Saturday, February 14, 2015
A conversation with a friend the other day has got me thinking - there are so many things that you learn implicitly in training to be an academic. Nobody tells you what you need to learn - I wish they did so everything is spelled out clearly. You are being disciplined without you even understanding the logic behind it. One that nobody really tells you about is how 'academia' means your peers. (Now the fact that you think of yourself as a peer to people you have only read is a separate lesson, but that is to be thought about for another day). Anyway, nobody tells you that academia is a network - a network of other scholars all around the globe - at least not when you're someone coming in from the fringe like me. I suppose this is taken for granted by people in my faculty because nearly all of them are trained in the 'core' - meaning the US and Europe. They saw, touched, spoke with these people whereas I have only ever had to read them. And nobody lets you forget this geographic distribution of knowledge producers. I remember this from day 1 when someone from Princeton so proudly said he was from Princeton - the implication being that I am doing my PhD in the very ambitious semi-periphery that is NUS. Oh gosh - not to forget my roots in the periphery. (Nevermind that AusAid paid for my education in Australia. Had I known that brand matters, I would have paid the $55AUD application fee to get 'branded' by ANU). Now why is it that people are so conscious of this geographic distribution? And why is it they will consistently remind you of it? I am not the only person who is asking this question of course, as is evident here. It's nice that they are having this conversation. I don't know why I am not compelled to participate in it. Probably because despite disavowals of elitism and responding to democratic impulses, privilege by definition is at best taken for granted and is, at worst, not something anyone willingly gives up.