It’s official, I’m employed. The University of Glasgow has hired me on for many more years of antiquities trafficking and art crime research.I’m just not quite sure what I am a lecturer of. I’ve been a bit quiet about this but now that it is both in writing and, as of today, my full visa has been granted I can share.
I ran into Nicky Reeves at the Hunterian Museum yesterday (follow him on twitter for awesome museum things!) who said he liked that I have been quite open about job insecurity and the precarious nature of employment for early career academics. However open I have been, I know I have held many things back. This post won’t go too far into the gory details but I’ll try to share more when I can. My father is reading a biography of Alan Turing and he was telling me of Turing’s struggle to land a lectureship which put things into perspective. Times are rough for all of us…but I wonder if they have always been rough. We should all try to talk more about it so we don’t feel so alone.
As many of you know, for the past three years I have enjoyed a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship and a Fulbright Award to study antiquities trafficking in Latin America. This was a spectacular opportunity to work on and with the Trafficking Culture Project at the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research within the University of Glasgow. My fellowship was a stimulating time and the project took me all over the world. From the start I knew I was in the lucky minority of post PhDs: I had a job and time to explore. I resolved to make the most of it.
And by that, I mean do everything possible to make myself into a well rounded, hireable academic. It has been VERY hard and VERY stressful. Twelve hour work days, six or seven days a week became my norm. Research + Publication + Speaking + Teaching + Committees + Saying Yes To Everything + Websites + Communication + &c + &c. Totally unhealthy and, I am sorry to say, totally necessary. My friend Gavin’s refrain about my life is that I’m “always working”.
The result is a position that I created for myself. Over the next few years I will have roughly a 50% teaching and a 50% research position. My teaching will be four courses of my own design, one course taught in person and three courses taught online which, alone, will constitute a PGCert in Antiquities and Art Crime and are a third of a masters degree in Criminology, Museum Studies, or Art History at the University of Glasgow (…maybe more things; details forthcoming). Plus a free online course. This year I develop all those courses and start accepting masters students for September 2016.
As for research, I’ll still be following my interests regarding antiquities trafficking, sacred art protection, Latin America, South Asia, art crime, rare/fine commodities smuggling, and ethical issues related to archaeology, art, and heritage. Stolen Gods will be a thing I hope, and I have a bit of freedom to follow the research leads I have. I will also be co-authoring a Trafficking Culture book and will be writing a textbook on antiquities trafficking. Plus all the other things.
One interesting thing: I am going to be a lecturer, but it is unclear what I am a lecturer of. My salary will be 30% from funding for online learning initiative development, 50% from the College of Social Sciences, and 20% from the College of Arts. I’m probably not a criminology lecturer. Maybe “Lecturer in Social Sciences and Art History”? I don’t know, but I might be allowed to make it up myself. My colleague/line manager suggested “Lecturer in Arty Things and Associated Curiosities”. That pretty much sums me up.
With this position comes an immense amount of relief. I still have to do my best, but I don’t have to be on all the time. For the past four weeks I have celebrated “No Work Saturday”, not working at all on Saturdays. Not even work email. It has been spectacular. For two weeks I have enjoyed what amounts to “Happy Work Sunday”, where I work if I want but only on things that I love, ignoring all deadlines or prioritization. For example last week some numbers were released regarding historic church thefts in Bolivia and I played with them for a few hours with no looming paper or set agenda and ignored the two pressing conference papers that needed writing. It’s great.
Furthermore, on work load relief, I’ve just found out that I get two teaching assistants as well as an intern to help me out in the coming year. The TAs will help with the online courses and the intern with all my knowledge exchange, dissemination, research sharing projects. It’s like I am dreaming.
Yet when I think of the struggle to get to this point where there is some relief, where I can have “No Work Saturday” and other pseudo luxuries I worry for late stage PhDs and my fellow early career academics. I simply would not have a job if I didn’t work insane hours, have a million web pages and social media accounts, speak at X number of conferences a year, churn out buckets of peer reviewed papers as fast as I can, and self motivate to develop a heap of new courses. What if I was caring for children or a sick relative? What if I had other obligations?
I’d be unemployed. Also I’d be kicked out of the UK next week.
At various points I’ve reflected on some things which I think are important for students and early career academics. One is accepting that you will work for free, a lot, but that the trick is to work for free for YOU, not anyone else (see my post on the topic). The other is to try to get two things out of anything you are doing research-wise: make sure all your research has a public face to maximise your return for the work (again, see my post on that topic). I also am passionate about the idea of growing an academic network but I haven’t really written about it. However such advice is spacey and, now that I type these things out, I don’t even know if they represent advice. I don’t know if I should even be giving advice.
Suffice to say, I am a Lecturer of something or other and my academic career chugs on. As usual, I am open to collaboration in research and writing, strange (academic) propositions, opportunities to speak and teach, review, and what have you.
That’s right, Scotland, you aren’t rid of me yet!