Is there any hope at all....

wilkr (wilkr@INDIANA.EDU)
Thu, 6 Apr 1995 10:27:27 -0500

In response to Anita's plea from the heart, I would add a few cents.

The employment picture in academic anthropology is still very uneven and
difficult. Merit, as you say, often seems to have little to do with who
gets hired. My impression is that in times of severe crunch (and our
University is only beginning to go into the financial tailspin that is
ruining so many great universities - often through there agency of
anti-intellectual state legislatures) STATUS becomes much more important
than merit.

I speak from the experience of being on the job market for six years
before landing an underpaid and unfulfilling tenure-track job - and I
thought I had a pretty good publication and grant-getting record. In
fact, after 5 years on the market I had people telling me that I had TOO
MANY publications. I got my present job, which I think is a pretty good
one, nine years after going on the job market.

There is a huge bulge of underemployed people out there. Many of them are
women. I can think of many wonderful highly productive scholars - people
who are tyring to run full-scale research programs - who are stuck in
small colleges where nobody understands what they do, and there is no
support, lab space, or graduate program. The amount of love and devotion
which the last two generations of graduate students have shown towards
their research, in order to stay in anthropology, often hanging by their
fingernails, is really staggering.

But this means that new PhDs have to cope with the bulge of
underemployed, as well as competition from their own cohort.

Also, while the older generation is dying off, and beginning to retire,

a. many Universities are not replacing them.
b. the openings are patchy and specialized.

So, for example, you may have one good year for Himalayan demographers,
and then five years with no openings at all. The only way to deal with
this is to stay flexible and be willing to become something else or make
compromises - I once came inches away from getting a job as a Historical
Archaeologist in the southeast, and I'm pretty sure I could have been a
good one too!

Richard Wilk Anthropology Dept.
812-855-8162 (voice) Indiana University
812-855-4358 (fax) Bloomington, IN 47405