Merit and/or Fortune? A Critical and Self-Reflexive Engagement with the Political Economy of the Academic Job Market

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 8:30 AM
Chicago Ballroom VI (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Andrew Urban, Rutgers University-New Brunswick
This presentation will examine my recent success with the academic job market, and the two-year fellowship that I was awarded by the ACLS as part of its New Faculty Fellows program. I hope to use this presentation to explore how three years on the academic job market, concluding (temporarily) with my appointment as a postdoctoral fellow in American Studies and History at Rutgers University, has challenged, confirmed, and altered my notions about what a historian must do in order to succeed. Through a series of informal interviews, I hope to relate my own experiences to those of other recent PhDs. Included below are questions that I hope to pose and eventually interpret through my sampling:

How does the acquisition of academic expertise and capital, in the form of skills, publications, and professional networks, influence the intellectual and political development of PhD students?

How does the focus on individual self-promotion and competition for “merit”-based rewards undermine the ability to collectively address changes in the academic job-market?

In what ways does the increased segmentation of the academic job market into different categories of employment – adjunct, postdoc, tenure-track professor – represent a dramatic departure in the political economy of the college and university?

How has this segmentation been addressed through graduate admissions, funding, and training, and have graduate programs adequately responded to a new economic reality?

Collectively, I hope that the responses I receive will shed light on whether individual preparedness is the best framework to engage the twenty-first century academic job market, or whether preparedness for the job market might take a more critical and ultimately productive form through collective action and challenges to how the job market is currently structured.