On American Academia

Yesterday I published an article, The Closing of American Academia, which went viral and is currently the most-read and most-shared article on Al Jazeera’s website.  It has generated a lot of discussion about exploitation, elitism and academic culture, as well as a great post from Jay Ulfelder on non-academic careers for social science PhDs. I have been overwhelmed with emails and comments from readers around the world.

One of the most interesting comments I got was from a friend of mine who liked the article, but found it “so depressing”. When I asked why, he compared the situation of American contingent faculty to frogs placed in boiling water. If you throw them into boiling water, they will jump out in horror. But if you turn the water up slowly, they will not realize they are being boiled alive until it is too late.

This is an apt analogy in its own right, but what interested me most is that the person who posted it is an exile from Uzbekistan, one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. The majority of my academic research has been on Uzbekistan. I have debunked a terrorist group, chronicled the lives of persecuted refugees, and investigated a massacre and its aftermath. But it is my article on American academia that is making people depressed.

I will have more to say on this subject in the coming days – and I’m sure others will as well. Check back for updates, and read the article here.

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4 Responses to On American Academia

  1. I read your article on American Higher Education and I thought it was very interesting indeed. I could relate and agree to almost every word and sentiment in your article.

    The problem, I will say, is not just in the social sciences but also in fields such as mine–Information Science! I looked for a job in academic teaching and research for a year and half before I graduated–but didn’t find a decent one! I eventually took up a job in Industry–albeit a well payed one. I’m now back on the job search and I find the academic scene as saturated as it was before!

    As sad as the situation is, I am most optimistic. I sincerely believe that earning a PhD gives one many qualities that are relevant to life in general. While we may not always find the best opportunity to teach and research in a formal environment, there are many ways in which we can serve society and make a good living at the same time. Your article is good example. And the notion of an online education–is another example. Speaking of online education–I sincerely believe that online education will be the next big challenge that formal academia will need to address. Maybe I’ll write an article on that one! 🙂

  2. I agree, Samvith — thank you for posting!

  3. Ken Erickson says:

    You wrote a clear and thoughtful piece. While faculty meetings tend to give me a horrid case of projectile vomiting, the need for sharing what you know and building skills among new scholars and practitioners remains. I was not encouraged to become an applied anthropologist when I began graduate school, but it was always out there, a little breath of fresh air just out of reach of my stuffy academic nose. So: since the University is both bloated and starving (spending on administration grows, spending on faculty shrinks); since Anthropology remains relevant and may be useful for addressing real human suffering, how shall we re-make a kind of graduate education? How to enculturate the next generation of relevant and (not starving) anthropologists? The university will no doubt be a part of it but communities of practitioners, and wider communities (policy makers, neighborhood change agents, labor and women’s movements, students, families, even enterprises and business researchers) are part of the mix that may generate some creativeforms of engagement with what we used to call graduate school in anthropology.
    -Ken Erickson paceth(dot)com

  4. testdomain says:

    YouTube is world’s leading video sharing website, no one can defeat it. Every one add movies at YouTube after that get embed code and post everywhere.

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