Today’s reflection prompt is only obliquely related to what I’m working on/through. I don’t really have a theoretical approach, as it isn’t a traditional academic project. I guess narrative, creative non-fiction? But rather than tie myself up in knots about how my project doesn’t “fit”, I want to focus on a part of the prompt that did resonate with me:
Reflect on the unique contribution of our project
Ok, so this I can do. Now, this was an easier question to answer when I first started blogging; my unique contribution was that no one else was really writing about the things I was writing about, especially not on an internationally-recognized platform like IHE. Now, everyone seems to be writing about it (which is a good thing insofar as that the issues like sexism and adjunctification have gained a visibility heretofore unseen, but a bad thing because UGH WE STILL NEED TO BE TALKING ABOUT THIS AND WHY ISN’T IT GETTING ANY BETTER).
This is a challenge because the novelty has, in fact, worn off. Another comment I got from the reader was that this was, essentially, old news. Everyone already knows all of this about academia. So what? Why does it matter? What do we do?
After writing yesterday, I’ve been reflecting on the idea of decisions, of deciding, of agency. And maybe that’s what could make my project unique is to really highlight the decisions I made to reclaim my agency within a system that would rather me not have much, if any, agency at all. I made unconventional decisions in a time and space where these decisions were somewhat dangerous (peer-driven learning, mental health, parenting, wifing, etc).
So, in the introduction I outline the decisions that lead to the situation where I concluded that I needed to start writing again, honestly and transparently (or at least as honestly and transparently as I could, which is more than many other people could at the time). But, what I don’t make clear throughout the rest of the manuscript is how/why I made decisions moving forward, and the impact of those decisions, for better or for worse.
Here are some decisions, post-starting the blog:
- I decided to prioritize teaching
- I decided to be student-centered
- I decided to write about adjunct issues
- I decided to write about mental health
- I decided to write about money
- I decided to write about class
- I kept deciding to prioritize my research
Now, this may not seem groundbreaking, but I think it is a unique take, insofar as it does represent the choices of someone within the system, and how to come about those decisions, as well as living with the consequences.
This is the thread I need to make more explicit, I think, in the work. I’m still leery of creating a narrative about individual agency triumphing over systemic oppression, but I think reminding people they still have agency in a system that seeks to dehumanize them can be empowering.
I just threw up in my mouth a little just writing that last sentence.
I have to decide, just like yesterday in deciding my manifesto, what this collection contributes, other than “unique perspective.”