other in a year.

Ethel Tungohan:

So you would spend time in each other's houses and have writing retreats?

Abigail Bakan:

Certainly, each other's city, sometimes it was each other's houses. Sometimes you know in a hotel where the one who lives in that city can get away from their house, and just work in the hotel. And, you know, go to go to the gym in between chapters. And yeah, no, we do these intense intense writing retreats, which we've missed during the pandemic, we schedule them virtually. But so anyway, so we had one of these ones, we were just finishing up the final manuscript. And I just did a check in with Yasmeen and I said, you know, I can't stand this book. I just, I hate it.

We had both come to hate it.

We both come to hate it. It's like, oh, yeah, it's like I don't like the way it flows. It doesn't have a good rhythm to it. It feels forced. I think there's too much redundancy in it. And I said, so our goal for the end of this week, is to love this book. We have to find a way to love this book. I don't know how that's gonna happen. And Yasmeen said, Yeah, you're right, we got to try to do this. And so Yasmeen, we each sort of spend some time with the manuscript, and Yasmeen says, I think I've got it and came to see me and she said, What we need is a preface. And I said, Yeah, sure. But what are we going to say? And she said, we're not going to talk about the book, we're gonna talk about ourselves. We're going to talk about our entry point into this book, and our relationship and how our collaboration is itself the methodology of the book, that the way in which different identities of being Jewish and Palestinian and feminist and Critical Race scholars and understanding power is actually not the object of the study. It's the eyes through which we come to this project. And so, yeah, so I said, that makes a lot of sense. So we just started drafting the preface, by situating ourselves in the story. And then gradually, we just fell in love with the book. Actually, the story of Israel Palestine is a beautiful story. You know, the intertwining of histories, the potential for expanding an anti colonial, feminist understanding, there's a lot in it. And in order to look at the world, you have to look at the whole world, you can't have certain corners of it that you just chop off and say, it's not going to be covered under this, you know.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

This is my favorite one, even amongst political scientists: Well, that's just too political.

Ethel Tungohan:

So I am loving all of this, because I think, well, a lot of questions are now, you know, I want to ask, but I think I'll start with political science as a field kind of disavows putting in the personal, right? Like it's not seen as political science. It's seen as journal writing, it's seen as navel gazing. And so one question I have is, you know, would you have been able to pursue this project early in your career? Both of you? Did, you have to wait until you attained a degree of seniority before pursuing this question? And did you have to wait for the right partner to come by?

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

You know, the moment of even being interested in a discipline called political science, this issue was part and parcel of my thinking and experience, I would have written on it. I did write on it before working with Abbie, but I wouldn't have written on it in the same way. You know, I mean, it's incredible that it has worked the way it did. I mean, the phone call to Abbie was sort of based on an intuition. And I think it was the right intuition. And I think with collaborations, what you get out of them is really that what you produce, and even the journey itself becomes greater than the sum of its parts. And I think kind of throughout this whole thing, our lives and our families have just gotten irrevocably intermeshed right? I mean, we've had lots of family meals that we've shared over these years, we've traveled and given papers all over. We've, as Abbie was saying, we've worked pretty much everywhere, on planes, on trains, in different offices in different universities and in our respective homes and my son, Zack, who, who grew up with, you know, Abbie around--you know him Ethel--but he thinks of Abbie like his cooler mother. He calls Abbie his Jewish godmother.

Abigail Bakan:

Like I was doing work on, you know, the question of Israel Palestine, and what's referred to as the Jewish question, but extracurricularly. So, you know, I've got a long activist life as well as a scholarly life. And so I saw I had a political commitment to solidarity with Palestine and to, to explore explaining the relationship of, you know, the history of intense anti semitism of the West, and, you know, in terms of my family, and, you know, survival. And the challenge of Israel, but I definitely had not thought about that as a scholarly pursuit. Until Yasmeen contacted me. And one of the things that we, you know, we have discussed is, you know, what's our venue for our work, and we made a commitment early on that we would try to mainstream our ideas, we would try to go to, you know, established refereed journals, university and recognized refereed publishers, we would, you know, we would try, if we fail at that we would consider, you know, alternative venues. But, but that's been really, really important to what we're trying to do with our ideas. And we've actually found a lot of support, you know, certainly like, you know, now looking back when we were first writing, to now we have, we have a wider audience.

Ethel Tungohan:

One thing that I think is incredibly, incredibly fascinating is when both of you were talking about relationship as methodology, right. And that was something both of you talked about when you were hating your book, and it allowed you to become in love again, with your book. But the funny thing is, when we think about relationships in academia, where competition seems to be the norm, where, you know, you're trying to see who has more citations, who has, you know, better metrics, when it comes to all of these standards of academic success? How is relationship as methodology different from competitive academic relationships, where competition is the norm?

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

Well, let me just say that, I think there's different ways that collaborations can come up, come about. And you know, I, you know, Abbie is not the only person that I've co authored with, and she's cooperated with other people. I think in all those collaborations which have been successful, there isn't competition, you've got a shared goal or shared perspective, but, you know, the reason you enter into them may be different, right? I mean, you know, I remember being a postdoc, and doing a project with somebody who was a friend and a different discipline, just because I thought, oh, that will be amusing. And maybe I'll learn something about a different discipline, and I'll grow as an intellectual. In other kinds of circumstances, you know, sometimes you collaborate because there's money or there's a grant to do something, a practical policy merit that might improve lives. And then that becomes, you know, kind of the focus and in other areas, and I'd say this is with Abbie, in our work on Israel, Palestine, there's a, there's a festering decades long situation of violence and injustice that really ought to be given more attention than it is. And we're, you know, trying quite consciously, to make an intervention there, hopefully, with the goal of making the world a better place. And that's a very different kind of feeling about it. So I think when Abbie talks about our partnership being a methodology, it's also incorporating a sense that we need to intervene in this area and do something in a different way.

Abigail Bakan:

Yeah, maybe I'll just add to that. I mean, yes, traditional academic life, mainstream academic life the way we live in it. It's so patriarchal, colonial, authoritarian, you know. So, I mean, feminist scholarship initially does start to challenge them a bit, and Yasmeen and I thought we're doing work around feminism and anti racist politics in political science before we got to this issue, the important thing about this project, I think, is that we're dealing with questions of oppression and emancipation at the core. Absolutely at the core, you know, I mean, Palestine is not a historically occupied territory. It's a currently occupied territory. The diaspora is continual. The Nakba is not only historical, but present and continual, and issues around Jewishness and Judaism and anti semitism are ongoing present day conversations, you know, within politics and within the Jewish community. So multiple Jewish communities. So in the way in which we have framed our approach to this, it kind of poses the kind of intersectionality of the emancipationist act, you know. Like I see, Jewish emancipation is only possible through Palestinian Liberation. And Palestinian Liberation is not up to me. It's, you know, it's up to the Palestinians. But that's very different than those who see Jewish emancipation as just, you know, we have to just have a world only among ourselves. We can't trust anyone else. We can't live with anyone else. There's a 2000 year istory, you know, of danger, and therefore, we need a state that is exclusivist. I mean, that's a completely different project. And I think I think if we can get to that conversation, there are lessons that are not just unique to these populations, there are lessons about power and about solidarity, you know, so, I mean, I think there's, there's a way in which Yasmeen and I approach each other around this work, where there's a lot of things...I mean, we have disagreements, and so on, and so forth the way any collaboration does, but we often, like in terms of sort of ethics, values, basic orientation, we finish each other sentences, even if we haven't seen each other for months. And I think that's because of the methodology.

Ethel Tungohan:

Yeah, I mean, I think one thing that I also was wondering, so you mentioned disagreements, let's talk about the rhythms of work and partnerships, right? Do you both have the same work style? I mean, how do you work together? Do you kind of co-write together in your writing retreat, and you kind of have pauses and you bounce ideas off of each other? Like, how does the mechanics of work, work?

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

I think that the mechanics and different kinds of collaborations work differently, you know. People are different. So no collaboration you have is going to be exactly the same. Because even if you're the same, you're working with somebody else. And their style may be different than than yours is. The way they think about things may be different than you the way that they process or want to write about things maybe different. So and I think for Abbie and I, because it's been over so many years. And so many things happen because life happens. Probably you know what we were doing in one phase might be different than another phase. And by definition, it's been different. During the pandemic, we've sort of taken to having a lot of breakfasts together. We're working out what we're going to do. We have time where we write separately and come together and share things. But there's also times where we're explicitly together, and we try and organize a period where we're together. And we can work things out and debate things. I remember one plane trip we had, we were coming back from Cyprus, do you remember this Abbie? It was such a long flight. And I think we were both really jetlagged. But nonetheless, we just stayed up, and we were talking, and we were working out, you know, like sketches for stuff that we wanted to do on the plane or on the plane, we were sitting next to each other.

Abigail Bakan:

We do have a basic sort of routine that works for us, but it's not very pleasant. Which is that we decide on something that we we've agreed to do. You know, like sometimes we get a lot of invitations now. So you know, we have to decide on whether we're going to do the invitation or not. And then so we have a deadline, and it's usually months away and so on. And then the deadline starts approaching. And we usually contact each other and feel awful. Like how are we...what did we do? Why did we ever agree to this? And then sometimes I'll say Yasmeen, you know, this was yours. And Yasmeen will say, you know, this was yours. And you know, like one of us will sort of, you know, try to take responsibility because the guilty party's like you know, it's like, oh my God, I don't know how this is gonna happen. And then we just we kill ourselves working to a deadline. Like, it always feels, it's like, oh my god, let's never do this again. And it works. And we get a piece out. We recently wrote a piece for a workshop for a special journal. And we were so stressed about the deadline. And it turned out that our piece was the first one of like, you know, 12 papers that were due in. And we had an editor that was sort of like, you know, praising us for getting it done ahead of time. And I said, Yasmeen, we got it done ahead of time, this never, you know, it was, it was amazing.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

We like to put it as just-in-time production is what we engage in.

Abigail Bakan:

Yeah, we do a lot of that, where it was kind of like, okay, we're up against the wall. And then you know, we're feeling like we're cutting corners, that it's not as good as it should be. And then, you know, we always make an outline, we decide, you know, page lengths, and who's gonna do what section first, and then we trade the sections. And then we, you know, edit each other sections. And by the time we finish any of our work, it is genuinely 100% jointly written. Like, we don't do a kind of dialogue piece of, you know, my view versus Yasmeen. It's always bigger than the sum of its parts. It's always, you know, sometimes there's a minor idea that I'll just think about. And Yasmeen will say, Oh, that's it, that's what we have to call the chapter, you know, or similarly, like, Yasmeen will have a formulation that goes back and forth, and some type of an email thing, and I say, That's it, you've got it, we're going to hang on to that. And we do have a joint file on sync.com that we keep, we have, like, you know, so we file each other's work. And we were looking at each other's ideas all the time. And Yasmeen says it's a really good form of surveillance, because she can always see what I'm working on. We have this phenomenon of like setting deadlines, promising ourselves, we're going to have lots of time to get to it. And then by the time we actually get to it just sweating buckets, to make it to the deadline, and then being surprised that it actually kind of works. I don't know, if we'll ever be able to get out of that.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

I think like, every once in a while, I say, not this year, we're not going to do this, or I'm not going to do a conference and then somehow I ended up, you know, we ended up in the same situation.

Abigail Bakan:

Guilty. That last one was mine.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

It is kind of just what it is. But it's been wonderful. And I actually, you know, can't imagine my academic career without having had this partnership. Oh, I really can't. I mean, it's, you know, a real, a real highlight. And I've had lots of great things in my, you know, in my years as a political scientist, but this this partnership has been, you know, it's profoundly important to me

Abigail Bakan:

And ditto, and can I also just say, watch out, we're just getting started. Yeah, we got, we've just done the warm up.

Ethel Tungohan:

I love this. So as you know, the audience of Academic Auntie include a lot of people who are, you know, early career scholars, junior scholars. And, you know, one question that I wanted to raise was, concretely, how do you know if a research partnership is not working?

Abigail Bakan:

So maybe I'll just say that that's where the check in thing becomes really important. You know, not necessarily checking in with someone else, but checking in with yourself. But the key thing, I know, I mean, Yasmeen was speaking about how she's had many relationships, many collaboration. So have I and they've all been very rich and very fulfilling, but I am really super cautious before making a commitment to work collaboratively with someone. Like it's much easier to say no at the beginning stages saying, Sorry, I'm busy or something like that than it is once you get a commitment, and then I think the key thing is just always having a sense of you know, when the project is over, like you know, finishing the article or finishing the SSHRC grant, you know. But I do think that question of gut check. It isn't necessarily like a checklist that's intellectual or anything. It's you've got to keep in touch with how you feel about the work. I mean, so so much of our work is so hard. You know, it really is hard to be a scholar to be an active academic, to be a teacher, to do the work that you have to do. It's very hard. And so yeah, I, my approach is I try to think of my research as oxygen, it has to be something that comes in and, and makes you feel good about like, that's why we get into this, why we do this? And and so it's just important to do that kind of okay, am I getting more out of this for me than I'm putting out? And to be honest about that.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

Yeah you know, I think the only other things I doubt is that I'm a big believer in the value of direct communication. I know that can be hard for some people to do depending on power dynamics, as well as personality. It also can be very hard for some people to listen to, but if you're in a collaboration that's not working, you should try and communicate. If it is still not solvable after communication, you do have to be willing to lose something. I mean, sometimes that means, you know, forgoing a publication, or letting other people move on with it. Sometimes it means returning hard won grant money, or leaving it for others to keep. Sometimes it means just reclaiming the direction you want to go in, especially if at early stages of your career, those are very like, like hard choices to have to make, and people don't want to experience them. I think with that perspective of time, you can see that, you know, sometimes you just do need to let go of a collaboration or something that's not going somewhere. And that you learn something from that as well. You usually learn something and it doesn't mean it's the end of your of your career if you have to, if you have that kind of a situation. So I think kind of having a perspective that doesn't catastrophize these sorts of things is helpful to having a fulfilling career.

Ethel Tungohan:

Final question, if I may. So academic aunties is also a podcast about friendship. And in some ways, what we're trying to do is we're trying to show that it's important to form these dissident friendships, these communities of care in order to survive in this cutthroat world. And so I guess one question, my final question for both of you is, this is at odds with how most of academia operates, right? We've also heard studies where some people, say, dismiss co written pieces as being really easy right? Like, oh, that's just a co written piece, it shouldn't count as much, right? Because you're just it's, you know, clearly, you're just not putting in as much effort. What would you say, to kind of refute the sentiments given that both of you have had partnerships and co written pieces, not just with each other, but with other people as well? And why should we pursue research partnerships, because I think some people are shying away from these research partnerships, because they're afraid of these, quite frankly, sexist, you know, mindsets.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

I would say, and especially because you are, you know, your audience is diverse. And there are different career stages that vary, there is a reality that in the social sciences and humanities, the single authored article or book by the, you know, so called genius professor is valued. And if you only do collaborations, there's a risk because when you go up for promotion, or tenure or other kinds of things along the way, there may be some people who say, yeah, but what did they really do? And that there's like, three on there? How do we know what they did. And it's a little bit akin to the sciences as the person with the lab that kind of gets, you know, all the credit. So I think it's good for people to be aware of that dynamic, and, you know, to balance things, because it's strategic, I would say, but also, it can be refreshing to sort of balance things. I mean, we've talked about this, the intensity of the work I have with Abbie, you know, sometimes a space away and doing something else can be regenerative. Right. So that I don't think that, you know, the single authored things are necessarily a bad thing, in the overall scheme of things. But I do think friendships are important. So whether you're working on something single authored or collaborative, you know, having friendships is just part of I think having, you know, having a good life and having a kind of support network is part of having a joyful life. And it's actually I mean, there's a lot of studies saying it's part of your longevity too. I mean, I've been incredibly lucky in my collaboration with with Abbie that we are friends and that we do support each other. And we support each other through some really challenging situations, both in the work that we're doing and in our lives and things that are going on.

Abigail Bakan:

Yeah, this is a really important question. And an important reflection to think about...my grandson is playing the xylophone, I'm sorry.

Ethel Tungohan:

You know what, we're not gonna cut that. It adds humanity to life happens, right?

Abigail Bakan:

Okay, okay, I could go down, and we'll, okay, well let it go. It keeps him happy. So, um, effective, collaborative, co written work is actually much much harder than writing a single author piece. I mean, Yasmeenand I are each other's worst critics, it's like having like a microscopic referee, at the earliest stages of your work, you know, because each of us won't put our signature on this unless we agree with every word. And, you know, understand why the footnote is here and not there. And, you know, whether this point is a tangent or not. So, I mean, to my view, effective collaborative, I mean, you can't, you can't always tell that there's different ways that collaboration works. But when, you know, we make a point of saying, all of our articles are jointly and equally written, and that, that's really true. And it means the quality of the work, that when we decide it's ready to send it off for review, it's of a qualitatively different standard than what I would see with my own eyes had it not been something during the written. So I think there is a myth about the assumption of, you know, if it's single authored, we know it's always written by you, because all of our work gets refereed. All of our work gets, we have comments back and forth, we have views of it.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

Google Scholar says you're always standing on the shoulders of giants, right? So it's a very problematic view.

Abigail Bakan:

It's a very problematic view. We don't write in a competitive way in isolation. But the the other side of that is we all need communities of support. Like nobody can write thinking that your audience is just going to be negative and critical. And they don't want to hear what you're saying or anything. We need communities of support. And an effective friendship can really support that. I mean, it's not just that I love you to bits, Yasmeen. And like, Yasmeen's family has welcomed myself and my partner, my husband into her world, we've had so many opportunities to sort of share moments and times, across generations, we counseled each other about parenting and grandparenting. And dealing with, you know, sickness and health we've been through, you know, death and tragedy, I mean, so, and, and through all of that, it's like, yes, the language of it, the sort of short form of work life balance, but it's kind of like, if your life isn't enriched through your work, you cannot do the work. You cannot do work that takes away from life. There's, you know, there's kind of a pandemic pedagogy that we have to deal with, we have to know that our students have to be healthy, and we have to be healthy. And then there's no, there's no point in working until it makes you sick, or if it makes you sick, or if it makes you feel unwell. And it works the other way. You know, like, I mean, you know, when I was talking about the stuff that we hate about getting to those deadlines, we know on the other side, we're gonna feel really good about it. So I have learned from Yasmine, you know, you have to work hard to play hard.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

We have fun times too.

Ethel Tungohan:

Yeah, I love everything about this. I think I actually just wrote that down, Auntie Abbie, you cannot do work that takes away from life. And I think what a perfect note to end on. I'll be marinating on this notion of pandemic pedagogy because I think that's something that I need to remember too. I'll write it on my whiteboard. If listeners want to get in touch with you, Auntie Yassie, Auntie Abbie, are you on social media?

Yasmeen Abu-Laban:

Yeah, it's at @yasmeenabulaban. There's no hyphen in the name Abu-Laban on Twitter so it's just my name basically.

Ethel Tungohan:

Awesome.

Abigail Bakan:

So I'm Twitter averse but I am on Facebook and email and people can find me easily so I'm happy to have any any communication.

Ethel Tungohan:

Yasmeen and Abbie’s collaboration isn’t merely born out of common research interests but is also about a shared conviction, based on positionality, personal and family history and advocacy. It was important for them to do work on Israel and Palestine. Engaging in this kind of collaborative work requires intense trust, checking in, and mutual support, especially given the intensely contested and political nature of this project that might also invoke personal and family trauma. Their collaboration, and really their deep friendship is incredibly inspiring for those of us who are doing work that is intensely contested and political. In these partnerships, it is important to share the weight of emotion and hand things off to each other. These partnerships work because they are rooted in a relationship of mutual care. And that’s Academic Aunties. Before we go, I just wanted to say thank you to all those of been tweeting pictures of your Academic Aunties swag! This podcast is a labour of love and we appreciate your support. If you want to find out about all the ways you can help Academic Aunties, please go to academicaunties.com/support for more info. We’d also love to hear from you! Get in touch with us on Twitter at @AcademicAuntie. Today’s episode of Academic Aunties was hosted by me, Dr. Ethel Tungohan, and produced by myself, Wayne Chu and Dr. Nisha Nath. Tune in next time when we talk to more Academic Aunties! Until then, take care, be kind to yourself, and don’t be an asshole.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai