Why I Am Still Fighting
“Language stands half-way between the visible forms of nature and the secret conveniences of esoteric discourse. It is a fragmented nature, divided against itself and deprived of its original transparency by admixture; it is a secret that carries within itself, though near the surface, the decipherable signs of what it is trying to say…It is at the same time a buried revelation and a revelation that is gradually being restored to ever greater clarity.” – Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, 35-36
Language and its interpretation have been on my mind, and a centrality in my life for some time now. In so many ways, I have been stripped of my ability to use language to express the very pressing realities in my life that I have previously posted about. It is frustrating. The idea of my words being taken from me and used against me is sadly the safest language I can use to describe my current reality.
On most weekends, I wake up to Etta James’ soulful voice wafting in from a car parked by my apartment. The car parks, but the man inside never gets out. Instead, he just plays Etta, and occasionally Nina Simone. I imagine that this man Is waiting on someone, perhaps a lost lover, or maybe an adult child, to come out. But no one ever comes. What is he waiting for? Maybe he isn’t waiting at all. Perhaps he’s using Etta to communicate something because language has failed him. He seems at peace when I can catch a glimpse of him. Resigned to a life, at least for few hours each weekend, that is on hold.
What, as Foucault writes, is “gradually being restored to ever greater clarity,” for me as I’ve been in this bizarre holding pattern, which has silenced me, is the language of others. Of the emails I continue to receive, of the conversations I continue to have with graduate students, professors, and deans that I’ve had the privilege to have in person. Out of these conversations, we’ve come closer to defining the power-imbalance of the corporatized structure of higher education. Hence, why I have returned to Foucault. Higher Education is a perfect Panopticon that fractures collectivity and turns us against ourselves, rather than on the real issue.
I believe in the power of knowledge to transform life. I believe in academia. I believe in the importance of earning a Ph.D. I believe in the importance of what a Ph.D. has to offer the world. This is why we must come together, share experiences, and connect with one another.
Let’s think about the collaborations that are possible, and here’s my wish-list (feel free to email me with necessary additions, this is but a start):
1. Social Scientists to develop an ethical survey about the graduate experience in higher education that can be circulated wide and far, and whose data can be utilized in a measurable and meaningful way. Contact me, if you’re NYC based, come to a group I’ll be hosting. Let’s talk. Let’s Get in Formation.
2. Coders to build a database that people can share and collaborate, even if they are too afraid to use their names, locations, or specific experiences. Oh, coders, let’s use your amazing skills, let’s get this conversation going on a national and international level if you don’t want to use your names or specific experiences, we can discuss all this in hypotheticals.
3. Let’s build each other up. The most we can do right now is to slowly change the culture of Higher Education, to reform its culture, in even the smallest of ways. This is something we can start implementing now, in our everyday lives. By that, I mean, we need to stop viewing each other as enemies and pure competition, and realize that collaboration makes all of us stronger, better scholars.
4. Let’s start a goddamn movement. This begins with face-to-face meetings over wine and beer (or coffee if you prefer). The most important battle we have is fighting to preserve, reform, and advance Higher Education itself. We are too intelligent, too analytical, and too hardworking to do nothing or to not try to make the our immediate world a better place. Let’s get together so we can visibly see just how powerful we are.
5. Real-life conversations: I will be hosting these if you are in the NYC area. Contact me (at the end of this post) if you are interested, and I’ll start organizing what space we will need depending on the level of interest. Let’s get together, in person, and talk about our experiences, Academics, Professors, Deans, Admins-- you are the most needed here—let’s figure out a way to question our institutions as to where the money is going and why it’s not being invested in paying educators a real wage. Why are tenure track, or even permanent jobs, rapidly drying up? This is the tip of the iceberg of questions I have, and questions that I think we all deserve answers to.
We will not record these conversations, but we will also discuss and share. Let’s start there. Let’s start small. The goal is to ultimately have everyone start hosting these conversations, anywhere-- let’s unite so that universities know what they’re up against.
With the help of my new friend Jenn Louie, who is also a co-founder of this app called Kinvite, intended for people like me and you to organize even the smallest of socially-conscious events, like a quick chat over coffee or those plotting a much larger revolution—in order to connect people who are socially engaged and want to do something about our dismal current state of affairs.
If you’re interested in participating—contact me here and I’ll forward the details: