First: a “they must be encouraged”. I have nothing but good things to say about Rex Butler, who was nice enough to give me the rundown on why my postdoc application was turned down. Our postdoc postmortem meeting was the first time we’d said more than hello to each other – not the best foot to get off on. But he clearly showed a great deal of consideration my feelings, to the point that I started to feel like I ought to give him a tissue. For that decency and humanity he has my admiration and respect. If more members of panels fronted up so well, I’d be less filled with rage.

I find it much more difficult to be philosophical about the culture of institutional bullshit Rex had to take the bullet for.

In the end, he admitted, it came down to two main problems: my project’s scope and my cv. The panel wondered if I could deliver on what I promised – a spatial history of Hollywood films from 1927 to 2000. I didn’t have to say anything, because Rex followed his description of the “this project is Too Big” concern with the admission, “then again, if you had proposed a smaller, more manageable project, they would have said that it was too limited.” We’re encouraged, damn near required, to Think Big, to go for Major Paradigm-Shifting Research. But that demand means it’s easy to manufacture a reason to say no to funding. I’m being asked to swallow that “a research monograph with maps” is too grand a project for a three-year postdoc. Perhaps the very clear narrowing of perspective – Top 20 Box Office, Oscar Winners – escaped their notice. Perhaps I was too optimistic that clearly stating that I will be taking a Distant Reading approach – identified by name in the project description and in the bibliography they asked for – would make it clear that I would not be doing close readings of every fucking movie since 1927.

Perhaps the panel’s lack of confidence emerged from the second concern. Rex, to his credit, admitted that “your cv isn’t something you can do much about in the next nine months.” I was up against, in Rex’s words, “senior lecturer-level cvs.” I’ve been a little busy doing the teaching that has enabled continuing academic staff to do their research to build up a senior lecturer-level cv. In fact, I taught more classes over five years at University of Canterbury than my senior lecturer wife – and that includes a year when I was blacklisted by the now-departed PVC-Arts. When “senior lecturer” is the new baseline for a postdoc, the system doesn’t need fuckers like me.

So after talking it over with my wife, I’m chucking it in after 2014. I would like to have a full-time job by the time I’m 40, and there ain’t one to be had in academia.

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