Academic Professionalization as Refuge and Refusal: Lessons from Graduate School and Migrant Mutual Aid Work

Jeremy Rud
UC Davis

As a white man, US citizen, queer person, rural South Dakotan, and Spanish speaker, my positionality has allowed me to effectively shape my professional identity in order to find refuge in the academic and advocate spaces necessary to succeed as a graduate student and researcher of language in migrant mutual aid work. Yet throughout my academic professionalization, I have struggled against the academy’s persistent exceptionalism, abstraction, and refusal to address our community’s most pressing needs. Through vignettes situated in my own research practice and graduate student becoming—such as preparing high-stakes asylum applications with research participants, employing privilege and agency within the ICE office as a field site, navigating continued rejection of advocacy-based scholarship by publishers, and striving for recognition of lived conditions during the UC academic worker strike of 2022—I show how humanistic inquiry can illuminate, contextualize, and critique the forces of refuge and refusal that come with graduate student professionalization and thereby imagine a future in which the academy advances human knowledge while first meeting the basic needs of its living, breathing, human community of migrants, students, workers, and scholars.