5 years ago
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Musings on Academic Identity....
One's academic identity is a strange thing. It's linked in many respects to one's "real life" identity, but it is also this weird fragmented thing all its own, which mutates and and morphs based on the company one keeps - am I with grad student friends? friends from conferences? and which conferences are we talking about here? current colleagues at the institution at which I work? students? former students? and I suppose even virtual friends in the blogosphere (for surely "Dr. Crazy" is, in fact, one of my academic identities...)? I suppose I'm thinking about all of this in part because I've just returned from a conference that only happens every other year. Some of the people whom I know through this conference I see at other events or I might run into at MLA, but for the most part, it's only every other year that I see them, and thus it shines a light on the ways in which my academic identity moves and changes. Also, this conference tends to attract a academics who work at certain kinds of institutions that tend not to resemble my current institution but rather my grad school institution. When I began attending as a grad student, I felt like an outsider because I was a grad student, but still I think I felt a certain sense of belonging because of my institutional affiliation. Now, I feel like an outsider in some ways because of my institution - and because of my generational status in this field, and because of my sex, because even if literary studies tends to be feminized, whoa nelly is this particular sub-area stuck in a sexist past in at least some respects and related to at least some individuals - but I also feel a certain sense of greater belonging because I am now an actual colleague and I now have actual "friends" when I attend this thing - I'm no longer a novice. Incidentally, the return is still all fucked up - I don't know why - so this will be a big long paragraph and I'll have to fix it when I get to a decent computer that is not my mother's ancient machine that connects to the internets with the dial-up. But to continue. I suppose one reason that I'm thinking about all of this is that I've been seriously considering going on the market this year (i.e., I've decided that I will do this and I'm strategizing about how to do this both discreetly and yet with the blessing of certain key people in my department) and as I consider this, I know that I am a different person now from the person who went on the market in 2002. I've grown up as an academic in many ways, but also, well, I wonder how to characterize myself in light of how I've grown up. And I wonder whether any of it makes a difference anyway, given the state of the market and the state of the profession. I know I've done good work as a scholar in the past three years, but can that override the fact that I'm in a teaching institution with a 4/4 load? Do I want it to? I'm basically happy in my current position, so should I stop whining and be happy with what I've got? Is the fact that I feel like my current location is a dating wasteland really reason enough to consider leaving (and this, more than anything, is the main thing that is motivating me)? Do I really want to start over someplace new? Even if it might end up being worse? I'll be writing more about this in the coming weeks, but these are my initial thoughts/questions/ramblings. And it's all related to this identity thing - who I see myself as right now and who I see myself becoming. The bottom line is that in my current position, I kind of see myself becoming a burnt out teacher, a mediocre scholar, and a lonely spinster. Not immediately, but within the next 15 years. And that's just not who I want to become. But maybe what I'm seeing as a certain future is really more about fear than about reality, and so I suppose I want to blog about these things to think them through. I will say this, however. When I got my job, my dissertation director said to me, "This sounds like a good first job." At the time, I thought he was being insulting. Now? Well, I think I might agree with him. Since I pretty much need to construct him as my antagonist at all times - the mean daddy who is always wrong and who doesn't appreciate me - well, the fact that I think he might have been right and not being a jerk to me kind of kills me :)