exhausted: changes?

I am seriously contemplating a major change away from an academic career path towards another industry. There are a number of reasons for this. First, due to not-so-unforeseen issues with my living arrangements I am going to have to move. Second, I have a contract for this semester and have organised work over summer, but have not actually signed anything yet. Beyond the summer session my future is much less secure. Third, I am tired, both physically and in terms of exhausted patience. Fourth, universities are difficult (ok, fucked) places to work and I often feel sick when witnessing good people in difficult circumstances. There is not enough investment in maintaining basic literacy standards and the like and too much of a focus on cash cow courses.

So where would I go?

Well the shift would be rather radical and back to more of a manual job, basically working as a TA in the resource industry. Due to family connections securing an entry level job (that currently pays near $100k pa) should not be too difficult. I worked on the mines a decade ago. The CFMEU will probably want me to pay some dues, lol.

I have not given up on academic career completely. To get a job means, in part, basically getting a book published, but I am finding it difficult to convince bourgie publishers to even look at a book on some facet of ‘bogon’ culture. (For overseas readers: Similar to rednecks or lumpen proletariat in culture, but now rather affluent due to resource boom, etc. So working class in neo-Marxist cultural materialism sense, middle-class in Weberian selling-skills-on-market sense.) There are a few more hospital passes that I can throw before I exhaust every possibility and this mainly involves printing off a set of submissions to give to publisher reps at book launches at work!. The academic areas that are primarily the focus of ‘cultural enterprise’ research are organised around museum studies and the like. My book is not targeted at academics, however. The book will sell as there is a definite market and nothing like it has existed before. It will also be quite radical for the car scene, as the scene is relativley conservative and my sort of book would shake things up a bit.

I would actually treat book selling as a second job and travel to car festivals and events with a mobile book stall. Anyway, I would basically use the mining gig to fund the follow up research I’d need to do to finish my book. I can write in the evenings as I used to do when I was 19. Being a member of the fluro-collar classes certainly won’t harm sales either.

One thing I have learnt this year, and had not really experienced since I shifted from a state primary school in a traditional working class suburb to an elite private high school in a highly affluent suburb, is that university is heavily structured around class. It really is the domain of the professional middle classes. I always imagined that I would not have to comport myself to ‘fit in’. Am I not a ‘bourgie’? How could I possibly not be a bourgie after existing in this social space for a decade? I don’t know, but I feel like an oddity when mixing with most academics. Maybe it is because I have a conception of bourgie as ‘other’? That is, I can feel the difference in the way people speak, what they make jokes about, and what they are interested in. It is a weird feeling, because on some levels I am right there with the capacity to mix and relate to people, but on other levels I feel alienated. I think that is why I am (and have been) very good friends with other phd students and academics that have a homologically similar cultural background. We seem to group together. I think it has something to do with dignity, which is the subject of another blog post long in the works. Dignity really is a problematic concept for me.

I am not bitter or feeling resentment towards anything or anyone; it is not a situation of me taking my bat and ball and going home. I have learnt many things this year about myself and the profession of university teaching. Rather, I feel exhausted and feel that the situation has exhausted itself. I was always going to give the academic career path two years to see what happens and what I could begin as it seems most friends and colleagues have taken a minimum of about two years of solid work to land a solid job. Yet, I have the capacity to be mobile in a radical sense (following Negri) and shift industries, and the way I look at it I am very lucky in that regard. There are many people in similar positions to me without this mobile capacity to redirect their labour in different directions. Some have supportive partners that carry some of the burden and stress, and I’ve had my folks, family and friends to help me in times of distress. So for me it is a question of being worthy of the situation. Perhaps I am better suited to be being a hyper-educated quasi-bogon?

Anyway, that is kind of where I am at the moment. Before I make any decisions I’ll let a few other things currently in the works play out to see what happens. Plus, for those readers feeling concerned, there is no need to be worried about me. 😉

14 replies on “exhausted: changes?”

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one have these reservations about academic career action. I keep thinking ‘what’s the point of all these degrees when a pgrad who hasn’t completed can do what I do and get more use from it?’

    It’s a sad day when teaching dance seems more interesting and satisfying than actually using the skills I’ve spent so many years developing.

  2. Glen – Don’t forget when you went to that elite private school, you clearly demonstrated your outstanding leadership qualtities and ability to mix with all levels within the organisation. You received the prestigious “leadership and influence cup” at the end of Year 12 and you demonstrated your compassionate nature to all and sundry, whether it involved putting in a fresh water supply in a village in the “golden triangle” or helping the kids with disabilties.

    You have achieved so much in your life journey so far – don’t be too impatient, I am sure things will improve and you will find your niche.

  3. thanks mum 🙂

    yeah, i know what you mean DP. I know I said I wasn’t, but I am actually very bitter about the current state of labour relations involving casual academics. The university admin could save money by hiring full time tutors, who teach across a range of courses. It would, however, transform tha character of post-phd teaching from a system organised around exploiting the belief in a possible fulltime gig somwhere for the purpose of cheap labour to the reality of a permanent job on about 45k a year after a decade of intense study.

  4. Glen, you’ve got to follow your own star mate, but every time a talented academic from outside the middle-classes leaves the academy because of gate-keeping based on narrowly class-based self interest, it reinforces the prejudices you speak about.

    I reckon there’s probably a lot of first-generation graduates out there who have made it because of your example.

  5. Hey Glen,

    I completely understand this … even many of those with continuing positions are wondering what to do about it all at the moment, and of course things are much better for us that for casuals! However, it’s hard to know what will happen in the Oz university system even over the next twelve months, so maybe you should hang in there, or at least keep an eye on things. Lots of baby boomers are retiring now, so that should open things up a little. And there is the “promise” (though we’ll see) of Rudd and co’s education revolution .. but the main thing I wanted to say is that it would be a great pity if the system was to lose someone of your intelligence and abilities! Take care of yourself and do what you have to, but keep making connections, trying out publishers, and dare I say it, in some postpostsstructuralist way – believe in yourself …

  6. this wont be intelligble but here goes – for some obscure reason reading post-romance crash tonight (ominous- not seen the movie, never bothereed apparently)impressed. but glen fuller…on the back of convoluted, hors doerv submit enthusiasm 2009 m/c _ shit you sell a wierded out version on the oct. 1 post – is that/this a prank or a wank or too frank dudue, sorry to the mum. just cause you can get 100k as a ta mining does not make it right, sunshine. turn it up are you made of piss and wind or did you expect to be lord of academia and could u handle it.?. sydney got you down darling, after all you have read- do you lose your nerve so quick. straight up- change your attitude and do something for everyone else ddidummms. reinvent useful. thid disclaimer may not cut it but, advisedley people that is most sane and modestly proeffessional people should not blog under the influence of free speeech, I mean to say alcholloool. sure i am and not playing but go figure. maybe itsd all bullshit and you can jus foregt deleuze. love the ballsy u

  7. please accept my apologies for garbled nonsense last night – you seem to be making such progress and it would be shame not to persevere. again sorry for stupid message

  8. I think the change will be a good idea, you can always go back to academia after a fews years working in the mines. Blow some money on the XD, awesome. Buy a house!

  9. hi john, thanks for your support mate!

    satch, like I said, there are a few things that need to play out first. I appreciate the call about losing my nerve, which I interpret in the sense of ‘what nerve!’ as I think you are spot on, I have lost my nerve. In some ways this is similar to what Andrew is suggesting above, too.

    Nerve, not in the capacity to act, but in the automatic will to act. The just-do-it-ness of contemporary precarious labour relations. I have no interest in assimilating a structural ‘nerve’ so I twitch and convulse when expected. I see the paranoid convulsions of all the great people I meet in academia twitching to the ‘opportunities’ of an institutional nerve. Is this what needs to happen to get a job? I don’t know. I know I don’t like it. Some people are good at it. It has had a disabling effect for me; even when I’ve had a decent night’s sleep, I am exhausted: it has affected my capacity to follow my thinking. There is more to the world, I need _my_ nerve back, and it is in the world that I’ll be able to resuscitate it. Maybe this can happen within academia, in the right time/place? I don’t know. I need to find it again, and to take care of it.

  10. I think maybe you should stop labelling yourself and forcing yourself into boxes – even ironic ones.

    I do know what you mean about the university/class thing. I managed to offend numerous clever little poppets by not having heard of their fancy schools or particularly caring about them. It wasn’t a world I knew, it wasn’t even a world I could access, and after I’d moved back to Sydney and started uni (again) I’d grown up enough to realise what was and what wasn’t relevant.
    Having said that, I doubt my ability to compete in the worlds that they expect and that they walked straight into after graduation. Even now I tend to sit – and work – firmly in the class I was born into. I suspect that might stem from cowardice though.

  11. After (selfishly?) noting that academia would be impoverished by your departure, I have to say good on you for refusing to put up with the shit that our profession has become. You talked about being worthy of a situation, but mate, it’s the other way round: the university system, including university- and publisher-sanctioned definitions of “research”, are not worthy of you. You’re too fucking good for this shit.

  12. lol, you throw the term ‘bourgie’ around a lot for someone committed to the notion that class is a social construct.

    Hope everything is going OK. WA has no jobs for philosophy academics (not even casual jobs, really) so I’ve been thinking much the same thoughts. Except for the flouro thing, and I have no idea what a TA is. Mind you, my thesis isn’t even back yet. It could still be hailed as a masterpiece. But perhaps not, so hey, I’m glad there are other people as pessimistic as I.

    Will send pics when I get my rims n spoiler, k?

  13. class? i got no class at all. you should see the way I dress.

    Yes, the sense we make of differences is a social construction in hard and soft senses (in langugae and the material conditions that reproduce social relations)

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