From James Bratt
I wasn’t going to respond to your latest post, about the parochialism of academe (http://the12.squarespace.com/jessica-bratt/2014/2/24/doctoral-student-dispatches-part-1.html#comments), figuring that I’d let those who don’t share our surname speak to the issue. But your words have come to mind in the reading I’ve done this week, both that for professional purposes and the stuff of personal interest. I’ve been struck again and again how much those two domains—professional and personal—overlap, and I think that overlap speaks directly to the complaint by Nicholas Kristof that triggered your reflections in the first place. So here’s the first of my two cents on the issue. I’ll drop the other penny next time.
My bottom-line response is, “Pay your dues and use your guild to make your life.” Paying your dues means laboring through the grad seminars and dissertation and early career publishing to establish the credentials that earn you a settled job and lend some authority to what you have to say. This is the process of proving to your peers that you can meet the standards of your profession. Is it alienated labor? A lot of it can be. But some of our chafing at this stage might reflect our insecurity and resentment at being so vulnerable to the judgments of people with power over our future, indeed our very identity. Being some years out of college and still penniless, earning the dirt wages of the TA, and totally dependent on the goodwill of those enigmatic brains on one’s committee—well, it’s nowhere a self-respecting self wants to be.