Well I’m not blogging either, so there.

Cindy’s not the only one not blogging.  Here are a few things I’m not writing about:

1)Transparency. Mark wanted me to write about it ages ago, and I’ve thought about it, and don’t know what to say. Part of what troubles me about HTS is the overt lack of transparency (does that make them transparently opaque?), in the name of national security. Is this just a question of degree? Because, really, none of us who do or who have done research among our fellow human beings are completely open books. I have yet to post my undiluted field notes for all and sundry to see. I did, however, file a human subjects protocol, and I wonder if one could look it up at the office at my PhD-granting institution if one wanted to. I like to think that being forced to think bureaucratically (that is, having to file paperwork certifying that you have thought about it) about risk, and harm, and doing thoughtful research, is one of the best ways to try to ensure, as a discipline, that such thoughtful and responsible research is carried out. Sort of like, if you think someone is watching, you might behave better.

So at what point does the difference in the degree of transparency, between the run-of-the-mill anthropologist (moi), and the HTS practitioner (not-moi), become a difference in kind?

2)How damn hard it is to write when you are not in graduate school anymore. And have kids. And work a little bit. And want to have time to fart around on the internet, go for walks, and occasionally interact in meaningful ways with spouse, friends, family. No one speaks of this while you are in graduate school! Maybe they did, and I wasn’t listening. This sounds like whining, but I really do have a point: in graduate school, all you have to do is read and write. The whole setup is supposed to facilitate that. So those people who were doing grad school at the same time they had other obligations have a leg-up on those of us slackers who Just Did Grad School. Now, in my ostensibly grown-up life post-graduate school, I’d like to write a bit, and read some intellectual stuff that’s not just what I’m making my students responsible for, but the energy and inclination is not there. I’d have to form an infrastructure from whole cloth. Find writing partners. Schedule time for “writing.” Schedule time for “research.” And carve that time out of the rest of my existence. This sounds like a very sorry-ass-tiny-first-world-problem, I’m sure, but part of what I want to point out is that there is no systemic anything that gives young academics in the non-tenure-track workforce support to write. I suspect the non-tenure track thing might also be key, because there are infrastructures in place to facilitate tenured faculty writing. The rest of us are On Our Own.

In graduate school, the motivational structure around productivity is external. Outside of graduate school, and in the absence of tenure requirements, the motivational structure needs to be internal. Clearly, I am finding these conditions challenging.

3) The fact that Barack Obama’s mom was an anthropologist. Ruth Behar has already written movingly about this, so I don’t have to, but I’ve been pondering anthropological thoughts throughout the campaign, and even after the election, and wish that there had been some sort of Anthropologists for the Anthropologist’s Son group around, pushing us as a discipline into some kind of spotlight. Surely, his mother’s passion for anthropology, the one that led her to eventually settle and build a family in Indonesia (among other places), informs the choices that the President-Elect makes/will make about how to move through the world? About his approach to his own racial identity? About his perspective on the role of government in society?

There’s another blog entry waiting to happen, and clearly it is not coming from me.


5 Responses to Well I’m not blogging either, so there.

  1. This quote a friend has at the bottom of her e-mail sounds like it might apply”

    “She was supposed to be an intellectual, but at night the only thing she felt the energy to do was watch Dynasty…it had not always been like this. Not at all.” – Mischa Berlinski in “Fieldwork”

  2. Some good news from the other end of the life cycle. It was 1976 when, 32 years old, with a three year-old daughter, I crashed and burned, a.k.a., didn’t get tenure. It was over a decade later, when my daughter was in her teens and our family was feeling economically secure, that my academic itch returned. I got out my old field notes, wrote a small article and timidly submitted it to a minor journal. Got published. Emboldened, I wrote a bigger article and sent it to a major journal. Got rejected, but in the nicest possible way, by an editor who told me what I needed to do–catch up on the stuff I’d missed in the last decade–in order to get it published. Started work on another piece, mentioned on an email list, got a pointer from a friend, and wound up with a chapter in a book. Five years later my own book appeared. Now I’m doing some more research.

    I mention this stuff in hopes of encouraging those who are still young, have young kids around the house, are maybe in what is described, delicately, as financially unstable circumstances, to believe that life won’t always be like this. You, too, may find a path that will let you make folks like Benjamin Whorf (an insurance adjuster) or Lewis Henry Morgan (a lawyer) your models.

  3. It is always hard to write whether in grad school, in a settled life, or on the fly. Sometime this is a good thing, too, as what comes quickly to us is not always the wisest.

  4. I recall reading somewhere that Max Weber, who suffered from serious depression, could only write two hours a day. But, hey, look at the output. Confirms some of the best advice this wordsmith ever received: Writing is like playing a musical instrument. At first, it can seem awfully hard; but with lots of practice comes fluency.

  5. Writer’s block is a terrible thing. I have spent all morning wandering around the house in order to avoid the rather straightforward multiple choice exam I need to write by Monday.

    The good news is that as John notes, even a little bit everyday in the end can add up to a lot–Persistence is a key. Just one page per day can result in a 30 page article in one month, and a whole book mss. in one year (…now if only my multiple choice exam were so easy!)