Monday, May 23, 2011

academic belonging

I just read through the last two months of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and I'm angry.

When I first entered the job market, online notifications were not as omnipresent as they are today, so a Chronicle subscription was a necessity if just for the massive job I subscribed. Along with the job listings, though, the Chronicle offers enough good entry-level primers for key debates in many fields of study, and some of these are, quite frankly, awesome. It was because of Duncan Watts 's piece in the Chronicle, for instance, that I discovered Six Degrees, one of my favorite books. And of course, when my job search did not go as expected, the paper's "Career" section kept me sane by letting me know that I was not alone in my struggles.

It's different now. When I started reading the Chronicle, I was certain it would be nothing but a matter of time until I moved on to a good job, one which would allow me to write more articles, get that book out, generally create and share new knowledge, maybe even make a difference. Now, however, I frankly know better...and that changes everything.

I'm angry at the job posts...even if I was able to apply for them, they would just lead to more depersonalized rejection. I'm angry at the narratives and analyses of the job market, of the state of academia, because they are all stories and takes that are that much more removed from my personal reality. Most of all, however, I'm angry at the overviews of disciplinary debates, the profiles of scholars, all those think-pieces. They just act as reminders that, not only is no one really interested in what I have to say, I will never have time to expand what I have to say into any form which people might eventually find notable.

The Chronicle of Higher Education used to inspire me and make me feel like a professional. Now, it's more a reminder that it's for academics, for scholars...and I really can't count myself amongst their ranks.

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