RETROSPECTIVE 2021: Raster.fi as a platform for diverse contributions and empowering interactions

The first year acting as editor of raster.fi has exceeded my expectations. In this post, which closes our 2021 publications, I retrospectively look at the experience to indicate ways in which the community of scholars engaged in anti-racism work can contribute to research-based information to public conversations in Finland. By Leonardo Custódio.

When I accepted the task of acting as editor of raster.fi, I had one motivation in mind: “Academia problematically neglects crucial invisible free labour. Individually, I do not have the power to do much to end that problem. However, I am lucky to have a source of income. So I thought: why not, then, do voluntary work that is meaningful to me, somehow useful to the research community, and relevant to (the Finnish) society?”

By “meaningful to me”, I refer to a sense of fulfilment and joy that I feel when I learn by interacting with colleagues from multiple disciplines. By “useful to the community”, I refer to actively maintaining a platform for researchers to publish and circulate their ideas and findings in easy-to-read and jargon-free language. By “relevant to society”, I mean the importance of research-based information in times of disinformation and negation of science.

Diversity in contributions

The contributions of colleagues who trusted us with their work made it possible to meet these three objectives. From March to November, raster.fi published 15 contributions. Most texts were in English, but some were in Finnish and Swedish (both original texts and translations).

The kinds of contributions varied. We had colleagues reacting critically to situations happening in Finland’s hip-hop scene, labour market, and social media. We also published displays of solidarity in an open letter following a case of racial profiling and call to actions in support of the Palestinian people and against antiblack racism in Finnish higher education.

Raster.fi was also a platform for the translation – in language and readability – of academic publications and research-based social commentary on popular culture. We also had a reflection about the problem in the EU borders maintaining RASTER’s tradition of dialogue between the intersections between anti-racist and migration research.

Personally, it has been very exciting to see scholars in different career stages perceive raster.fi as a positive platform to share their experiences and knowledge publicly. This year, for example, we also experimented with interviews: the one with Jasmine Kelekay about Black feminism in the Nordic countries and the one about the experience of white early-career geographers organizing an anti-racist seminar in their department. It was also important to feature the testimonial of international students who reflected about their frustration following their collective action to denounce racist practices in the admission process in their university.

Power in interactions and mutual support

The experience of providing the authors with editorial support was a very exciting experience. In some cases, my task was to support the translation of the texts into accessible readings for people outside academia. For this, I kept a question I use for my own academic production in mind – how to write easy-to-read texts without being disrespectful and condescending to the readers? In other cases, like in the displays of solidarity, my role was to make sure that the colleagues had a public platform to publish and circulate their message.

In both cases, the interactions with the authors and the “backstage” conversations with Minna Seikkula about the texts in Finnish were very rewarding. It was also humbling and reassuring when the authors were patient and understanding with my delay in replying emails or working on their contributions before publishing. This sense of mutual understanding and support is very empowering, especially when one is going through the stress and anxiety so absurdly typical in academic work.

Steps ahead: Occupy Finnish public spheres

The experiences I describe here motivate me to continue as the editor of raster.fi in 2022. As I continue, I hope that more and more colleagues see the website as an opportunity to occupy the Finnish public spheres, to paraphrase my colleague and friend Ana Suzina. We certainly need additional expert voices weighing in public conversations in a society that prides itself as one of the best educated in the world, but that overall seems confused and narrow-minded by what “racism” and “anti-racism” mean.

As an editor, I hope to become better at supporting researchers who are also willing to circulate their meaningful work in multiple languages beyond the constraints of academic institutions.

Raster.fi can become even more accessible, diverse and interdisciplinary as a collective platform if we do it together. This retrospective post ends our 2021 activities, but we will be back in January. If you would like to publish your work on raster.fi, read about our objectives and guidelines. I am looking forward to your contributions. Until then, we wish you wonderfully relaxing and virus-free holidays!