Teaching, Scholarship, and Pecuniary Concerns
The AHA meeting is on, and, as usual, I am not there. The reason is money. Even when this meeting has been local, I have been unable to afford the fees. I mention this on a history blog, because tight pecuniary circumstances affect a lot of historians who are adjunct professors or are in other poorly paid temporary positions. Brian Croxall teaches English, and his paper delivered in absentia at the recent MLA conference speaks to many of us. He not only highlights the money problems, but he also describes the adverse impact that this has on the scholarship and teaching of adjunct faculty, who can find themselves out of the loop.
Yes, there are social media and the internet, but occasional face-to-face contact is also necessary. The low status of blogging and social media in the academy place severe limits on the internet’s ability to compensate for insufficient face-to-face contact. Not enough work or ideas ever make it onto the open web. Of course, new media and email offer more opportunities to communicate, but even historians are human and thrive on the serendipitous and productive moments that arise through informal gatherings at academic conferences between panels and papers.
I usually avoid talking about my pecuniary circumstances, but the current economic climate combined with trends towards increasing reliance on temporary faculty makes the public relevance of my private situation clear. Indeed, sometimes I wonder at just how much in the mainstream of American economic thinking I was, when I set out to become a historian. Sure, doing a Ph.D. set me apart from those who focussed their efforts on maximizing income. But my decision was informed by the same boundless optimism that fed the housing bubble. The biggest difference? The law does not allow one to walk away from student loans when the thing one obtained through them has less value than the original purchase amount.
- The Chronicle picked up Brian Croxall’s piece in an article entitled “Missing in Action at the MLA: Today’s Teachers of Today’s Students.”
- Katrina Gulliver wonders about the expensive locations the AHA chooses in “San Diego to Boston and All Points Between – thoughts on the AHA.”