The same week my article The Closing of American Academia appeared in Al Jazeera, three other anthropologists published works criticizing labor conditions in the discipline. The American Anthropological Association responded with a blog post dividing our articles into “two camps”: one with “a negative future on academia in general and the success of students pursuing a career in academia” (ahem) and one with “a positive outlook on the field of anthropology” that nonetheless recognizes that “adjunct positions are challenging” . You don’t say.
The nice thing about our failing system of higher education is that it brings people together. The authors of the other articles — Eliza Jane Darling, Ryan Anderson and Jason Antrosio – and I were surprised to hear we were in “two camps” since our views are similar. We decided to co-author a response to the AAA, which has been posted on the anthropology blog Savage Minds:
We are gratified that the American Anthropological Association has taken note of our critical commentary on the vagaries of the academic career, and we thank fellow blogger Joslyn O. for publicizing our work on the Association website. However, we would like to clear up a few misconceptions.
The AAA post suggests we represent two “camps,” but we share only one: a commitment to ending precarious intellectual labour. We protest the transformation of our profession into a swelling Hooverville congregated on the margins of universities whose dwindling tenured citizenry is bankrolled by our low-wage, low-benefit, low-security, low-respect work…
Update: Anthropologist Amy Todd posted a link to her article on academic labor in a comment on an earlier post. I’m adding a link here because everyone should read it. She has written a succinct and thoughtful commentary on how the “culture” of academia works to make contingent faculty complicit in the system.
Challenges to Organizing Academic Labor, Anthropology News, April 2012