If you’re an academic, there is a good chance that your career choice is indecipherable to many loved ones, especially to family members who feel half-invested in your life plans. In the early years of grad school I was often frustrated by this. Now, I find it sort of amusing to try to explain the inner-workings of the dark cathedrals of academe to my parents and other relatives. It’s still incomprehensible to them, but I take a strange joy in living in such an alien world. More along these lines by Michael Bérubé:

And these days, when my graduate students tell similar tales of growing increasingly incomprehensible to their families (and their partners’ families), who understand neither why they are studying the technological sublime in Futurism and Vorticism nor what kind of “job” this study will produce in the end, I tell them, first, there’s an easy way to find out whether the parents or in-laws in question have any idea how academe works. If they know what a “provost” is, then there’s a good chance they might understand the job market, hiring committees, the tenure process, the mechanics of peer review, and so forth—even if they don’t understand anything about Futurism or Vorticism. I mean, in what social context other than academe would one ever hear or use the word “provost”?

Written by brayden king

May 30, 2007 at 6:42 pm

Posted in academia, brayden

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Could it be that this opacity is a sign of organizational collapse?

    Ryan Lanham
    Virginia Tech


    Ryan Lanham

    May 30, 2007 at 7:59 pm

  2. Ryan – You’re going to have to help me out here. Which organizational collapse are you talking about?



    May 30, 2007 at 8:56 pm

  3. Everything…all of it…that is, orgs in general. Organization in general. Everything is Miscellaneous (which is quite interesting from the released bits by the way) and all that.

    You see, collapse is the new normal. Identity was the driver of structure…it allowed people to rally around “something”. Now, we are entering post-identity times. Therefore, structure melts.

    So the opacity you describe is a form of blurred identity…a melting of identity…what actor-network theorists might also call a source of uncertainty.

    In part I blog states dying from a public administration perspective at a wordpress site called Identity Unknown. It is a play on the old film noire notion of a body found without an identity. To solve a crime, we don’t look first for evidence, we look for identity. Identity tells us about the evidence. No identity, no structure.

    To my mind we are moving from organizations that exist to emphasize identity (brand, image, product…in academia, boxes like books and articles) to post organizations that exist to enable…in academia, action research’s postcedents.

    For example, it’s the difference between a foundation that emphasizes its own problem space and a community foundation that focuses on enabling local (and nonlocal) activists.

    From what you wrote, I gather you are trying to remain in an identity world. Many still are. But that world is going…melting away. The blur your family sees is the melting. We are all ambivalent because we can’t figure out what to do…its the Monty Python football match between the Greek and German philosophers! But no one will yell Eureka…not even you.

    I’d argue that you think you “get it” but of course you don’t…you merely cope with the mess (again, an ANT term as I mean it–from John Law).

    Collapse is the manifestation of opacity…the lack of identity. No disciplines because no disciples. No sectors because everything is hybrid–what Donna Haraway calls a cyborg. No boundaries, no borders, no jurisdictions…everything is melting.

    That’s my drift anyway. So you’re not misunderstood…there is nothing left to understand. Just melting chocolate bits and morsels…dripping, trying to crystalize and melting again–doesn’t mean donkey…no reality really. The remaining structuralists are sculpting with shaving foam.




    Ryan Lanham

    May 31, 2007 at 3:15 am

  4. Brayden: aren’t you glad that you asked?



    May 31, 2007 at 11:37 am

  5. Wow.



    May 31, 2007 at 7:53 pm

  6. Yeah. Just sort of happened…sorry.



    Ryan Lanham

    May 31, 2007 at 9:31 pm

  7. “From what you wrote, I gather you are trying to remain in an identity world. Many still are. But that world is going…melting away”. Really? But, you are stuck with your own identity i.e. you are a white, an American, a scholar (though not well grounded but just reading theories without the capacity to analyze) et. al. Is identity a thing of the past? Not yet! Billions like you…



    August 13, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: