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.





Filed under Banes, News, What Is A Scholar?

9 responses to “Sur la productivité

  1. Z

    I have tended to think: if I were not doing this work, I would not be treated as I am, in which case I am willing to renounce the work, to stop my torture at the hands of these evil colleagues. (That is, I see now, I am willing to accept being hounded out of the field — OJO).

  2. Z

    …for future reference, copying discussion elsewhere:

    “…feeling that I do not deserve to do this work. There are historical reasons for that, which I have discussed before.” I’d be interested to see that discussion. Where would I find it?

    You could plow through the whole blog. Part of the issue is that I dropped my original research field pre tenure because a therapist, whom I had engaged because I had always wanted to face certain family problems I had, said my research field indicated I must be a child sex abuse victim and must be cured by recovering memories. I was so sure that was quackish and would be destructive that I quit the research field so as to remove myself from the danger of having to undergo a therapy that might do permanent damage. The other thing he said was that I “should not be” as successful as I was — had to be from a worse background than I thought, should not have been able to do PhD, get tenure track jobs, etc., so all of this was some form of repression and charade. When you add this to having been raised in the belief that you were incompetent and less-than, that something was wrong with you, that you would never be able to do anything, a therapy like that is very destructive. Add to this, then, being in a field dominated by men who do not all think women can do things, and having that be especially true of your daily work life, and you can see why all in all I feel I am doing work I should not be doing or that does not really belong to me. Then you can add the fact that in original research field I ran straight into my father’s work and realized that if I kept on going I would end up refuting him. We had sat through so many painful dinners where he told us who his enemies were that I felt I could not cite these people approvingly while he was still living.

  3. Z

    This appears to be what started the whole thing.

    “Several years ago I declined to give a talk for professors about being productive in academic research, because the only thing I could say that I believed in was “if you wanted to do it, you’d already be doing it, and if you don’t want to do it, you probably shouldn’t,” and I thought that would just make people angry. This article sort of ratifies parts of that ungiven talk, though: those who do things because they are into it do a better job than those who do things for an external reward, even if they’re also into it.”

    Referring to:
    The Secret of Effective Motivation
    Encourage people to do something for its own sake, not for its benefits.

  4. Z

    …Anyway the issues for me, when I am stuck on work are, lack of access to the self that does this work or lack of access to that professional persona (?); having experienced academic work as space of trauma, place of attacks on personhood. All of this is a feminist issue, etc.

  5. “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.)” that might be a very important idea for me. I thank you for articulating the experience we read as disinterest in research this way… now I need to go away and think and see what the thinking feels like, but thank you!

  6. Z

    I see yet more clearly now: it really is all abut power. (According to Reeducation one should not have power in one’s life. Health was drifting. This fashionable idea seemed very destructive to me, and putting it into practice made me highly anxious. Yet I had been told that whatever I knew was wrong, and that a person like me would of course experience as bad something that was actually good.) But power is important, as without it you cannot do a thing.

    How can the sentences that all of one’s perceptions are wrong, that one’s achievements are failures, and that one should relinquish all power NOT demotivate entirely? Furthermore, how can advice on “time management” even begin to address these things? How can the additional sentence that if one will not accept that it is a mere problem of “time management,” then one does not wish to solve the problem, NOT be utterly infuriating?

    I do not wish to give Reeducation, of which standard academic advice is a part, any more discussion or space here, but I do see that I must still reclaim some power. I will say where my research time goes, though — to climbing out of that well and turning on the light.

  7. Z

    So this is the upshot: others may lack skills or interest, or simply not have research as a personal priority, but I have difficulty facing all academic work (not just research or writing, but all activities, and especially teaching) because: (a) my experience is not that it is “torture,” but that I will be tortured while doing it and because of doing it … so I fear it because I fear pain, also because I learned that if one self-harmed one could escape the worst tortures, meaning I would have to undertake self-harm as the most practical solution, and I did not want to do it; and (b) because in Reeducation we had to pledge not to exert power in any area of life, which of course meant we could not easily do anything independent or responsible.

    I have to disassociate academic work with torture, self-harm, and feelings of powerlessness and the attendant hopelessness. The first half of my work time every day goes to climbing out of that well and turning on the light. Far too much time goes to this and I am bored with it: I need much shorter sentences. First, I think I have been working with a disability since these disasters happened, and give myself credit for it. Second, power in your life and authority in your work are not only good things to have, they are necessities. And third, that work needs to be rescued from its glass case, and I have the power to do it.

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