For me one of the highlights of the annual meeting of the AAA is migrating from one reception to another like a hunter-gatherer constantly seeking to optimize food foraging strategies. While the Wenner-Gren typically has the heaviest hors d’oeuvers (this year they even had free booze) I find the best company at the joint reception of the progressive and minority sections.
There under the thumping beat of party music I met a friend of a friend of a friend, a young man who had recently left an adjunct position at a Colorado school for a tenure track position somewhere in California. We toasted his professional good fortune as this was the first semester of his new job.
“How did you do it?” I begged, “It’s so hard to make tenure track.”
“I don’t know, man.” He exhaled, “Just got lucky I guess.”
It’s true that making it out of the post-graduate equivalent of the horse latitudes to the beginnings of an academic career as an assistant professor requires a tremendous amount of work. And sure, it helps if you have a pedigree and other trappings of prestige to go along with that big, beautiful brain of yours.
But that’s not always enough. Sometimes you’ve just got to be in the right place at the right time.
Here at Savage Minds we have discussed how the labor of academia is being transformed by disruptive technologies, by neoliberalism, and by economies of prestige that necessitate a large adjunct workforce. We have also observed the extent to which academia has conserved rather than challenged many of the racialized and gendered social privileges that define the warp and weft of American society — something represented in the demographic of contingent workers. These topics were also touched on by an excellent run of guest posts about precarity too.
While organizations such as the New Faculty Majority seek to improve the working conditions for all adjunct faculty, we could stand to learn more about adjunct anthropologists specifically. Fellow anthropologist Matthew Wolf-Meyer, who teaches a course on professionalization at UC Santa Cruz, has put together two surveys that probe the state of being an adjunct anthropologist today. You can read blog posts about his class here .
We invite every anthropologist with adjunct work experience who cares about this issue to participate in the survey. Then we can share the results and address new questions in future Savage Minds posts.
Thanks in advance for taking the survey and sharing it widely.