• Can Academics Have Non-Academic Interests? Or The Academic Politics of Respectability

    Non-Academic-Image

    Deciding to start a blog, pursue my freelance writing dreams, start a business AND pursue a tenure-track job, were not easy decisions to make. Deciding to write about those things publicly on said blog, was also not an easy decision to make. Why would that be might you ask? After all, these are all things that your average person would be excited about, and would want to brag about right?

    Well, the life of an academic is never quite that simple.

    Liana Silva-Ford has a great post on her blog about graduate student guilt. In “Academics on Academia: Grad Student Guilt” Liana breaks down a pervasive myth in graduate school that doctoral students should have no lives, no interests, no families, no nothing that isn’t academic in the purest sense.

    You see, as graduate students we are discouraged from discussing our “personal lives.” We are supposed to be completely dedicated to our work. I can’t count the number of times I talked about or heard others talk about all the work we have to do, how we haven’t left the house in days, how we fell asleep in our office because we had to hand in that paper in the morning. Even though we talk about these things and we are aware that they are not necessarily positive things, we try to top each other in our stories of academic agony. We do it because we believe, deep down, that a committed graduate student does not have a life. The only life he/she has is the life of the mind. And so we put the pressure on ourselves and on each other.

    So when I decided that I wanted to be an academic, as well as a writer, a business woman and **gasp** maybe even a person with hobbies, I was worried about writing publicly about it. What would my mentors think? Would they take this as a sign that I wasn’t working hard enough on my dissertation? Would potential employers think I’m not fully committed to the tenure-track? Would friends and colleagues judge me as being less than intellectual? After all, as a young(ish) black woman in a mostly male, white discipline, shouldn’t I be even more careful and attentive to the academic politics of respectability?

    There really is no way to tell. What I do know is that if I’m going to be a sane, happy and productive person, I need to have varied interests. I need to have a life. Can I do this and write a great academic book on black women, politics, violence and poverty? I sure as heck think so.

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3 Responsesso far.

  1. Katelin says:

    Sorry to comment late, but I completely relate here! My PhD adviser doesn’t know anything about my blog, which at this point is quite large. NI don’t hide it from him because of its content…but because it’s simply NOT labwork. He also doesn’t know I’m music director at my church. He’d be horrified. Thanks fro the reminder that we’re not alone.

    • AMoffettB says:

      no need to apologize at all, I appreciate any and all comments! 🙂 I completely understand, for years I was hesitant to have a public website because I was terrified that I would be labeled as lacking academic focus. However, one of the wonderful things about my department at U of C, is how many of my colleagues and faculty mentors have hobbies of their own that they are very public about! So once I opened my eyes and started paying attention to their facebook feeds, I became more willing to be public about my interest in academic, as well as non-academic writing. thankfully, it didn’t impact my job market search in a negative way! 🙂

  2. Katelin says:

    (SN: The gradschool guilt link is broken :-/)

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