Saturday, May 27, 2006

The teeny, tiny country

I'm finding it's a real trick trying to pull off this pseudonymous blogging as a Canadian. (Not that I have legions of readers to recognize me!) I mean, I know it's far from airtight down there in the U.S. I know people are recognized in spite of their best efforts. But with a population ten times ours, and an astonishing number of colleges and universities, it becomes a couple of degrees easier to guard your identity than it is here. This country's massive landmass is offset by a downright claustrophobic academic scene. In the discipline in which I teach, it's a fishbowl. I have been frustrated by this on the job market, on which I'm competing with the same handful of people I know for every one of the precious few available jobs.

So I've already made decisions that might have turned out differently, in a context more conducive to anonymity. I haven't trumpeted my queer identity in my profile, thinking that might be a too-quick clue to people who just casually surf by profiles but are intrigued by a national guessing game - especially about sexual identity. I won't discuss my location in the country, though regionalism is as important in constructing Canadian identities as it is to Americans, and having at least a general sense of where I am would arguably enhance the legibility of future posts about the places in which I am teaching, the students and communities I interact with. Every time I give a clue as to the kinds of questions I'm teaching - and I know I've given several, just this first week - I'm wearing a massive target. And when I talk about friends, I'm dressing them in very bright target-wear, too, and I'm not sure how much they'd like that.

This limits the scope of this blog, and that makes me sad. I recognize that a solution might be to write abstractions. But that's not what I want for this forum. After all, it was started to deal with the very concrete realities of this academic life. But some of those realities are bound to be experienced as negative, and the high recognition factor in this country limits the safety of recounting the negative impressions when it comes to jobs I am doing, jobs I want, or friends and acquaintances.

We'll see how I do. I suspect that I just need to get used to what it feels like to tread this line. And I need to remember that all of you who are doing this anoynymously in the US or elsewhere have been treading it, too, if in a less immediately threatening way. How have you managed it?


App Crit said...

A good post, and timely reminder to those working in the academy anywhere.

It's a tough line to keep. A friend of mine keeps a parallel "good behaviour" blog for "plausible deniability," in case he gets discovered. Separate username and all. Of course, it's very boring to read and the prose is only incriminating because it is so boring.

A word of caution, if you're still on the market: it is now standard practice to google/blogsearch ad infinitum any potential candidate. Even my colleagues at Mediocre U. were able to "blog out" some candidates. Just something to keep in mind.


Hilaire said...

Eek. Thanks for the warning. I am still on the market, though I have a one-year contract for next year. Come fall, it's application time again, so I'll keep your warning front of mind.

lil'rumpus said...

I'm relatively new to the blogging world as well and also worry about maintaining some sense of anonymity. I agree with App Crit about the job search issue. To some extent, we are all immanently in search of a job (sort of the nature of academe to always be looking ahead and away) and so I try to be careful, too. Of course, this also means that some of my blogging is also very vanilla...sigh.

Funny thing is that I tend to have more fun when I comment on other blogs than when I write my own...

Hilaire said...

Lil' rumpus, I sympathize...with the pressure to produce a vanilla blog. Not so exciting. And I know what you mean about the comments - it is more fun, though somehow more feels more naked, somehow...Funny how this blog already feels like a safehouse.

Thanks for stopping by, lil' rumpus!