generational mentorship · global academy · literature · righteous feminist anger

Reading as Resistance

What does reading do? Or rather, what good does reading do? 

As a scholar of literature I find my self thinking about this big (too big?) question a lot. I think about it on bad days when I wonder what on earth I have devoted my life to, this fighting windmills business trying to find work teaching literature. I think about it on my good days when the answers are so fundamental to moving through life with an ethic of care and what Rey Chow calls responsible engagement that I can hardly believe my good fortune. Teaching books! Reading books! And I think about this on the average day, when I drive the 200km to work and back listening to audio books, or writing lectures trying to think through how to convince a room full of students that yes, it is meaningful and relevant to think about Kate Chopin‘s The Awakening or James Baldwin‘s Giovanni’s Room or Lucas Crawford‘s Sideshow Carnival today, now, in their very own lives.

This week I will be thinking about reading even more as I steel myself for the inauguration of the next President of the United States. I will think about reading and how it is a revolutionary act to think and listen to the perspectives of people whose lives and experiences and oddities differ from my own. I will think about reading as resistance, as solidarity, and as an act of joyful insurrection and radical self-care. 

On Friday January 20th I will also think about what it means to read with and in community as I take my place with sixty other humans to participate in a collaborative reading of Operations by Moez Surani. Operations–or more properly, ةيلمع Operación Opération Operation 行 动 Oперация–is a book-length poetic inventory of contemporary rhetoric of violence and aggression, as depicted through the evolution of the language used to name the many military operations conducted by UN Member Nations since the organization’s inception in 1945. Moez has invited sixty-one people around the world to each read a year from the book. Some people will be gathered in Toronto at Rick’s Cafe for the reading. The rest of us will read from wherever we are and tweet documentation of our reading. For me, this invitation is an act of hospitality, care, and solidarity: I will be able to participate in an action of protest and witness by reading. Through reading. Through the attentiveness that reading requires. And, while I know that reading will not be enough to resist the current and coming civic aggressions, I am glad to move through this week with reading as a mode of resistance and revolution in my heart. 

In honour of Moez’s invitation and with a nod to the recent circulation of top-ten lists of the albums that most influenced high-school you, I close with another list. This one answers Paul Vermeersch‘s invitation to document the ten books that influenced high-school you. I offer these as document to my sixteen year old self, who was just learning about resistance, revolution, and being a feminist killjoy. I invite you to add your own list. And I send you warmth as we move forward in solidarity, and with attentiveness. 

In no particular order:

1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

2. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

3. Beloved by Toni Morrison

4. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

6. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

7. Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

8. The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

9. The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

10. Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Dandicat

global academy

A Canadian Goes to the MLA

I don’t usually go to the MLA for a few reasons. First, as a Canadianist the fact that the organization has cut the number of Canadian panels means its not a particularly disciplinarily relevant conference for me. Second, despite the shift in the MLA’s timetable the conference still falls in the first week of classes for me. Third, the context, by which I mean the Americanness of it, is both complicated and, for the most part, alienating. The people who come to the panels I am on tend to be my Canadianist colleagues, and while it is always amazing to see my friends and colleagues I’d rather do it context that didn’t feel so structurally oppositional. I go to conferences to talk with people about their work, to present my own work and, hopefully, have a few people who want to talk with me about it. I don’t usually go to conferences to interview for jobs, thank goodness (though there is a shift towards this tactic). And, for the most part, the conferences I do attend aren’t predicated on a kind of ferocious posturing that seems to be the new normal requirement for being in this long neoliberal moment on the job market.

This weekend, however, I was in Austin, Texas for the MLA. Specifically, I was on the plenary panel of the MLA Subconference, which has for the past three years operating alongside and as an oppositional critique of the international conference. There were, of course, the usual frustrations ranging from the ubiquitous shock of many presenters who realize, OMG, that yes, you should bring your own dongle. And there was, of course, the frustration of being on a panel where almost no one but the young scholars–especially the young women and the young scholars of colour–stick to time.

And yet, as I sit on the last plane on the las leg of a very long trip from Austin to Halifax I am feeling that the trip was worth it. I’m tired, yes. Not quite finished my lectures for tomorrow, yes. But I’m feeling lucky to have been there, and its not because my radical academic feminist self-care involved an elitist circulation of ten-step bespoke beauty products (I’ll talk about this next week). 
I’m feeling positively reflective about my trip to the MLA for a number of reasons, most of which stem from thinking about differences between the American and Canadian academic contexts. Here are a few that I will be thinking about for a while to come:
1) “Let’s Not Forget the Violence Caused By and Uncritical Academic Fetishization of Borders”
At the Subconference I was on the plenary panel with seven other people. In any context that’s a lot of bodies on stage together sharing the spotlight. The most amazing performance of all my co-panelists came from Jesus Valles, who is a Latinx performance poet and high school teacher at a predominantly Latino high school in Austin. After an hour and a half of presentations that provided differing degrees of practical and navel-gazing considerations of the neoliberalization of the concept of the public Mr. Valles stood up and delivered the most incredible piece of spoken word I have heard in ages. He took up the theme of the Subconference and situated his mediation on the question of whether the classroom was a public or private space. In seven minute he taught the audience about the ways in which an uncritical academic fascination with metaphors of movement and displacement were fundamentally disenfranchising for immigrant, refugee, and undocumented peoples. It was, for me, as a listener, a vital instance of the power of performative poetics and pedagogy. My hair stood on end, my tears welled up, I felt angry and fearful not because what Mr. Valles described was my experience, but because he made room for all of us to listen to what it means to be Latino in Texas in a classroom and a city right now, today. 
2) Borders Were Clearly Marked at the MLA
When I go to Congress each spring I dutifully spend my dollars on my membership and my conference registration. I get my badge and I wear it, most of the time. But I never worry about being barred from accessing a panel if I don’t have my badge on, nor do I think any more than usual about the possibility of encountering a gun on campus. At the MLA there were signs in every room, hallway, and doorway that declaimed the necessity of wearing a badge. Without a badge the implication was that you would be barred from access or be forcibly removed. I thought of the half-million dollar salary the President of the MLA pulls in, and I thought of Mr. Valles’s students. I thought about who would benefit from listening to panels on conceptual poetics and the politics of race, and who could afford them. 
I also thought about the ways in which gun control differs between America and Canada. There were signs discouraging open carry at the MLA. Discouraging. I’m just going to leave it at that.
3) Public and Private Mean Differently in Canada and That, As It Turns Out, Has Consequences
In my own presentation I talked about teaching from a position of decolonization as a means of moving beyond reproducing colonial violence within the institution. I explained to the audience that in Canada the vast majority of post-secondary institutions are ostensibly public institutions. If we are failing the mission statements of post-secondary institutions in Canada we are failing the institutional project, not just the public. 
This took the Americans in the audience by surprise. Indeed, there was (unsurprisingly?) not much interest or uptake in talking about cross-border coalitions or organization because the majority of the audience seemed unwilling to make the conceptual reach to collaborative thinking from different contexts. Since this is my second year in a row being invited to the MLA to talk about issues of precocity, austerity, and the institutional mission I am starting to feel more than anecdotal when I say that we Canadian university and college teachers and graduate students and precarious workers will not gain much meaningful hands-on support from our American counterparts. We need to organize on our own terms and on our own campuses, and then share our organizational tactics with others. But the contexts are, I think, too different and the stakes, paradoxically, equally high right now.
I’m interested in what kinds of structural differences other Canadians at the MLA noticed.
academic work · advice · collaboration · global academy · research

How to: Manage a Distance Research Collaboration

Since the beginning of my PhD, I’ve worked on a number of long-term, long-distance research projects with people in France, India, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and the UK. I’ve gotten pretty good at scheduling meetings across time zones and finding ways to share documents and ideas with people on opposite sides of the planet. Given the increasingly interdisciplinary and international focus of academic research, I’m betting that at some point you’ll find yourself wanting to collaborate with someone who is just getting up when you’re going to bed, and those collaborations function rather differently than those with the folks in the office down the hall. So you don’t have to figure out from scratch how to successfully pursue research or other projects with people from away, here’s what I’ve learned that can make your life easier:

  1. Figure out what blocks of time in each of your time zones conveniently overlap, and use those blocks as your default meeting times. I know my lunch hour in Toronto is the end of the work day in London, and so my UK-based collaborator and I tend to schedule our meetings then. It saves us from having to figure out a time that suits both of us every time we need to meet. I also keep this bookmarked:
  2. Make use of free communication technology. Skype is your friend, as is Google chat. Email is useful, but I find that the best long-distance collaborations are nurtured with lots of less-formal conversation. If you can’t meet for coffee to talk shop, or pop into one another’s offices in the middle of the afternoon, try to replicate that experience online. I also advise using methods of communication that automatically capture a record of the conversation for you–Google chat does this, as does the SMS backup app I use to save all of my text messages to my email account, where they’re searchable. 
  3. Keep your documents somewhere central and easily accessible. I don’t know how I survived before the advent of Google Drive. I have a separate shared project folder for each of my current ongoing research collaborations, and everything lives there. We all appreciate being able to see who was the last to edit a file, precisely what edits those were, and exactly what collateral we have on hand at all times. I certainly appreciate not having my inbox clogged with huge attachments, and knowing that we’re all always working from the most up-to-date files. 
  4. Set deliverables and a follow-up plan at the end of every meeting. This is good practice for real-world meetings too, but it’s especially important in distance collaborations to make sure that everyone knows what needs to be done (and by when) at the end of every meeting, and when the next meeting will be (if one is necessary). If you know that your urgent 8:00 am email to your collaborator isn’t going to get read until she wakes up 10 hours later, it becomes extra important to ensure that expectations, deliverables, and timelines are clear when you already have her on the other end of the Skype call. 
  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Long-distance collaborations already have physical distance built in, and that physical distance can turn into mental distance and misunderstandings all too easily. Add the potential issues with cross-cultural communication–and this can be differences in institutional culture, not just broader regional or national culture–and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It’s incredibly important to make sure that you’re all understanding terms in the same way, that your research goals and plans are clearly and regularly articulated, and that channels of communication are open. 
  6. Make plans to occasionally meet in person, if at all possible. Despite working with collaborators as far away as India, I’ve managed to meet up with my research partners at least once during each project, most often at a conference we were all attending. It is incredibly helpful, and incredibly invigorating, to spend some time talking and working together, even if just for a few hours.
  7. Let someone be in charge. It’s particularly important, when working remotely, to be clear about who is responsible for what, and to have someone taking the lead on the project (or certain aspects of it). Ensure that responsibility is clearly assigned, and that divisions of labour are clearly understood, or else you’ll spend your time worrying about if you were supposed to do that thing, or waiting for your collaborator (for whom it’s the middle of the night) to confirm that he’s doing whatever it is. 

What about you, dear readers? Any tips and tricks for successfully negotating long-distance research collaborations?

academic reorganization · community · global academy · guest post

Guest post: Academy and / as Activism?

G’morning, readers! We have a treat for you today: Emma Morgan-Thorp has written a guest post!

It seems like February is getting everybody down: technologies are failing, and everyone’s snowed under by both work and weather.  I was feeling tired and grumpy when I arrived at my ‘Indigenous History’ seminar the other week, and wishing I could burrow under my covers with a book instead. This seminar, though, is healing: six women around the table, five first year Masters students and our teacher Paula, talking through Indigenous ethics and methodologies while we tell stories about our families, our work, and the places we come from. And on this particular evening we were graced with a visit by the fabulous Manulani Meyer. As we went around the table introducing ourselves and our projects to her, Manulani challenged us each to explain how our work was making change in the world: What is your academic work giving back to the community you are researching? I was floored – first by the question, and then by the fact that no one had ever asked me that before.

Lately I’ve been struggling with whether I ought to be doing academic work at all: entering an Indigenous Studies department allowed me to sidestep uncomfortable processes of asking permission to learn from Indigenous elders, activists, and communities. I still have no idea how I would even go about making such requests. Working from the sterility of the classroom, no matter how humbly or respectfully, is a far cry from finding ways to educate myself that don’t rely on my membership in an exclusionary colonialist institution.

I’ve been finding myself thinking: I’ll learn about Indigenous Studies – along with my interlocking projects of feminism, performance theory, and theatre studies – this year in the MA, and then take my knowledge out into the world and find ways to work toward substantive change. First theory, then praxis. First I’ll build myself into an educated activist, and then I’ll act. But Manulani and Paula challenged us to do intellectual work that ispractical. Academic production that works through ideas and builds strategies for substantive change.

I am blessed with revolutionary friends in activist, artistic, care-giving and food-growing communities who challenge my participation in this academic institution regularly. When I was home this winter, my mom gave me Jessica Yee Danforth’s Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism and told me how relieved she was that I had asked for it. A step, we laughed, toward throwing myself off the ‘great white phallus of the ivory tower’.

What Manulani affirmed is that intellectual work – in or out of the academy – can be practical activist work. That it has to be. That there is value in taking time to arm oneself with the lessons needed to do the best work possible, but that revolutionary work doesn’t wait while that happens.

During our mid-seminar break, my friend Erin and I were talking about how lucky we felt to be in such a warm community of women, talking about making change through peace and healing. The vulnerability and strength with which we were sharing our stories and questioning the work we’ve turned our lives toward shook and stabilized me simultaneously. This is, as Erin said to me, how we decolonize academia.

I’m still figuring out how best to work toward change, and certainly still negotiating the spaces I inhabit within academia and within an Indigenous Studies department.  I’ve been carrying with me the blissful energy and the ethical challenges that Manulani brought into our classroom, and as I work through these ideas, I remember what she said to us: “There is only one conversation happening on the planet: how can we love better?”

[Warm thanks to these brilliant women for their friendship and teachings.]

-Emma Morgan-Thorp

faster feminism · global academy · solidarity · women

Faster Feminist Spotlight: Afua Cooper

It should come as no surprise that I have faith in words. I mean, I teach in a literature department. I have spent the better part of my life learning ways of seeing and being in the world through the written word, the spoken word, the language of bodies on stages or in various states of performance. I know words have power. I know that words spoken through bodies, through the hand holding a pen or the mouth speaking, have incredible and powerful potential. 
And yet. 
And yet I am still amazed, humbled, grateful, and staggered when I have the opportunity to see word artists at work. Afua Cooper is one such artist who makes my heart skip a beat, my mind reel, and my conscience snap to attention.

Dr. Afua Cooper is the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie, here in Halifax. She is a scholar, a poet, a performer. I first encountered her through her scholarship when I read The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of  Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal. This historical biography not only tells the story of Marie-Joseph Angelique, a slave woman who was convicted and killed for the suspected arson that destroyed a large portion of Old Montreal, it tells one story from Canada’s history of slavery. Cooper pulls Angelique from the darkness of the archives, and Angelique brings with her a portion of Canadian history that has been all but occluded from cultural memory and dominant historical narratives of the nation.  

Cooper is also an incredible poet. This past week I had the opportunity to see Cooper perform along with Shauntay Grant and Valerie Mason-John. These three women were performing their poetry in celebration of the launch of The Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry, which is edited by Mason-John and Kevan Anthony Cameron aka Scruffmouth. She performed one poem spoken from the voice of Angelique, and another that again drew from the archive and told of the last request of a former slave to the Governor General asking that he be sent back home to Africa. As Cooper performed the whole room seemed to hold its collective breath. 
Here is a video of Cooper at the 2008 Dub-Poetry Collective International. 
academic reorganization · faster feminism · global academy · new year new plan

Seeing Women: Reflections on a New Year

It has been an eventful few weeks, to say the least. When I signed off on behalf of my fellow H&E writers I was anticipating a quiet holiday with a little reading, a little visiting, and a lot of unplugging. Things didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, I found myself glued to the Internet keeping track of the news. More specifically, I found myself confronted once again with the ways in which women are systematically erased and effaced. I found myself thinking about how I might better address the quotidian nature of violence against women, and I found myself overwhelmed. What follows is an attempt to think through four disparate and yet interconnected and recent instances where women have been central news stories, and yet simultaneously and problematically absent.
In the last few weeks four women I have never met have been in the news. I can name two of them, the other two women’s name has been withheld from the media. The women I can name are Malala Yousafzai and Chief Theresa Spence. The women whose names I don’t know have both been in the news because they have been victims of violent sexual assault. One woman’s name is being withheld because of the laws in her country regarding naming victims of sexual assault. The other woman’s name is being withheld to protect her privacy.
If you have managed to miss the news since October, Malala is a fourteen-year-old Pakestani women’s rights activist. She is known for speaking about women’s right to education. She was shot in the head and neck for speaking out on behalf of women’s rights. Just a few days ago she was released from hospital in Britain where she has been recovering since the fall. Chief Theresa Spence first made national news in Canada in the fall of 2011 when she declared a state of emergency in Attawapiskat. Rather than address the issues in Attawapiskat, the Canadian government effectively ignored her requests for aid and, as Chelsea Vowels and others have noted, mainstream media continued to publish inaccurate egregious misrepresentations of First Nations communities and their relationship with the government and the Crown. On December 11th Chief Spence travelled to Ottawa to begin a hunger strike as a last-ditch effort to seize and arrogant government by the lapels and demand — wait for it! — a conversation with First Nations leaders. When Prime Minister Harper finally announced that he would meet with First Nations leaders he made no mention whatsoever of Chief Theresa Spence, who was on the twenty-fifth day of her hunger strike. 
I can’t speak the names of the other two women, because I don’t know them.  One woman was a twenty-three year old physiotherapist. She was gang-raped by six men on a public bus. She was tossed from the bus naked and bleeding. She died on December 29th. The other woman whose name I don’t know is from Thunder Bay. She was violently and sexually assaulted because of her race. Indeed, her assailants intimated that they were assaulting her as a kind of response to the peaceful, grassroots #IdleNoMore movement.
These four women have been in the news, but their presence in the news underscores — for me, at least — a pernicious and violent cycle of erasure. While all four of these women come from different contexts and are in the news for different reasons what strikes me as undeniable is the ways in which they have been erased by the media. What do I mean, besides the obvious lack of naming? Carol J. Adams has an evocative term for explaining the ways in which systematic violence covers its tracks. This happens through what she refers to as the function of the absent referent, which is a radical severing of the referent from view. Adams’ example comes from the ways in which the language around butchering renders an animal into an object, thus obfuscating the violence needed to render “cow” into “hamburger.” Patriarchal society works the same way, she argues. Gendered violence gets turned into a singular act. Atrocious? Yes. Lamentable? Definitely. But rather than look closely at the ways in which inequity and systematic gendered, raced, and classed violence are built into the fabric of social life these acts of violence are made singular anomalies. 
So what do we do?
While I certainly don’t have a singular and finite answer for these pernicious and systematic violences, I have found some important cues in the kinds of coalitions that have come from the #IdleNoMore movements. Here are a few things I have learned or been reminded of in the last month:
1)   Form coalitions and teach others about solidarity.
2)   Share knowledges
3)   Articulate clear aims, and clearly articulate your grievances and concerns
4)   Be preemptive, be public
5)   Stand firm against oppression, and stand with friends and allies.
So, after a holiday season that reactivated my activism outside the classroom, I am resolving to return to teaching with a renewed sense of purpose. Pedagogy is for me a site of profound possibility and responsibility, and the classroom is a site of potentially radical change. I am returning to the classroom with a renewed sense of resolve to articulate, address, and discuss difficult issues with my students.
Welcome back, y’all. Let’s make this a truly new year.

canada · feminist win · global academy

IRL: The Beauty of Real Time

I suspect that you, like me, spend an immense amount of your day on the internet, in front of the computer, or otherwise interfacing with people and paces that are necessary in your work and life. Goodness knows, I certainly do. If I were to log the hours I spend on my computer, on my phone, or on my iPad communicating with friends, family, and collaborators …. Well, it would be a staggering number. While I am grateful for the multi-modal platforms available to me, I do find myself yearning for some face-to-face time (rather than, say FaceTime).

 This weekend I have had the rare opportunity to spend In Real Life time with collaborators and friends. I’ve been in Banff at the Women’s Writing inCanada and Québec Today: Alliances/ Transgressions/ Betrayals. I’ve been hanging out with Margrit and Heather and a number of others who are near and dear! It’s been a whirlwind few days full of smart papers, lively round tables, and the all-important coffee breaks. For all the brilliance happening, I’m especially grateful for the moments in which new alliances are forged and old friendships are given that shot of IRL time that helps sustain them over the months that stretch between next visits.
Canada is a huge country. This is a truism remains perkily factual despite the inevitable eye-rolling that accompanies that utterance. It is in these moments when I am in a room filled with friends, colleagues, and new acquaintances that I feel the challenges of geography. How do you maintain your companionships and  collaborations across these huge spaces when the inevitability of real life creeps in? What kind of scholarly meetings are more generative for you, and how do you keep the momentum going? How do you build IRL meetings with those far-flung friends and colleagues into your life?

faculty evaluation · global academy · reform · research · risky writing · turgid institution

Scholarly Publishing is Broken

Scholarly publishing is broken–at least journal publishing, and at least in my experience–and I don’t want to be complicit in this brokenness anymore, just because it serves some of my purposes, some of the time.

Most loftily, we scholars imagine that we are creating new knowledge, and that new knowledge is a good thing, that it can move our collective human project forward, in some small way. It gets moved only once this new knowledge is publicized. Hence, scholarly publishing.

Much less loftily, scholarship is a kind of labour that we exchange for tokens of esteem, power, and reputation, the currency of the academy. The recognized coin of this realm is peer-reviewed, published pages. Hence, scholarly publishing.

I know that I want to create new knowledge, and change the world! And if I can get a full professorship into the bargain, as well as win the disciplinary and institutional pissing contests by which goods are allotted within the Ivory Tower, well, all the better.

These goals can conflict.

And so it is that I find myself in the weird position of having an article scheduled to appear in Women Communication Scholarship (pseudonym) and am ambivalent, even angry, about it. My little story indicates at least one small way that scholarly publication is broken, and how some of it is our own damn fault. Is my fault.

What’s making me angry is that I submitted to this journal because of its high reputation, its high rejection rate, its mass adoption by academic libraries … and it turns out that they have a standing two year delay on publication. Let me be perfectly clear: once you go through the whole year of being reviewed and re-reviewed and your piece is accepted, your publication date will be TWO FURTHER YEARS IN THE FUTURE. I expressed some shock to the editor when she sent me my August 2014 publication date, in April 2012. She is shocked, too, having witnessed the creeping commercialization of this work over a generation of editorship. But this delay is their new standard. They have a perpetual backlog of submissions and accepted papers, because of their impact, and because they are published by a commercial publisher, who will not let them clear this out with some double print issues, they will have a TWO YEAR DELAY FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD.

Now, I work in new media. My article will be about three years old when it finally appears. Older, actually, because it’s based on a survey that took some time to complete. It will be historical by the time it appears. It’s going to be out of the page proofs stage by Labour day of this year, then SIT IN A DIGITAL DRAWER FOR TWO MORE YEARS before it gets printed. As the bemused editor wrote to me, the brave new world of academic editing of commercially-published journals “both requires that we publish scholarship and that we don’t publish scholarship.”

This seems really, really wrong.

I consulted Twitter. My friends and colleagues in digital humanities were appalled. Some suggested pulling the article and submitting it somewhere with a faster turnaround. Some suggested back-door self-publishing–that is, use the citation information from the “forthcoming” journal and put the paper online somewhere so people could read it before it becomes irrelevant. I like this idea of guerrilla self-publishing.

I consulted my chair, who consulted my dean. They, by contrast, congratulated me on having my work “appear” in such a high profile venue, and told me to leave it there. I should not retract the article to publish it elsewhere with a lower impact factor, just to get it into readers’ hands. I could put it on my CV, they said, and it would “count” this year. So I will get a raise for heaving my work into a deep well. I must confess I like this idea, too, of appearing successful and important among my peers, and getting a raise, to boot.

To summarize: I get lots of chest-beating institutional credit for this “publication.” But no one actually gets to read my scholarship. It all leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

This current publishing system is broken. It pits our desires for reputation and stature against a true public good, and removes the whole thing from academic hands to place it into commercial ones who have been quite canny at exploiting our desires for status and our lack of desire for detail work in marketing, bean counting, and publication.

As for me, I’m leaving the article where it is: this is the third journal I’ve submitted it to (it’s interdisciplinary and I have had the misfortune of getting one glowing and one damning review every where else it’s travelled) and I really want this work stamped with approval and circulating, however distant the future in which that happens. As a compromise between my ambitions and my scruples, I asked the editor if I could put a “pre-print” online, and she said it’s technically not allowed but that she understands, informally, that many other people do it. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

I ask you: if an article falls into the Taylor and Francis journal system and no one gets to read it, is any new knowledge created? If we’re all circulating these papers “pre-print” why are we bothering with these commercial publications at all, except for personal professional gain? And what should we do?

collaboration · faster feminism · global academy

No Apologies!

Tina Fey’s Bossypants has been taken up by all kinds of great bloggers as a guidebook for women negotiating, well, pretty much everything, and for good reason! Needless to say, the blogs I was most interested in were the ones that thought through how Fey’s wit and strategic sharp thinking can serve as excellent advice for women weaving through the traffic of academia. Tonight while I was cooking dinner I found myself wondering which other women might offer a similar kind of unexpected insight. So, in the spirit of Le Tigre’s “Hot Topic” here’s the beginning of an eclectic list:

Julia Child: If I had a dollar for every time I said “Sorry to bother you, but” or made some other caveat before presenting my ideas well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be so concerned with getting a tenure-track position. Not only is Julia Childs the maven who repeatedly reminds us to make “No apologies!” she also took risks to do what she loved. No matter what. I’d say that’s pretty great advice for us at any stage of our careers. 
Megan Leslie, MP (NDP): Last week I walked into my classroom and lo, there in the front of the room was Megan Leslie. She had just given a guest lecture and students were lined up to talk with her after class. She introduced herself to each one saying, “Hi, I’m Megan.” As I was setting up my computer behind her she turned and introduced herself to me with the same simple words. She’s clear spoken, uncompromising, and always seems to manage to get the last word in without being snide. Moreover, she’s a crucial voice for women in a space that is run by a government that grows increasingly hostile to women. Clear spoken, incisive, and uncompromising: three ways of being that will certainly work in the academy as well. 

Maya Arulpragasam: I think that there’s much to be learned from a smart, savvy, badass multi-tasker with a sense of global politics rhythm to boot. No apologies here, that’s for certain.

Your turn readers. Which women should we be watching, and why?
balance · global academy · saving my sanity · style matters

On the Road Again: Packing like a Champ

Last week Aimée wrote about one of the wonderful perks that come along with the not so wonderful aspects of academic life. I too love traveling, and I tend to do most of my traveling for conferences these days. I have completely disregarded my the advice of readers who offered such fantastic insight into the question of how many conferences to attend in a year. As I write this I am sitting in the Air Canada terminal in Toronto. I’m pleasantly exhausted after one of those magical conferences that combined genuinely good papers with interesting conversation and new acquaintances. In the next few hours I’ll complete my lectures for tomorrow (two), finish this blog post, see my partner, prepare for the week (and maybe a strike), and then crash.

This is a cycle that in one way or another I am going to be repeating quite a bit as  I am traveling a LOT in the coming months. I’ve found that one of the things that makes traveling and working on the road more feasible is good packing. I used to be a terrible packer: four-pairs-of-shoes-and-a-party-dress-and-a-bookshelf-of-books for a three-day trip kind of terrible. I’m getting better. Here are some tips that are helping me enjoy the trip, get work done, and not feel too totally wrenched from the good routines in my life.

1. Plan your outfits
I never used to do this for traveling, I mean who knows if I was actually going to feel like wearing what I brought with me? The result of this thinking meant I brought everything with me including the wardrobe kryptonite item (as if I was going to figure out how to incorporate puce into my wardrobe while at a conference). These days I lay my outfits out on the bed beforehand. I make sure that they are remixable by taking an interchangeable colour palette, and I take a reasonable amount of shoes…usually.

2. Limit your books
I like working on airplanes and in hotel rooms, there is something about being out of my life and cut off from regular interactions that allows me to focus my mind. But let’s be honest, unless you’re off for a research retreat there is not need to take the whole bookshelf. My solution of late has been to scan documents into PDFs and load them on my laptop of my Kindle. I use my Kindle for taking the other texts I need, and I take a notebook. I only bring texts for work that has to be finished while I am away. I’m learning that the only thing I gain from loading my suitcase full of books is a heavy luggage charge.

3. Pack a lunch
Seriously! Airplane food is expensive and really unsatisfying. If you have any dietary nuances it is nigh on impossible to eat well in an airport. I have a cute little bento box that is made of plastic. It goes through the scanner in my carry on luggage easily, and let me tell you I feel awfully pleased with myself when I open it up to a sandwich, some almonds, and a diced mango. The effort is worth it, I promise. I also bring a water bottle with my and try to drink lots of water. I recently got a water bottle/thermos that has a detachable tea basket. It feels great (and decadent) to sip gorgeous tea on the plane.

4. Move! Get some air!

I am a regular yoga practitioner. It keeps me from feeling I am kinking at the hips because I have such a close relationship with my desk chair. I pack my yoga mat with me, and practice in the hotel room (ok, sometimes I take it and don’t practice, but at least it is there). I try to get out and get some air during the breaks between papers.

5. Steal some time
A trip is a trip. If you can, carve out some quality time for yourself. I have a really hard time doing this, granted, but it is worth it.

Happy trails, y’all!