Tuesday, April 08, 2008

rants and reflections on why its dangerous to judge books by their covers (long!)

it makes me very happy that it is raining, cool and grey today. i wouldnt go so far as to say cold, but definitely sub 20C. someone asked me yesterday why i was happy about it being grey and i said australia would be a much nicer place if it had a bit more miserable weather. too much sunshine is really not good for the soul.

speaking of which, the black dogs have been circling - yesterday i was pretty sure a whole pack of them had the house surrounded. the to-be-expected post-phd malaise has been compounded lately by the actions of some thoughtless persons, not intentional im sure, but still, being asked to leave my office at uni about 2 days after i submitted didnt really help with the 'im feeling un-appreciated' business. this was compounded when a proposal i put forward to create a kind of fellowship position for me within the faculty to keep my future research connected to the new research groups was met with something less than enthusiasm. ostensibly for bureaucratic reasons, but its hard not to take that stuff personally. and there are on-going issues with someone who i once called a friend but who has turned into a very critical, negative presence, and so i have pretty much resolved on cutting my ties with my current institution of higher learning and finding a new home somewhere else. i guess thats a good thing but it makes me sad. i have done a lot of work for my faculty and i know i am not an easy person, if only because i just dont tolerate injustice and hierarchies, and academia is full of both, but i did think that people might be able to focus on the work itself.

i know that there are injustices and hierarchies everywhere, but i dont think that that means i have to let go of my ideals. if everyone just said 'oh well, thats how it is, theres nothing i can do about it' then the whole world would go to hell in a handbasket and there'd be no justice anywhere. ideals are important, even if they are unrealistic. they are ideals not because they exist but because they give you something to aim for. i am not prepared to sacrifice them for the sake of my own career advancement, or to meet someones expectations of what success looks like. i am rather tired of people judging my life by the externals - by what they see rather than what they know. if i chose to opt out of the nasty careerism inherent to academia then that does not make me a failure. if i have markers of happiness that can not be measured in DEST points for publications, or if i think my intellectual gifts are better used in a practical setting, this does not mean i am weak, or cant hack it. if i choose to get up at 530am to get my partner his lunch and get him to the train, and cook dinner for us, because i recognise that my phd would not have been possible without him being a mouse on the wheel, then this does not make me oppressed.

> snip

so with all this going on, i sat there yesterday morning and watched the dogs circle and felt like maybe i couldnt leave the house - it was a great struggle to get in the car and drive to uni to teach my australian studies classes which this week are dealing with the connection between indigenous cultures and the formation of national identity. i really wasnt up to hearing anymore cliches about how the sorry was just symbolic and 'they' really do need to manage 'the funding they are given' properly. but we managed to get past that ok and i saw some young people trying really hard to think outside the square and bring back some compassion into their work. that was nice.

and then a couple of things happened. i got an email saying that a research centre in the faculty would like to pay for me to go to melbourne for a week in june for a big conference at which to promote our forthcoming book. four nights at the sebel albert park all paid for. thanks very much. (please send maps and details of yarn stores to my gmail address immediately!).

and then i checked my mail box. there was a box in it. from america. inside where five of these:

thats right, its out. officially published today. you can check it out here. they sent me five advance copies so we can try and have a bit of a launch before richard goes over to europe for a couple of months. people were passing me in the hallways saying congratulations and shaking my hand. it earns the faculty 8 DEST points, which is quite a lot apparently, not that i am counting or anything :) the faculty gets to apply for more funding because of it, and i personally get one point for my own chapter:

and half a point for this co-written chapter:

we get no individual points for the editing, which was really where all the hard work was, and we get no money, no royalties etc, but its all about the ideas isnt it?

i guess thats really my biggest problem, that it often ISNT about the ideas but about personal ego. >snip ...a lot of the editing work was about disengaging egos from obscure, and i would argue deliberately obscuring, language so that the ideas could come out. dont get me wrong, i am totally into theory, too much so for most historians, but it is useless if it doesnt make sense, if it doesnt illuminate. and thats my biggest problem with academic life as i have experienced it (not all of it in all places of course). this disconnection from the real world, this pontificating as though complicated ideas in and of themselves mean anything, can change anything. worse than that, is the practice of holding tight to ones own ideas, believing they are right and true, and that other people with different ideas are wrong. once that mentality sets in, critical thinking is in serious danger.


in much more interesting news, the shawl is now at 12 repeats, and the pattern was for 9:

i still have a large amount of yarn left, i am sure i can get one more repeat and then there are 10 rows of edging to do. how much does a shawl expand on blocking - as you can see its past pillow size now and takes up a lot of the lounge. is it possible to make a shawl too big?!

see, these are the serious questions of life. i should have done a phd on that.

k xx

ETA: after i wrote all this i realised i have been doing a lot of ranting lately so i apologise and i have gone back and snipped out some stuff that was unnecessary. i do need to 'talk' about stuff even if it is just on a blog, but i dont mean to go on and on about the same stuff. i will get over it, i swear!!


amy said...

First, congratulations on the book. That's got to feel good, at any rate. I'm sorry about the rest. I once thought maybe I'd like to be a college professor, but I realized it would be incredibly impractical for me, for reasons too long to get into in a comment. Also, I know I am not good at the politics of anything. The other night, though, I dreamed I was an English professor. I still think it sounds nice, without all the other stuff.

lilypotter said...

Wow, YAY on the book! How cool is it to see your name (and work) in print? I know I'm impressed.

2paw said...

Lovely shawl, I have a deep appreciation of shawls!! Congratulations on the book. I was not very good at the politics at College, Uni or when I was teaching. I always found out about things later. Which is sometimes good. There are too many upper echelon people who live in Ivory Towers (sorry about the cliche,but it is true) Good luck with whatever you decide to do!!!

Rose Red said...

dammit, blogger ate my comment. Anyway, I agreed with you on the language point...sigh.

The shawl looks great! Can't wait to see it blocked!

TinkingBell said...

Oh - pretty shawl (no it is impossible for a shawl to be too beig - especially on a cold night!)

Aaah the joys of academia - how pleased I am that I don't work there anymore - instead I have small people to both cut me down to size and simultaneously keep me grounded!

Michelle said...

Congratulations on the book! This is Big News!

Also, the shawl looks lovely, and I wish I liked knitting so I could make it.

MadMad said...

Oh, I don't think you "need to get over it." For one, it's pretty interesting, for two, I think to some extent - though in different situations, obviously - we have all felt exactly this way, and it is always good to see someone else shares our sensibilities and that we're not (totally!) crazy and, three, what else is a blog for, if not venting? And FOUR, a BIG FAT CONGRATS - that is so awesome!

Bells said...

It's so great to see your name in print Kylie. Must feel awesome for you.

Hang in there. This time will pass. I think there's a lot to be said for just riding through it which, I know, is easier said than done. Keep going on that shawl. It'll keep you focused.

Fernicle said...

Let me add my congraulations on the book to the group - CONGRATULATIONS!! So fantastic and I hope you celebrate accordingly and in ways appropriate to you!

I am deep in teaching a 2 week course to science PhDs this week and really appreciated your words on theory - I just finished telling them that scientists should "leave the ivory tower and enter the agora" (Gibbons) - gets em all fired up...

As for the shawl question, my position is no way, it is not possible to make one too big!

xxx to you and seriously congrats on the book and the respect the offer of the melbourne trip represents :)


Michelle said...

Congratulations! You're a winner!