[URBANTH-L]The Temp-Scholar Market and the Future of Anthropology

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Wed May 2 15:08:10 EDT 2007

Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to thank you for the very useful responses that I received,
regarding the design of a course that looks into the intersections of
urban and rural life.  I received many good tips. The same day that
I posted my query, however, I was notified that, due to budget
cuts, my position wasn't being renewed.  The news was a complete
surprise, and now this proposed course may never be taught, unfortunately.

This is the second time since receiving my Ph.D. that I find myself
in this position, and 2/3-3/4 of the recent anthropology Ph.D.s I know
describe similar situations -- a job market that expects them to
take non-tenure-track jobs, either as adjuncts or in visiting posts,
and to teach heavier work loads for lower wages, while grinning
and bearing the nomadic lifestyle they "chose," when they went
into the profession.

Before I took this position, it had been tenure-track, and was
slated to become so again (of course, there would have been a
national search). But due to the Ohio University administration's
"mismanagement" of the budget, after arriving I was informed that
the tenure-track search had been delayed, and that my 1-yr. post
(a cash cow with a heavier teaching load) would be renewed.
I'd planned to teach here a second year, and go on the market
next fall. But now, in late April, I learn that the job is being cut ...
at a time when the seasonal market is closed.  I'm left with the
prospect of having no job or health insurance for next year,
and a sense of embitterment about the absent leadership role
of tenured faculty who seem too tethered into the ideology of
the university ranking system, and a belief in the inevitability of
market changes (and that, after all, that they had struggled too,
when they were young), to realize the dramatic human costs
that come from empowering a model of disposability. In a field
like anthropology, where the job market is extremely tight, I
believe that the proliferation of such hire-and-fire employment
patterns (along with the 80 hr. work week) is really killing off
the next generation of academia, and the much needed new
critical paradigm that it has been (quite honestly) just too
exhausted to bring to fruitation.

I must say, also, that following a three-decade trend of rising
tuition costs and a poor economy, very few individuals from my
background are making it into academia, and particularly not into
a competitive field like anthropology.  I grew up in inner-city Baltimore,
and am the only of four siblings to complete high school. So
when I research poverty studies and joblessness, it's not just a
"career" for me.  It's a lot more than that.  If you've been there,
and have family and friends who still are, then you know
what I'm talking about.

If it's not entirely taboo, I'd really like to open this issue up to
discussion.  How great of an impact is the corporatization of
universities across the U.S. (and abroad) having upon our
discipline, and how often, or successfully, are our departments
responding to hiring-and-firing practices that are intensifying
sometimes rather arbitrary ranking structures, and which
have normalized the treatment of  recent Ph.D.s, as
disposable, dime-a-dozen work horses?

your moderator,

Angela Jancius

(Urban/social justice anthropologist-for-hire. Please
email to inquire.)

Angela Jancius, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Ohio University
<jancius at ohio.edu>

In our lives, we have two or three opportunities to be a hero, but almost 
every day, we have the opportunity not to be a coward.

- Spanish proverb

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