Weekend Reading: Beyond Productivity

Weekend Reading: Beyond Productivity

December 16, 2016
Weekend Reading - Orange tabby cat wearing glasses reading from an open book

As the semester comes to an end, we tend to reflect on productivity: have we met our writing and publishing goals? Did we create and engage in effective classroom practices? Do we have conferences, classes or publications lined up for the spring? What, in other words, do we have to show for our labor?

We are no stranger to the constant pressure the academy places on all of us to prove our worth. But for those of us working at the intersection of academia and social justice, our central mission is to identify and dismantle the structural oppressions that tie our self-worth to our labor. Our work, at its core, is to reframe this toxic dynamic.

Our reading this week reflects on how life is now increasingly at odds with academic work, and what we can do to guide and support ourselves and each other in the face of the untenable.

The frenetic pace of academic work and the relentless expectation, across disciplines, to publish-or-perish robs both the individual and the institution of the time necessary to actually foster new knowledge. We should not have to chose between finding the time to think and making a living wage.

Western culture has long divorced thought from feeling. But what radical new worlds might we foster if we took a more holistic view of self in and beyond the classroom, and promoted a pedagogy of pleasure instead?

In the face of recent news of a “professor watchlist” targeting those who supposedly “advance leftist propaganda,” we should resist its will to silence and instead highlight injustice. When and where we can, we should strive to be dangerous professors.

The academy is especially ruthless for people of color, those from marginalized communities, and working mothers. To build communities of support, we need to speak more openly and honesty about difficult things like pregnancy loss and mental wellness and unwellness in academia

Academic departments and programs increasingly champion diversity, but this has less often been translated into hiring, promotion, and tenure processes. We need sustained institutional change for a fairer tenure process. One small but crucial step to combating gender bias is to avoid it in the recommendation letters you write.

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