My initial idea for this post was to link to lots of reading on slow academia. Without thinking, I was going to offer “a quick glance” or a “skim-read” or a “brief rundown” of my favourite blog posts about slow academia. But, no, I want to resist such rushed thinking here. These ideas deserve contemplation, so I will focus on just one blog post today. Over many posts, I will meander through some lovely writing on slowness. So, grab a cup of tea (I’m sipping Rose with French Vanilla) and ruminate…
From the wonderful ResearchWhisperer, Saved by Slow Scholarship. This is an important post in which guest poster Ali Black writes:
I was never enough. The measures told me so. They still tell me so but I care a whole lot less because I have found a different way of working and the anti-depressants have kicked in …
A bit of background will tell you what I bring to my reading of this post. Mental health has always been important to me. My mother was a psychiatric nurse, and I used to spend part of my school holidays playing chess and doing craft activities with patients (some of them retired academics) in the psychogeriatric day centre she managed. I grew up with the idea that madness was mostly an everyday business. I recognised that my mother knew a lot about it – “I know what mad is” was one of her refrains – and that she cared – “one of my mob” is how she would describe her patients, and “you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy” was another of her frequent sayings.
I was talking about academia and mental health with a friend the other day. Our conversation followed the death of a man she had loved (read CASA’s post on John’s story) and we reflected on our own experiences and those of colleagues we have seen struggling. We discussed institutional responses to academics who are on the brink. For example, send them to resilience training. The message: toughen up. Or: perhaps you are not cut out for academia. This response makes being ‘never enough’ an individual problem, rather than acknowledging the systemic issues at work here. I had a similar conversation with a colleague a few days later, and we summed up along these lines: Universities should not be the sole domain of those who are stable, functional, powerful and unimpaired.
What I love about Ali’s post is that it offers togetherness and collective identity as a response to the lack of care in academia. She and her colleagues have written an inspiring Slow Scholarship Manifesto:
I love this line: We refuse to live affectively thin lives. I will include these points in my experiments for practising slow academia. This manifesto offers hope: I may be on the brink at times, but there are still people and places in academia that offer to nourish me.