I am still reeling from my hostile interlocutor’s reference to my status as a “full professor” early this afternoon. All of this raises, for me, questions of how I am seen versus how I see myself. Right out of grad school, I had three interviews. One of them was with an institution that had a graduate program, whereas the other two were nice four year liberal arts institutions. Needless to say, I performed poorly at all three of the interviews and didn’t make it past the initial interview stage. This suited my sense of my own possibilities in academia just fine. From the beginning I did not feel that I had a place in academia, not only because of my own checkered academic history, but also because of the horror stories I had heard about getting a position in philosophy, the fact that I was studying Continental philosophy, the fact that I was studying Continental philosophy at Loyola rather than Suny Stonebrook or Penn State, and the fact that I was writing a dissertation on Deleuze and doing so much work on Lacan. Given my own checkered academic history as I was growing up– I had a number of learning problems –and the sort of philosophy I was working on, I just didn’t expect much from academia.

Frankly, I experienced the completion of my PhD as a bit of a death sentence. I thoroughly expected to do adjunct teaching for a while and then slink off into some miserable job, gnashing my teeth for the rest of my life. At the same time I like to tell myself there were socio-psychodynamic issues at work here as well. For some reason or other, I have always deeply desired to do original work. This goes way back to my early childhood when I first began writing and reading. I really saw no place for the sort of work I wanted to do in the world of Continental thought, dominated as it is by the art of commentary and the history of philosophy, and saw little point in pursuing work in Anglo-American thought which, at least, allowed for a great degree of original work even if that work was so rarified in its questions. There’s something a little sad and pathetic about anyone that would subordinate themselves to another philosopher, and something a bit despotic about institutional settings that believe the only vocation of philosophy is to rake over the bones of the dead. Influence is one thing, but there’s something deeply sickening about the culture of commentary and it is sad to see that our institutions– in the States at least –have cultivated this culture as the only legitimate form of philosophy. No doubt this was a matter of survival in an increasingly positivistic, scientistic, and trite philosophical milieu, but all the same. At any rate, the real philosophical work in the States is not done in philosophy departments, but in lit departments, social science departments, history departments, geography departments, etc. In these departments people build on masters but do not devote themselves to masters. They work on questions and problems, not commentary. Commentary is only a tool, in these departments, for the articulation of a problem or question, not the end in itself. So many sad and provincial souls in philosophy. In retrospect, I really think I should have gone into a different field… Whether in the social sciences, literary theory, sociology, environmental or geographical studies, rhetoric, etc., etc., etc.. At least there I would have had more freedom to do whatever it is that I want to do. Of course, I also understand that this is a sort of illusion.

At any rate, I was relieved when I landed the position at Collin, late that first year on the market. Believing already that I had no real place in academia, I thought to myself that this was the place I deserved to be. Sure, it was a five-five teaching load, and yes it was in Texas, but I had interesting and accomplished colleagues in the philosophy department and thought this was the best I would get anyway. Over and above that, I also felt that at least here I would have absolute academic freedom to be the flighty crackpot that I am, publishing in the journals that I wanted to publish in not because it would help me to get ahead in my academic career but because these were the things I wanted to write about and these were the venues that would accept such works. I struggled the first couple of years there. I loved my students, loved teaching, and was deeply thankful to have a position with a livable salary. I felt that I had gotten more than I deserved (childhood traumas again). Nonetheless, I also felt angry where I was. I was depressed and felt trapped and didn’t know how to change my situation. I struggled those first couple of years to go back through my book on Deleuze, revising it, and finally sending it off for publication with the hopes of landing a tenure track position somewhere that would give me the opportunity to teach more advanced courses and graduate courses. But my heart was just not there, in that book, anymore, even if Deleuze continues to be an abiding influence. As I look at it now, even as it gets some small recognition, I see it as a monstrosity. It seemed obvious and natural that the book would be published, but I can’t say I felt any love for that book.

A strange thing happened in my time here, however. Increasingly I found myself pissed at SPEP and the APA and that entire culture. I would read blogs that came from that sort of orientation and wonder why this was something that I or anyone else wanted. I would go on interviews– and I’ve landed interviews every subsequent year I’ve been here for the last four years –and would perform much better than my first year out of the gate but really would not want the position. At least here, I thought to myself, I have the freedom to do whatever I want to do. At least here I do not have to occupy myself with submitting things but can publish what I desire to publish. I suppose these are all rationalizations, but I do think that there’s a genuine question as to why anyone would want that sort of position in the institutional framework we’ve created for ourselves.