Thinking across this week’s readings has been very helpful, and I’m particularly mulling over the humanities PhD, adjunct labor, diversity work, and funding in the university. A number of questions arose as I read Katina’s book in particular.
Firstly, I was struck by her pushing back against the notion of a crisis or crises in the humanities. Though Mitchell and Boggs have critiqued the crisis consensus in Critical University Studies, it certainly looms large in much of the scholarship, as well as how people talk about the humanities and the university at CUNY today, including in political spaces such as students organizations and the PSC. What is gained and lost by using or rejecting the framing of crisis?
Secondly, i am curious about the role of adjunct labor. While CUS has thoroughly documented histories of casualization and adjunctification from above as a means of cost saving and power consolidation in the hands of a rapidly expanding upper administration sector (and businesses, foundations, the government, etc.), i am curious about the radical possibilities for and histories of adjunctification from below. Is there a potential upside to this model as opposed to the traditional tenure model? I am particularly interested in this as someone who sees adjunct teaching as a central part of a more appealing career path than tenure track work, giving me the flexibility to work in a staff position and teach simultaneously, each improving my work in the other position.
Finally, I am curious about different funding models. Much of Katina’s argument is about the importance of humanities for the public good, and the ways in which a humanities PhD has utility beyond the academy (and in the academy in previously unacknowledged ways and spaces). If that is the case, is the departmental funding model worth maintaining? Should the humanities embrace external funding in ways that resemble the sciences in the US academy? Should we look to universities in other nations for models for how to fund humanities PhDs? I think that government scholarships for graduate students studying art history and Latinx studies and queer theory and poetry sounds like a good idea.
You write, “is the departmental funding model worth maintaining? Should the humanities embrace external funding in ways that resemble the sciences in the US academy?” I wonder what kinds of external funding sources we can imagine in response to your question, and what new relationships would emerge from outside funding of graduate student education in the humanities? I’m just now reading the collection “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex,” by INCITE!, which offers some stark warnings about how funding, even from non-profits, comes with lots of strings and conditions for the social justice orgs that accept it.
The book Matt mentions is on my TBR shelf and I totally agree, funding sources can be incredibly complicated. Thinking about foundations for instance—what might US society look like if wealthy individuals and corporations didn’t have that option as a tax haven, and instead paid fully and fairly into the public system to begin with? We wouldn’t have Mellon grants, but would we possibly have more robust higher ed funding for all?
I’m really curious to hear more about your thinking re adjuncts, too. Specifically, what might be required to foster the kinds of radical possibilities you describe? Structurally, the role was intended to function more as a side gig, like a professor of the practice—a way to bring someone with industry or field expertise into the classroom alongside their regular job. It seems to me that there has to be some base level of stability (in wages, healthcare, etc) for that possibility to re-emerge. What would that look like, and what might that scenario enable?