Monday, April 6, 2015

One from the Archives

For most universities and colleges in Canada it is the final week of the winter semester. At Hook & Eye we have a tradition of reflecting on the ends of terms, thinking ahead to the aims (work, research, self-care, and the much needed and much deserved and--dare I say?--much maligned vacation) of the coming late spring and summer months.

For those of you who follow us, and specifically have been following my posting this year, you'll know that it is a different spring for me. For the first time I am wrapping up a semester of...unpaid teaching of one course as a sessional. Next week I will write a reflective post, but this week I thought I would pull something from the archives of my own April-thinking.

This one was posted in April of 2013.

I offer it to all you who are finishing a huge semester of teaching, especially to those of you who are finishing another semester of underpaid precarious work, your first year or a full load (likely at an underpaid rate and in precarious conditions), and yes, to all y'all who muster and manage and do it every year.

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It is spring, and as Margrit noted on Friday this translates to exhaustion more often than not. Indeed, prompted by her post I looked back over my April posts for the last two years. I have written about women's hesitation to speak publiclyracial and gender inequities in higher learning, and avoiding end of term sadness several times. While old T.S. Eliot's ubiquitous claims about April may well be true, I maintain that the adrenaline and pure determination and bull-headedness required to get through February, March, and April almost unfailingly leave me with enough energy to lie on the floor under my desk and feel sorry for myself. Avoiding the post-term tristesse is challenging for all kinds of reasons. Yes, winter is hard. Yes, the work we do in the Academy is demanding. Yes, it never ends. Yes, finding -- or forging -- balance is work in and of itself. Yes, all of the research plans for summer must be made. These are but a few of the myriad legitimate reasons to simply want to close the office door and take a nap.

But as I find myself once again seeking ways to work through the end of term emotional and physical exhaustion this year, I find I am changing my strategies. Rather than fully succumb to the ennui that inevitably finds me at this time of year, I find I am looking for ways to become excited about work again. That's right: I am looking for ways to reengage with work. Stay with me.

As a precariously employed contract worker whose fields of research are in Canadian cultural production and feminist theory I am invigorated by the work that is happening in my fields. I am also reminded how necessary and vital this work is both inside and outside the Academy proper. And as we well know, if you find yourself working and living in spaces that are outside the dominant discourses you must continually do the work to keep those spaces from being erased or effaced. Yes, this is exhausting, but it is also wonderfully exciting. And right now there are several ways I am reinvigorating myself with work that both is and feels vital. You can too.

Here are a few ways I am going to do the work in order to remind myself why I love this work (even when the conditions of employment don't love me or so many of my friends and colleagues):

I am going to donate to the Canadian Women in the Literary Art's (CWILA) fundraising event. Last year CWILA was launched as a means of addressing and changing the inequitable critical culture of reviews in Canada. It was -- and still 99% is -- run entirely on volunteer labour by people who have multiple demands on their time. CWILA is doing the work because it is vital and necessary. Here's where you can help, if you so choose.

I am going to have my students participate in the Global Women Wikipedia Write-In #GWWI. The organizers of the write-in have noted that there is a dearth of critically sophisticated entries on women and especially women of colour on Wikipedia. Rather than point it out and lament this fact, they are organizing to do something about it. Check out their site for fantastic ways to do the work in a manner that fits with your time.

Life as an academic worker is bizarre. It is simultaneously an incredible privilege, and, so often, misunderstood and denigrated. I find these experiences to be even more strange and hard as someone who consistently frets about when and if I will have to leave the academy. Yet, working with CWILA, participating in events like the GWWI, and writing for Hook & Eye remind me that in some ways whether or not the institutions will make space for me is irrelevant. I believe in the work, and so I will continue to do it. And that realization, friends, is energizing.

Oh, and it helps that it is sunny in the Maritimes today as well.*
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*2015 Addendum: it is decidedly NOT sunny in the Maritimes today, alas. 

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