Let’s Get Free

LU 2023 Freedom School Promotional Video

I owe a big part of my early political education to a Freedom School. In 2001, at age 18, I was a student in the Tyree Scott Freedom School organised by Seattle’s Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, and the experience was deeply formative. I had already been a member of the isangmahal arts kollective for years, a teenage artist-activist making spaces for Filipinx voices and voices of colour with other youth mentors and role models, and had co-founded the youth branch of the organisation which would eventually evolve into Youth Speaks Seattle. However, I had not yet been exposed to the possibilities of liberation pedagogy, or education as a means of freeing, rather than inculcating, the mind.

My Freedom School Summer was the first time I had entered an explicitly anti-racist educational space. I remember in particular taking workshops on understanding structural privilege and the history/present of Palestinian occupation. This critical exposure to geopolitical power dynamics was especially relevant in a Seattle that, only two years prior, had taken to the streets to protest the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference 1999. Although I wasn’t permitted to join the protests (thanks Mom for keeping me safe at home), the spirit of radical resistance against what we might now call racial capitalism resonated throughout the city, and the momentum of social movements at the turn of the new millenium was galvanizing.

That same summer, the community of Asian and Pacific Islander artists with whom I collaborated hosted the first Asian Pacific Islander American Spoken Word and Poetry Summit, a groundbreaking conference that shaped the trajectory for an anti-racist spoken word and poetry movement to usher in the 21st century. My sharp memories of the Freedom School Summer, such as doing the ‘privilege walk’, inviting my newfound friends back to my housing complex to hang out, and later protesting swimming pool racism, are intertwined with memories of huddling up with other young women poets as the artists on stage wove us together with song, and spilling onto the streets of the International District listening to APIA poets interrogate, dissect and deconstruct toxic and violent histories of colonial militarism, and examine the complex resilience and determination to survive it produced, in their and their families’ countries of origin. Moments like this gave me my first taste of freedom from the systems of oppression that have, decolonial scholars remind us, existed since the modern era began with Columbus and his men landing in the Caribbean in 1492.

In these settings, I knew I was wanted and welcome, body, mind and soul. The connection and community I experienced there set my life’s bar for what freedom felt and looked like. This community wanted what I had to give, and its gifts were transformative. It is from these origins that I came to co-create the Building the Anti-Racist Classroom Collective, which from 2018-2021 designed and delivered a series of anti-racist educational workshops (#BARCworkshop) which developed new teaching and learning methods, and established intergenerational support systems, for anti-racists at work in higher education. We imagined such spaces, and knew they were possible, but entirely too rare. So when the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Loughborough University asked me in early 2022 what I would like to make happen using a budget from the Research Culture Fund, I did not hesitate in saying I wanted to create a Freedom School in order to grow the anti-racist and decolonial knowledge base and skill level of the University community.

Building on focus groups with Loughborough Doctoral Researchers (DRs) from backgrounds of colour where they highlighted a hostile, institutionally racist research environment, I partnered with Dr Addy Adelaine, CEO of knowledge creation and sharing organisation Ladders4Action, doctoral researchers Rhianna Garrett and Iman Khan, and Nottingham artists Emily Catherine and Thomas Higgins, to generate a pilot Freedom School benefiting Loughborough DRs. We co-created this in collaboration with Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) DRs, who were compensated fairly for their time and expertise, and ran two pilot workshop days in July 2022, across the Midlands and the London campuses.

We complemented their insights by drawing on our wide range of previous experiences of anti-racist and radically inclusive higher education pedagogy. Through this, we demonstrated to the doctoral researcher attendees that academia does not have to be the isolating, competitive, stultifying place it can often seem, but can be a stimulating and vibrant space where time, thought and resources are given to empowering as well as educating all in the room. We documented our work in this recently published report and the images in the slideshow below. A promotional video capturing the creative and energising feel of the event is available here, and a news article on its success was published by the University.

The in-person events of last summer are soon to be capped off by a final virtual event next week in partnership with inclusive marketing specialist Joyann Boyce, entitled Freedom School Online: Build Your Reputation and Your Community. I am grateful for the support of Loughborough’s new EDI team and the culture of openness towards equity initiatives created in recent years at our institution. I look forward to delivering a session with Iman and Rhianna on the importance of building anti-racist academic community through creative methodologies, and highlighting some of the many projects and initiatives that continue to inspire me as an anti-racist feminist scholar-activist of entrepreneurship, technology and culture, and my ongoing journey towards intellectual, creative and spiritual freedom.

LU Freedom School Pilot – 28 and 31 July, 2022. Photos: Thomas Higgins

CMS 2019 CfP: Inclusions and exclusions in the digital world: meanings, challenges, opportunities


11th International Critical Management Studies Conference – CMS 2019

June 27 – 29, Milton Keynes, UK


  • Deborah N Brewis, University of Bath
  • Cinzia Priola, Open University
  • Angela Martinez Dy, Loughborough University London
  • Adaku Jennifer Agwunobi, Loughborough University London

New means of information sharing and communication presented a promise and an opportunity; a new frontier open to more democratic and accessible practices (Papacharissi 2002). Affordances of the digital represented a chance for people from marginalised social groups not only to be ‘included’ in existing organising structures, often pervaded by historically-rooted forms of privilege (Adamson et al. 2016, Ahmed 2012), but to transform them. However, recent research has shown that the inequalities of the ‘analogue’ world have been reproduced or exacerbated online: relations of rentiership – where ownership and control of assets enables individuals to capture and appropriate value (Birch 2017); unequal resource access (Martinez Dy et al 2017); and neoliberal capitalism (Brewis and Mitchell 2017).

The very design of contemporary digital technologies reflects and reproduces the worldviews of those who create them (Lanier, 2011), thus (re)producing kyriarchy – an interlocking set of persistent social hierarchies, such as those of race, gender, and social class. For example, research shows how high tech founders tend to come from the top of the employment strata (Braguinsky et al. 2012); that digital media platforms are not culture, race or gender neutral (Noble, 2018); and how resource needs of the global tech industry have negative impacts on the living and working conditions of marginalised communities across the world (Bleischwitz et al., 2012).

Neoliberalism uses the digital to tighten its grip on individuals through surveillance and self-tracking (Moore 2017), consumption and desire (Belk 2015, Denegri-Knott and Molesworth 2013). An accelerating precarity and pace of work (Wajcman 2015) has, in part, been facilitated by the digital and legitimated under the discourses of ‘flexibility’ (Nyong’o 2013). Precarity disproportionately affects members of marginalised groups (Duffy and Pruchniewska, 2017), furthermore, online abuse and discriminatory harassment of people from marginalised groups, women in particular, is well documented (Jane, 2014), as is the use of digital spaces by the State to target activists and potential change makers (Michaelsen, 2018).

Yet, we have also seen powerfully transformative and world-shaping uses of digital spaces for both online and offline organising (Smith-Prei and Stehle, 2016), for example, in the Arab Spring, Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and Me Too movements, as well as the development of cryptocurrencies. Thus, it is timely to critically examine the concept of digital inclusion, and analyse the extent to which its promise still holds. With this call, we invite submissions that engage critically with the notion of inclusion within the digital space. We encourage analyses that look not only at how digital technologies and spaces can help organisations to include marginalised peoples, but also how the digital can help to challenge and change the dominant discourses and practices of organising to produce new meanings of inclusion.

It is important that we develop knowledge of how and why marginalisation and privilege are (re)produced via the use and design of digital technologies, but we also invite engagement with efforts to disrupt these patterns, subvert mainstream organisation, and promote alternative forms of politics, for example through collaboration, amplification of marginalised voices, collective action, and non-capitalist economies. Furthermore, we invite submissions to reimagine the meaning of inclusion itself, as a concept that finds itself embedded with normativity. We therefore ask:

  • What does it mean for digital technologies to be genuinely inclusive, or of service to, people of different genders, ethnicities, global locations, abilities, classes, ages, and sexual identities?
  • How can an ‘open’ digital space contribute to reimagined or alternative meanings of ‘inclusion’?
  • How can digital technologies promote openness and resist attempts to colonise the new frontiers of the digital space through political, cultural and financial means?
  • How can digital technologies be used to advocate for or foment greater inclusivity in ‘analogue’ workplaces and entrepreneurial activity?

Submissions may engage with the questions outlined above in relation, but not limited, to:

  • Digital exclusions and marginalisation
  • Digital networks, communities, solidarities and collaborations
  • New meanings of (digital) inclusion and inclusive organising
  • The blockchain, accountability and transparency
  • Artificial Intelligence, labour organisation and regulation, universal basic income
  • Open source, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding
  • The interface of the digital and the analogue
  • Materiality and digital dirty work
  • Affect, embodiment, transformed subjectivities and experiences of digital labour
  • Neoliberalism, (neo)colonialism, rentiership and alienation
  • History/Herstory of the digital
  • Digital technologies, surveillance and the State
  • Cryptocurrency, FinTech, and the banking sector
  • Digital entrepreneurship and inclusion

This stream encourages a variety of submissions, such as traditional research papers, digital demonstrations and interactive analysis, artistic engagements, and other alternative modes of presentations and discussion.

Please submit an abstract or proposal of no more than 700 words (excluding references) together with your contact information to Deborah Brewis D.Brewis@bath.ac.uk Please send this as one page, Word document (not PDF), single spaced, without headers, footers or track changes.

The deadline for submission of abstracts is January 31st 2019, and we will notify you of our decision by the end of February.


Adamson, M., Kelan, E. K., Lewis, P., Rumens, N., & Slíwa, M. (2016). The quality of equality: thinking differently about gender inclusion in organizations. Human Resource Management International Digest, 24(7), 8-11.

Ahmed, S. (2012) On Being Included. Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Belk, R. (2015). YouTube on the couch: Psychoanalytic challenges in a digital age. Marketing Theory, 15(1), 21-24.

Bleischwitz R, Dittrich M and Pierdicca C (2012) Coltan from Central Africa, international trade and implications for any certification. Resources Policy 37(1): 19–29.

Braguinsky S, Klepper S and Ohyama A (2012) High-Tech Entrepreneurship. The Journal of Law and Economics 55(4): 869–900.

Brewis, D.N. and Mitchell, L. (2017) ‘Digital Frontiers: Exploring the digital-analogue interface’ Workshop call for participants, Kingston Business School, November 2017.

Birch, K. (2017). “Towards a theory of rentiership.” Dialogues in Human Geography, 109-111.

Denegri-Knott, J., & Molesworth, M. (2013). Redistributed consumer desire in digital virtual worlds of consumption. Journal of marketing management, 29(13-14), 1561-1579.

Duffy, BE and Pruchniewska, U (2017) Gender and self-enterprise in the social media age: a digital double bind. Information, Communication & Society, 20(6): 843–859.

Jane, E. A. (2014) ‘Back to the kitchen, cunt’: speaking the unspeakable about online misogyny. Continuum, 28(4): 558-570.

Lanier, J. (2010). You are not a gadget: A manifesto. Vintage.

Martinez Dy, A. M., Marlow, S., & Martin, L. (2017). A Web of opportunity or the same old story? Women digital entrepreneurs and intersectionality theory. Human Relations, 70(3), 286-311.

Michaelsen, M. (2018) Exit and voice in a digital age: Iran’s exiled activists and the authoritarian state. Globalizations, 15(2): 248–264.

Moore, P. V. (2017). The Quantified Self in Precarity: Work, technology and what counts. Routledge.

Noble, S. U. (2018). Algorithms of Oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. NYU Press.

Wajcman, J. (2015) Pressed for time: the acceleration of life in digital capitalism. London: University of Chicago Press.

Smith-Prei C and Stehle M (2016) #AwkwardPolitics: #Technologies of #Popfeminist #Activism. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Papacharissi, Z. (2002). The virtual sphere: The internet as a public sphere. New media & society, 4(1), 9-27.

Tavia Nyong’o (2013) Situating precarity between the body and the commons, Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, 23:2, 157-161