Queer Women in the Humanities: The Job Market, Part 1

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Queer Women in the Humanities: The Job Market, Part 1

For those of us in academia, especially the humanities, we know that the job market holds less than satisfactory prospects... make that terrifying prospects. Rebecca Shuman reminded us a few weeks ago over at Slate. The USA keeps churning out humanities PhDs in record number—even though, on average, it takes over 9 years for a student to complete her PhD—while the jobs are dwindling. Tenure-track jobs in particular are hard to come by; universities and colleges instead are reducing the number of tenure-track and professorship jobs and increasing the number of adjunct jobs.

(from The Atlantic)

As The Economist pointed out back in February, "America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships." Why? Money: adjuncts do not have a salary; adjuncts do not have health insurance. So, for instance, if a tenured professor receives on average over $100,000/year (plus benefits) to teach two, maybe three, courses, wouldn't it be more preferable to pay an adjunct roughly $3000/course, without having to shell out for benefits? As an adjunct, last semester I earned $20,000 and taught 7 courses at three different institutions. If I was tenured that's nearly three years of salaried teaching, no?

As a queer woman I'm doubly weary of the academic job market. All queer women are, especially those of us who are queer activists and writers and bloggers and partaketh in creating the queer culture around us. Or, as one of my advisors commented to me a few years ago, "you do realize that you'll be pigeonholed as 'the gay scholar'?"

Yes, I do, which doesn't mean that I've not contemplated the effects of my queer life on my job prospects—not to mention that my one peer-reviewed article was about the politics of sodomy.

I'm not alone and have had quite a few discussions with other queer women who are trying to navigate academia and the academic job market in particular. I've solicited some of them for advice, in an attempt to create a larger dialogue within our community about how to be successful as a queer female scholar.

Below are some thoughts from two of my friends, both of whom wanted to, tellingly, remain anonymous.

If you would like to share your story about working your way through the academic job market or if you have a story about being a