Dear AAA: Sink or Swim?

This statement, written by Jason Antrosio, Eliza Jane Darling, Sarah Kendzior and myself, is a response to a post on the American Anthropological Association blog that discusses our recent writings about adjuncts, anthropology, and academia.

We are gratified that the American Anthropological Association has taken note of our critical commentary on the vagaries of the academic career, and we thank fellow blogger Joslyn O. for publicizing our work on the Association website. However, we would like to clear up a few misconceptions.

The AAA post suggests we represent two “camps,” but we share only one: a commitment to ending precarious intellectual labour. We protest the transformation of our profession into a swelling Hooverville congregated on the margins of universities whose dwindling tenured citizenry is bankrolled by our low-wage, low-benefit, low-security, low-respect work.

The bleak future of the aspiring anthropologist is not a concoction rooted in cynicism. It is an empirically demonstrable, material condition that speaks its truth in the language of debt, dependency, discouragement, and occasionally, the dole. We queue up for the work time and again because we deeply value anthropology. There is little other reason to plough the terrain of a field whose prospects for success resemble a lottery more than a competition. But as the national belt tightens in the face of prolonged economic crisis, contingent workers are increasingly unable to afford to subsidize the discipline financially, however highly we regard it intellectually. And the dignity deficit takes its toll on us all.

Anthropology is, and is not, “what we make it.” The most powerful producers of anthropological policy and practice seldom include the ranks of the precarious, yet even the privileged can lay no proprietary claim to a field whose fate, like that of its sister subjects in the social sciences, arts and humanities, rests at the mercy of profitability. Nonetheless, anthropology’s commitment to the science of social justice makes the studied ignorance of its own internal inequities insupportably ironic.

The resolution of these contradictions is served by neither silence nor sympathy, but solidarity. An academy structured upon the division of a two-tiered labor market discourages such an alliance. Yet we hope that anthropologists will join together to fight for the value of our work beyond the barometer of the bottom line. We must, for the same structural forces that divide tenured and contingent faculty threaten to subsume us all beneath a wave of public retrenchment, whose end game will inter us on the same sinking ship if we do not turn the tide. While the reserve army may constitute the foot soldiers in this battle for survival, the generals are hardly immune to the war on intellectual value.

The AAA can play a role in promoting solidarity. The first step is acknowledging that we are a house divided: not into camps which value, or do not value, the craft of anthropology, but into classes which are unevenly able to extract a living wage from that craft. The second step is to extend the professional respect and responsibility the Association demands for students, informants, the public and science itself to our fellow workers, within and without the academy. This solidarity is not only desirable but vital, for the future of anthropology is far more than academic.

Ryan Anderson
Jason Antrosio
Eliza Jane Darling
Sarah Kendzior


Update 9/2/12: Also check out the discussion over at Zero Anthropology, here.


Ryan Anderson is a cultural and environmental anthropologist. His current research focuses on coastal conservation, sustainability, and development in the Californias. He also writes about politics, economics, and media. You can reach him at ryan AT savageminds dot org or @anthropologia on twitter.

38 thoughts on “Dear AAA: Sink or Swim?

  1. I don’t think much needs to be added to that other than it’s sad that the “responsible” thing these days is considered to be to council students not to go to grad school for anthropology, lest they end up unemployed, in debt, and on anti-depressants.

  2. In my view, part of the problem is that the subject of “culture” was hijacked over the last 40-50 years by other disciplines. At many universities that means that there is a “culture” requirement that can be taught by any one of a half dozen departments. Try telling the English Department htat anthropologists can teach writing, or try telling the math department that sociologists can teach basic statistics. AIn’t gonna happen.

    My basic critique of those who claim that anthro “over-produces” PhDs is to point out that they are looking too critically at the supply side, and not at the demand side. I still can’t figure out for example, why teachers prepared for the “multi-cultural classroom” still don’t have to take a basic cultural anthropology class. Or more generally, that Chico State’s “Global Cultures” class is taught in a dozen different departments.

    Along these lines, here is a link to something I originally broached in Anthropology news in 2006. A different version is here:

  3. Although we are not anthropologists in the strict sense, the editors of continent. and Speculations have also put forward some thoughts about the future of academic practice, here: (in the latest issue of continent..
    We’re using the term that Nicola Masciandaro has put forward, para-academic, to describe the practices associated with folks that are typically found working in universities but no longer limited to a university/college setting.
    The conversation will continue in about two weeks at the University of Basel (CH) during the “Aesthetics in the 21st Century” conference.

  4. The day that the AAA form a common front with other associations in the social sciences and humanities.

    The day that we stop acting as if the invisible hand of the market is going to fix the situation because “this is just part of a cycle and jobs are going to be plentiful in the future when a bunch of old professors retire.”

    The day that we open a discussion about the length of our programs.

    The day that we stop thinking of adjunct positions as the best option to unemployment.

    The day that we make universities understand that keeping a majority of their teachers as piecemeal workers actually harms the quality of education.

    The day that we stop thinking that adjunct work is for the non-Ivy leaguers who didn’t make it because “it is their own dam fault.”

    The day that the AAA and other professional associations realize that they can organize the way in which the job market works because they can create agreement among departments about admissions, graduation rates and jobs. And by encouraging departments to prepare students for other job markets outside academia (So far the AAA has been pretty good about making us aware of unethical jobs, such as the human Terrain Systems, but we do not have the same kind of discussion about desirable jobs).

    That day will be only a starting point for us to take control of our own professional life as a collective.

    Lets stop believing that the invisible hand of the market is going to fix this. Lets stop inequality in academia.

  5. Thank you for opening up a can of worms. If you had not, no one else was going to go near it. And yet, that can is the lead sinker drawing our whole discipline downward into the murky underworld of failed scholarly efforts. The economists DO NOT do science, except when they imitate anthropologists, and the sociologists DO NOT DO fieldwork (except when they imitate anthropologists) -and neither do the geographers, for that matter. The psychologists have revitalized their own field with “evolutionary” science in a massive imitation of anthropology. It is not fair. In anthropology our problem is political, as well as economic, and most of it gets played out as a nasty rematch of departmental politics year after year. Maybe we need to find a new way to make anthropology pay besides holding out the ever moving target of tenure?

  6. Guys, this isn’t just an anthropology problem. I was on strike for 3 months with other graduate students and adjunct staff, where suddenly it wasn’t taboo to talk about this stuff anymore. (usually everyone has to pretend everything is awesome). Lets not make this about a war with other departments, the other departments are feeling this too. Even science, which has a different set of issues, is also suffering, I would urge anyone who feels otherwise to go check out phd comics which mainly deals with science students (although there only anthropology-y character) and is wildly popular. ps- we lost that strike, but 3 years later got a great deal that job more job security for contract faculty. I think that we should prevent this discussion from veering into attacks on other disciplines that are facing the same problems as we are. And I’ve noticed that untenured faculty often end up teaching in a bunch of different related disciplines anyway so I’m not sure that a disciplinary framework makes any sense at all.

  7. Thank you for this beautifully-written piece about the urgent need for solidarity. I couldn’t agree more. And the Labor Day Weekend timing is perfect!

  8. I agree with the general sentiment of the blog post above. This is a situation that Tom Patterson documented some time ago in his Social History of Anthropology. He dates the rise of the army of part-timers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I would add that this two-tier contract (employment context) first emerged in the retail sector where employees tried to find ways to undermine workplace solidarity and employment stability in an attempt to take back income from workers. There is a great book called the Age in Insecurity that documents the shift in management from social concern with workers into the form of disregard we now more typically witness (again a process dating from the 1970s).

    All this is a long way around to take issue with the statement that tenure stream positions are “bankrolled” by under paid parttime staff. The empirical reality is quite different. The overall drive of corporate universities has been to drive down labour costs ac cross the board. The highest income earners at most universities and colleges are the administrators. The lowest paid are those doing the work that makes our institutions work – cleaners, cooks, clerical, maintenance, etc. Underlying all of this is a concerted campaign by the small elites that run our societies to extract more and more from the public domain and to convince so many people that their personal interests are wedded to a low tax, small government, don’t give a damn society.

    Furthermore, the class analysis framework – i.e. tenured faculty one class, part-time works a different class – is (simply put) a bad class analysis. The class that is benefiting are the people who own and control the productive property in our societies, the people who make the actual decisions, the people who sit on university boards of regents and corporate boards of directors.

    Yes, call for solidarity – many of us do work in our locals doing just that. But to identify tenured-tenured stream faculty as some kind of social class that is at the root of the problem really misses the point.

    We need to start really and truly working to build a new society that values the labour of all while denying the accumulation of privilege amongst those whose only attribute is to control private property.

  9. Megan Kinch made a good point and she is right. I was being cranky, though, and not completely without reason. Interdisciplinary efforts are actually often the best kind. However, the truth is, there IS competition between various disciplines within the “social sciences” for funding and for students , and for space and everything else. Many of the kinds of analysis, models of human biological- cultural evolution, and methods of fieldwork, pioneered by anthropologists, have been adopted within other social sciences and have cost our discipline dearly, not just in this kind of competition, but also within the public media and the “bloggersphere” .

    Charles Menzies class analysis takes this issue to the next higher level of socio-economic framing. And he is right too. This is not just a problem in anthropology, nor is is just a problem initiated at the level of the universities as institutions.

    Now let us take the problem past the obvious nest step of calling for a new society not so stratified and unjust. Not that this is not a fine idea.

    I just think it is too late for that.

    No, the propertied class is NOT too well entrenched, and they may control armies, but armies ultimate turn in favour of movements for social justice. I do not think it is too late for a revolution.

    Rather, it is too late for the people at the lower end of the economic system, including lecturers and adjuncts, to get a “fair” share of the great pie of property that was being carved up during the last decades of the 20th century. I think we should be scrambling our teams to save those people and those institutions we value (especially Universities) because we are facing the end of the global Industrial system. The USA has been contracting economically since 1971, when the first oil shock hit (oil proaction peaked nationally that year, and since then, more and more oil has had to be imported), The world economy has been contracting since 2005, when world oil production peaked. Many universities in North America began to feel a pinch in the 1970’s, then funding returned for a time with new technologies, but by 2010, things have gotten pretty dire again, especially fields of scholarship not widely believed to help people get jobs. Even fields like sciences and engineering are now feeling this pinch.

    Recall that Japan’s, India’s, and China’s “economic miracles” did not get underway due to having a lot of highly educated technicians, engineers, and scientists – they got underway because they had a lot of people willing to do long hours of receptive factory work for a tiny fraction of the wages of people in “First World” nations, often with no benefits. The fact that this led to a heavy investment in education, especially in science and engineering, is understandable, as everyone recognized that that was the only way their industries were going to remain competitive. And now India and China are charring out professionals in numbers and of a calibre that directly threatens the previous superiority of Universities in the USA, Uk, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

    And our wonderful universities only got so good because they got, initially, a lot of funding, and that funding grew throughout most of the industrial era. Universities and the kind of knowledge they make possible erupted like mushrooms wherever they were bathed in the backwash of economic growth! Economic growth is only possible when population growth meets a large and relatively cheap resource base. That was the case for the past three centuries due to the “discovery” of whole continents that were much less intensively exploited and populated than much of Eurasia, a process that unleashed a veritable tsunami of innovation in transportation and capital investment in businesses to organize the harvesting of the resource bonanza that this created.

    It was a heady time for making prodigious amounts of money off a veritable mountain of resources. And it created lots of jobs and businesses. It fuelled an exponential rise in European populations, and this spilled outward to colonize the world, filling newly created jobs everywhere. William Catton called this “the Age of Exuberance”, and it was. It created the British Empire, and then, the American “century”. It also underwrote the costs of an unprecedented explosion of education, the “arts”, medicine, sanitation, farming, scientific discovery, criminal activity, and technological innovation. Along with this, came unprecedented levels of wage employment.It created the biggest middle class (people with jobs good enough to live better than the elites of Rome) the world has ever seen.

    This was especially true in the past century, when this process was given a tremendous booster shot of energy in the form of fossil fuels. This made possible the biggest urban centres in the history of the world. Improvements in sanitation, medical care, and nutrition, as well as ideas about human rights and democracy, spread and it seemed that it was not just an age of exuberance but also and age of rising expectations and progress.

    It also set off a flood of investment and development assistance to bring the “benefits of western know how” to the rest of the world, including those places where various businesses were still busy extracting various resources. a lot of this followed a tidal wave of “job creation” .

    Many people will tell you that a country’s businesses, people’s ingenuity, and technologies “create jobs”. This is a mistaken notion. A country’s resources (or, should I say, any resources it can control) create jobs, by making it possible for some people to live by harvesting resources of timber, metals, minerals, oil, coal, furs, fish, potash, water, food and drugs (grown by mining the fertility of soil or made from petrochemicals), animals (grown by consuming the energy captured in plants from sunshine), and so on. (Of course human labour is also a resource, of sorts, and this is especially true when it is cheap and yet skilled, but it is a resource of the same order as technology, meaning, it cannot be “put to work” without raw material resources to work with.)

    Others can live off the profits from transporting resources to their “markets”, and manufacturers and their employees by processing these resources into “products” for distribution to “consumers”, while still others can live from the proceeds of servicing the shops such goods are sold in … it is a long chain of skimming that results in the eventual costs to the consumer… but it begins with RESOURCES. It is the resources that set the whole chain in motion. All the secondary sources of jobs, in education, infrastructure creation and maintenance, the conduct of basic and applied research, scholarly pursuits, entertainment sectors, are all spun out from the resource transformation process at the heart of economic activity.

    Thus it was that during the last three hundred years, at ever greater levels of energy use, the industrial civilization and the global economy altered the way most people lived, worked, and thought. Meanwhile, populations around the globe entered an unprecedented orgy of exponential growth. Some observers of the human condition issued warnings about the potential for overshoot of carrying capacity, beginning with Thomas Malthus and more recently Albert Bartlett, but during an age of continual growth and “progress”, all such gloomy prognostications were not just ignored, they were ridiculed.

    The “growth” paradigm is currently considered unassailable: no politician would be elected without at least paying lip service to it. It is of course a cultural paradigm, perhaps the key paradigm in the current global economic culture.

    The resources, that underwrote the industrial revolution and everything we now consider our global civilization, including our universities, are running out. This includes minerals and rare earth materials, marine life, timber, soil, fresh water, coal, and oil.

    The whole world economy is essentially mucking about the cratered pit, which is all that is left of that resource mountain. Sure, there are still small piles of stuff left here and there, and there is some confusion going on, because some of the resources are renewable piles, created by the life processes of the planet’s ecosystem, but these are being scooped up too fast and too thoroughly to keep up with the voracious demands of the “supply chains” feeding them into the maw of a still growing human population and its civilization. And the global population is still rising. There are some 300,000,000 people being added every year check the clock, and many of people in “emerging” economies are looking to increase their energy consumption by buying their own personal vehicle.

    It may still be below the radar of most of the general public, but governments everywhere are aware of the most recent forecasts of the IEA. When declines in our various oil fields reach the point when more energy must be expended than we get out of the ground, oilfield jobs will disappear, along with the oil companies that currently “produce” oil and “create” oilfield jobs.

    The problem is, ultimately, resource depletion and population overshoot, not idiotic ideologies, greed, or evil., or the injustices inherent in a highly stratified economic system. And unless we admit that truth, there is no comfort anywhere, I think. Nor any point in hoping for a better tomorrow. Somehow, we humans are going to have to summon all the hope and courage we can muster to create a future world our descendants can survive in. Maybe we can begin by telling our children the truth, which means blowing that myth of infinite growth and progress out of the water, publicly, and often, every chance we get. Universities, or at least university departments that prepare students for the kinds of realities they will be facing most of the rest of this century may not have much funding, since the official version of our current economic troubles is always presented as a temporary dip in the inevitable “recovery” . Meanwhile it would be nice if Universities and their skilled teachers can survive into this uncertain future. I suspect that cooperation and reciprocal access to resources of all kinds, but especially jobs, may be key.

  10. Hi Charles,

    I concur with your first paragraph, if I understand the implications aright. Certainly the labour conditions we now face have been building since the early 1970s, and certainly we are not alone, but one tiny ripple in the sea change to post-Fordist precarity. From there, I have some bones to pick, and I’ll begin with the empirical ones.

    “The lowest paid are those doing the work that makes our institutions work – cleaners, cooks, clerical, maintenance, etc.”

    This is a vast oversimplification which, like your post in general, sees class in a nutshell (though you vacillate between class as income and class as productive control), untroubled by the niceties that cut across craft. But let’s begin with income, and look at some data pertaining to some of the categories you mention. The following figures are taken from the CUNY First employment website:

    Maintenance, salaried:

    Steamfitter: $89,231

    Oiler: $96,549

    High-Pressure Plant Tender: $65,459

    Maintenance, hourly:

    Custodial Assistant: $12.70/hr

    Clerical, salaried:

    Clerical Associate: $25,211

    Administrative Assistant Level 1A: $41,129

    Clerical, hourly:

    College Assistant: $9.72/hr

    Interestingly, I cannot compare tenure-track faculty salaries as none are mentioned in any of the extant adverts, and the website divulges nothing about adjunct wages as those are generally processed in-house. My own (CUNY included) have ranged from $1200 to $5000 for a single course, and a recent offer that came across my desk was for $3600/module. Depending upon the specific degree of exploitation (a rate left deviously ambiguous by departments and determined largely by the conscience of the worker concerned), a precarious intellectual wage may or may not match the hourly figures above. But if you can find me an adjunct who makes ninety-thousand dollars a year, I’ll eat Patterson’s collected oeuvre without salt. So please get your “empirical realities” straight before you complain about our “bad class analysis.”

    Yet income isn’t the rub. Whatever the wage differential, a steamfitter can’t do my job any more than I can do a steamfitter’s job. The labour power embodied in both is a measure of accrual, including the specific accrual of intellectual labour in the process of training. Only a fool would deny that the university could not function without the vital labour of those who sustain it physically and clerically, but it’s an equal fool who thinks it makes any sense at all without teachers and researchers.

    I stand by the statement that the precarious bankroll the tenured. Any adjunct-reliant department that was suddenly compelled to provide its contingent workers a salary, with full benefits, pension, funded sabbaticals, and the general totality of the tenure-track purse, would find itself out of business in a New York minute. The hourly administrative assistant might make less, and the salaried pipe fitter might make more, but neither can replace the adjunct. And if they could, then the tenured have a bigger problem, because in that case the gatekeepers of disciplinary social reproduction are churning out utterly meaningless PhDs by the truckload.

    Which brings us to class as productive control, a far more relevant argument. Your contention seems to be that in the precise capitalistic sense anthropologists can lay no claim to “productive property.” I think the Pentagon would beg to differ, given their lucrative buyout of militarily strategic ethnographers via HTS, but that’s a footnote to the real story. Within our own little intellectual mill there are indeed knowledge producers, as well as consumers (formerly known as “students”) who lay down the dosh to buy that product. It doesn’t really matter if we’re talking about evolutionary theory assembled at Harvard or comedy plastic vomit manufactured in Hong Kong, both have exchange value providing they don’t wind up as dead labour on a forgotten shelf, which is where the anthropological commodity might well find itself in a few years.

    There are also those who have no resources to sustain such original work, but are relegated to regurgitating the intellectual property of others in the classroom, because their realised value gets shunted up the food chain in the form of labour time. If you want to be persnickety about the terminology, then adjuncts, when employed at all, are the retailers. They don’t get to control much productive property at all beyond the PhD, if they make it that far. Maybe that analysis doesn’t fit neatly into the millenarian clash between capital and labour, but neither does the custodian on $12/hour versus the oiler on $96k/year, and when it comes to solidarity across such chasms, the devil is in the detail.

    Finally, we have in no way identified the tenured as the “root of the problem.” Quite the opposite. In fact that’s such a disingenuous accusation that I’m only going to call bullsh*t on it, and invite you to read the post again. If this is your “yes” on solidarity, I shudder to think what “no” would look like.

    Best regards,

  11. Dear Eliza,

    It was a shame that we never met while were were both at CUNY – though we had friends in common. You might want to take a look at my article on the early 1990’s CUNY strike

    In that paper I have an analysis of the academic labour force as well. Blog posts and blog comments are not detailed analytic statements or reviews. Thus my comment here and before will necessarily be simplified – perhaps even simplistic.

    A longstanding marxist contention – one that I have no qualms about accepting- is that it is not the amount of income that matters but the workers location in the collective body of labour. Also, without wishing to go through all the mundane and convoluted avenues of productive vs non-productive labour, academic labour does not (in general, and this is of course a simplified response) produce surplus value (there are, of course, growing examples of who this might be the case where it does, but we are not the ones who own that value, rather it is being extracted from us)

    I essentially agree with Max’s comment (where my original comment was posted) and his response to my own. My point would be that there are always some in the working class who see their immediate advantage being linked to selling out to the ruling class even which this undermines their ultimate interests and makes the struggle for social justice more difficult. From my work on the deck of unionized fishboats to non-union healthcare sector to the fly-by-night fish processing sector to my work in universities I have also found some co-workers more willing to enhance their short term gains by selling out others. BUT, I have also found many more who,through the crucible of life and experience, find ways to build solidarity.

    It is hard to spend so much time struggling and hoping to get a job that one has trained all their life for. And, in this struggle it is likely quite hard not to see that those with the job are the real cause of the problem. Sadly, that’s just what the propertied classes want us to believe.
    Anyway, I guess my response is just bullshit – having read again your final line.

    Ultimately, you don’t know who I am; you don’t know what I do or where I do it; all you know are the few short words in a comment on a blog post from which you have determined that my kind of solidarity (what ever that might be) is as bad or worse than no solidarity. Too bad though as I think that people like myself and Max and a host of others that I know of have made and continue to make a difference – but maybe it’s because (and here comes the national question) we are in Canada.

  12. Charles, you write:

    “In this struggle it is likely quite hard not to see that those with the job are the real cause of the problem. Sadly, that’s just what the propertied classes want us to believe.”

    But we wrote:

    “An academy structured upon the division of a two-tiered labor market discourages such an alliance. Yet we hope that anthropologists will join together to fight for the value of our work beyond the barometer of the bottom line. We must, for the same structural forces that divide tenured and contingent faculty threaten to subsume us all beneath a wave of public retrenchment, whose end game will inter us on the same sinking ship if we do not turn the tide.”

    We were very clear that we see tenured faculty as allies. The degradation of contingent faculty is indicative of a broader degradation of intellectual labor, to which all university faculty are vulnerable.

    That said, tenured faculty do benefit from contingent labor, as Eliza pointed out. They also help perpetuate the myth of adjunct labor as a path to job security. PhD students are told that being an adjunct or low-paid VAP or post-doc is part of “paying your dues” and “waiting until the right job comes along”. In the current job market, this is a spurious and damaging claim — but the people who know firsthand how damaging this claim is are often the ones most afraid to speak out, and so they become complicit in their own exploitation. Amy Todd explains this well in “Challenges to organizing academic labor”, a short piece which I encourage everyone to read:

    In short, we are not interested in casting blame. We are interested in having an honest discussion about labor conditions, and working together to improve them.

  13. I just went and read a bunch of essays by Eliza Jane Darling on Zeroanthropology and immediately signed up. You are brilliant!

    The question you have raised in this essay, with Ryan, Jason, and Sarah, is still before us. I do not think a marxist analysis – or a post modern one, gets us a coherent answer… but applying anthropological four field analysis on the problem might at least suggest a strategy.

    Holism, a historical perspective, an evolutionary model, and ruthless cross cultural comparison… might suggest a strategy? I look at what I have written and wonder if I am mad. What do you guys think can be done, besides approaching the problem with the strengths that our training has given us?

  14. If serious about debate, then read my article on the corporate university of excellence posted here

    Comments on blogs are simplified statements. On the matter of ‘benefit’ I suppose it does matter what a benefit is – I can tell you that there is no benefit, from my perspective, in having a large number of poorly paid part time faculty doing work that should be done by full time regular faculty (to use the language in our local setting). Ultimately, the existence of part-timers make the point to labour managers that regular full-time faculty are not required. They can get ‘excellence’ by contracting work out, hiring on a need basis, and (as the augment was made her at UBC several years ago) undergrad students can’t tell the difference between tenure stream and part-time faculty.

    One thing that I am curious about is the belief that being a part-timer or an adjunct is part of paying one’s dues. I was explicitly told by faculty at CUNY that if I was serious about getting a reserach university job I should avoid like the plague any part-time teaching. I can also say that from what I have seen over the course or nearly two decades in my current position that sessionals (as we call adjunct or contingent teachers) rarely make the cut on the long lists. There seems to be a time limit past the PhD beyond which the likely hood of being hired into a tenure stream job diminishes. From my own anecdotal evidence that would be about 3-5 years. After that people either leave or have found their way into long term sessional teaching either at one or several institutions.

    At any rate in this abbreviated and simplified comment I would say that nobody benefits from a two tiered labour force except those in control of society. It’s a false ideology for the minority to think that they are stars if they have a tenured job and it is a false ideology for those who don’t have a tenured job to think that tenured faculty materially ultimately benefit from the situation – we don’t it makes it worse for everyone.

  15. The interests of contingent faculty are not the same as tenured faculty, and they should not be organized as such. The concerns members of each group raise at departmental meetings, academic senate meetings, and most importantly, union meetings (in situations in which both groups are “represented” by the same union) are as clearly different as night and day.

    For example, at colleges where I work, the full-timers are concerned about such things as having the “right” to teach extra classes and the “right” to add extra students to their classes in order to obtain bonus pay. They are indignant about having to spend half an hour developing student learning outcomes.

    We contingent faculty, on the other hand, find ourselves struggling to find a microwave oven somewhere on campus to warm up a 15-minute lunch between assignments, this while office staff (making the same pay as us or more, plus health benefits) look at us suspiciously. We find ourselves trying to understand why we have to supply our own paper when printing class materials for our students. (Are the custodians and grounds crews expected to pay for work supplies out of their own wallets?) I don’t know if it’s a surprise that we make 1/3 the pay full-timers do for the same work (yes, I served on committees, too, before I wised up) and that we don’t receive health benefits when, on some campuses, they barely acknowledge that we work there at all.

    One might think that some tenured faculty members would sympathize with us, particularly those that served as contingent faculty themselves. However, the opposite might be the case. I was never treated so condescendingly than by a tenured former adjunct who was responsible for assigning classes in my department at a college where I worked. She seemed to see the “freeway flier” part of her career as a stage she rose above because she was exceptional. The system told her that she was worth more than the adjuncts all around her, and she believed it. There is no way someone like this is going to challenge a system that has raised her status; if anything, she’d defend it.

    Secondly, this has nothing in particular to do with anthropology, other than the idea that anthropology is among the disciplines seen as “less useful” (than business, vocations, professional areas, etc.).

  16. Hey Charles,

    From your first comment:

    “All this is a long way around to take issue with the statement that tenure stream positions are “bankrolled” by under paid parttime staff.”

    It probably would have been better to say that the university system is founded upon underpaid part-time staff, and that tenured faculty is a part of that larger system.

    “The highest income earners at most universities and colleges are the administrators. The lowest paid are those doing the work that makes our institutions work – cleaners, cooks, clerical, maintenance, etc”

    I think you make a good point about admin, but I also do not think that they are the only ones who are creating and perpetuating this situation.

    “Furthermore, the class analysis framework – i.e. tenured faculty one class, part-time works a different class – is (simply put) a bad class analysis. The class that is benefiting are the people who own and control the productive property in our societies, the people who make the actual decisions, the people who sit on university boards of regents and corporate boards of directors.”

    I don’t think the benefits are limited to the admins, regents, and boards of directors. If people are getting tenure, good pay, health care, and a stable job from the current system, then they are benefiting from it. I agree with you that in the long run the current system is also eroding benefits of the tenured, especially as funding is cut, programs are gutted, etc. At the same time, I think there are plenty of folks who not only benefit from “how things work,” they also take part in keeping things as the way they are. That said, this also applies to grad students like myself who willingly participate in this system. In effect, we all do our little part to make and remake this bad system everyday when we keep playing along.

    I do still think that we do indeed have two classes or groups: one who can make a decent living from academia, and one who can’t. I think your “class” rebuttal hinges on being overly technical.

    “Yes, call for solidarity – many of us do work in our locals doing just that. But to identify tenured-tenured stream faculty as some kind of social class that is at the root of the problem really misses the point.”

    Hmmm. I don’t really think that was the point of the statement, at all. Anyway, I think there are several “roots” of the problem, ranging from administrators all the way down to grad students (like me) who have played along thinking that it will all “work out in the end.” I definitely do think that there needs to be more dialogue, collaboration, and communication between folks at various levels, from the tenured to adjuncts to grad students.

    Finally, this was the first line of your comment:

    “I agree with the general sentiment of the blog post above.”

    I think that’s a good thing to keep in mind. Yes, we need to assess and analyze what’s going on here in order to figure out what to do next. But my hope is that things do not devolve into squabbles and technicalities, like a lot of anthropological analysis of problems often does. We are GREAT at critique, but often fail pretty miserably when it comes to planting seeds and trying to move forward. I say this as someone who is on the tail end of grad school, and who has heard enough PR about our “critical perspectives” to last a lifetime. At some point we have to move forward, suggest solutions, or at least pretend we want to make some changes. I have caught myself in the endless loop of “critique” and it’s often little more than a dead end.

  17. Helga, thank you.

    Bob, yours is the first post to make me seriously rethink our statement. I can certainly see your point.


    Neither was our statement meant to be systematically detailed given that we were responding to a very brief post, and tried to do so briskly, briefly and boldly in order to strike while the iron was hot, and keep the conversation going. So perhaps we too were overly simplistic, but you were quick enough to jump on our theoretical failings with little regard for context or intent.

    I am still unsure of the purpose of steering the discussion toward the question of whether academic labour is technically “productive.” Is the implication that only those who engage in such production should struggle for decent working conditions, and the rest should accept their lot gratefully? If so, that excludes a sizeable segment of labour, and not just academics, from the endeavour to “build a new society that values the labour of all.”

    Our statement very specifically noted that the tenured do not own anthropology either; rather, they too are caught up in the corporatisation of the university. Yet people may benefit inadvertently from unjust systems they did not themselves set out to create and may even abhor. Such antagonisms, which do indeed strategically benefit the truly elite, who would prefer to see us comfortably conquered through division, can be found in professions other than ours. There are parallels, if imprecise ones, in the realms of gender and race, and there too the reaction is often resentful defensiveness when those with less privilege have the gall to point it out.

    I take issue with your woolly description of the university pay scale, which reproduces the convenient right-wing myth of intellectual labourers as universally privileged and pampered. Indeed some of the original posts, including Sarah Kendzior’s on Al Jazeera ( as well as other recent pieces (see, discuss the plight of adjuncts living below the poverty line, and find themselves in the position of having to reject departmental offers for slightly higher contingent pay in order to continue to receive the SNAP and Medicaid benefits their families desperately need. In the US context, it is crucial to remember that job insecurity usually includes the absence of health care. For workers with children, disabilities, chronic illnesses, or dependent kin with same, this means living on a knife’s edge. The further implication that contingent intellectual labourers are excluded from those whose “work makes the university work” is not only inaccurate but downright insulting. It smacks of the suggestion that departments are doing precarious labourers a favour by “letting” them work, instead of needing them to shoulder the burden of the 101s in the drive to tamp down labour costs.

    So I’ll concede your technical point that academic labour is not productive. Indeed every anthropologist on the planet could walk off the job tomorrow, and capitalism would shrug and keep trotting jauntily on down the road. Personally, as I said in my farewell-to-academia post (, I value anthropology, and I further find it worth it to struggle to keep doing it somehow, though my own struggle will no longer take place in the university context. Still I’m glad that others continue to fight that fight, because it is part and parcel of the more general effort to create a world in which value is not defined by profitability and the endless compulsion to accumulation. Perhaps the unproductive nature of the labour makes it an inconsequential struggle; if so, then a whole lot of workers in the ostensible “west,” phased out of productivity in these post-industrial times, might as well give up the ghost.

  18. Eliza, I don’t think this medium is working for effective communication.

    So far I have learned that I am a wooly thinker, that my actions/conclusions are full of the excrement from bulls, that solidarity from me is not really worth it, that I have fallen prey to the arguments of right wing, and I am augmenting with myself over a misinterpretation of the original post. I am sure that I have missed something.

    All of this exemplifies problems (from my perspective) the way that online communication can go offtrack. In a face-to-face interaction I doubt that I would have been told that what I was saying was bull shit; at least not so quickly. Anyway, a totally different topic.

    All I can say is take a look at the article I wrote in New Proposals where I spend more time outlining my idea of what’s going on with the corporate university, the context of political struggles, etc,etc.

    I’m signing off this thread now. “It’s been a slice.”

  19. Charles, you opened your salvo on our statement with the dual accusation that it was contrary to “empirical reality” and “bad class analysis.” You then stated that we identified tenure-stream faculty as “the root of the problem.”

    That’s pretty strong stuff, and some of it just downright underhanded (i.e., misstating our argument). You’ve done it again, above. I did not say you are a “woolly thinker.” I said that your description of the university pay scale was woolly, and it was: partly true in that some of the workers you mentioned make less than some academics, and partly false in that some of the workers you mentioned make more, even much more. In other words, woolly as in “imprecise.” I tried to provide some concrete evidence to illustrate that, but you seemed to lose interest in the “empirical reality” of university pay subsequently.

    I don’t object to disagreement and debate; that’s life, that’s politics, that’s organising, that’s science. But I do object to the misrepresentation of something I’ve said, and if I’ve failed to live up to your expectations of meekness in the face of a strongly-worded and subtly patronising critique, tough.

    I guess the only thing we do agree on is that this is going nowhere fast. In fact I think it’s successfully derailed what might have been a fruitful discussion based on genuine contention rather than straw-men. I’m not sure if it’s the medium of the internet or the milieu of academia, where efforts to improve our conditions often seem to end in squabble while management laugh all the way to the bank. I don’t think I’m particularly less frank in face-to-face interaction, which is why faculty meetings were never my strong suit. Water under the bridge now. Adieu.

  20. As someone who has been an adjunct for the past 10 years I want to express my appreciation and gratitude for the statement that Antrosio et al have authored. Your statement is nuanced and demonstrates a sensitivity to the experience of being an adjunct which is quite demoralizing over time. It wears you down. It makes you feel depressed. It can cause you to lose all hope in the future. I was trained in a program where the assumption was that the only desirable outcome was a tenure track position. None of the faculty I worked with provided an iota of practical advice about positioning myself in the job market. They apparently understood their role in this regard as limited to writing me a letter of recommendation and that was something I should be most thankful for. That was the extent of their engagement with my future beyond getting the PhD.
    Well, just this this fall I did finally manage to get a full time position– albeit non-tenure track and non-anthropology– but it did not involve any of them writing a letter for me. The program I was in and I think this was generally true for many tier one and tier two programs was essentially oriented towards a fraction of students who were likely to succeed fitting into that tiny window of performance and opportunity of those who would succeed in getting the post doc, the publications, and the tenure track position. My faculty either had disdain or were oblivious to other possible professional itineraries in industry, government, or non-anthropology disciplines. So what was to become of those students whose future did not seem to fit the orthodox route? I was told by one faculty that I was “neither fish nor fowl”– essentially his advice was “good luck buddy”. These faculty allowed someone like myself to get the PhD and essentially had no clue about how to guide me or help me be successful in the post-Phd phase– as if my languishing for 10 years as an adjunct was just my personal problem and would not ultimately reflect on them and their department or their profession.
    I feel that the faculty at my university failed me. They failed as mentors and as leaders. While they were expansive on the sociological imagination their professional imagination was extremely narrow, restricted, and ultimately elitist. In this sense, academic anthropology for all of its cosmopolitanism has in its practical day to day operations been a very conservative and aristocratic discipline. The infatuation with “theory” belies a very narrow schoalsticism that denigrates and marginalizes most forms of non-academic knowledge and practice.
    For these reasons I am ultimately skeptical that there can be any real dialog on this issue between the tenured members of our professional organization and the adjuncts and the non-tenured. Those who are tenured have benefitted from the existing system of moral failure and elitism– they are ultimately faithful to its reproduction. The class and ideological divides are too vast and entrenched. I suppose that’s ironic given all of our talk about reflexivity but then again what makes us think that we should be any different than any other occupational group where there are conflicting interests. We are just as deluded, just as ideologically befuddled as any other professional group riven by divisions of status, class and opportunity. We have reproduced within our own discipline the same inequalities as the larger neoliberal worlds that we decry sanctimoniously in our writings and conference proceedings. Ultimately there isn’t anything especially ironic about the situation. Its really pretty much business as usual in the capitalist academy.

  21. Eliza, I hope that you are not dropping out of the conversation because one other person has said something you find offensive. If you want to be an activist, you need a thicker skin than that. Here’s a good example of how to handle this sort of thing.

    Eastwood talked with an imaginary Obama in an empty chair before Mitt Romney’s speech at the GOP convention, saying the president has failed to deliver on his promises.

    Obama says, quote, “if you’re easily offended, you should probably choose another profession.”

  22. I’m not leaving, John, I was over on Zero arguing the toss with Max. Toward the end of the evening the conversation turned toward the “dignity deficit,” as we put it in the statement, that Victor and Bob mentioned above. This is really crucial because I think the hopelessness and depression that a lot of contingent workers experience has a concrete effect upon our ability to organise. This isn’t incidental to the whole system; it works to support it. I’ll repost some of my thoughts:

    The political implications [of casualisation] are vast…there’s a great deal of fear out there precisely because [the contingent] are politically vulnerable. And there’s a peculiar psychology to academic contingency which I think may be somewhat singular to our line of work because we allow our profession to occupy our identities. There’s a great deal of guilt and shame entailed in failure on the intellectual job market that doesn’t seem to be alleviated by the increasingly public knowledge of its commonality. The constant nagging question of “Is it me, or the market, or both?” is actually a quite difficult one to answer with anything approaching objectivity for a variety of reasons. Your committee obviously thought you were good enough for the letters, so why can’t you get the job? Plus the market seems to be able to bear a relatively wide range of competencies. It’s entirely possible I’m being self-serving here, but I simply don’t see the evidence that the best get the positions, and the rest get what their modest intellectual capabilities deserve. I doubt I’m the only one in the world who has encountered such genius on the tenure spectrum that I think, “If that’s what it takes, I’ll never make it!” as well as encountering such inanity that I’m stunned such a halfwit made it through the degree at all. And there’s plenty on offer in the muddling middle. The case for meritocracy seems thin, and god only knows what the unit of value is to begin with. I imagine those who shut their traps and avoid rocking the boat have a considerable edge, though celebrity radicals can bring both prestige and pesos, as long as they keep their politics on the page.

    In order to get organised people have to get angry, and in order to get angry they have to move past their guilt. That’s tough when failure is so deeply internalised, and individualised. I suspect many don’t fight for themselves because they don’t believe they’re worth it.

    I should add as an addendum that of course few workers of any kind are immune to job market humiliation. Academics just seem to hold the work so close to their person, almost as if we’re clergy with a calling rather than employees with a job. There’s a kind of built-in expectation of sacrifice that begins when we’re students and is difficult to relinquish once we’re qualified. I think the socialisation of the shame can go a long way toward shaking off the hair shirt and instilling some confidence. Isolation is defeating.

    Victor: “We have reproduced within our own discipline the same inequalities as the larger neoliberal worlds that we decry sanctimoniously in our writings and conference proceedings.”

    Well said.

  23. I would just add to Eliza’s comments that as a contingent worker I have done lots of self censuring, lots of self-disciplining. I would even say that over time I came to essentialize my identity as an adjunct destined for a career of contingency. Whether teaching in community college or the university I came to believe that I could not take chances with my classes. The risk of having disgruntled students was something I did not feel I could afford. I felt that for my supereriors no news was always good news. I adopted the stance of a supplicant: I was always happy with whatever classes were offered to me for whatever rate. I was always eager to please, always deferential, always accommodating. Its only now, with my new status as full time faculty, that I feel that I can be open with my views and experiment in pedagogically meaningful ways. Being an adjunct muted my voice and my presence. And being in a right to work state with minimal unionization the possibilities for solidarity are practically non-existant. And again for tenured faculty there is a real cognitive barrier in their ability to comprehend, to imagine what life is like as an adjunct-supplicant. I recall being in a job interview for a community college and making the mistake of saying that adjuncts at the college felt isolated and felt very little sense of community. The senior faculty bristled at my comment saying that “they” the faculty had a real sense of community. Im sure they do. Needless to say I didn’t get the job. And then there is one of my favorite anecdotes where I was told by a senior faculty at my university who is deeply engaged with issues of structural violence and economic justice that I was “scab labor”; that my willingness to take whatever was given to me was part of the problem. Ultimately I think “we” adjuncts are a bummer for the professoriate’s sense of community and solidarity. We are that visible reminder that the academy is not a meritocracy, that hard work and being smart isn’t what structures the distribution of goodies. We disturb their doxa as Bourdieu might say, i.e., their deeply held beliefs about how the academic world operates and their role as operators of and within this system.

  24. I might also point out one very distinct problem with marginal employment within academic departments: the energy and time needed to do a lot of writing is often lacking. If you do not teach during the summer that means you have no income and have to worry about getting something to bring in some money from other employment. You don’t get a paid sabbatical “off” so you can do further research or make progress on a book or getting papers published. The stress also means that you are more often ill. Relationships often founder due to stress as well.

    I can see also, the tendency to continue a kind o strident lifestyle that finds relief in alcohol or recreational drugs. Career poison.

    So what is to be done?

    By the way,. before I even framed these remarks, I was ruminating on the fact that my earlier post, (that long one, yeah) went over like a lead balloon. I understand, for it is disheartening to imagine that we might be coming to a major turning point – not just for our species and its relationship with this planet, but in other terms too. The system of economic growth and expanding population and revenues is coming to an end, with dire implications for the whole university system it made possible, and even, essential.

    The coming several decades will likely bring more tumultuous social and economic change than the past three hundred years. Anthropology is more important than ever before, because it is the only social science that is sufficiently holistic and evolutionary in perspective to achieve predictive models of what is taking place. THAT is my opinion, perhaps, but it is my professional opinion, based on years in “development” at a remove from academic life and from industrial society. I don’t think I’m going on a limb here.

    We need to talk about what is to be done.

  25. For me, the eye-opener from this conversation (here and elsewhere) has been the wide range of perspectives on the extent to which the interests of the precariat and salariat are common, or antipodal. If I’m summarising this accurately, some feel that no advantage whatsoever accrues to the tenure/track from contingent labour, indeed quite the opposite, while others feel the tenure/track have benefited enormously from casualisation and are therefore all the more likely to defend the status quo. The original statement put it somewhere in the middle, suggesting a short-term bankrolling of the tenured but a long-term degradation of the value of intellectual work that damages all. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of contention on the principle that the ultimate root of the problem lies with neither type of academic worker, but in the broader realm of political economy within which the university operates and to whose forces it is subject.

    There are of course further intra-academy divisions we’ve not yet discussed. Of the 25% of tenure/track faculty left (that figure from the AAUP), the Chronicle reported earlier this year that their median age is 55, and that 75-80% are white and male. Our own discipline has famously gone through a “feminisation” though that term sometimes obscures more than it reveals, especially in terms of career advancement in the workforce. Statistics on race and ethnicity in the discipline seem hard to come by. The recent Commission on Race and Racism in Anthropology indicates that anthropologists of colour continue to be a minority, going by doctoral completion stats, and makes the rather noncommittal statement that “Anthropologists of color (AOC) may not be granted tenure at the same rate as whites.” I think any discussion of power, solidarity and labour conditions needs to be informed by the full range of experiences that make up our working lives, and that goes beyond the fine print on the contract.

    @Victor: the “scab” accusation has also just come up on the AAA blog.

  26. I refer you all back to this, for larger context. It was written earlier this month: the article by “the Homeless Adjunct”

    It appears that all this goes back to a memo by Lewis Powel… check it out “In 1971, Lewis Powell (before assuming his post as a Supreme Court Justice) authored a memo, now known as the Powell Memorandum, and sent it to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The title of the memo was “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System,” and in it he called on corporate America to take an increased role in shaping politics, law, and education in the United States.” How would they do that?

    ….much of the motive behind conservative advocacy for de-funding of public education is racial, pro-corporate, and anti-protest in nature.

    … “(The) ultimate objective, as outlined in the (Lewis Powell) memo, was to purge respectable institutions such as the media, arts, sciences, as well as college campus themselves of left-wing thoughts. At the time, college campuses were seen as “springboards for dissent,” as Newfield terms it, and were therefore viewed as publicly funded sources of opposition to the interests of the establishment….

    Under the guise of many “conflicts”, such as budget struggles, or quotas, de-funding was consistently the result…. State budget debates became platforms for conservatives to argue why certain disciplines such as sociology, history, anthropology, minority studies, language, and gender studies should be de-funded…” on one hand, through the argument that they were not offering students the “practical” skills needed for the job market —

    …. Another argument used to attack the humanities was “…their so-called promotion of anti-establishment sentiment. Gradually, these arguments translated into real- and often deep- cuts into the budgets of state university systems,” especially in those most undesirable areas that the establishment found to run counter to their ability to control the population’s thoughts and behaviour…

    ….Second, you deprofessionalize and impoverish the professors (and continue to create a surplus of underemployed and unemployed Ph.D.s)

    V.P. Joe Biden, a few months back, said that the reason tuitions are out of control is because of the high price of college faculty. He has NO IDEA what he is talking about. At latest count, we have 1.5 million university professors in this country, 1 million of whom are adjuncts. One million professors in America are hired on short-term contracts, most often for one semester at a time, with no job security whatsoever – which means that they have no idea how much work they will have in any given semester, and that they are often completely unemployed over summer months when work is nearly impossible to find (and many of the unemployed adjuncts do not qualify for unemployment payments). So, one million American university professors are earning, on average, $20K a year gross, with no benefits or healthcare, no unemployment insurance when they are out of work. Keep in mind, too, that many of the more recent Ph.Ds have entered this field often with the burden of six figure student loan debt on their backs.

    There was recently an article talking about the long-term mental and physical destruction caused when people are faced with poverty and “job insecurity” — precarious employment, or “under-employment”. The article says that, in just the few short years since our 2008 economic collapse, the medical problems of this group have increased exponentially. This has been the horrible state of insecurity that America’s college professors have experienced now for thirty years. It can destroy you — breaking down your physical and emotional health. As an example: the average yearly starting salary of a university professor at Temple University in 1975 was just under $10,000 a year, with full benefits – health, retirement, and educational benefits (their family’s could attend college for free.) And guess what? Average pay for Temple’s faculty is STILL about the same — because adjuncts now make up the majority of faculty, and earn between $8,000 to $14,000 a year (depending on how many courses they are assigned each semester – there is NO guarantee of continued employment) — but unlike the full-time professors of 1975, these adjunct jobs come with NO benefits, no health care, no retirement, no educational benefits, no offices. How many other professions report salaries that have remained at 1975 levels?

    …This is how you break the evil, wicked, leftist academic class in America — you turn them into low-wage members of the precariat – that growing number of American workers whose employment is consistently precarious. All around the country, our undergraduates are being taught by faculty living at or near the poverty line, who have little to no say in the way classes are being taught, the number of students in a class, or how curriculum is being designed. They often have no offices in which to meet their students, no professional staff support, no professional development support. One million of our college professors are struggling to continue offering the best they can in the face of this wasteland of deteriorated professional support, while living the very worst kind of economic insecurity. Unlike those communist countries, which sometimes executed their intellectuals, here we are being killed off by lack of healthcare, by stress-related illness like heart-attacks or strokes. While we’re at it, let’s add suicide to that list of killers — and readers of this blog will remember that I have written at length about adjunct faculty suicide in the past…. “

  27. To Jane: I think that ultimately we are but bit players in a a larger production of new forms of academic capital and labor where tenured faculty and “scab” labor such as my former self are caught up in our respective struggles and with them our respective mirrors of self involvement. But there are degrees of contingency. Just a few months ago I was scrambling to cobble together several classes at my university at a rate of about $6500 each with no benefits. Today I am non-tenured full time with benefits but with the continuing contingency of a one year contract. My salary for the year is $56,6000, on the lower end of what in-coming assistant professors are making at my university. And my situation is considered a success story. Meanwhile, the senior faculty who referred to me as scab labor and who is an ardent critic of neoliberalism has moved on to a directorship position which has enhanced his salary considerably. Ultimately as faculty the differences between tenured and non-tenured is not so great salary wise. The difference lies in the institutional entitlements that come with tenure- which again to invoke Bourdieu who I find very useful for thinking about this stuff– consecrate the positions of such faculty whose destinies become defacto more secure. The trend of tenured faculty seeking administrative positions such as directorships and deanships is a function of the political-economy of academic capitalism– right? I mean, its all about following the money. But the more I ponder these issues, the more I think its ultimately about the abstraction of academic labor (Here I am thinking of Moishe Postone’s discussion of abstraction in Time Labor and Social Domination) Ultimately what is being devalued is TEACHING. Teaching embodied in adjunct labor is marginalized and devalued. To the extent that teaching itself comes to be associated with adjuncts and adjuncts are throwaways, so too is the labor of teaching itself. Obviously I am oversimplifying but I think there is something to this.

  28. Colleagues – thanks for the vigorous exploration of these important issues concerning academic employment. I cannot speak from direct experience to the dislocations, devaluing, and discrediting of insights, talents, and energies visited by the endemic restructuring afflictions in higher education, but I would like to call your attention to a set of services that the American Anthropological Association offers to all of its members, using our group purchasing power to make several kinds of insurance as affordable as possible. the coverages include life insurance, health care, accidental death and dismemberment, long-term care, disability, dental, and even cancer insurance.

  29. Ed, I might be interested in the insurance, except for the fact that the AAA website says nothing about age limits on availability, which are one of the main problems with, ironically, coverage offered by the AARP.

  30. On the subject of sinking, and in light of how my previous comment (to Ryan’s follow-up post, here: /2012/09/08/adjuncts-anthropology-what-now/) sank like the proverbial stone:

    It is interesting to see who can and can’t talk about a “dignity deficit” in anthropology and the academy, and who will have mass support for so doing and will seem perfectly ‘justified’ and ‘reasonable’ in identifying such a deficit. It is a question of empathy, identification, recognition–all very ‘anthropological’ topics I would think, especially in light of Catherine Lutz’s work in Unnatural Sentiments on *emotion as an index of social relations*. 

    The discussions/admissions of demoralization, despair, frustration, outrage expressed here (both in the post and the comments) are not being being attacked by commenters as unwarranted and unreasonable (overly or ‘inappropriately’) ’emotional’ reactions to social relations of inequality. (Nor are they being ignored.) It is understood that a real and valid problem–crisis, as articulated by many–has been identified and as such the contingent are right to be demoralized, dispirited, and outraged. One can acknowledge the embodied, somatic-psychic effects (and affects) of academic precarity/marginalization and its concomitant dignity deficit. There is space here to discuss and acknowledge how this form of academic marginalization makes one *feel*. And this space for discussion of inequality and marginalizing practices is interesting to me, anthropologically, especially in the context of this passage from the post above: “Nonetheless, anthropology’s commitment to the science of social justice makes the studied ignorance of its own internal inequities insupportably ironic.”

    Some suffering and emoting/emotion is socially recognized, sanctioned, intelligible and acceptable: others, not so much (or not at all). Even in this space of acknowledging anthropology’s “studied ignorance of its own internal inequalities”, only some of those inequalities can and will be discussed, even when seemingly disparate and unrelated forms of inequality are shown to be imbricated and co-constitutive. When you are a black woman constantly attacked as ‘too emotional’, as both a hysterical woman and an ‘angry’/’militant’/”hostile”/”inappropriate”/violence-prone pathological black subject, you have plenty of occasion to think critically–and *anthropologically* about emotion as an index of social relation(s) and to think about who gets to speak out about inequality, and gets to be ‘angry’ or outraged or despairing about it, without being labeled as ‘inappropriately angry’ or ‘too emotional’ or “mentally ill” (or just a crazy and violent Negro; case in point: and

    I know simply posting under the moniker Discuss White Privilege is enough to alienate and antagonize many. (Yes yes, Angry Black Woman. But of course.) And this emotional reaction is its own index of social relation, directly related to both ‘inequalities studied ignorance of anthropology’s internal inequalities’ and academic precarity in the age of neoliberalism. If anthropology discussed its internal inequalities (including white privilege, and how it makes anthropology ‘white public space’) more, and more honestly, simply posting a comment under the label Discuss White Privilege would not engender such a negative reaction, including no reaction at all (i.e. silence and silencing).

    This discussion really is not separate from the dreaded ‘race issues’ anthropology obviously hates to talk about/engage (including racist sexism, intersectionality, and racial sexual politics in the US). When black (female) graduate students at a top-ranked program are being publicly attacked and bullied (with faculty support) by white (male) graduate students as affirmative action lackeys ‘taking their jobs’, and the white students engaging in this bullying/abuse are on the academic job market and clearly expressing anxieties about academic precarity (such as the ones being discussed here), then linkages need to be made, by anthropologists, between various forms of academic marginalization, inequality, demoralization, abuse, and dignity deficits. This, too, is part of the story of the adjunct crisis, and a concrete opportunity to engage the very ‘internal inequities’ that anthropology has largely refused to interrogate in sustained, critical, unflinching fashion.

    It’s all connected.

  31. “On the subject of sinking, and in light of how my previous comment…sank like the proverbial stone.”

    No, it didn’t sink at all. I think you make some good points. Sometimes it just takes a bit for me to respond to new comments.

  32. Again, thanks again for your response, Ryan. The stone comment wasn’t really directed at you. Just a general observation (and an observation of a certain larger pattern). There are topics, daily social practices/habits (i.e. social dispositions, habituations, embodied and enculturated practices, normative blindspots and silences) anthropologists generally hate to engage and avoid, and they tend to be the ones most obvious to me.

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