When You Define Yourself as an Academic

What's academic about me?

October 20, 2013
Lately I’ve been thinking about this moniker, academic, and what it means to me. I used to think of myself as an academic, an alternative academic at that, but I’m starting to wonder: what’s academic about me?

The thought process came about when I got an email rejecting my first academic article for a traditional peer-reviewed journal, the article I submitted this summer. Rejection always stings, but this isn’t a post whining about how unfair it is that my essay wasn’t accepted for publication. After the rejection, I went to Twitter to process what had happened. I had the sense that something had been scratched inside of my heart; I felt like I had tried to take a step down the stairs and instead just stepped on thin air, the weird feeling of almost falling but not really. As I tweeted about getting used to rejection, a few people mentioned to me that I could revise and resubmit to another journal. Surely someone is interested!, I heard again and again.

But what if I don’t want to revise and resubmit to an academic journal?

Here’s the thing: I currently don’t have an academic position. I recently turned back to adjuncting (a discussion for another day). I consider myself an independent scholar, but what does that even mean? I spend my time teaching, editing, and writing. Where’s the research? Where’s the travel? Where’s the exploration? Academic scholarship feels increasingly like an expensive hobby.

On top of the email rejection, I attended a meeting for an MLA committee I am a part of at the same time that the email came through. As I made my way across the country to MLA Headquarters, I wondered about why I would still pay dues for professional organizations that I am not actively a part of? Why attend conferences? Why subscribe to journals?

All these questions probably sound like an identity crisis. It is, in a way. But I’m also trying to question what it means for me to hold onto this identity. Is it because I teach? Is it because I still enjoy the research I have done for years? Is it because I still surround myself with people who ask academic questions and who, in turn, prompt me to think about academic questions? Is it because it has been the default for years? Or am I confusing scholarly with academic? Am I just narrow-minded by insisting on my academic identity?

These questions are meaningful to adjuncts, to full-time non-tenure-track faculty, to staff and administrators, and especially to independent scholars and writers. Who are we if not academics? The answer is, a heck of a lot of other things.

Houston, Texas in the US.

Liana is an Associate Editor at University of Venus. Follow her on Twitter @literarychica.



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