"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Thursday, August 11, 2011


To be on a panel at Regional MLA Conference in 2012.

Huh?? How did this happen? I haven't sent out any conference paper proposals in many months and actually backed out of the panel I was supposed to present on at Same Regional MLA Conference 2011 back in April.

So. Someone read something I wrote. Decided ze would like me to be on hir panel. Googled my name (first tried looking me up at Grad U., but I'm no longer "affiliated"). And called me up here at Think Tank.

Bizarro. Conversation went like this:
Me, picking up office phone: "Hello, Think Tank, Crapital City. This is recent Ph.D. speaking."
Solicitor of Conference Paper: "Hello. Is this the same recent Ph.D. of Grad U.?"
Me: "Yes, I used to teach there but finished my degree a year ago and am now working here. What can I do for you?"
Solicitor of Conference Paper: "I read your article on Pickled Apricots and Space Ships, and I was wondering if you'd like to be on the panel I'm chairing on Pickled Apricots and Space Ships at Regional MLA Conference in 2012. I think your work is really interesting."
Me: "Thank you. I'm flattered. As I mentioned, I'm not working in academe right now, but I might like to be on this panel. Here is my email address. Send me more information."
Solicitor of Conference Paper: "Will do. Hope you'll say yes!"
Now, what am I supposed to do here? Pickled Apricots and Space Ships is something I need to work more on as I develop Project Dissertation-to-Book (which I have not touched since the last Research Update), so maybe a conference paper derived from a completed chapter on Pickled Apricots and Space Ships is something to aim for, something that would motivate me.

On the other hand, I don't know if I want to spend money out-of-pocket to attend Conference in Other (boring) City to give a 20-minute talk and surround myself the rest of the time with people who will only remind me over and over and over again why I am not currently "affiliated" formally with academe.

In a different way, this invitation itself is yet further evidence of academe's perversity. Other Scholar finds my work interesting? Finds it interesting enough to go out of hir way to look up my contact info, call me, and invite me to be on hir panel?

And yet, academe thrusts me out. Would I rather be working in academe than as some think tank executive's "assistant" (no offense, TTB)? If you've been reading this blog, you know that's a dumb question. Of course, I'd rather be doing something I like more, something I'm trained in, and something other people clearly agree I'm good at -- something less wasteful of my talents and with which I'd be more satisfied at the end of the day (and let's face it, less bored). But academe offers me no sustainable job options.

Academe, I fucking HATE you more and more with each passing day.


  1. I understand your position. However, you've manifested several times your intention to become an independent scholar. If the financial strain is not too much, going to the conference is a good opportunity to exchange ideas with other people.

  2. That's an utterly way too positive thing for me to digest right now. Kind of like bananas...

  3. I hid them from plain view yesterday, just looking at them made me want to barf. They made it back to their usual place today. I'm not saying it will take such a short amount of time, because you are right in every way. But if you want to become an independent scholar, developing a strategy is important.

  4. Is it a city you enjoy? Could you find someone to go with you? Perhaps this is a chance for a few days' vacation ... and then once you're there, aside from your presentation, you can carefully pick and choose how much involvement with the rest of the conference you want to have? (Or just go sightseeing if you aren't ready yet.)

    That way, as Spanish prof says, you'll be keeping the lines open for yourself as an independent scholar ... but you will have an escape route if all of the "you're doing WHAT, now?" thing from the academic folks gets to be too much.

    In the meantime, being tracked down for an invited session is something to be proud of. Even if you don't go, keep in mind that your employment status does not reflect your abilities as a scholar. Fuck the screwed up system for making us feel otherwise.

  5. As of this morning, the person has not yet followed up with hir email. I'm thinking ze might have taken a closer look at Think Tank Website, gagged on the return of bananas or whatever food ze'd last eaten, and decided not to invite me after all.

    Maybe I'm being paranoid.

    Anyway, the city definitely wouldn't be the reason to go. I was there once years ago, and it's not exactly what you would call vacation destination material.

    I don't know. I might go anyway. Call me an arrogant biatch, but I do know my employment status doesn't reflect my abilities as a scholar. However, even if I'm redefining myself as an independent scholar, that's still not -- and never will be -- a career. I don't know anyone making a living this way, and I certainly don't ever expect to.

    On the plus side, what this means is that I don't have to stress out over or strategize too much about who I talk to, where I go, how much time completing something takes me, if and where it gets published, or, ultimately, what direction my research takes. I have a degree of agency that, were I to win the academic jobs lottery, I wouldn't have until after I got tenure. Yet another reason to walk away from academe -- most especially if you are not even yet on the tenure track.

    Probably, if ze actually does email, I will go. I already have thoughts for the paper in mind...