From the first time I read Cat’s Cradle (which I read because it provided the lyrics to a 70s prog song I liked a lot — I mention it in Broken Glass Waltzes [and did I mention it’s available for sale?]), I was fond of the notion of the karass, which Wiki defines as a “group of people who, often unknowingly, are working together to do God’s will.” In my own head, I’ve extended the idea into the notion of people whom I may only meet briefly in person, if ever, but who play key roles, and I suspect (because our limited perspective keeps us from being certain) that Anne Brannen may be in my karass. Although I’ve only spent a couple of days in her physical vicinity (a few years ago at Kalamazoo), I sense that she is indeed a friend, and I’m glad to have her in my life. Now, Anne is concluding a commendable academic career and migrating to a new calling as a life coach. And no, that isn’t shameful at all.
So why the title? Well, recently Anne blogged about the concept of academia as a culture driven by guilt, shame, and a sense of imposture. In turn, a new blog has sprung up, perhaps along the lines of Post-Secret. It is called English Grad Student Shaming. It will be in my blogroll in very short order, but if you’re an academic, or if you think about becoming one, you should probably just go ahead and bookmark it.
It occurs to me that if EGSS takes off as I suspect it may, then it will become a source of pressure and yes, shame for the proprietor. This strikes me as fitting — had it not been this, it would have been something else.
I recently reread Cats Cradle. And yes. All the signs of karass.
I just read Anne Brannen’s article and to be honest I could not relate to it. Since she left a comment here maybe she will also read this so I don’t have to go and comment on her blog as well. There may be an academic shame culture in the US. The nasty peer review rejections I get would indicate this, but it does not appear to exist in the History Department of the University of Ghana. I think this has to do with a fundamental difference between academics in Africa and those in the US. I have not noticed the big names in African history here showing any contempt for people like me who are low on the totem pole and just starting to learn about the history of the continent. If possible (don’t need to use names) could somebody please give me some examples of shaming in US academia on the department level? Because for me US academia is a completely alien world.
I need to meet Anne Brannen: she has Cardigan Corgis! And is also totally right about the shaming. Well-spotted.
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