Saturday, July 11, 2009

More than two years since I left Arivaca

It has now been over two years since I left Arivaca. Although I am glad I came to Bishkek I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like if I had not gotten a job in Kyrgyzstan and had instead remained in Arivaca. It certainly would have been different.

First, I think I would have probably given up looking for a university job since no amount of academic publishing seemed to get me even an interview without teaching experience. I am still not sure why teaching experience is considered so much more important than publishing by search committees. After all the entire PhD. program is geared towards research and writing, not teaching. So if I had stayed in Arivaca I would have had to figure out some sort of career outside the university. I have no idea what this possibly could be since a PhD in history from the School of Oriental and African Studies has limited applicability outside of academia.

Second, the only purpose of academic writing is to help one's CV for academic jobs. So if one has no chance of getting any academic job interviews due to a lack of teaching experience it makes no sense to do any academic writing. It does not pay much. In fact academic journal articles pay absolutely nothing. Not to mention the fact that most are read by fewer than ten people. Academic books can make a little bit of money, but not much. So my writing would have moved to more popular and profitable outlets. I had already started along this path with Catherine's Grandchildren: A Short History of the Russian-Germans under Soviet Rule. I did not make any money off of that writing either, but at least I did not have to wrangle with footnotes. I would have no doubt continued along the path of more popular writing if I had stayed in Arivaca. I probably would have started doing some serious, but non-academic writing about local issues such as the history of the US-Mexican border in that region of Arizona.

But, fortunately I did get a job teaching purely by accident. So I managed to escape unemployment and gain some teaching experience. Looking back on it, however, it really was completely a matter of luck and I missed being stuck in Arivaca by a very narrow margin.


Chris O'Byrne said...

Arivaca misses you and wishes you were still "stuck" here.

Our lives play out the way they are meant to. Yours has turned out to be very interesting!

J. Otto Pohl said...

In many ways it was the best two years of my life. I do not miss not having a girlfriend or money, but everything else was great. I have post on it above this one.

Meg said...