Ali Black on doing academia differently...caring, connecting & becoming

Ali Black is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia. Ali tells stories of courage and care and connection, stories that grew out of painful interactions with ‘the academic machine’ and feeling like failure. She talks about creating a different way of engaging in academia, one that is based on intentionality and meaning, on connecting to what is important, on being and becoming, and on creating a more caring and collaborative culture. An important step in this was reaching out to colleagues and forming a women’s writing group to write together and to explore their versions of slow scholarship.

“How we might cultivate ethics of care and caring where we acknowledge our human dimensions and actually care for one another as part of our work.”

“Failure is actually…an invitation and a gift to go’ well what do I want to do differently, what isn’t sustainable, what am I not prepared to do anymore’.”

"… it is finding the ‘and’ in the ‘yes’"

She talks about (times approximate) …

2:11 Long career, working in three unis, career interruptions for children, family bereavement

5:40 Writing about the blurring between the personal and professional; pressure to put on a professional face despite whatever is going on in the rest of life; the academy needing to recognize we are human beings and these personal things happen; cultivating ethics of care and caring for one another as part of our work

8:18 Inviting women friends/academics to share stories about what is it like to be in the ‘afternoon of our lives’, meeting for writing workshops, giving feedback, connecting

13:00 Stumbling across slow scholarship, trying other ways of being an academic, being more deliberate and intentional

14:55 Common themes from the stories – understanding the complexity of lives that we’re all living and how amazing to negotiate all these things

16:48 Importance of sharing and particularly responding to say ‘I hear you’ or ‘you’re amazing’

18:15 “We’re in the arena and need to be valuing each other for having the courage to stay in the arena and to do our best and to care”

19:00 Caught up in the managerialism, constantly feeling like we’re not enough, important to try to change the local culture so we can change the wider culture, and care for one another, doing those things that don’t count but count in terms of the quality of our lives and our values

21:37 Being part of the academic machine and the tension of perpetuating the functioning of that machine, but being more alive when you follow what matters to you

22: 37 Story of moving to a new university, accepting a lower position ‘to get a foot in the door’, meaning a salary reduction and being on probation for 3 years, and feeling like a failure, not being valued and wounded as a person and academic

26:37 The ‘wise women’ writing became a saving space, finding her own ways of working on what mattered to her, creating a promotion application that was “like me” and getting promoted – getting there without playing the game perfectly; “In the end I can only be myself and I’m very good at being myself”

30:05 Encouraging that might not have to do things the ‘system way’, but doing it our way within some of their frameworks; but not all happy story, having depression, but recognizing that“Failure is actually a gift because there’s no-where to go, you’re at the bottom of the heap, so you can only decide well what will I do now so it became an invitation and a gift to go well what do I want to do differently, what isn’t sustainable, what am I not prepared to do anymore.”

31:20 Office surrounded by inspirational messages, planning, decorating diary

On her desk: “Is this task vital? Does it really matter to me or someone l love and care about? Give my energy to what matters to me and to what inspires me” – as a result, not going to faculty meetings any more, anything that is deadening to the soul or joy or sense of hope

33:54 Say yes to the spaces and places to contribute that you’re going to like a lot more, find meaningful or fit your values; if we said yes to everything we’d be overwhelmed overworked and wouldn’t be able to focus on what matters to you, changing your framing for service, meetings

35:56 Importance of knowing ourselves, strengths, values

38:25 Making time for human interactions, inspired by slow strategies suggestion from slow scholarship article, valuing quality over quantity, valuing thinking, that we need time to think

41:10 Counting in some different ways, valuing time and thinking, and organizing spaces differently to engender intentional conversations taking to meet and discuss ideas – connecting caring listening important

42:58 Taking care of ourselves before we take care of others; planning weekend spots with cups of tea, cats, sleeping in, family, leaving no space for work – weekends as sacred self care, family care times

44:23 Still working long hours but on things that matter

46:02 Importance of down time for creative thoughts to gel, need to stop thinking activity is productivity, making time to think and to write; importance of writing as research, and turning it into a collective process – “supporting the productivity of the academic machine while also being fulfilled for the personal the human being … it is finding the ‘and’ in the ‘yes’

49:25 Self care practices, reading widely, getting inspired, being content to be me but the best version of me, becoming intentional, creating a vision board

53:11 Being, belonging, becoming … and ‘becoming’ takes the pressure off, always becoming

56:40 Encouraging us to find our own groups and making local connections, and pointers to related links

1:00:31 End

Related links

If you are a woman in academia, please contribute your voice to this survey on women in academia for research by Ali and Susie Garvis: http://www.thewomenwhowrite.com/survey.html

Ali's Research Whisperer post "Saved by slow scholarship" https://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/saved-by-slow-scholarship/

Websites Ali has created to support women and their listening/storying/connecting

http://www.wisewomen.world/

http://www.thewomenwhowrite.com/

Blogs Ali finds inspiring

On Being http://www.onbeing.org/

Brain Pickings https://www.brainpickings.org/

The Slow Academic (Agnes Bosanquet) https://theslowacademic.wordpress.com/

Research Whisperer https://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/

Slow Scholarship reading

Berg, M., and Seeber., B. (2016). The slow professor: Challenging the culture of speed in the academy. Canada: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division.

Mountz, A., Bonds, A., Mansfield, B., Loyd, J., Hyndman, J., Walton-Roberts, M., Basu, R., Whitson, R., Hawkins, R., Hamilton, T., & Curran, W. (2015). For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 14, 4, 1235-1259. Retrieved from   http://ojs.unbc.ca/index.php/acme/article/view/1058

Link to ‘Wise Women’ memoirs and the ‘invitation’ I sent out https://www.dropbox.com/sh/z5q83mqkohac295/AACt8R6yox8AYaWYNdZiBG14a?dl=0

Manuscripts we have written about our collective writing or the blurring of personal/professional

Black, A.L, Crimmins, G., Jones, J.K. (in press). Reducing the drag: Creating V formations through slow scholarship and story.  In S. Riddle, M., Harmes, and P.A. Danaher (Eds) Producing pleasure within the contemporary university. Sense Publishing.

Loch, S., Black, A., Crimmins, G., Jones, J., Impiccini, J. (in press). Writing stories and lives: Documenting women connecting, communing and coming together. Book series Transformative Pedagogies in the Visual Domain, Common Ground Publishing. Eighth title Embodied and walking pedagogies engaging the visual domain: Research co-creation and practice. Kim Snepvangers and Sue Davis (Eds).

Loch, S., and Black, A.L. (2016). We cannot do this work without being who we are: Researching and experiencing academic selves.  In B. Harreveld, M. Danaher, B. Knight, C. Lawson and G. Busch (Eds). Constructing Methodology for Qualitative Research: Researching Education and Social Practices. Palgrave MacMillan: UK and US

Black A.L. (2015). Authoring a life: Writing ourselves in/out of our work in education. In M. Baguley, Y. Findlay., M. C. Kirby. (Eds). Meanings and Motivation in Education Research. UK: Routledge, Research in Education Series

Black, A.L, and O’Dea, S. (2015). Building a tapestry of knowledge in the spaces in between: Weaving personal and collective meaning through arts-based research. In K. Trimmer, A. Black, and S. Riddle. (Eds). Mainstreams, Margins and the Spaces In-Between: New possibilities for Education Research. UK: Routledge, Research in Education Series

Black, A. (2017). I am Keith Wright’s daughter: Writing things I ‘almost’ cannot say. Life Writing, Reflections section, Taylor & Francis. DOI: 10.1080/14484528.2016.1191980

Black, A.L, and Loch, S (2014). Called to respond: The potential of unveiling hiddens. Reconceptualizing Educatonal Research Methodology, Vol 5, No 2, Special Issue.  

 

Manifesto of care: