Hey, Kettle?  It’s Pot.  You’re Black.

Oh, the irony: at roughly the same moment that I was calling somone out in the Invisible Adjunct’s comments for what I took to be the implicit suggestion that professors at small liberal arts colleges exist in an intellectual backwater (a suggestion implicit, I think, in the assumption that such SLAC profs are able to take a more leisurely approach to research because we aren’t held to the same tenure standards as those at research institutions), I was being called out over at making contact for having made what seem like precisely the same suggestions about faculty whose 4-4 (and worse) loads make “the act of producing scholarship” one precariously squeezed into an insanely full schedule.

As I admit in my mea culpa in Cindy’s comments, this blind spot, I think, says more about my own concerns about the locus of scholarly production than anything; I never meant to suggest that only the writing of books or articles could keep one sufficiently alive intellectually to warrant one’s continued presence in the classroom. Cindy points out that the many regular and contingent faculty members whose labor makes the existence of the rock-stars possible nonetheless “[find] the time to read the journals in our disciplines, chat with each other about our pedagogy and the content of our fields, and continually refine what we are doing in our classrooms.” And of course, she’s absolutely right.

This slip of mine really gives me pause. The origin of my equation of scholarly work and scholarly production is internal, and has everything to do with anxieties about the role of such work in my own life: I had to remind myself all the way through writing my dissertation — and still have to remind myself, as I’m doing research — that reading, and talking, and listening, and thinking, are important forms of knowledge-production, despite the fact that not all of this work resulted in writing.

And thus the question gets raised yet again, in another form, of what counts as work in academic lives, what we claim to value versus what we actually reward.

2 thoughts on “Hey, Kettle?  It’s Pot.  You’re Black.

  1. KF, I’d also offer that my sensitivity to your comment comes from internal anxieties of my own: that as someone who chose to leave grad school as an ABD because I wanted a job that demanded teaching entirely and not research and because that job happens to be at a community college, I am hypersensitive to suggestions that those who produce scholarship are somehow the true academics. We all carry our own baggage, I suppose. I often feel my type of institution is ignored in the discussions at Invisible Adjunct, for example, where the research institution and the exclusive SLAC are often privileged.

    But I see this communication between you and me (and anyone else who joins in) as one of the wonderful outcomes of the blogosphere–that the community college professor, the SLAC professor, the research-1 professor, etc., get this chance to connect. There’s an erasing of boundaries here that is almost impossible in “real” academic life, I’ve found.

  2. Cindy, thanks so much for commenting — I agree with you that community colleges too often get left behind in all kinds of otherwise politically-aware discourses about academic labor. This erasing of boundaries is a good step in the right direction.

    My worry about the blogosphere as the locus of such dialogue, though, is the sense (as one of my colleagues describes it) that I’m shouting down a well — I can hear my own voice bouncing back at me, but there’s precious little other response. This is a public discourse — but how do you get the public involved?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *