During the first weekend of the Humanities Without Walls pre-doctoral workshop, I caught the last half of Office Space on television. The fear of becoming a corporate drone is one many academics likely identify with. But the choice is not between Initech and academia. (Even if it were a choice between only those two options, academia has its own litany of issues — just check out the academic equivalent of Office Space, Tenure).
One of the most important things that the HWW workshop achieved was demonstrating the wide array of culturally and intellectually vibrant positions accessible to doctoral students. The organizers’ focus on “Public Humanities” (which emphasizes being a humanist in the world regardless of career) over “Alt-Ac” (“Alternative” academic careers imply a secondary status and suggest a preference for “regular” academic careers if they were accessible/available) demonstrated an openness that academic settings rarely achieve. I felt this openness throughout the workshop as organizers, participants, and presenters spoke frankly, building a wonderful sense of camaraderie.
Not pursuing a traditional academic position does not mean I’m “leaving” anything. I choose to have a fulfilling life and challenging work. I retain my right to be a historian and a humanist. My abilities and intelligence are not defined by the academic job market. I reject the (broken) system of academia.