The Adjunct Underclass – discussion of issues

The following is my discussion of academia, inspired by The Professor Is In’s interview with Herb Childress, on the occasion of the publication of his book: The Adjunct Underclass.

I wonder if there are useful statistics about how the “five times as many PhDs as spaces for them” (not to mention that it’s annually, not cumulatively) pans out re class origins and other factors. I’m a white male, okay, but I’m also from a rural, blue-collar, working-class context in which I was the first person to do a university degree, let alone an MA, PhD (UCLA, 2003), IT certificate, and MLIS (2018). Most of my relatives have been farmers, truck drivers, shop workers, homemakers, and so on.

I still feel like I don’t fit into academia, despite having taught dozens of innovative university courses (from 1999 to 2008, many as a part-time adjunct), publishing three well-reviewed books (from 2011 to 2016), contributing academic book chapters and journal articles, and presenting numerous conference papers. There are almost no post-docs in my field of musicology (or in my more specific areas of cultural studies, popular music, and film & television music), and most people at conferences have assumed I’ve been in a tenure-track position somewhere. However, in reality, I’ve also worked part-time in the performing arts (semi-professional choral singing), arts admin, and writing/editing, and temporarily full- or part-time (or volunteering) in web development and library work. I’ve also gone through bankruptcy and have frequently scraped by on welfare.

I’m in Canada, so at least I have free health coverage and ways to get free or affordable pharmacare. I’m now working as a part-time customer service representative for a government-run liquor corporation. I often feel like I should have started at something like this job in my late-teens or early-twenties, instead of having wasted several decades attempting to land successfully in academia.

People who keep trying to reassure others that they’ll get academic jobs are lying. It’s also too late for me to sort out an alternative-academic career path. At 53 (so, also dealing with the unspoken realities of ageism), I’m now giving up on “the dream.” Getting off of welfare and getting up to a working class income a little above the poverty line is the best I can hope for.Reply ↓

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