At the end of a day of academic work, you may not want to talk to anybody else, and giving yourself that option is a form of self-care. But that kind of self-care doesn’t help you to play well with others, so it becomes a vexed choice - be a good academic, or a good wife and mother.
Are we seeing a shift away from explicitly imagining alternatives to the status quo? Are we even still capable, as a society, of envisaging these alternative imaginaries? There is a ‘discursive regime’ - ie. a way of speaking and discussing ideas that is so pervasive as to become inescapable - at play in discussions of universities (and indeed, the world at large) that precludes the consideration of alternatives to neoliberalisation, marketisation and capitalism more broadly. But systematic application of the imagination can create ideas, and “ideas can change reality, for ideas can turn into reasons for action, which in turn can become causes of change.” (Barnett, 2013, p. 7).
Every way of knowing is also a way of not knowing. Privileging one point of view, or one form of evidence, requires the erasure of other ways of perceiving and understanding the world. What do our cultures give us permission not to know? By what means are we permitted to blinker ourselves? And do our cultures ever encourage us to see those truths again?
Outside the academy, I’m sure the perception remains that academics sit in leather armchairs, gazing out the gilded windows of our ivory towers, thinking all day. That has not been my experience, nor that of anyone I know. My colleagues and peers have, however, experienced levels of anxiety and depression that are six times higher than experienced in the general population. They report higher levels of workaholism, the kind that has a negative and unwanted effect on relationships with loved ones. The picture is often even bleaker for women, people of colour, and other non-White, non-middle-class, non-males. So whether you think academics are ‘delicate woeful souls’ or not, it’s difficult to deny that there is a real problem to be tackled here.