Sean Wang is a PhD Fellow in geography at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. He received an MA from the same department and a BA in geography from the University of Washington. His research interests include family and child welfare, migrations, social and cultural geographies.
How did you first hear of Democratizing Knowledge (DK) and what drew you to the events?
SW: I had taken courses in Women’s and Gender Studies and I started the graduate certificate program. Chandra Talpade Mohanty sent me an email about one of the events and I went. DK is a really friendly outlet on campus where people have interesting and radical conversations not just about current events but events relevant to what’s happening in the US higher education institutions. I’m in Maxwell and radical politics – at least at the college level – are not a top priority. Women’s and Gender Studies and DK are great places for me to meet likeminded people and learn new things. I really enjoy all events DK puts on.
What do you think is the significance of DK, especially in the context of Syracuse University?
SW: Right now with the new Chancellor, it is important that organizations like DK exist. You can see from the new decisions he has made and the way they were decided that it is very important to have these spaces existing, like DK where people are looking at things critically and facilitating a lot of really great on-campus activism. Recently there have been a lot of amazing grassroots efforts, especially coming from undergraduate students, and organizations like DK can help sustain those efforts of student organizing as well.
How is DK relevant to your work?
SW: For graduate students, DK is important no matter the research because it is important to have a place outside of your home departments (if only for social purposes). For my own research on transnational migrations, the Settler Colonialism Panel was very interesting and I think one of the best DK events. I was interested in the topic but didn’t know much about it, and it helped me historically ground my research. The way to enjoy a lot of DK programming is to have an open mind and hear brilliant people talk on topics they know well. I was impressed by the level of conversation that the panel generated. I appreciated that people were criticizing, challenging and forcing each other to think of the implications of what they were saying. It was rare to see such a vibrant discussion for an audience of that size. I liked the strategy of pairing the panel with Scott Morgensen’s talk in LGBT Studies seminars and the chance to talk to panelists the next day.