It is the beginning of May, and around this time of the semester, I am clawing my way to the end and drawing water from a mostly empty well. And yet, as soon as student grades are in, a pervasive anxiety about summer writing productivity replaces end-of-year exhaustion. I then begin to wonder how I am to balance my writing responsibilities with my demand to take much-needed pauses from all types of academia-related work.
Early in the semester, I hosted a CETLS event, “’Slow Scholarship’ and a Feminist’s Ethics of Care as Resistance: Re-envisioning Scholarship.” Here we discussed the need to push back against universities’ visions for academics to be publishing machines and the psychological toll in such work environments. The event was inspired by the popular article by a similar name, which elaborates on slow scholarship as a model worthy of our collective action. These authors argue that “slow scholarship” produces the nurturing spaces that all academics deserve.[i]
During the event, I discussed what, for me, is a political imperative in advocating for slow scholarship. Suppose we are to create an equitable academy. In that case, we must not only defy the ways that academia pushes us to deliver, but we also have to recognize that not everyone has equal access to time. This demand includes thinking about contingent faculty, faculty who come from working-class backgrounds, adjuncts, untenured people, those who caretake both the young and the older, those who are undocumented, and those who unduly encounter racism, anti-blackness, queer antagonism, and ableism in society. These folks do not experience time in the same way as those who do not confront these barriers. And time is required to write or produce any other type of knowledge production. Therefore, reconceptualizing academia means creating work environments where people have more equitable access to time.
I affirm and believe in slow scholarship because it is politically urgent, and relatedly, because it centers care and leaves spaces, however liminal, for joy. Care and joy should be at the center of all people’s lives regardless of their work. This need is especially significant for academics, like so many others who work with the demands of unpaid labor and have little boundaries between work life and personal life.
Moreover, as we also discussed in our event, if we can embrace a deliberate and steady approach toward the scholarly work of journal articles and books, we should be equally attuned to how other forms of intellectual production need to be valued as worthy elements of academic life. How rich, inclusive, and diverse academic thought would be if our institutions readily and without hesitance accepted other contributions for tenure and promotion processes. Fortunately, we have begun these discussions through the CETLS Re-envisioning Scholarship in the 21st Century project and related events (stay tuned for more conversations).
I cannot do scholarship any other way but slowly, and I wish I did not feel compelled to produce quickly and feel inadequate when I do not. But these are the ways that late capitalist academia sharpens itself by dint of my wellbeing. This summer, as I stare down revisions for a manuscript and an article, both years in the making, I will give myself a break. Maybe not a long one, but a break nonetheless, where I hopefully will rediscover that writing in small (and frequent!) doses can sometimes be joyful. I will seek simple ways to care for myself by resting and napping, drinking water, eating large quantities of green vegetables, and meditating. Joy will be found digging into the soil of my garden and grabbing a paintbrush. All in all, I will slow down.
[i] Mountz, Alison, et al. “For slow scholarship: A feminist politics of resistance through collective action in the neoliberal university.” ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 14.4 (2015): 1235-1259.