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    A blog about education, higher ed, teaching, and trying to re-imagine how we provide education.


Where Am I?

When you have to travel for conferences or research, the change of place and space can lead to some deeper questions about where we are.

June 7, 2012

The immediate answer to the question in the title is easy enough to answer: I am in Victoria, BC, Canada, participating in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, or DHSI. I am also more specifically in the Introduction to TEI course, learning how to use it to markup manuscripts and texts. I am here with (and, more importantly, directly as a result of) a larger DH research group, Editing Modernism in Canada, or EMiC. I am, because of this opportunity, both physically and geographically distant from where I am right now, but intellectually as well. 

We all have the moment when we travel of coming into consciousness in the morning and not remembering where we are. I keep having those moment throughout the day, while awake and fully aware. Those are far more disruptive and disconcerting.

I am excited about my research again, research that is not in any way a part of my current job, in part because of what I am teaching, but also because of the nature of my position. I am an instructor who teaches writing, I am a researcher interested in DH and Canadian Literature in both French and English. While there are clearly connections between forcing myself to learn TEI and of DH tools and my teaching of writing, my current obsession of trying to figure out how to mark up various translations of poems in a meaningful way is liberating because it isn't teaching students how to develop an effective persuasive essay.

I am excited because I am surrounded by people who are interested in similar research and skills as I am. I can talk about my project with people who a) actually know what and who I am talking about and b) are as excited by it as I am. People are interested in me and know me as a researcher, respect me as a researcher. My professional identity at home is so wrapped up in being a teacher, it's nice to have this important other part of me recognized and, dare I say it, validated. I have a real intellectual community, not just a theoretical one.

It is also a new experience for me to be known and recognized as a blogger. After Tuesday's post, people were coming up to me all day, telling me they had enjoyed my post. At home, I write and send it off to a imaginary audience, and either people have no idea I blog or choose not to talk about it with me. Here, people I see every day read what I write and want to talk to me about it. My virtual community, made flesh, made real, if only for a week.

But there are still parts of myself that I don't see here, that don't seem to be represented in this community (and in this regard, I also include my experience last week at Congress). I wonder where I am, demographically - female academics in our mid-thirties. I have a feeling I know the answer; like me they are off the tenure-track, or in alt-academic positions, or have left academia all together. I am fortunate because I found a community that supports what I want to do. Fortunate might not be strong enough a word; kissed by the gods, perhaps, would better express how fortunate I feel to be here, especially when I look around and see almost no one else, demographically, like me. As I think and write more and more about the lost generation of scholars, I am continually looking for myself when I travel to conferences and other academic events. I am also becoming acutely aware about how I have to split myself in two, who I have to be as an academic at home and who I get to be when I am an academic elsewhere, in order to have an academic career. In the long run, I don't know how sustainable it is, and perhaps I will disappear, too.

This place, I realize, is wholly artificial and fleeting; once DHSI is over and we all leave to go home, Victoria will continue to be a city on an island at the western edge of Canada. But I am grateful for this chance to travel, to investigate where I am right now, professionally.


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