In the Field…Again

I’m back in the field. This is my fifth trip to research country. I have spent more than two years in the country if I add up all the summers and the year of field research I did here. Though, this trip is my first trip post dissertation. I must say it’s kind of amazing. Having now published an article in a journal and in an edited volume and having written my diss, I have a much better handle on what constitutes data and the threshold of evidence necessary to sustain my arguments. What that means for field work, is that I am not quite so stressed.

Doing dissertation field research was so anxiety filled. I didn’t know what constituted data or if what I was collecting would even be useful. I had no idea what I would or could do with it. I had no idea how much data I needed to write a whole diss. I was fumbling in the dark and it was nerve wracking. I just kept imagining returning to the US with inadequate data and sitting across from my advisor in her office explaining that I would not be able to write my diss. But that didn’t happen and I wrote the damn dissertation.

This time in the field, I have a filter. I know what’s important, what’s not important for my project. I know how I can write something up when I enter the situation or event. I have an idea for chapters in my book, and at this point I even know what data can fit where. So when I went to an event this past weekend, I thought, oh this will be perfect for chapter x on y topic. I dare say that fieldwork has actually become pleasant.

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Finally, it has happened to me…

I just got a message from a colleague, someone who I presented on a panel with YEARS ago. S/he told me s/he was organizing a panel for Big Area Studies Conference next year and s/he wanted to know if I could participate. I just got an email from Area Studies Association about renewing my membership in anticipation for the big conference. While looking at the email, I thought, sigh! another conference where I’m going to have to beg, borrow, and steal to find a panel that fits. But finally, someone has had the idea to organize a panel, someone I know. And that someone, has thought to reach out to me and include me in the panel. I know that seems so small, even microscopic. But people so rarely think of me when organizing things. And I have been trying to change that by networking like crazy and organizing my fair share of panels. Perhaps if I had a larger ego I might think I am becoming known (even by a few), but really I think my networking has been paying off and the seeds I have planted are finally beginning to bear fruit.

Research Dream

I’m here in Foreign Country for field research for the summer. I had a crazy dream a couple of nights ago. I dreamt that I returned to the US for a conference. While I was sitting at the conference it dawned on me that I may not be able to return to research country because I have a single entry visa. Once I enter and leave, I can’t return for a period of several months. So, in my dream, I began to get nervous and I thought about all the things I still had to do: the interviews I needed to schedule, the other cities to travel to, etc. I thought maybe I should have asked the customs agent when I was leaving if I would be able to come back soon, and had they said no I just would not have taken my flight. I just remember a long period of worrying and a small panic that I had wasted another field research trip with a mistaken exit from the country.

And then I woke in research country safe and sound. I better put my research agenda in turbo drive. lol. Talk about a wake up call.

When are we “known” and how do we know?

This past academic year I went to six conferences. I think that’s a lot, but I actually enjoyed it. If I had the money to go to more I probably would. At the last conference of the academic year, I saw that a scholar whose work I was very familiar with would be there. I explicitly cited him in my paper when I gave my presentation. After the panel, he came up to me, and the first thing he said was, “Hi, you know, I have work out on your topic.” I was so happy to meet him, I sputtered, “Oh, I know. I cited you explicitly. I quoted your paper in big disciplinary fancy journal.” And then I flipped through my paper and found the quote. He said, “Oh, I left to go to the bathroom so maybe I missed it.  Sorry. So you’re at Big Midwestern University? Is Mr. Big Shot still there?” After I said that Mr. Big Shot was on leave, but should be coming back next year, he encouraged me to talk to Mr. Big Shot.

Looking back on that encounter, it just seemed really weird. In the moment, I just did what I thought I should – say that I cited him and whatnot. However, thinking about it now, I think, how strange to just come up to someone, not say your name, and tell them you have work on that topic. Maybe this person is just awkward, but I get the sense from a lot of academics that many feel like they just aren’t getting their due. However, this person has published prolifically, in many disciplinary and non-discipline journals. How can anyone working in his area not know who he is? Other people have mentioned him and his work in my presence. Hell, I mentioned him by name in my presentation in front of everyone at the conference (but apparently when he wasn’t there). I know that people know about him. I just wonder if he knows that.

Don’t get too comfortable

Yesterday I posted triumphantly about my article that’s finally been published. Of course along with the joy of victory comes the agony of defeat. Another article that I wrote in the fall semester has been having a rough go of it. I sent the article to journal of country I study. After waiting 4 months of no response I contacted the editor responsible for my paper. He had not even looked at my submission (so for 4 months it just sat there). I had asked a friend about this editor, as my friend got hir PhD from the dept. this editor was in. My friend told me that this person was indeed scatterbrained. Sigh. So when the editor got back to me zie said that zie really liked my article, zie had drawn up a list of reviewers and would send it out. However, the journal also had a huge backlog and if the article was accepted would not come out for at least 2 years. In light of the four months I waited and the backlog and the scattered editor I opted to pull the paper and submit it elsewhere.

So I submit it to general, but not flagship disciplinary journal. The editor just got back to me yesterday (after about a month and a half) and told me that it could not go out for review. Their comments annoyed the hell out of me b/c it was evident that they had not read the article. Additionally, this editor does not work in my area or anywhere near it. I’m annoyed that they felt so comfortable in their power of judgement to deny me even a review. It’s as if they don’t even need the expert opinion of other scholars who have made their life’s work developing and contributing to the theoretical and area arguments I was making. It’s not really the critique that annoys, but rather even the lack of useful or productive critique that the editor offered along with the easy dismissal of my paper. Sigh. So now it’s back to the drawing board (kind of). I need to format the paper and submit it elsewhere. I think I’ve found a place.

This experience has only taught me about power. I have learned nothing that would improve my scholarship, make my arguments stronger, or expose gaps in my knowledge. I have learned that editors have a lot of power – power to ignore, power to dismiss, power to offer limited feedback that’s really exposes them to be ignorant and not me. And my opinion of them as editors really doesn’t matter because they will continue to have power to which I will continually have to submit.

In other news…

My article has finally come out in subject specific area studies journal and I am ecstatic. Except it’s in the “first look” section as the real issue has not yet come out. Still my article has had 57 views so far, the most of any of the articles in my section and even more than in the current issue. Of course those looks could be from friends and family, but a postdoc can dream that maybe one or two of those looks are from people zie doesn’t know. The only problem is that I keep checking the page each day to see when the full issue will come out. It’s really become an addiction that I can’t stop. I also have a book review coming out in an online journal and I keep checking that too. I can’t wait to reach the moment when I won’t really care what’s coming out when because this daily checking is becoming exhausting.

On trying not to burst into flames of rage…

I spend a great deal of time trying to calm myself down. Today I was talking to a friend about another friend’s dissertation defense. The friend who was defending and I have the same adviser. Apparently, for this friend our adviser threw a party after his defense. For me, we had a glass of wine. I know that I receive different treatment than hir other advisees, but hearing these stories only rubs it in. Upon hearing this story I had to focus on not becoming enraged. I was also having lunch with another friend today who told me that she wished that someone would read her dissertation and tell her what to do with it. Then she told me that one of the faculty members, who is a very prominent expert in her exact field, read her dissertation and gave her several pages of comments about it. I was lucky that I got a cursory read by my committee members and that’s all the help with it that I have gotten. It seems like some people are handed keys to the kingdom and others have to fight tooth and nail to pry the door open a sliver. And the crazy thing is that they don’t even seem to realize that things are being handed to them. Just writing this I am becoming infuriated…and I must calm down.

My Class has a momentum of it’s own

I’m teaching a half semester course and I have found it quite challenging. It seems like I have very little time to go into anything with any depth. Perhaps I should have constructed the class differently. I feel like I am not doing well with this course though. I do have a narrative that brings the class together, but I don’t think that narrative is obvious to the students. I have been trying to make those connections, but I feel like they’re not coming across. I also don’t have enough accountability mechanisms in the class and students are too nonchalant. To be fair, their nonchalance may stem from the fact that the course is 2 credits and half a semester. It also may stem from the fact that many of them are upperclassmen. The end of the class will come soon enough and I will be delivered from this feeling of failing. I think I will chalk this semester up to a learning experience and just try to do better next time.

Re-evaluating Networks

In my usual mad dash to join a panel for the giant disciplinary conference in the fall I have been sending abstracts hither and yon in hopes of being chosen. Every year I tell myself that I will organize my own panel and every year the deadline creeps up on me and I make an excuse as to why I won’t organize one this year. Recently I sent an abstract to people forming a panel who I was in contact with from another conference. They rejected my abstract from a double panel. I didn’t even make the cut of the top 10 presenters. Jeez Louise. In a fit of nosiness I went to one of my professor friend’s facebook page and saw a cfp from another acquaintance posted there. I just emailed this acquaintance, who is kind of a big deal in the discipline, and asked her if there was room on the panel. I also mentioned that I had met her before and the professor friend who we had in common. Immediately, she added me to the panel (without even seeing my abstract) and now low and behold I have another panel for another conference. Sometimes I complain about not having strong networks, but I probably also need to re-evaluate the ties that I have and invest more fully in them, rather than wish for more contacts.

10 Networking Tips for Academics Who Hate Networking

A conversation with someone I went to grad school with inspired this post. S/he made a comment that s/he didn’t want to network at our upcoming disciplinary conference. Rather, s/he wanted to spend time with people she felt comfortable with. I actually don’t think the two sentiments are contrary to one another. For me, part of networking involves finding people that I mesh with personally and academically. There has been talk of networking in the academic blogosphere: Reassigned Time and Ferule and Fescue have great posts encouraging people to network. The Professor is In has great advice for working the conference. You can also find networking and academic PR advice here, here, and here.  I’m sure other blogs have great advice as well. I wanted to throw in my two cents as a young academic just starting out.

  1. Just presenting at the conference and being in the conference program can help you meet other academics interested in your area of study. I got my first invitation to publish in an edited volume (I know some people frown upon this) from the organizer of the volume viewing my entry and asking if I could submit something.
  2. Present on panels at conferences, and particularly on panels with new people or people not affiliated with your institution. When my friend told me that s/he didn’t want to “network” at the conference, I told her that s/he was already doing that by being on a panel. I think my friend needed to revise their idea of networking to go beyond schmoozing at the society receptions to include the actual panel presentations. (Although I personally like schmoozing at the bar too)
  3. Go to workshops at conferences.
  4. Go to association meetings and receptions. You never know who you’ll run into.
  5. If people show interest in your paper follow up. When people ask me for my paper, I send it to them. (I do consider the possibility of plagiarizing so I generally wait until the paper is under review somewhere if I’m going to send it to a stranger)
  6. If you are concerned about networking, maybe setting the bar low would help. Plan to meet one new person after attending a conference or workshop.
  7. If you are a grad student consider graduate student paper competitions. I have entered some and I used to consider their only benefit to come from winning them. However, now I think about them as creating networks by getting my research “out there” and read by people not on my dissertation committee and sometimes by people not in my direct area. Even if you don’t win someone else, probably not at your institution, have looked at your work.
  8. Go to lunch with speakers that come to your university if possible.
  9. Ask questions of people at conference panels and after it’s over go up and introduce yourself and follow up.
  10. Have a website, academia.edu page, twitter, or some internet presence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled someone to find out more about their research and they seem to have left no digital mark. Also, many of my academic friends on facebook promote their talks and recent publications through that venue. It’s funny to me because they generally preface their post with an apology for their shameless self promotion, but then they always include the link to their latest article. (I really don’t think they’re sorry, and they really shouldn’t be) I’ve had a couple friends announce on facebook when their publications have been accepted for publication and I think that might be borderline shameless. But I do like to see the articles when they come out. (See here for further thoughts on academic PR and shameless self promotion)

Since I listed 10 suggestions in the heading I won’t go beyond that number. I’m still trying to figure out how to enter into that elusive circuit of invited talks and lectures at different institutions. I’ve given one talk and attended one workshop at other schools, but I don’t have any invitations on the horizon. I write and think about my networks not being as robust as they could be, but I offer these suggestions and invite others for those of us hoping to improve them.