Academic Waste

Kelly Baker:

For two years, I’ve been writing about how academia works— and particularly about contingent labor, gender, and the adjunctification of the modern university. I’ve advocated for the impermanent members of the faculty because my own work in academia was only ever off the tenure track.

When I began reading Marc Bousquet’s How the University Works, I was convinced that I knew the map of faculty labor in higher education. I assumed his book would complement and shore up what I knew. I’m already familiar with higher education’s increasing reliance on contingent faculty. I’m aware that the job market in the humanities generally (and in my field of religious studies, in particular) is bad because I stayed on it for five years. Tenured professors retire, and their positions are moved off the tenure track. We continually read dire pronouncements about how graduate school ruins your life, and impassioned calls to reduce graduate admissions.