I used to fantasize, as a young girl, about being kidnapped and being held hostage in a library. That scenario would provide me with endless time for reading and exploring all the things that interested me.
Later I used to think that place might be university. I imagined green carpets and hushed voices and great heavy furniture. As I grew older, steaming pots of coffee accompanied those images. I hurried through high school in the sense that I never saw it as more than an obstacle on my way to university. I traveled and worked for two years to get the kind of experiences I felt I would need to become a good anthropologist. I spent six years training to become first an anthropologist by degree, then three years doing a PhD, then a few dost.docs and assistant professorships, and then finally, the much coveted associate professorship. I consider myself very lucky.
Yet here I sit. Moaning. Disappointed that the coveted tenure in university turned out to be so overwhelmingly about supervision and teaching and admin and getting funding and managing projects and being strategic but most of all about publishing articles in high ranked journals at a pace which seems to me to discourage thorough reflection in favour of quick or tendential arguments.
My university’s expectation of a two-articles-a-year-output might to outsiders seem like hardly anything at all. Still, if you imagine an average work life of 40 years, is it credible that your average professor (full or associate) might generate 80 distinctive, new insights or ideas worthy of publication and readership? Hardly. But the math being done at universities is of a different sort.
Well, what had I expected? Something entirely else. I cannot seem to just suck it up, or grow up, or act strategically, or do as the Romans, or focus on the bright sides. “Well”, as my mother have always said to me, “what are you going to do about it?” Well, I guess I am going to have to stop waiting for someone to drop that place I dreamt of in my lap and create it for myself.