I have always wanted to participate in a think tank, a gathering of people with shared purpose and focused minds. But think tanks, it seemed, were only for political strategists and well-funded centers outside of the academy. I have a sharp memory, in fact, of a faculty meeting years ago that brought this point home. A woman colleague who studies black gay writers shared her concern that university work was becoming more and more about management, committee meetings, and office tasks and less about research and writing. The sober response she received from someone in authority at that meeting: “This is no think tank.” He might as well have said “This no country club,” given the way his response shut down the dialogic possibilities opened by her comment. Some people reading this blog might wish to argue right about now that working at a university is indeed like working at a country club, but I won’t wade into those weeds here or try to sketch out the many kinds of extensive and indeed intensive labor that professors engage in. Maybe some other time. Suffice it to say: yes, there are many wonderful privileges endemic to an academic life for the lucky few who can find secure employment as universities move toward cost-saving, part-time labor schemes. But having the space and time to reflect deeply, to think creatively, to produce truly new knowledge – this is a privilege on the wane, even in the academy. Continue reading
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