How should we spend our time together?

  • Nadia Qureshi, Nnenna Odim, Sefanit Habtom
  • Mon, 05/30/2022 - 09:30

How should we spend our time together? - A reflection on Black Methodologies Nadia Qureshi, Nnenna Odim, Sefanit Habtom

The first convening of the Afro-Diasporas Futures in Education Collective was focused on Black methodologies. Our first two speakers, Dr. Vanessa Thompson and Dr. Kevin Quashie, drew us to abolitionist and slow methodologies.


Thompson offers abolition as a methodological commitment to scholarship that forsakes the academy. Abolition as methodology learns from movements fighting against borders, antiblackness, carceral states, and land theft and seeks to produce generative research for these movements (as far as it may take us). Thompson conceptualizes abolitionist methodologies as relational, experimental, and sabotaging.

Through slow methodology, Quashie encourages a practice of deep, close reading. Going slow resists the impulse to quote a line for this text or extract a passage from   that text -- an impulse we are often trained towards in graduate school. S L O W as methodology generates beautiful writing, a form required to capture and document black women’s experiences, Quashie explains as he cites Jennifer Nash. And beautiful embodies the aesthetics of an experience that is beyond evaluation; the aspiration is to move the reader/listener to feel (and feel otherwise).

We have organized this blog post into short reflections that we left the session with. These are ideas that sparked, inspired, and stayed with us. They are intentionally brief and certainly incomplete. These are a set of reflections-in-process, in no particular order.

All day Dr. Quashie and Dr. Thompson’s talks marinated in my mind. The way we marinate the chicken for dinner days before: ginger, garlic, yogurt, haldi, laal mirch, lemon, salt and whatever else is in there…

What do I make of an abolition methodology, enacted in a system that is counter to everything abolition? A system that I am very much a part of, benefit from, but am also harmed by. It’s all very complicated. How can I move forward and enact the music Dr. Quashie shared, moving with slow melodies? All whilst needing to produce, to move on, to demonstrate to the system’s liking.

The academy demands so much from us that we have forgotten how to catch our breaths. But then, too, we hear the final words and protest cries, I Can’t Breathe. We are breathless in urgent times – urgent because of how capitalism structures our lives, and urgent because people are being killed. The need for immediacy can’t be ushered away. The urgency to respond and the urgency to produce stem from the same root.

Quashie spoke of the ‘limits of the human body in academia.’ In mathematical functions,  there is the concept, the limit does not exist. That is how we are made to feel at times. So when Dr. Quashie poses we ‘lean toward care’ sometimes writing, especially in this reflective writing, is a form of care. There is not always space to lean toward care.

Dr. Thompson said to ‘find one’s space and one’s people in the university.’ This is very true. This also requires time, space, experience. Finding your people isn’t always easy, but it’s the only way I will survive. It’s the only way I have survived. 

Quashie points to the need for immediacy: we need to get free, we need to halt climate change, we need an entirely different world. He does not discredit our neediness; he asks us how we can pair it with slow, patient care. Thompson chimes in, ‘this too is a form of sabotage.’ Sabotage lives around us, in the movements we care for deeply, in the institutions we uphold while resisting and subverting.

The question of how to resolve our present condition does not yield satisfying, quick answers. Thompson and Quashie move us to another question at the heart of Black methodologies, ‘how should we spend our time together?’ Going slow, careful reading, collective learning, experimentation, silence, sabotaging the academy are all ways we can allow Black methodologies to guide our research.

We are left wondering, how might we theorize the terrible with such gorgeousness to engage the slow with patient deliberateness? Quashie and Thompson teach us that each moment offers theory to speak to what is happening around us. The artist, poet, scholar, writer… they speak to the times we find ourselves in.

We wove together our reflections to demonstrate the rich offerings from Thompson and Quashie, and to encourage others and ourselves to continue engaging with them, slowly.