Category Archives: What Is A Scholar?

Extrinsic and intrinsic

I was happy today because work was going well. I have been impaired for so long I barely know what this is like. It is another planet.

In the meantime I was meditating on this post and thread. I could repeat various points. If desire were enough, it would also be true that hard work was enough to make you rich. Yes, people do in fact need information and ideas on how to do things. Some strains of academic advice are pointless or miss the point (my original interest in the post, and in the post it discusses).

But I am primarily interested in the question of “extrinsic” and “intrinsic” reasons for doing things. Should one do things for some form of gain, or do them for themselves in a very pure way? Where does the border between intrinsic and extrinsic lie? Are we not all actually located in their overlapping? I am as committed to field as anyone, although perhaps differently so.

I really am research first. I want, and always wanted research and writing in a town with libraries, archives and cultural life, and a harrassment-free workplace. I would change fields to get this. That scandalizes people since it means the field, the specific discovery, is not the “instrinsic” reward I seek–it is the activity itself, the atmosphere, I want. Am I more “extrinsically” motivated, then, than is meet?

(Yes — because these motivations do not fit the US academic model, they fit the think-tank or journalistic or other models. At the same time, I would never have understood all of these things had I happened to always work at a place like USP. Then I would think I was suited to academia in a seamless way.)

(I am efficient and if anything too fast; I am research first; I have administrative talent and do not oppose “service.” This is why all the coaxing to work daily and more quickly, and put research higher on the agenda that many seem to need are destructive, not helpful for me. It is not that I am anti-teaching, I am good at it, find it interesting, and believe it should be done well, but one thing I do NOT need is to be reminded that teaching is only one par of the job. Also notice how I do not say I MUST have a teaching job–I say I MUST have a research job. This seems to be a great difference between me and most academics.)

HEART OF POST: I do notice, though, that when I have gotten stuck on things the issue is always that, for “extrinsic” reasons, I am trying to make an argument I do not really support (utter lack of “intrinsic” reason), or I am trying to rush something along (insufficient emphasis on intrinsic reason). I notice further that while my actual motivations are almost entirely intrinsic, my training is to ignore these reasons almost entirely and focus on the extrinsic — one is working to survive.

(Although I have also always said that if survival is the only reason to do things, then we can just work in a bank. This observation is considered scandalous by many academics. I think it is considered scandalous because their actual attitude is closer to that of a bank worker than they want to admit.)

Intrinsic: as Amálio and I said back then, we got into this to have fun. Or is that extrinsic? Fun involves learning words, saying things, and drawing pictures, I said when very young. Later I said it was seeing research happen, considering its meaning, doing some of one’s own, making hypotheses, combing through documents, contemplating fascinating statements, having odd adventures while finding the places where the documents lay, and writing prose. Are these extrinsic or intrinsic motivations and if the result is not that one gets to continue, or the cost is too high in some way, did one lack “intrinsic” motivation in the first place? No, and that is why I think we are all located in the overlap.

So intrinsic to me does not mean that one expects no “reward.” It does mean that one must not relinquish integrity or voice. Those are the basic elements, without which all organization falls apart and all strategies and methods of work management fail.




Filed under Questions, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

To do

This article; the syllabi; the LASA2015 abstract; the grading; the parking permit.

In the fall: the other article.

It is strange no longer to collude in my own oppression but I appear to be achieving this. I will become stronger still.

The very worst aspect of working at our place is the way we are undermined by the administration and used to undermine each other. I will guard against this.



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So it is going now, and I am becoming one with this project. Whole. The image of jumping off into a project does not work for me. I decided it was not a question of jumping off, but of drawing things toward me.

You have to think in terms of integration and love, not alienation, rubrics, duty. That is my academic advice.



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That work allergy

I do not think it is lack of interest, much though I have tried to claim over the past twenty years that it is. And true as it is that I have other interests that could be professional interests, interests I feel I could pursue with greater happiness and success because they are in fields less fraught for me and also more open to me. But once again, I do not think my academic problem is lack of interest.

It is, rather, the sensation of having been imprisoned and having the jailers use me work, which they have appropriated, to beat me with. One can defend against that perverse use of one’s work by saying one has lost interest in it. But this explanation is not satisfactory as it is inaccurate. More accurately, that work needs to be rescued from its glass case (they have used it as an instrument of torture but really it is the Sleeping Beauty).

And yes, one has the power. One forgets but one has it, and that is why this weblog was conceived of as insurgent: Sandinista, Zapatista, Freirista. And I see now more clearly than ever why I dislike academic advice. It not only assumes one does not know what one is doing or that one is not actually interested in what one is doing — it also ignores what is the heart of the matter for very many of us.

The issue is not not knowing what one is doing or not being interested in what one is doing or not being willing to sacrifice for what one has decided to do. It is having work stolen and competence seen as a liability. It is having been told repeatedly that one is not authorized to do this. It is not for you, you are not invited, you will never make it…

There is no amount of discipline or “time management” that will have its desired effect if you have been convinced you either are not competent or should not be, and that your work either is not yours or should not be. There are also no medications or rest cures to cure this problem. It has to be named and recognized to be countered. I oppose academic advice because it is so often deployed and also constructed to interdict such naming. It comes not to clarify but to cloud vision.

I resist and fear not the work itself but the officious advice that surrounds it. I do not need exhortations to rush or other warnings of the various sorts one gets. I need to remember that I am in fact authorized to do what I am doing, and to use my time doing it.

Sondé miroir, O Legba. We are all great sacrificers and penitents.



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Ser alguien

Today with Creole plate lunches we were talking about strategies for getting things done. We already know that in summer, to assign oneself four hours of work each day and take the rest of the time off is a wonderful, relaxing, renewing strategy. First a week’s absolute vacation, then this. So we are not talking at a basic level about discipline, “time management,” or how to work otherwise. We were talking about how to be the people who work, how to retain self respect, how to maintain lucid focus in an environment that undermines and derails.

Elements in the discussion are all topics we have explored before,  but we are concentrating our ideas and making them concise. In no particular order:

- Women, under constant assault. Identities (particularly professional identities) under constant assault. Having to recover, put one’s shards back together, in order to do real work. This has to be honored and space has to be made for it, and the reconstruction has to be done consciously.

- One must fight on one’s own side.

- One must remember that other people can sometimes be wrong.

- I tend to put my work last because I put myself last.

- You have to revive yourself to revive your work.

- Dissociation and withdrawal are my reactions to trauma. I have to heal these to work. Every day.

Conversing in person on these matters I was more sophisticated and subtle than is this post, but these notes may be an aide-mémoire. The key insight is that I have to power to be supportive of myself and I do not use it — I was taught that only through self-destruction or at least passivity could one earn survival, but I can in fact use my powers on my own behalf.




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Sur la productivité

We — my only real colleague and I — have both decided, independently of one another, that we are no longer unhappy with Maringouin, our town, or even with Vichy State, our university. It is our main department that dogs us, by undermining our senses of self and professional expertise. I, meanwhile, have been talking to this post, which is really about another post.

As we know, I am against (most standard) academic advice for reasons the original poster (whom I have not read directly) articulates: either you are interested, and you know what you are doing, and you develop a method, or you are not and you do not. The manuals designed to convert non researchers into researchers are misguided, in their efforts to mechanically convert non research oriented people into productive machines. One needs to learn the secrets of any profession and tricks of every trade, yes, but that is a different matter.

I don’t agree that just wanting something is enough to give one the strength to surmount all obstacles. And my own worst problem is not lack of desire but the feeling that I do not deserve to do this work. There are historical reasons for that, which I have discussed before. My remedy now comes in the form of short sentences, designed to dissipate the complex knot of misguided thoughts that tells me I do not deserve this and I cannot do it because it is not mine to do.

I used to explain the mental fog that comes over me by saying I was not interested in the work. That is why I have detached from it, I would say. At these times it is really myself with whom I have lost touch. (I should write a crime drama about it, in which either I or my work have been kidnapped, or both, and we must be reconciled.)

Now when the fog comes over me, rather than ask whether I have the right work methods, or whether I am actually interested in what I am doing, I counter demons by saying: I am a person. I am right about curriculum (there is a context for that statement); I have professional expertise; I have good research insights; I would do well to fight on my own side rather than against myself; and most importantly, this work is mine.




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Some essays on assessment and its relation to governance that I would like to send my colleagues

…but I would appear to be preaching.

Chris Newfield

“In contrast to professional authority, which is grounded in expertise and expert communities, managerial authority flows from its ties to owners and is formally independent of expertise. . . The absence of contact with and substantive knowledge of core activities, in managerial culture, function as an operational strength.”

Dave Mazella

Paul Corrigan

And this whole site Teaching and Learning in Higher Ed is a true resource.




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Christopher Newfield

In contrast to professional authority, which is grounded in expertise and expert communities, managerial authority flows from its ties to owners and is formally independent of expertise. Management obviously needs to be competent, but competence seems no longer to require either substantive expertise with the firm’s products or meaningful contact with employees. The absence of contact with and substantive knowledge of core activities, in managerial culture, function as an operational strength. In universities, faculty administrators lose effectiveness when they are seen as too close to the faculty to make tough decisions.

Read the entire text — it is important.



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Work creatively

Try it.

I want to write another post about rushing, the evils of rushing.



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More on interdisciplinarity

Here is a random article. Notice how much history and political science this professor knows. Too many allegedly “interdisciplinary” people merely repeat clichés and have not two (or more) disciplines but none.

It has been said that since I am interested in law and justice related issues I should merely begin writing about them. But I think people need actual training in the fields they work in.



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