Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Salt in the Wound, Poison in the Veins/ Academia: Sciences vs. Humanities (Literature, Languages, Cultural Studies)

They've been building up momentum for over a month, my bitterness and discontent, informed by years and years of resentment (well documented here in this blog over the years), but after yesterday it all exploded in my head.

Conversations with colleagues that left me with a heavy weight of nervousness in the pit of my stomach. Official communications from the department, surreal conversation with colleague. All boiling up in my head like a cauldron with a bitter potion.

I know my system will slowly clear, but right now, it hurts, because too much salt was rubbed on the wound; there is poison cursing (pun intended) through my veins.

I think I'm most stunned by the (very late) full realization that in fact, in the humanities, academia is a war, unfair, brutal and soul-sucking.

In the sciences, collaboration is crucial -- most important for experimentalists, but even for theorists, who need the experiments to validate their theories. I have been closely following my husband's career for almost 20 years. You begin by working at someone's lab (sometimes as an undergrad, but more often as a grad student) and when you finish the degree, you also work as a Post-Doc in charge of projects at someone else's lab again. Until after getting a job, you can run your own lab. And even then you still collaborate with former colleagues, current and former students. It's a web of collaboration, a machine with many parts that moves slowly, but surely forward. And these relationships can actually be quantified and visualized in number of citations, who cites who, etc.

In the humanities, however (particularly in languages, literatures, cultural studies, and related fields). Each of us works ALONE. Of course it's not in complete isolation because we still need to read the works of others and "interact" with them, but the greatest likelihood is that the "big names" we cite won't ever read us or ever even hear of our work.

There are too many areas, it's impossible to really be visible (take the MLA for example, it's a jungle, it's ridiculous), so we "speak" to nobody really, and try to make our mark uselessly.

It's a field heavily populated by white males and even though they need to hire the "token women" or "token minorities," I believe that white males still call the shots. This may change, but I don't know how, really.

And yesterday I realized one more layer in the conflict and the bloody war -- people in the humanities are even MORE isolated because they are afraid of each other, they are threatened by each other.


and fortunately, I ran out of steam and will publish this half-finished. Maybe it's good that my motivation to write about this is waning. I guess the poison is getting diluted, the salt is slowly washing away. I'm sure I will have more to say soon.

1 comment:

What Now? said...

I'm so sorry for what sounds like just a rotten, horrible time. Is this particular incident at U#1 or U#2? Are there supportive people around so that you don't feel so alone?