So both my wife and I are in the midst of a transitional phase. We are having to integrate the sphere of academcs into a behavioral habitus of everyday life—to make academics a profession rather than a task or set of tasks, something in which we guide our own actions and aspirations and make our own openings for success.
In the grand scheme of things it is a relatively simple job to meet a benchmark; it is an externally-supplied structure, eminently navigable. It requires no generation, no imagination, relatively little in the way of politics or social interaction. Its location is primarily material—papers, books, rooms, pencils, pens, computers, blackboards. It is a matter between self and things. These things will be evaluated by others, yes, but they will be evaluated according to the logic of the structure that gives rise to them.
We are now in the post-benchmark realm. Evaluation is increasingly purely social. To the extent that material or nonsocial elements come to play in the process, these act as mediators, not as ends in and of themselves. Our task now is to create space for ourselves in the social structure of the greater academy. There is no map and there are no benchmarks. There are only sociality and our fellow travellers.
This week I am teaching Saussure. It has been a while since I engaged on this level with structuralism and linguistic theory. This is powerful stuff and I would do well to re-read and re-connect with it, from Saussure to Barthes to Derrida to Foucault, the poststructural and postmodern realms of theory are the location—the rightful location—of social theory today, in conjunction with the study of all things as media, technologies of mediation, and components in the institutionalizations of mediation.
Powerful stuff. Powerful stuff.