Professor Adrian Holliday is the Head of the Graduate School at Canterbury Christ Church University and also Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Department of English and Language Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University. It is an enormous pleasure to welcome him to this blog.
A wider view of Adrian’s teaching, research and publication profile can be found on his homepage:
Could you very briefly comment on what the humanities bring to public life in your opinion?
They bring a complexity of perception which helps us all to put aside our prejudices – a complexity which cannot easily be put into ‘straight’ words or images. I would like to expand this concept to creative aspects of the media, particularly to satire and comedy. It is not an accident that many of our intellectuals are comedians. The problem is that we may not be aware that we are putting aside our prejudices when we encounter this complexity; so that when we come back to ‘thinking logically’ about things, the prejudices come running back and it is as if we have learnt nothing.
What kinds of research do you hope to see early career scholars in the humanities undertake?
This is hard for me because I don’t consider my own discipline to be in the humanities, but in social science, which is a very different matter. There are however hard decisions, especially in Britain, where academic institutions want one to publish in the journals and to get funding which will tick the right boxes in government research assessment exercises. Here one must ‘give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’, distinguish one’s job from one’s work, and try also to work on areas which will make one’s academic community rock and inspire one’s students. I suppose it is important to remember that we are getting paid to do our jobs, but that this enables us to have the immensely privileged life of being free academics.
Career planning and decision making hold many challenges. Would you like to share a very positive decision you made and its outcome?
I began my academic career in very different times; but I remember I worked hard to get research students from the very beginning – to go to conferences, to write and publish, and to get myself known for being critical and adventurous in my thinking, mainly outside my university I must say. This attracted students I think. In publishing I never ever gave up, and bore all the criticisms sent back by reviewers, and felt that my teaching would never be sound unless it was based on my own published research. I had the conviction that I would not be able to change things until I submitted to the academic community first.
Are there decisions and career moves you would like to advise early career academics to be cautious of?
There is never a better time to do things than the present. Life will never get less busy. One must carry one’s writing project with one absolutely everywhere and squeeze it into the smallest spaces between meetings and administrative duties. Being an academic is not a 9-5 job.
What has helped you the most in defining and achieving your career goals?
Never being bitter or defensive, at least not for long, and never publicly. At the same time, never submitting to established thought. Having a trajectory of investigation which can be traced back to my undergraduate days – a personal project – but which has never ceased to develop into new thinking.