Hacking it* in academia.

Nearly a year since I sent my dissertation to the printers and I am still wondering if I can hack it in academia. The feeling of not hacking it has been a constant companion. After nearly every supervisory meeting during my Phd I left with the feeling of ‘fuck how did I manage to trick them again’ right-up until the sleepless crescendo of my pre-print-proof seminar where I was convinced my supervisors would pull the plug. A year later, and still tenuously staying in academia, I wonder what even is hacking it?

Right now my working situation could be described as academic. I have a 50% 6-month teaching contract at Malmö Uni. I am also casually employed by Lund University and have been hopping in for various subjects from feminist theory to qualitative data analysis. I have written 24 post-doc application and been rejected from 20 (I hear about one I wrote back in April next week). I also have a writing fellowship at SASNET which means an extra desk and set of colleagues… and pressure to publish. I have worked nearly every Saturday since August. Hacking it, from my experiences this year, means saying yes to a broad range of interesting experiences, and working hard.

Looking ahead to role-models further up the hackierarchy I can see two tendencies. Well, maybe three. The first is to obtain tenure and then do the minimum in order to hack having a personal life as well. These charming but increasingly rare professors who go out for lunch and leave the office at 5pm. The second role model is engaged with a wide range of interesting initiatives. Those professors who you can ask for comments on your applications, who come to seminars, who organize trips for the students, the beloved super-humans. And perhaps a third growing category is those on stress-leave.

What does hacking it have to do with academia then? What does it mean that it is only alpha type humans who actively publish research? Is it possible to take into account experiences and world views from those who can’t hack it? Is it possible to create knowledge by all for all?

*can’t hack it

If you say that someone can’t hack it or couldn’t hack it, you mean that they do not or did not have the qualities needed to do a task or cope with a situation.

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