It is that time of year again in which the timelines and retrospections and evaluations flood our heads, hearts and mailboxes. It is the time of year that forces us ruthlessly to succumb to neoliberal and societal pressures and ask ourselves: what have we done? What have we reached? These questions hit close to home when I look at anthropolandia, where I haven’t posted anything in over three months now. Lack of time? Lack of inspiration? Or is this maybe not just an example of individual failure, but a reflection of something that is wrong with a broader structure?
I have recently read an article about Slow Scholarship from a Feminist collective. (You can find it here at the ACME journal.) In it, the authors Alison Mountz, Anne Bonds, Becky Mansfield, Jenna Loyd, Jennifer Hyndman, Margaret Walton-Roberts, Ranu Basu, Risa Whitson, Roberta Hawkins, Trina Hamilton and Winifred Curran advocate for an approach to scholarship that makes it possible again for good scholarship to ripen. The idea shouldn’t surprise:
Good scholarship requires time: time to think, write, read, research, analyze, edit, and collaborate. High quality instruction and service also require time: time to engage, innovate, experiment, organize, evaluate, and inspire. (p. 1237)
This was the first article in weeks that I read because I wanted to, not because I had to for whatever kind of obligation. Where is innovation going to come from, if there is no time to explore? Among my colleagues and friends pursuing doctoral degrees, I know literally no-one who hasn’t struggled with their project at some point. Sure, this is not just, or in every case, a question of slowing things down. And the position from which I look at the problem is exceptional, because most doctoral students either don’t have the same financial security, or a much higher workload to comply with while trying to write their dissertations. But the longer I look at this phenomenon, the more I think that something has to be done. Something that is not limited to individual (self-optimizing) coaching sessions, but something that will make space for the uniquely personal, even, and maybe especially if, it doesn’t fit into an overarching scheme of profitability.
Some propositions from the article on how we can make space for the slow moments of scholarship, those that include the best ideas and the dearest projects, are these:
- Talk things slow! Let other people know about the slow scholarship movement, discuss is with your peers and organize! The more, the merrier, and the more likely you are to find time to thin if the people around you are aware of the situation.
- Take care of yourself and others! While you can only take care of others if you also take care of yourself, you shouldn’t forget about them, either. Especially if you find yourself in a position in which you have the power to influence in work schedules, make plans that work for as many people as possible.
- Write fewer emails! Have a look at how writing, sending and receiving emails can be improved for all people involved over at emailcharter.org!
- Good enough is the new perfect! When it comes to things you have to do (compared to the things you want to do), reach for the minimum. Perfectionalism is a real time killer, and this way you might get back some precious time to think.
For 2018, I wish for you and me to have the ability and strength to tackle some of these, and make the niches we’re inhabiting a little more inhabitable again.