Category Archives: What Is A Scholar?

Ce moys de mai

ma verte cotte je vestirai.

I have been trying to decide whether or not to leave the Democratic Party formally. I am going to vote Green for President in November but I am still attached to the mid-century idea of the Democratic Party as the party of the working class.

I regret I cannot be a loyal Democrat — the allegedly realistic option in the United States after the suppression of the Left — but that Political Compass Test says even the most liberal Democrats are quite far away from me on many points. They are “tolerant” like me but they are a capitalist party and apparently I do not have the capitalist attitude at all — I am socialist and anarchist, even more than I realize or acknowledge.

I see ever more clearly how I take after my grandmother and great-aunt, the Socialists (who knew and argued with Emma Goldman), and my great-uncle, the Wobbly. Reading about the IWW once again I note that its internal arguments are the ones I have with myself. Perhaps I am it or it is me.

Perhaps I was explicitly given it to inherit. When I got my first car Addison and my grandmother were already dead but the car allowed me to go visit my great-aunt on my own for the first time. I did not think of it then, I just went because I wanted to, but it was probably very important to her that I did this. She was at least 94 and may also have supposed it could be the last time she saw me. Perhaps she made sure to offer me the legacy that day.

With her and Addison the usual place to have lunch would have been the Blue Rock, which had been a speakeasy and had bawdy-rooms upstairs in the early twentieth century but was respectable now. We could not go, she said, because she had been the day before, so we went elsewhere.

What she had to say started out: “Don’t tell anyone, but I am still a Socialist.”


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My shadow resumé

Others have written shadow resumés of failures, but mine is of roads not taken. In the years in which I was realizing what my real interests were, I had these intuitions:

24-25. Realize I wanted a B.S. in Economics, and to go from there. (What I could have done, with my M.A. and partial Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, emphasizing Latin America: move programs, to Latin American Studies.)

25-28. Founding member of a union that is still going strong, system wide.

28-29. Realize I wanted to move from poetry and poetics to critical race theory.

30. Realize I would rather teach beginning Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science or History than beginning foreign languages.

31-32. Dream of a second Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies, leading to work in international organizations.

34ff. Dream of the J.D., to work on immigration, trade, globalization, human rights, criminal defense, and the global prison industrial complex.

42ff. Intense work on program building, student and faculty rights, funding, research support, curriculum modernization, governance, academic freedom.

In retrospect it is quite clear what I was discovering during those ten years. I acted on none of this because I had already gone so far on this road.

Now I must stay on this road but must cause it to resemble those roads as much as I can. At least I am in Spanish, a more convenient field than some.

There is something else as well: the reason I was always attracted to the fields I was was that nobody in the family was in them, knew about them, approved of them.
I felt, and feel free in them, autonomous, my own person in ways I never could allow myself to be in arts or humanities or literature.


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Filed under What Is A Scholar?, Working

The slow professor

At last, someone agrees with me and does not needle, preach or scream about “time management.” I who graduated a year or two early from high school, I who finished college in four years and graduate school within “normative time,” I who took more than one unattractive tenure-track job over well-paid contingent positions in desirable places because “you have to be on the tenure track,” I who did not change professions when I wanted to because people said I had done a Ph.D. in a certain field and now owed a debt to that field, and must “make a contribution to it with my work” … I am the last person who needs to be told, as I have been since graduate school, increasingly, to work faster, and faster, and faster.

I also do not need to learn to say “no.” People who think saying no suffices, are people who have never actually been overworked, someone said recently, and they were right. If you are overworked and say no, the answer is: “All right, we will just dock your pay, then.” That happened to me this semester. So all the people with academic advice can just go suck eggs.

Meanwhile there is a new book, that I am sure I endorse. Look:

In their new book, The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy – fittingly, with a snail on the cover – Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber apply the principles of the “slow” movement to academia. Proudly proclaiming themselves “slow professors,” the authors offer insights on how to manage teaching, research and collegiality in an era when more professors feel “beleaguered, managed, frantic, stressed and demoralized” as they juggle the increasingly complex expectations of students, the administration, colleagues – and themselves. “Distractedness and fragmentation characterize contemporary academic life,” they write. Today’s professors, they argue, need to slow down, devote more time to “doing nothing,” and enjoy more pleasure in their research and teaching. It’s time, they say, “to take back the intellectual life of the university.”



Filed under What Is A Scholar?, Working

Sans titre

Sitting at a desk reading and taking notes on a quiet morning, looking out at a gravel road. The sky is gray but not dark, and the air is mild. The refrigerator hums and there is alternative radio.

It is the same as it ever was.

I thought that when I became a professor there would be many mornings like this, the kind of morning I associate with school.


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Cornejo II

Es evidente que categorías como mestizaje e hibridez toman pie en disciplinas ajenas al análisis cultural y literario, básicamente en la biología, con el agravante —en el caso del mestizaje— que se trata de un concepto ideologizado en extremo. En lo que toca a hibridez la asociación casi espontánea tiene que ver con la esterilidad de los productos híbridos, objeción tantas veces repetida que hoy día García Canclini tiene una impresionante lista de productos híbridos y fecundos … De cualquier manera esa asociación no es fácil de destruir. De hecho, en el diccionario Velázquez inglés-español la palabra híbrido suscita de inmediato una acepción algo brutal: “mula”. Por supuesto que reconozco que el empleo de estos préstamos semánticos tiene riesgos inevitables; al mismo tiempo considero que detrás de ellos como que se desplaza una densa capa de significación que engloba y justifica cada concepción de las cosas. Incluso estaría tentando de afirmar que una lectura de ese sustrato de significado es más productiva que la simple declaración de amenidad e impertinencia de las categorías empleadas para esclarecer un punto concreto.

Here is Cornejo I.


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J’ai compris

The reason I do not like being a professor, I finally see, is traditional language teaching. I never learned languages this way and when I said I was willing to teach foreign languages as service, although it was not my principal objective in life, I meant it — but did not realize that what I was committing to was traditional language teaching.

I could explain what I mean by this but I do not have time. Nonetheless it is a great revelation.


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…pero blogueo sin embargo. I want to say that I resent being treated like a fractious employee over a project I am undertaking after hours, out of good will, for the sake of the department’s image.

When I give my best estimate of the total time needed to finish by the deadline, and of how many people may therefore be needed to work on it, I am giving a progress report and well considered professional advice.

Some people cannot see such things, but only think in terms of complaining, whining, balking, and backbiting. Are they in terrible emotional pain?


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