ERRORS OF MY WAYS/JOB DESCRIPTION
What my job ideal description was and is: Active, fast-paced career in large, urban, research oriented, policy making institution, involving national and international partners. Find documents, analyze and discuss them, discover their role in the national and international imaginary. Make decisions, write reports. Organize research groups. Write books alone and in groups. Give seminars and entry level workshops, travel for research and business. Create and disseminate new knowledge, found innovative social and educational programs, strengthen community ties.
From what I had observed in the seven institutions I attended before becoming a professor, I really thought this was what professors in Latin American Studies did! Many would say that means I utterly internalized the R-1 model, which makes me an elitist. I suppose I am guilty as charged, but I do not think elitism is the most accurate term in which to frame this issue.
What the public R-1 mentality means to me is the opposite of elitism. It means that everyone is seen as a professional, and works as one, and people are treated as (hu)mans and citizens whether they are known to their interlocutors or not. I do not see elitism in that, I see democratic vistas.
SCHOLAR OR ACADEMIC?
Servetus distinguishes between being a scholar and being a professor or an academic. Before that I had found a distinction between being an intellectual and being a scholar, but in the Academic Industrial Complex Servetus’ distinction seems more à propos. Not being allowed to be who one is, when to be who one is was what one was told was the job requirement, is my problem with academia.
The hardest thing for me has been not getting to work as a professional, but having to go back to models based more on family dynamics and the social patterns of high school cliques – with a patriarch or two in charge, of course, running a few fiefs regulated through patron-client relationships.
It seems to me that many of the internecine wars that take place are not actually over scarce resources but over dignity, recognition, and small bits of psychic space. Everyone is trying hard to gain, however they can, the rights of (hu)man and citizen they need to actually do their work. Those cannot really be gained except collectively, and that is why I believe in civic virtues.
I hasten to say that these comments are not necessarily, and certainly not primarily related any current events, or to events in any single place. Remember, I have studied at seven institutions, if you include the ones where I was a Visiting Student. I taught in three departments as a T.A. I have had more than one job since. I am and always have been a member of more than one administrative unit.
What I keep on learning are the things I knew in the first place, and from which I amiably tried to dissuade myself. Now that I have finished boiling Reeducation down, I have begun boiling academia down. What I have figured out so far is that the root issues for me are: can you be who you are in it (a scholar!)? Can you work professionally in it, that is, can you really do what you say you are doing, as opposed to merely create a simulacrum of it?
I have personal reasons to have come to doubt whether these things were possible, but many other reasons for it are external. My experiment now is to see whether, if I sweep the personal reasons away, it becomes more possible to be who one is, here – since, after all, who one is is, officially as well as unofficially, who one is supposed to be. I have been told many times that thinking was a bad thing and I have duly tried to renounce it, but thinking is my primordial river.