MIKE GULLIVER

Deaf geographies, and other worlds.

The pressures of being a ‘tweener’

At home, we’re currently watching the T.V. series ‘Prison Break’. One of the key characters is David ‘tweener’ Apolskis. Caught somewhere in allegiance between the prisoners and the police he never appears quite sure who he should side with to best ensure his future… does he follow his heart and ally himself with the cons? Or take the more pragmatic step of cooperating with the police?

Having just passed my PhD viva, but without any immediately secure research destination, I know a little bit how he feels. During my Masters and PhD, I did everything I could to ensure that there would be research work waiting for me when I finished. However, despite volunteering, lecturing, tutoring, supervising and publishing my way through the last seven years, I’ve come out virtually empty handed.

In truth, I’m not surprised. There are few academic departments in the UK (world) working with Deaf studies at anything higher than undergrad level… so it’s largely a case of dead-man’s-shoes. However, even when there are dead men, the shoes are taken away by recruitment freezes. Add to this the distinct possibility of a drop in equality and social science funding brought about by a conservative win at the elections next year, and the complete failure of academia in general to perceive the enormous importance of Deaf Studies as a test bed for re-writing theory on what constitutes ‘valid humanity’… future pickings look thin.

However, I can’t stray too far. If I do, I’ll never publish, never win a grant, never get back in. With my heart in academia but no option but to find work elsewhere, I’ve become a ‘tweener’.

My working life has become a strange combination of two different worlds. Four days a week (approx) I work as an administrator and computer help-desker for the ILRT at the University of Bristol. Two days a week I spend working for the Centre for Deaf Studies as a temporary researcher. Work to write academic papers, grant proposals, make contact with potential funding sources and research collaborators etc. vies with phone-enquiries and spreadsheets… I have completely different CVs, two e-mail signatures, two professional personas…

I’m being supported at every turn. The ILRT have been enormously flexible in allowing me to drop my hours to do additional research work. CDS have bent over backwards to find me ways to be involved. However, it’s clear that my ‘tweener’ status makes satisfying both quite difficult. I’ve been told, for example, that in order to get funding and get through the ‘research door’ more permanently, I need to publish more and put in grant applications… but the one thing that I’m not prepared to sacrifice for this is my family… so when do I write them?

I guess it’s good training in being a ruthlessly efficient administrator for when I finally do get a lectureship… but it seems to be a gap in an academic career progression that is not often talked about by those who have successfully navigated their way through it…

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This entry was posted on October 13, 2009 by in Musings and tagged .
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