Monday, September 1, 2014

Labour and Change

Four years ago Hook & Eye launched its first post. You fit into me / like a hook into an eye, says the poet Atwood. And our first blogger and co-founder, Heather Zwicker, rejoined, "like oxfords under brown corduroy cuffs, like a Bic pen in the coil of an unsullied scribbler, like Labour Day and despair." 

There is so much pressure put upon the new year in academia. Some of that pressure is welcome (new stationary! new pens! new classes!) Some of it is not (one million meetings! fighting the scanner!) But unless we take the time to look at the macro and micro shifts in culture we might mistakenly think that the start of each school year is the same. It isn't

In the four years since Hook & Eye began the shape of labour in the academy has continued to change dramatically. In the last four years we have seen memes circulate as harbingers of the pop-culture denigration of Humanities labour. We have seen a rise in rape culture on campuses. We have seen reason after reason why feminism matters in academia and in the world. Each time I start thinking about another year of writing blog posts I am reminded of the necessity of trying to put words out into the world that do something. I am reminded of the reasons we started Hook & Eye in the first place: to create an accessible feminist community of people working in academia in Canada. To articulate challenges and to call out injustices. To talk about the minutia and the mess of working and living as feminist scholars. To take responsibility. To create a community of care. To listen. 

The reasons for this blog haven't changed. The climate in which the bloggers work has, however. When we started back in 2010 there were three of us. Here is how Heather described she, Aimée, and I then:

Conveniently, writing collaboratively builds in a range of perspectives. The three of us bloggers share a worrying commitment to punctuality and a reassuring addiction to wit, but that's about it. We do not agree on everything; we do not write with a single institutional affiliation; and we sign our stuff. (We want you to, too.) One of us is an assistant professor on the brink of tenure, one of usis an assistant professor on a limited-term appointment, one of us is an associate dean. We live in Halifax, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Edmonton; we come from francophone Ontario, renegade Alberta and central Canada. We range in age from 31 to 44 and earned our PhDs in 1993, 2004 and 2008. One of us is a mom; one of us is a lesbian; at least two of us have tattoos.

Whelp, guess what? The rise of precarious labour, the increasing pressures on tenured and tenure-track faculty, and the ongoing neoliberalization of universities is having a fundamental effect on education and labour in Canada. It is changing the shape of Hook & Eye as well. 

Last year our most-read post was Melissa's "I Quit" letter detailing her shift into the alt-ac sphere. Runners-up included Margrit's lament for Alberta's universities after governmental cuts, Aimée's tips for giving a keynote to a packed audience. Jana's repost on mental health and the PhD, and my series of posts on the empathy trap. There's a trend here. Do you see it? First, the only member of our weekly blogging team to have a tenured (never mind tenure-track!) position is Aimée. Our demographic of writers has shifted dramatically. Second, the work of the work is building. It is no secret that is you are a contract academic faculty in academia you're going to have double, triple, sometimes quadruple the labour than your tenured and tenure-track colleagues. We seem to discuss less the fact that if you are in the academy and a woman, a person of colour, or early-to-mid-way through your career those pressures and labour inequities are massive and unequal as well. Unless universities start playing the long-game for sustainability of education, culture, and their own reputations, those disproportionate and unfair workloads are only going to increase.

Labour Day indeed. 

In order to address the changing structure of both academia and our blogging make-up we are changing the structure of Hook & Eye slightly. I'll be posting on Mondays, as per, and readers can contact me if you'd like to pitch a guest post. Ah, the time afforded by under-employment. Jana and Boyda will continue to split Tuesdays, Aimée will post Wednesdays, Melissa is taking the Thursday slot, and Margrit will write on Fridays. We are thrilled to welcome Lily Cho who will be writing for us bi-monthly. Welcome, Lily! For each guest post we have, several of the regular writers will craft response posts in hopes of both creating dialogue for the guests and a sense of conversation for the readers. 

We're looking forward to another year of writing, thinking, and discussion. And I, for one, am going to continue to be thinking about the changing nature of labour for people trained as scholars who are working in- and outside the academy. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Late summer round-up

Dear Readers,

We can hardly believe it is mid-August! We will be back to our regular posting schedule right after Labour Day, but for now here is a round-up of what we have been doing and thinking about this summer.


We here at Hook & Eye

Boyda: My goals for the summer have been finding peace and focus in the midst of displacement and solo travel; while one would assume that seven weeks spent in Europe this past semester would have acclimatized me to research travel, in fact I'm feeling more anxious than ever now that it is about to happen again: I've  spent two more weeks in England and a week or so in Iceland for various conferences and research. Upon returning I plan to spend the following month in air-conditioned libraries and rooftop bars and yoga studios, though one glorious week in August will be spent in a South Carolinian seaside house celebrating the wedding of dear friends. My material goals are to revise my first chapter, finish a draft of my second chapter (based on feedback I receive from my Iceland conference) by the end of the summer.

While part of me would love to just stay put for a while, catch up on deadlines already missed, and enjoy all the marvelous summery things New York has to offer, I know I'm fortunate to have so many exciting travel locales on the horizon. Trying to stay positive, to feel thankful, to accept my life as it is now without worrying overmuch about the future. A significant wrench has been thrown into my normal work regime here in New York (the Rose Main Reading Room at NYPL will be closed for 6 months due to safety inspections), so I've already been feeling displaced; perhaps geographic displacement over the next few weeks will actually boost my productivity rather than decrease it. Wishing all of you and my fellow bloggers productive worktimes and carefree funtimes; until the Fall!

Jana:  My summer has had very little material requirements, and many immaterial ones. I'm not moving, I've finished the whirlwind of research- and conference-related travel, and I'm spending the rest of my summer puzzling through some of the problems created when I wrote the first couple chapters of my dissertation. So I'm revising one chapter of my dissertation for publication, at the same time working to give a stronger theoretical background to my introduction, and I'm writing a new article on the idea of the club newsletter as a network. Part of this involves what Adrienne Rich calls "re-vision": looking again at what I've written, and seeing things with new eyes, approaching it from "a new critical direction". But I'm also trying to establish new habits: like Erin, I'm working to develop a regular routine for thinking, reading, researching, and writing, one that facilitates this re-vision. And, of course, I've been enjoying the beautiful summer weather, walking and biking in my tree-canopied neighbourhood, playing baseball with my friends, and lounging around the yard with my partner and daughter!

Margrit: Remember the good ol' times of grad school when summer meant slowing down and finally having unstructured time for writing? Nor do I actually. Definitely not as a reality, but as a pipe dream every academic invokes, but none admits to materializing by the end of summer. My summer has been all about materiality, and very little about dreaming. I'm a pragmatist, and I had decided, some time ago that 2013-2014 would be my last year on the academic job market. And that decision ended up breeding others and opening new ground where fertile possibilities started sprouting. So I took the major step of deciding I would no longer relinquish the meager modicum of control we can exert over our lives to the caprice of an austere job market intent on draining me of all self-esteem and balance. In short, my family is moving east across the country, to where we first landed, literally, ten years ago tomorrow. We figured if we made it over the pond once on a wing and a desire--we not being of the praying kind--we might try our luck again. Bit by bit--sometimes infinitesimally so--I'm taking back the power academia so easily seduced out of me with promises of intellectual fulfillment. My foray into alt-ac has reawakened me to my pre-academic-job-market confidence, and this time, I'm not giving it away. Not for love or money.

Erin: Like Margrit, I too spent the first part of my summer moving. My partner and I moved to Halifax. It is a return for both of us, though this time on very different terms. I returned to a city I already love, but this time I won’t be heading into a contract position and getting ready for a full slate of teaching. Instead, I will be rejigging why it is that I do with my time. I have decided to finish a few manuscript projects as I think through what is next, so I will be working to develop a regular writing routine. I have two books that need finishing and two articles to revise and resubmit. I’ll also be working to prepare my essay introducing CWILA’s new Count which will launch in mid-September.  Over the summer, however, my plans are to ride my bike, read, walk Marley the Dog, hang out with my partner and our friends, swim in the ocean, and generally try to get my feet back on solid ground. Oh yeah, and I’ll definitely spent a great week at/recovering from Sappyfest

Melissa: Summer came, but my schedule didn't change. It still feels weird, but I relish the lack of pressure to write more, research more, do more. That lack has given me the clarity to begin figuring out what I need to say no to, and what I can say yes to. No to tutoring, and to going to DHSI this year. No to renovating our basement, and to taking a vacation that would be fun but exhausting. No to expecting myself to do real writing after a nine-hour work day, and to requests to review. Yes to writing and teaching only about what I care about, which is graduate reform and neglected poets, and to framing writing as self-care. Yes to enjoying our home as it is, and to a long lazy train ride to cities and people I adore. Yes to ice cream for dinner, and to picnic lunches. Yes to spending more time with the people and creatures I love, and to conquering the fear of putting my heart out in the world. And yes to fulfilling my vocation of helping those who academia disenfranchises, which I'm lucky to do at work and on H&E. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Guest post: Moving Costs Institutions and Communities

My friend and colleague Kathleen Cawsey has written a response to my post from yesterday on avoiding the empathy trap / on moving. Thank you Kathy!!

Erin Wunker recently wrote about the personal costs of the peripatetic academic life – the emotional and psychological, as well as financial and practical, costs of moving that most grad students and new-career academics face. But there is a flip side to this taken-for-granted culture of ‘go-where-the-job-is’ that is academia. Constant moving has costs not only for the individuals moving, but, I believe, the institutions and communities who host those individuals.

I am blessed to be in a department that often hires internal candidates, and which has three (count them – three!) spousal pairs; but I think this department is probably unusual. Certainly most other departments I have been in, both as a student and a professor, have been less caring about their own.

I have seen, again and again, the phenomenon of ‘hiring from away.’ Usually – even in the days of regular replacement of TT jobs - there is at least a one-year gap between someone leaving and the job being filled, and a sessional or limited term contract employee is hired to teach during that time. Yet rather than hiring that person to the full-time position, search committees almost always choose someone else.

It’s unclear to me why someone unknown would be chosen over a candidate who has already proven he/she could do the job, but it happens all the time. My theory is that we all look better on paper, before the bumps and knobs of our day-to-day real personality become evident. I think too, especially for us Canadians, there is something appealing about the ‘exotic,’ the ‘far away,’ – that if we could get an American from a big American university to come work at our little ol’ Canuck university we would be proving we can play in the big leagues. Or maybe there’s just the hope that someone new will be on our side in all the petty department factions and struggles (we already know where the old person stands).

But this attitude and practice has major problems. I have seen, again and again, the ‘away’ person come in with little or no commitment to the university hiring him or her. Many of them want to get out of backwater small-town Canada as quickly as they can – so either we end up doing a whole expensive search again in two or three years, or we end up with someone discontented, frustrated, and alienated. Or they live in Toronto and only show up on campus for the two afternoons they teach, contributing nothing to the atmosphere of the department or the collegiality of the faculty.

There are other, more subtle costs. Bringing up kids is hard – bringing up kids with no family or social support nearby must be brutal. Although I am far from my family, I am lucky enough to have inlaws nearby who can be here by 8:00 a.m. when I have a kid puking on me and an 8:30 class to teach. I can take a night away with my partner, sans kids, for a blessed recharging and revival. My department benefits hugely, though it doesn’t know it, from the fact that I have a support system nearby.

And because my partner’s family is here, and we have no thought of moving, I can put down real roots and make a real commitment to this community – both to my departmental and university community, but also to the larger community of neighbourhood, church, community groups, local politics, school boards, and local charities.

Departments need to think about more than just what a person looks like on paper before hiring. Of course the person from ‘away’ has twenty publications – the person from ‘here’ has been teaching your classes instead of writing! Departments should choose to hire individuals who might even be second-choice in terms of on-paper qualifications, but who will stay, be good citizens, contribute meaningfully and long-term to the university and community, and who themselves might be better-adjusted because they have better support systems.

A lot has been written recently on the hardships sessionals, adjuncts, and the precariously-employed of academia face, and Erin’s post details yet another. I’m not sure, though, that universities have thought enough about the toll an ever-moving workforce has on departments and the university as a whole. 

Dalhousie University

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Avoiding the Empathy Trap 2: Frank Talk About Moving

Today, I'm packing up my office. Soon, we'll have to start packing up our home. My partner and I have calculated that if we combine our individual moves since finishing high school this will be move number fifty-one for us. FIFTY-ONE. I have spent the last forty-five minutes culling books from my collection, because this time I am moving without a moving allowance (though luckily my partner has one with his new position). I have taken all the art off my office walls and piled it up on a filing cabinet. I can't even begin to tackle the paper that has accumulated over the last twelve months. Despite my best efforts at organization and downsizing it can't be denied: I have a lot of work-related stuff. And it has to go in boxes. All of it. Again.

Packing makes me angry. Moving makes me tired. What does any of this have to do with avoiding the empathy trap? Plenty. If you are an early career scholar, or a contract academic faculty member the imperative--both to pay the bills and to keep a foot in the door of academia--you probably have to move for work. You definitely have to think about moving and weigh whether or not you will move.

Let's not mince words: moving is hard work. It takes physical energy (are there boxes? Can we actually lift this thing? How do we tell the anxious dog it will be ok? Where the hell is the modem return place?) Moving also takes emotional energy, and that's the part people tend to forget when addressing work-related moves. There is a real desire to pass over the hard parts of moving and focus on new beginnings. And new beginnings are great, but newness doesn't always go hand in hand with ease and excitement and a clear path into what's next. Academics--especially early career academics-- aren't the only ones who move, but as Lee Skallerup Bessette writes, perpetual movement is the modern academic condition. That, friends, is worth pausing to think about for a moment.

One of the many things that I have written about over the years is moving. Four years ago, fresh off my move from Alberta to Nova Scotia, I wrote this post about the implicit imperative for graduate students to move for each degree. I realize now that when I wrote it I was writing from a position of a kind of myopia. I moved for all three of my degrees, and I did so because I wanted to move. I was able to move between countries, provinces, and landscapes with relative ease. Yes, it meant building new communities each time, yes, it meant haunting the liquor store for packing boxes over and over again. Ultimately, though, it was my choice and my privilege to move. I wasn't tied to a place, I am an only child, my parents were willing and able to visit me wherever. Was I privileged? Sure. Has moving a zillion times taught me some things? Yes. I know I can make a life wherever I go. I know I can pack a house in three days flat. I know how to forge routines until they feel like home. But the imperative to move, move, move has cost me too. I wasn't tied -- rooted -- to a place. I wager it has cost a lot of us, and I suspect it costs communities and universities a lot more that the institutions realize.

Over the last few years I have become more and more grounded in a particular place, a particular region of Canada. I have also met more and more people for whom place is sacred. I mean really, truly sacred. Moving from a place means severing daily ties to family (both blood and chosen), community, and the land. It means having to leave your home. It means having to leave your home.

Take a minute and think about the implications of that statement. Be careful not to misread it.

The imperative of moving for work is not a new one. I won't forget the first time I flew from Alberta to Atlantic Canada. It was a red eye flight and it stopped in Halifax before heading on to St. John's. It was full of people who were going home on furlough after working in Fort MacMurray on the rigs or on the Tar Sands. The woman next to me asked where I was from and when I hedged she asked why I was going to Nova Scotia. "For work," I said. I won't forget what she said next: you're lucky, she said. We're all working out west so that we can come home. There are a million different versions and experiences of people having to move for work. There are many ways in which moving can be good, can be positive, can be exciting, and, more simply, can be a way of paying the bills. But in academia--and especially in my disciplines that are in the Humanities--I wonder how well we are doing in thinking through what it means to reproduce a move-for-subsistence model.

So what's the take-away in this second post on avoiding the empty trap? It is this: on the quotidian level let's acknowledge that the nomadic imperative in academia means different things at different stages of the career. Moving as a guest lecturer or visiting professor does not mean the same thing as moving for a sustainable paycheque. Is it hard to change a system? Sure. But it won't happen if we don't talk about full range of issues.

Now, who wants to come over and help me pack?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Keynote! Tips for presenting to a big crowd

I gave my very first keynote lecture, two weeks ago, at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI), in Victoria. It was in a giant lecture hall, that was too small, so there was also an overflow space in the foyer, with a live feed. In all, there were several hundred people listening.

Holy shit, that was scary!

That's only the middle third. Holy crap. Add two wings and an overflow room.

It was scary because, well, that's a lot of people. But it wasn't really the size of the crowd that had me insomniac for several weeks before the event. What was really scaring me was that I suspected that doing a keynote was not like doing a longer conference paper for a bigger group of people, but something entirely different. Something I didn't know how to do, and that I couldn't find rules for. Ultimately, I asked advice from some people who had done keynotes before, and mostly I just reverse engineered keynotes that I liked and ones I didn't to try to determine the patterns.

Maybe you've never done a keynote before, and you don't know the rules either. Maybe you do lots of keynotes, and you have it all figured out and are itching for a venue in which to share this information. I'll lay out my ideas here, and you can take or add as you wish.

Do not go over time.

This is crucial. I mean, no presentation should ever go over time, but there's something that's the absolute WORST about a long lecture to a big group of people that seems like it's not going to end. And if there's no time for questions, people get mad, and rightly so. My time slot was 50 minutes long. I calculated 10 minutes for two sets of introductions, and tried to make my talk 35 minutes long, leaving five minutes for questions. My talk came right before an open bar reception, so you'd better believe I knew that everyone had their eyes on the clock. As it happens, I talked for 38 minutes, and we started a couple of minutes late, so we had exactly one minute for questions, but we walked out the door on time, dammit.

Rift in the space-time continuum.

The bigger the crowd, the slower you have to talk. That is, the more people there are in the room, the fewer words you can say. This is true. There's something about the bigness of the room, and the amplified shuffle-in-seats, doing-Twitter-backchannel, occasional-cough background noise just makes speaking more slowly imperative. So if you can get through 2500 words in a 15 minute conference paper, for a 35 minute keynote, don't go over 5000. Where did the extra five minutes go? Cough, tweet, shuffle, fuzz of amplification through big speakers.


One great keynote I saw laid it out at the beginning: "I'm going to talk for 40 minutes. There are three topics. Here they are: the first two give the context, and they're pretty short. The last one is the argument and it's a bit longer, but there're lots of pictures." And he did exactly that. It was soooooo easy to follow as a result and I also didn't get restless because by giving us the blueprints, the speaker allowed the audience to build the mental memory house into which to slot everything we heard as we heard it. I just totally stole that idea and used it. It also helps people live tweet, I see from the backchannel transcript of my talk.

Be yourself, no matter what group invites you

Some keynotes flub it because they try to write the paper that they think the inviting group would produce, if they were writing it. But you've been invited because of the work that you do. Don't try to master someone else's field and give a keynote on that. Because a) you're not going to master it and b) as a result it's kind of simplistic and insulting. But also c) they invited you to talk about what you're an expert in. So do that. I got totally balled up on this DHSI keynote for MONTHS because I was trapped in the ontological weeds: what is DH? Do I do DH? I need to write something for all the different kinds of DH that will be there! Oh God, I'm a fraud. Ultimately, I made the case for my own book project as a kind of DH. The best feedback I got was from this researcher who does computer stylistics (pretty much the opposite of what I do)--he told me he was listening and was like, "nope, nope, nope ... oh, wait, hold one ... that's right ... yes ... huh! I didn't think of that ... cool!" We still do radically different things, but now he understands what I do, and we can talk about it.

Be yourself, though, for that goup

Like using fewer words for a bigger crowd, consider how to frame your ideas at a higher or more accessible level for a keynote crowd. You might give conference papers to an audience of the only eight people in the world who've read everything you've written, and vice versa. The keynote group is not that crowd. Include everyone by pitching to the kind of experts described in the conference theme or call: the DHSI group knows about some field in the humanities, and they use digital tools. In my paper I gave a solid gloss of affordance theory and applied it to interface design / self-narration problem. I did NOT go into the internal debates in the field on that theory, but I could've if it came up in questions. Which it didn't. Would've framed the same part of the talk very differently for a design studies conference, or for a literary studies audience.


A keynote is more of a performance than a conversation. And it's more theatre than film: be bigger and broader, generally. I used a remote to run the slides so I could stand in the middle of speaking area at the glass podium instead of hiding in the corner behind the computer. I gesticulated. I marked in the text where to look up at the audience. I marked in the text where to slow down to deliver the punchlines to maximum effect. (This also allows people to live tweet better; they're better able to quote you correctly.) When people laughed, I waited for them to stop, and I smiled at them. I also managed my slides in the same way I've done for years, but which many people on Twitter stopped to remark on: I show blank/black slides in between content-laden slides. I don't know about you but when there's a slide and someone talking, I compulsively try to relate the image to the talking. So if I just want people to focus on what I'm saying, and there's nothing I need them to look at, I just black out the screen. Pictures when relevant, blank when not. Apparently, not a lot of people have thought of this, and it was very popular.

Be present

I have always been very impressed when the keynote at a conference has been around and participating in the whole conference, and making an effort to connect with people. I am way less impressed when they fly in two hours beforehand, talk, and then go to dinner with the big wigs or their friends from grad school before flying home. I'm no bigwig but it is now the case that I'm senior to a lot of people, and that many people want to meet me. So I walked around with a smile all week and made a special effort to meet at least five people every day that I didn't know before. Some days I met ten. It was a weird thing to see people get weirdly tongue-tied and nervous and talk too fast when they come up to me. I know what it's like to BE that person who's nervous, not be addressed by that person, so I'm learning how to be very friendly and engaging and not scary for people. I've met such nice people!

Keynote selfie in a keynote about selfies. #metaselfie #humourme

I will be a lot less scared and nervous and anxious and insomniac if I ever get asked to do another keynote. As it turns out, it really was the fear of the unknown genre that was making it all so stressful. I hope these notes might be useful to you for YOUR first keynote. And of course, if you are a keynote habituée, please add any further advice in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Repost of "The Teaching Class"

Hey all. It's been a really long time since I've posted. I know you've missed me dearly.

Life post-research trip has been fairly hectic and social-filled, in really very good ways, and I have been making strong progress on chapter one and heading back to the UK very soon (spoiled this year!) and feeling pretty okay about everything. Yet in the tumult of summer I have struggled to brew up a post, and even today the ingredients are looking a little scarce. I hope you've all been following Erin's excellent Empathy Trap entries, and who knows what lies in store over the next few weeks.

Today I just want to repost an excellent, important, smart, compelling article on, yes, the rising phenomenon of the adjunct, or adjunctivitis (a name which to me still sounds pretty silly but oh well), that just came out in the fantastic Guernica Magazine (thanks to my pal Ali for drawing my attention to this!). Perhaps you've already seen it. Here CUNY adjunct Rachel Riederer discusses the contradictions inherent in being an underpaid and undersupported worker in the still ostensibly middle-class and even, in some senses, "sacred" job of university teaching. Some instructors have been facing backlash for including statements regarding the material realities of adjuncting in their syllabi; a common approach is to urge students not to call them "professor," since the term remains hallowed and obscures the actual conditions of labor that the human beings responsible for educating future generations often face. Riederer cites a fellow adjunct:
“The conditions of labor must always be obscured,” she said. “Work is good, work is noble, work is disciplining, work is what gives you social meaning in your life, so you can’t say, ‘Oh, this job is killing me.’ And they certainly don’t ever want you to talk to other people and realize this is structural, this is planned, we are the effects of other people’s choices and perhaps we should have a bigger voice here.”
'How can we complain about our work?,' some may ask. Adjuncts may get paid less than managers at McDonald's, but that does not mean they are not more fulfilled. Our jobs as educators on pleasant university campuses are by many accounts very good, no matter the material conditions of being there. But, as Riederer claims, "of course it’s possible to love what one does, be good at it, and still be exploited." (or, I love this: "A professor should not be so vulgar as to talk about the material reality of her life.")

There's so much more to this article, but I'll leave you to experience it on your own, and I'll get back to conference-paper-drafting. Oh, and here's a video of a parrot talking with a stuffed rabbit, which if you can get past the awful clickbaity title, is pretty great. Because animals.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Avoiding the Empathy Trap 1: I Do Research

Two weeks ago I wrote about the empathy trap and it was the most read post I have ever written. If you missed it you can read it here. It was a hard post to write, and it is a hard post to follow up. I have been thinking about how to productively respond to my own public thinking. This is what I have come up with: In the next few weeks I aim to write a few posts on how to avoid the empathy trap. Some posts will be in conversation towards those who are in positions of relative power, by which I mean jobbed positions--be they tenured or un- -- and some will be directed towards people who find themselves to be unemployed. It is important to note that I think I have been in both positions, if marginally. As a person who has held multiple contract academic faculty positions I have been in relative positions of power. As someone who is unemployed despite my best efforts, and who still has research projects on the go, I am most definitely outside the academy in some ways. In other ways, though, I am positioned to be more inside the research track than I ever could have been as a teaching-heavy contract academic faculty member.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying I am thrilled, happy, or even used to being unemployed. What I am trying to track here in the next few weeks are the ways in which I will maintain my research identity as a trained scholar of Canadian literature and culture while shifting into the first summer ... and then which I am not prepping classes and ordering books and writing lectures.

Here goes nothing.

I do research. This is a fact that is easily forgotten when one is teaching an overload and constantly refashioning the old CV in an attempt to shift it towards one job advertisement or another. Or, if not forgotten, it is a fact that can be left unexplored and under-discussed. (Side note: I know that it is difficult to fit a research agenda into a tenure-track and even tenured position, but theoretically these positions are paid to do that work. At they very least, these positions get paid over the summer months) So here is my question for myself and others who don't identify as employed: how and how often do you talk about your research? I mean how often do you talk about the research work you do? If I really tried to be honest the answer would be not that often.

My research interests have always focussed on the ways in which women and people of colour have used textual and performance art to intervene in the hegemonic narratives of gender, race, and nation. One of my favourite ways of thinking about these generative and subversive interventions came from my friend and colleague Stephen Collis's writing about the commons. In an incredible essay Stephen talks about the blackberry (fruit, not phone) as a model of subversive intervention. You should read it.  Collis's idea is inspiring to me because it is one voice among many (though you have to search for them) that articulates a means of working within what is in the service of what might be. I have been thinking and writing--in my MA thesis, my doctoral dissertation, and the articles I have published thus far--about the ways in which archives work to silo experimental writing as much as they work to preserve it. In my more recent work I am trying to bring together my public writing and organization work with my literary and cultural analysis.

Here are the projects I have on the go. This is some of the research I am going to try to do over the next year as I work to find work. I'm excited, because theoretically I have time. I am nervous, of course, because that time is unpaid time.

I am working on articles about Sachiko Murakami's work, Gail Scott's novel The Obituary, and Sina Queyrays's lyric conceptualism. I also have two articles that have been sitting on the back burner for a while. I'm going to return to these and think about whether they are worth the time and effort to substantially revise.

I have two manuscripts under contract. One of them is about the poetics of collapse, which considers the ways in which contemporary Canadian cultural producers are working to create generative if ephemeral texts out of narratives of utter devastation. The other is an edited collection of poetry by a contemporary Canadian poet.

I am also the chair of the board of CWILA, and we are working towards our third annual launch of the Count. I see this work as research, writing, and public discourse. We're working to make this our biggest launch yet (and believe me, in terms of the numbers of reviews our volunteers have counted it is the biggest!). Look for it in mid-September when we launch the numbers and essays along with a funding and membership drive.

I am also presenting papers at Discourse & Dynamics: Canadian Women as Public Intellectuals (where I am also on the organizing committee), Avant Canada: Artists, Prophets, Revolutionaries, and the MLA.

That is a lot of stuff, isn't it? My aim for this week is to use Julie Rak's brilliant five-year research plan to map out what I have to do...and then try and adapt that for the fact that, without a contract position or a tenure-track position that five-year plan may well be a ten-to-twelve month plan that also involves career transitioning.

What about y'all? How do those of you who are under or un-epmployed manage, articulate, and conceive of your research?