Standing on the shoulders of giants.

I have been conference/symposium/masterclass marathoning of late. And accumulating soundbites, as usual.

Meeting new people is always equal parts fun, exciting, and awkward for me.

Amidst the rapid fire stimulation, it is comforting to have academics who have ‘been there and done that’ take the time to disseminate advice accumulated from life experience to newbies… you know, from years of trial-and-error, of groping in the dark, of some introspection and nostalgia, of some regret or unfulfilled aspiration.

Academia is so chock full of barriers and can easily slip into being the most alienating experience. We’re all just figuring it out as we go along. But the bits of mentoring I have received along the way – intentional, accidental, or otherwise – have been mini-lighthouses in times of self-doubt and questioning.

Thanks for all the gold, Ben, Florence, Jean, Kath, Michele, Nancy, Sharif, and Susanna.

Good advice from good people, for the personal catalogue:

On posturing

1) We may look confident but inside everyone is secretly just winging it.

2) Persons of multiple intersectionalities should look for mentors to understand the additional barriers they have to navigate.

3) If you want to talk to a superstar academic, just go up to them and talk. No other miscellaneous theatrics necessary.

4) If possible, get some media training. Learn to genre switch depending on your audience. Talk to various demographics and sections of peoples about your work to build confidence.

On researching

1) Build a narrative into all your work. Take on side projects but make sure they count towards your research trajectory.

2) Renarrativize yourself depending on who you are speaking to. Don’t be rigid and insist upon occupying only one very specific area of study. Diversify yourself.

3) Adapt and enlarge your research interests, teach around the periphery, and expand on the little you know. There is always more to learn.

On teaching

1) Sometimes the teaching is your day job that allows you to do the research you want. That’s life, and it’s okay.

2) Sometimes you teach in areas not in your research interests, but it may be what gets you tenure. You’ll have to find ways to incorporate your research into your teaching.

3) Split your research into packagable teaching bits, i.e. interesting methodology, specificities with ethics.

4) Offer to give guest lectures to gain experience about discussing your research pedagogically.

On a related note, I recently attended an Anthropology symposium that touched my heart in a different way – All the camaraderie among 60-70yo anthropologists who did fieldwork around the same time decades ago was making me jelly. Where are all my friends? Can we grow old together please?

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