Greetings from Vidhya Shanker, an interdependent evaluation scholar and practitioner. With the new year, the inauguration, and the launch of vaccinations, it’s easy to let diverse optics fool us into thinking that we’ve turned a corner and lull us back to business as usual. This liberal narrative of progress—from which evaluation and its surrounding industries are born—descends from the European Enlightenment. As we congratulate ourselves for rejecting hate, we may forget that extreme violence doesn’t come from nowhere. Many recent events that shocked members of our field who were reluctant to name and actively resist systems of oppression had been predicted and in fact experienced by “others,” who were consistently dismissed until this country’s violent foundation was increasingly laid bare.
We are now at a crossroads: Will that new-found awareness dissipate? Be co-opted to advance individual careers/ departments/ organizations? Or be channelled into an ongoing resistance movement for collective liberation?
This crossroads could also be considered the off-season: The systems that evaluation serves constitute precisely the apparatus through which whiteness and cis-hetero-patriarchy have quietly strengthened themselves for centuries, and through which both will continue reproducing exponentially without deliberate counter-action by evaluation.
A year ago, I first wrote about why is #EvaluationSoWhite? and the invisible labor of women of color and indigenous women in evaluation, in honor of Dr. Anna Madison. It took me three months to write the next installment, honoring Dr. Kien Lee, in what was imagined as a series of such posts. Between the COVID-induced home-schooling, elder-care, state-sponsored murder of George Floyd blocks from my home, white nationalist attack on the Capitol, and ongoing vilification of Asian Americans as perpetually foreign terrorists and carriers of disease, only the squeakiest of wheels and most magnanimous of colleagues have managed to eke additional work out of me. Coronavirus both brutally and beautifully illustrates the transformational power of interconnectedness, particularly in relation to groups surviving and resisting ongoing oppression. Nature always reminds us—this time, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, which commemorates a resistance movement of immigrant women textile workers—that structural change cannot rest on any individual’s shoulders.
To be sustainable, the deliberate counter-action that evaluation takes must be collective. Moreover, while individuals and institutions must develop their own muscle for understanding oppression, evaluation’s collective counter-action must be led by those who risked our academic and professional careers sounding alarm bells while the field as a whole was doing business as usual. Below are two small ways to ensure that evaluation’s awareness doesn’t dissipate and its counter-action remains rooted in the analysis and liberation of excluded and harmed groups rather than personality-driven or motivated by professional profit and government savings.
To ensure evaluation’s counter-action is collective and rooted in the analysis and liberation of excluded and harmed groups:
- Join members of the Feminist Evaluation Regenerative Network in repairing the canon by amplifying the contributions of those who have actively contributed to evaluation’s understanding of oppression since the 1930s but have been omitted from evaluation’s textbooks, Oral History Project, and awards. Accept this invitation to fund, design, collect, and write or otherwise share their stories.
- Co-create, sign, and share this pledge refusing to profit professionally from evaluation #wanels, #manels, and other homogeneous opportunities.
The American Evaluation Association is hosting Feminist Issues in Evaluation (FIE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the FIE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our FIE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.