Monday, September 7, 2015

Slow Academe

September is here. While there are many times of the year that are significant for people working in the academy--fall, winter holidays, midterms, and if you're fully and equitably employed, summer research time--none has quite the caché of September. September is fresh. It is full of possibility. It is a time for thinking back nostalgically on past milestones, of first-day-of-school-outfits gone by, and of planning a trip or two to get every academic's fetish: school supplies.

For me, September has also been marked with anxiety and frustration. As a member of the precariate who has been doing the work of full time faculty since 2008, but only had one year (bless you, 2012-2013) of a full twelve months of income, returning to the classroom is not as fraught as returning to the system that will never love me back. I love the teaching. I hate the system that pays me and others a pittance for the same work my colleagues do. That's a clunky version of what the brilliant Roy Miki has said: don't hang your heart on the university. The university will never love you back. 

Right. Hard to hear, these necessary truths, and harder to remember on a cellular level. 

September has also meant the beginning of Hook & Eye's new season. In fact, this is our fifth September! Five years is a long time for a blog to survive, much less thrive. Much has changed in the last five years, as I've noted before. Namely, our weekly blogging demographic has shifted to include more precarious laborers than tenured faculty. Let that sink in. We are an archive of the changing face of this profession.

In fact, we are an affective archive. One of the refrains I hear is how reading this blog makes people feel less isolated in their gendered and labour experiences. We are a feminist blog, we write mostly about experiences as women, and yet I've heard over and again from all kinds of readers how important our personal narratives are for them. Its hard, this public presentation of self, this navigating of the profession from one's own gendered body. Sometimes, I think, it has been damaging, at least for me personally. But that's how I teach in my classroom, too. That's how my co-bloggers teach and work: present, human, gendered, and filled with emotion. That's a way of being that is often in direct opposition to the university despite what the branding might say.

I have spent a good number of days thinking about what to write to launch us into this, our fifth year of thinking and speaking together. I thought of the anger I feel at inequities in the academy. I thought of feminist wins I want to talk about--to close read academically. I thought of vulnerability, of sassiness, and of head-down, get-it-done advice I could give (or need to receive). And then I looked again to our name, to the words after the colon: fast feminism, slow academe.

Slow academe struck me. I'm typing this post on my phone while my three and a half month old daughter nurses. It's 9:06am and I haven't posted yet because I chose to spend yesterday with my partner and our girl, going to the lake, going to a toasted tomato sandwich garden party, going for a walk with the dog, and watching the baseball game. I chose to do the very things hiring committees must have seen when they interviewed me last year when I was pregnant. I chose to go slow, to put the humans in my life in front of the university and it's systems. And you know what? Even though I know my new identity as a mother will affect how I am productive--indeed, how I understand productivity--I am going to try to take slow academe to heart. I'll do this as an individual who is precariously employed. I'll do it as a new mom who is taking on two classes. I'll do it in a partnership of two new parents working to keep it all going and have intellectual fulfillment as well as a home we love coming home to. And for you I'll try to be honest and share some of that here.

So here's to a new year full of contradictions, both beautiful and challenging. Here's to a new September of setting intentions and finding the slowness that builds a kind of sustainable rhythm neoliberalism detests. Here's to the fifth year of this space. Here's to you, dear readers, and here's to us.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this, friend. It's the right way to start offf our fifth year, and I know I'm going to be referring back to it frequently. And thanks for the reminder that we need to remember affective labour today, on Labour Day.

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  2. Thinking about YOU, friend, and the ways in which September must be different and uncannily the same as alt-ac, as an academic too. Big love for you!

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  4. Kudos to you, Erin, for taking the time to try to deliberately think through what you want to prioritize and accomplish. Even harder in the middle of the panic and anxiety that the crummy labour situation induces. I wish that, having a few years on your experience, I could offer some comfort or sage advice. But I have read your blog post during a short break from the research work I'm doing--which isn't supported as part of my lecture-track position--while the rest of my family is away poolside somewhere, enjoying the sunny holiday weekend. This has long been a rhythmically recurring reality for us. Hmm, maybe I am comforting as a cautionary tale, of what you are working to avoid?

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  5. dh -- thank you for your thoughts! I don't particularly think *you* are the cautionary tale. Rather, isn't there so much to be thought through and discussed around issues of different tiers of permanence? Lecture-track (and other kinds of recurring/stable positions) are great, I think (I've never had one, so what do I know?) but as you suggest they bring with them very particular challenges, especially if you want or need to keep an active research profile afoot. So much to think about, so much to parse out, and so many of us--in stable jobs and not--are overworked and have little time to do that strategic thinking...

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