Two weeks ago I wrote about the empathy trap and it was the most read post I have ever written. If you missed it you can read it here. It was a hard post to write, and it is a hard post to follow up. I have been thinking about how to productively respond to my own public thinking. This is what I have come up with: In the next few weeks I aim to write a few posts on how to avoid the empathy trap. Some posts will be in conversation towards those who are in positions of relative power, by which I mean jobbed positions–be they tenured or un- — and some will be directed towards people who find themselves to be unemployed. It is important to note that I think I have been in both positions, if marginally. As a person who has held multiple contract academic faculty positions I have been in relative positions of power. As someone who is unemployed despite my best efforts, and who still has research projects on the go, I am most definitely outside the academy in some ways. In other ways, though, I am positioned to be more inside the research track than I ever could have been as a teaching-heavy contract academic faculty member.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying I am thrilled, happy, or even used to being unemployed. What I am trying to track here in the next few weeks are the ways in which I will maintain my research identity as a trained scholar of Canadian literature and culture while shifting into the first summer … and then fall…in which I am not prepping classes and ordering books and writing lectures.
Here goes nothing.
I do research. This is a fact that is easily forgotten when one is teaching an overload and constantly refashioning the old CV in an attempt to shift it towards one job advertisement or another. Or, if not forgotten, it is a fact that can be left unexplored and under-discussed. (Side note: I know that it is difficult to fit a research agenda into a tenure-track and even tenured position, but theoretically these positions are paid to do that work. At they very least, these positions get paid over the summer months) So here is my question for myself and others who don’t identify as employed: how and how often do you talk about your research? I mean how often do you talk about the research work you do? If I really tried to be honest the answer would be not that often.
My research interests have always focussed on the ways in which women and people of colour have used textual and performance art to intervene in the hegemonic narratives of gender, race, and nation. One of my favourite ways of thinking about these generative and subversive interventions came from my friend and colleague Stephen Collis‘s writing about the commons. In an incredible essay Stephen talks about the blackberry (fruit, not phone) as a model of subversive intervention. You should read it. Collis’s idea is inspiring to me because it is one voice among many (though you have to search for them) that articulates a means of working within what is in the service of what might be. I have been thinking and writing–in my MA thesis, my doctoral dissertation, and the articles I have published thus far–about the ways in which archives work to silo experimental writing as much as they work to preserve it. In my more recent work I am trying to bring together my public writing and organization work with my literary and cultural analysis.
Here are the projects I have on the go. This is some of the research I am going to try to do over the next year as I work to find work. I’m excited, because theoretically I have time. I am nervous, of course, because that time is unpaid time.
I am working on articles about Sachiko Murakami‘s work, Gail Scott’s novel The Obituary, and Sina Queyrays‘s lyric conceptualism. I also have two articles that have been sitting on the back burner for a while. I’m going to return to these and think about whether they are worth the time and effort to substantially revise.
I have two manuscripts under contract. One of them is about the poetics of collapse, which considers the ways in which contemporary Canadian cultural producers are working to create generative if ephemeral texts out of narratives of utter devastation. The other is an edited collection of poetry by a contemporary Canadian poet.
I am also the chair of the board of CWILA, and we are working towards our third annual launch of the Count. I see this work as research, writing, and public discourse. We’re working to make this our biggest launch yet (and believe me, in terms of the numbers of reviews our volunteers have counted it is the biggest!). Look for it in mid-September when we launch the numbers and essays along with a funding and membership drive.
I am also presenting papers at Discourse & Dynamics: Canadian Women as Public Intellectuals (where I am also on the organizing committee), Avant Canada: Artists, Prophets, Revolutionaries, and the MLA.
That is a lot of stuff, isn’t it? My aim for this week is to use Julie Rak‘s brilliant five-year research plan to map out what I have to do…and then try and adapt that for the fact that, without a contract position or a tenure-track position that five-year plan may well be a ten-to-twelve month plan that also involves career transitioning.
What about y’all? How do those of you who are under or un-epmployed manage, articulate, and conceive of your research?