No sooner has the tryptophan from the turkey worn off, than people are trying to sell you a better vision of yourself, all the more seductive for the promise ‘It won’t be like last year’. If you need a cure for this, I recommend Katie Lowe’s free antidote to the diet and ‘health’ industry: http://www.fatgirlphd.com/do-not-i-repeat-do-not-diet-in-january-or-30-days-of-good-stuff-is-back-again/ If you’d like to think about making a good start as an academic to have a happy, healthy and productive 2015, I’m here to share some things with you. Not really resolutions, more things I’ll be keeping in mind, so do feel free to tweet me yours at @drmagennis or add them under here.
For many people of my vintage, we graduated and entered the job market at a time of remarkable turbulence. While difficult times and uncertainty have been a feature of academic life for years, some of us have looked at the culture we inherited and found it unsustainable. So, these ‘resolutions’ are more about working towards an academic culture that I want to be part of, that is sustaining and generative.
1. Citations and Representation
This year I’ve been thinking a lot, offline and on, about the ways in which I am complicit in perpetuating certain forms of knowledge through my citational practice. For feminist academics, this is probably best expressed through Sara Ahmed’s blog (http://feministkilljoys.com/2013/09/11/making-feminist-points/) but I think it applies across disciplines and theoretical perspectives. A lot of us are dissatisfied with the direction our disciplines are going in, then fall into habits of name-checking because we want to get published. We tick off the big names lest we be accused of being ill informed, often ignoring more interesting work that would change the way we think. The same goes for inviting speakers and organising conferences: we want to represent the most exciting work in our field but we also want it to be a well-attended successful event. Most of us can afford to take more risks in this regard, which will only make our work better. I’d encourage you to go to events which seem a little outside of your field, and not to be scared going to things in a different institution as people are generally thrilled when they get a few more backsides on seats. In my Pollyanna-ish vision, 2015 could be a year where we share our ideas more in and out of disciplinary and institutional boundaries.
2. Time Off
Oh, so much ink has been spilled on this one already across blogs, journals and the Higher Ed news sites. Take some time off, they cry, or else! Fellow academics on Twitter can be a bit overly impressed with themselves when they take time off, with their ‘I hope you’re not working!’ (this is, however, much better than people complaining about working over holidays). But, whatever stage of your career you’re in, getting into good habits about taking actual, real, proper time off will pay you back many times over. It is up to you, though, to work out what real time off looks like for you because we all have different lives and non-work commitments. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re ‘not doing it right’ as long as you’re taking enough time to relax and recharge. For me, it looks like never working on Saturdays (I’ll read a novel for teaching on Sundays during term, no big deal), not looking at social media over Christmas (everyone I follow is an academic, and some of their posts are less than relaxing) and planning out taking my annual leave for the next year. The pressures are tough for teaching, admin, research and funding: finding time where you can properly relax is an important skill for the long term.
3. Access to Events
If your event has access issues, you need to think long and hard about why you’re putting it on. By access issues, I mean everything from participants with disabilities to childcare to ethical sponsorship. If you don’t consider this, you are excluding voices from the conversation. Having purely academic events is a great thing, sometimes that high level discussion is vital to move on or share ideas, but make sure that you’re not pricing out PhDs and Early Career Researchers. Money being tight changes things on two fronts: Universities want to make more of it from events and, often, there is less travel funding to go round at every level. I urge you this year to think creatively so you don’t leave emerging voices out of the conversation, as well as more established academics subject to budgetary concerns. Be flexible about venues: I attended a great and well-priced conference last year in a Friends’ Meeting House. I’m hoping people won’t mind bringing their own sandwiches to an event I’m organising so long as there is no fee. If you can, offer a discount to students and the unwaged but also be aware that times are tough across the sector and your full time colleagues will also appreciate any efforts to keep costs down.
For 2015, then, let’s do our best to be open to new scholarship, help emerging academics and look after ourselves. We can be dissatisfied with the state of our disciplines but we can also, in the words of Britney Jean Spears, do somethin’.