Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Indepenent Scholar Thing

I was reading the acafan entries over at Henry Jenkins' blog, and in one of the entries Karen Hellekson writes a bit about being an independent scholar (like me).

I am unaffiliated, and people's reactions (when they see "independent scholar" on my name tag...) are often weird, like they're not sure how to deal with me.... My job as a freelancer is isolating. This academic thing is a way to get out of the house, to talk about things that really interest me, to engage with fabulous like-minded people, and to have substantive, thought-provoking conversations.... My scholarship, including writing articles and books and editing an academic journal, is basically unpaid service that I can't explain in a sentence at parties.
(I have trimmed that a bit, as you probably noticed.)

I completely agree. It is difficult for a lot of people both in and out of academia to get that I just don't like teaching (because at the same time a lot of them do). A lot of the academic world is about status. This makes sense, it's supposed to be merit-based. Is your work any good? Does it add to scholarship? This is reflected in where you have a job, the conferences you present at, and the journals in which you publish. So, if you don't have a job, you do not initially fit into the framework; you for some odd reason aren't playing the usual game (either you are a horrible scholar and can't get hired or you had a thing with a student and will never get hired again). Generally, if you have a PhD and attend conferences, you are supposed to like teaching.

I don't, I like research.