2018, HPSR

Slow scholarship at the CHESAI writing retreat


In a previous blog, we reflected on how writing retreats - one of CHESAI’s key strategies for stimulating collective writing – are organized and how they benefit researchers. Today, we reflect on the concept of Slow scholarship and its place in our writing retreats.

What is Slow scholarship and how is it relevant?

Our reflections on Slow scholarship are grounded in the work of Prof. Vivienne Bozalek, Director of Teaching and Learning at the University of the Western Cape. In Slow scholarship in writing retreats: a diffractive methodology for response-able pedagogies, she introduces Slow scholarship as a process which “...foregrounds attentiveness, care, thoughtfulness and quality rather than quantity and production”.

Originating in the Slow food movement, Slow scholarship highlights the importance of quality over quantity; of creating sufficient time to think, reflect and engage collectively (rather than simply ‘producing’ or publishing); and of re-imagining an alternative process of scholarship that counters the present “… corporatization of the academy [which] has meant that market principles such as competitiveness, efficiency, excellence, consumerism, individualism and productivity now dominate all aspects of the university, including scholarship”.

In her paper, Bozalek argues that rather than conceptualizing writing retreats as an assembly line for the development of academic articles, where academics are pressurized to “churn out as many publications in as little time as possible” what is rather needed is “…to re-imagine the writing retreat as an event where Slow scholarship can be practiced…".

Understandably, Slow scholarship is not to be taken literally: it is not about doing things more slowly but “… rather about a way of creating a culture of care, of connecting with others and of reinvigorating and repoliticizing life, including academic life."

Using this article as a reflective frame, four colleagues who attended a 5-day CHESAI writing retreat in March 2018 share some of their experiences.


SlowHelen 1




Bozaleck also points out other features of Slow scholarship. First, in recognition of the time it can take for ideas to mature and meaningful work to be created, it “...facilitates more time for dialogue, thought, and all the processes involved in creation – to think, write, read, research, analyze, edit, organize". Second, there is a need to provide participants with opportunities to connect with others in meaningful, thoughtful and sustainable ways through encounters that can also include enjoyable activities such as walking, swimming, or eating together. In this way, writing retreats can be “…collective, inspirational and creative experimental events...". 

The latter was most certainly included in the retreat, which was held within the mountains of Stellenbosch. The proximity of the natural landscape and the opportunities provided for colleagues to engage with another in different ways, provided food for thought:





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