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« fancy that | Main | morning of moving stuff from one place to another »



Wow. I hope this doesn't come off all syncophantic, but god, woman, you are *so smart.*

My job has only some to do with who I really am, and in some ways I like it that way. I don't necessarily want all those people to know me. Sure, they can know I'm queer, that's nice and safe here and now where I am, but I don't want them to know what I really *think.* I don't trust them that much, not most of them. Also, it would hurt their feelings cause I'm a snob. So "professionalism" works for me that way; it gives me some space and privacy.

On the other hand, it can be exhausting to split yourself off. And the times I do connect with people at work in a real way, it's so great, a little spark, like a secret handshake.

I've been thinking about this about blogs, too-- different people have different things that are off-limits on their blogs. For me, it's work (mostly) and trashing any of the adults in my family, just cause it would come back to bite me pretty fast and make it not worth it for me.

Oh, jeez, excuse the post-hijacking.


The scenario your prof describes makes me cry. We need people like you in academia!

But it also makes me believe the tales people tell of that institution's becoming less Lefty and more pseudo-Ivy-covered.

Prentiss Riddle

There's so much here to comment on...

Success in academia is a long shot any way you cut it. One question to ask is whether it's worth playing it safe to change your odds from 1 in 100 to 2 in 100 (or whatever), or if you'd be happier being yourself win or lose.

I was tempted to trot out stories of some spectacular nonconformists who've made it in academia (there's a famous MTF tr4nss3xu4l on the faculty here at the conservative U of T3x4s if you can believe it) but then, that might be like using Indira Gandhi to claim that India isn't a patriarchy -- the occasional outlier doesn't invalidate the rule.

About blogging, obviously if you make fun of the people on the tenure committee you're asking for trouble. But if you let your hair down and reveal yourself to be smart, funny and passionately curious about your field even in your informal writing, I think it is likely to enhance your standing. It's certainly that way in tech and the trend seems to be headed that way in other fields as well. You might have to save the IUD details for a separate forum, true.

I think it's unlikely that anyone will ever consider blogging the equivalent of peer-reviewed publication. You'd have to do the formal as well as the informal. But there's no reason you couldn't do both.


I've seen peer review and when it works it works great but haven't you also seen it fail in spectacular ways, or just be old-boy networks?

With a spectrum of formality maybe better ideas will develop.

wow I'm glad that y'all are commenting and discussing, I desperately need feedback on some of these very tangled up ideas!


If you want to be in academia, do it their way until tenure. Most of the time you will be bogged (not blogged) down in service and comittee grunt work, curriculum development and the like anyway, so every other second will have to be spent working on publishing. If you don't get sidetracked and you do get well-published (books are best, but depending on your discipline) you'll probably get tenured, too, and then you can decide if you want to do it for another 5 or 10 years before makng Professor, or can you afford to start being yourself then (whatever that is :-) But not before, please.

Full disclosure: I work in a University and I stopped just short of PhD mostly because I was so disgusted by the people I was supposed to emulate that I realized I would be ashamed to call myself one of them. But, hey, that's me.

Prentiss Riddle

Yes, absolutely, peer review is full of holes (as a matter of fact I was just blogging about some of them), and you're right that informal publishing may count for more in the future. But meanwhile traditional peer-reviewed publication is the standard you have to meet when you're shooting for tenure.

If the peer review system does collapse it will be interesting to see what does it in. The greed of the scholarly publishing industry, which makes academic institutions buy their own work back at outrageously inflated prices? The delays imposed by the editorial process, when nowadays real innovation operates at Internet speeds? Or maybe the nature of academic writing itself?

There's a movement afoot to replace the present slow and expensive publishing process with a fast and free one consisting of e-journals and e-prints; some fields such as physics have been moving in that direction for years now. But even the e-journals largely try to replicate the peer review system because tenure committees insist on it. If that insistence weakened, would people still write in the stuffy and citation-heavy form of academic culture? Would we all get dumber (no more need to substantiate our assertions with references)? Or would we all get more creative (no more APA or MLA style, no more passive voice, no more stating the obvious and omitting the personal)?

I'm not sure. But my guess is that pharmacologists and engineers would still find ways to substantiate their claims (which really live in the data, not the references, anyway -- when was the last time a bridge collapsed because of a missing bibliography?) and people working in more free-form disciplines might appreciate the opportunity to be freer in form.


Interesting that you should bring this up now--I just had a long talk with my sister on the subject of arguing with academics. Both of us gave it up, mostly, awhile back, because academia maintains the myth that 'serious discourse' must be separated from Personal Issues. The general result of this is that the Personal Issues don't go away, they just get codified and sublimated into pseudo-categorical-imperatives that are then used to bludgeon other, less academic people (as well as all the other academics, of course). Thus the Personal Issues become the elephant in the living room that never gets discussed or resolved, and meanwhile the 'academic discourse' becomes a meaningless, substanceless game, and not a sincere search for Truth at all.

Truth is integrated. Splitting off parts is all very well for down-in-the-trenches scientific method, but even the greatest scientists rely more heavily than they like to admit upon the kind of intuition that is built upon a holistic perspective. My suspicion is that academics in the "softer" disciplines, such as literature, art and philosophy, ape the scientific method in an effort to validate themselves in the light of a left-brained cultural prejudice, and thus end up devaluing their own disciplines AND totally destroying creativity in themselves and their students. As a creative artist, it became apparent to me at some point that I could either get the MFA and have my creativity pulverized by a lot of second-rate faculty egos, or walk away from the whole thing and start from scratch on my own. You know what I chose to do. It hasn't been easy or lucrative (yet), but it has been a lot more fun and interesting than graduate school.

This does not mean that creativity doesn't require discipline, but it's a different kind of rigor than jumping through academic hoops. It requires, first, an understanding of your chosen medium, which is best acquired both through constant practice and through understanding the processes of other artists. Then it requires a rigorous honesty as regards what is really working and what isn't. The most successful artists I know have some talent and more discipline, and above all, the willingness to scrap something and start over if they see that what they have done is built on sand.

I don't know why I'm going on and on about this right now, but the main thing is that to create anything real, to find and express truth, to catalyze any meaningful change, worrying about your 'standing' in an academic sense is not only irrelevant, but can be utterly crippling. Yes, you've got to feed and house yourself, and yes, you've got to have access to some sort of a community or you are being brilliant in a vacuum. But what do you want? To be a PhD with a gag on, or to become the fullest expression of the brilliance that is you?

BTW, I consider your blog, exactly as it is, to be by far your greatest work as an artist, a poet, a writer, a philosopher and an academic. Though I admit that I skim over the denser notes on academic papers because they bore the shit out of me.


academia ... oh how i don't ever again want to venture into that tunnel.

in a recent discussion group about environmental politics we talked about how, during the early 80s, "the Right" strategically built up and entrenched their presence at and control of educational institutions - especially those considered "top" - in order to further their vision of the future and disseminate their social philosophy. fighting against that, especially at an incredibly bureacratic (however liberal they wish they could be they really aren't) school like Berkeley, is going to be a hard path to take. however - achieving only a little change - incremental, even - is much better than none at all.

re: "The way to be real is to keep your personal and political intertwined."
word. money changes everything.

slightly relevant recent thought and link of my own:


You reran the Danahboyd link for the SHE link. I think this is the entry you meant.


response to prentiss and steph:

yes, I think you are right — I did just re-read "Agaainst Method" which made me leap around squawking that it is all perfectly applicable to the humanities and that people are so infatuated with the scientific method and its status-giving powers that they try to apply it to things that it does not apply well to.

Steph I recommend the book about Feminist research, feminist consciousness to you and your sister; so far it is not like I agree with the authors on everything but I for once have the cozy feeling that the authors would find it fucking bizarre if any reader did.

Also to Prentiss, the idea of "shooting for tenure" is so far beyond the realm of what looks possible for me, it made me giggle. I can't play that game! I'm shooting for teaching at some community college part time for the next who knows how many years. My energy will go to writing poetry, translating, and getting stuff published. stories, essays, criticism...

Prentiss Riddle

In that case, stop right where you are: to teach in a community college part time all you need is a master's. Stop studying and start teaching.

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