No Adjuncts Allowed – A Guest Post On a Lost Prize

By Nazima Kadir

Nazima Kadir is an urban anthropologist with a PhD in anthropology from Yale. Her book, “The Autonomous Life?,” published by Manchester University Press, is based on living and working in a squatters community in Amsterdam for over 3 years.  Prior to squatting, she received awards from the Fulbright program and the U.S National Science Foundation. She’s lived and worked all over the world, including the U.S, Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, and Northwest Europe. She is fluent in English and Spanish and can chat in Dutch. She currently lives in London with her husband and works in design and innovation.

[KK:  This came as a message on Facebook, and Nazima kindly agreed to allow me to post it, and requested that it not be anonymous. Thank you, Nazima.]

I’ve corresponded with you before and thought you would find the following story interesting, given your tireless campaigning against the exploitation of labor in universities.

My book, The Autonomous Life?, was shortlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Ethnography Award. However, I learned a couple of days before they were to announce the winner that I was removed from the shortlist because I am not employed by a UK university.

I think this story is interesting because it regards how rampant precarious labour conditions and low wages in UK universities impact on scholarship. Its also about the refusal of institutions such as the BBC and the British Sociological Association to confront what this means for scholarship and the state of academia.

I moved to the UK in 2011 amidst a context of immense public sector cuts. Despite a PhD in Anthropology from Yale, I could not find work in a university. I refused to pursue part time lectureships because I did not believe in subsidizing universities with free/low paid labor. As a result, I went into the design world and have been working as an applied anthropologist successfully.

My book was published in 2016 and this year, I was invited by Radio 4 to be on Thinking Allowed, a program that showcases ethnographies. I submitted my book for the annual Ethnography Award and within 2 months, learned that the book was on the shortlist. However, last week, I was devastated to learn that the book was removed because I was not associated or employed by a UK university.

Instead of using my case as an opportunity to discuss how talented, early career researchers may be dissuaded from an academic career due to poor labour conditions, sadly, Radio 4 has decided to remove my book from the shortlist. I think that this is a really interesting case because despite the quality of the academic work and the relative ‘premium’ credentials, the work has been excluded because I refuse to participate in an exploitative labour environment.

I’m quite disappointed with the program-Thinking Allowed– which picks the shortlist and the winners, because it specializes in ethnography, which means understanding the context of a situation. In this situation, I explained to them that 1) I couldn’t find a job in academia and 2) the available jobs, if any, were so low paying and precarious, that I refused to participate. Yet, this information made no difference.

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.


No Adjuncts Allowed – A Guest Post On a Lost Prize — 5 Comments

  1. This is one of my greatest fears — I have a book coming out in the fall with a top, if not the top, university press in my field. I wonder, however, how it will be treated by prize committees given that I don’t have a TT job (I’m employed by a university, but in a completely different field than my PhD/book because: the market). I also wonder how I’ll be treated: will I be invited for talks? invited to be on premier conference panels? invited to give public lectures (the book is on a topic of wide interest)? My supporters like to tell me the book will get me a TT job (it could, but “will” is wishful thinking), but mostly I worry that it will fade quickly from view because my affiliation is weird. Such is the life of many a PhD in a book field these days… It would be nice if prominent academics would say and do things to support people who aren’t in TT jobs. Remind your organizing committees to think beyond the hotshot who got the plum job, remind your prize committees that the book, not the author’s affiliation, is what matters, remind your department to think widely about who they bring in for talks. Reach out to the people who are in postdocs and VAPs and adjuncting and offer them real opportunities to present and workshop their ideas (with travel covered and the same honorarium you’d give someone with a TT job).

  2. Just picked this up on Twitter. Appalling. I’m not an ethnographer, but I am an independent researcher and an author. It’s so disheartening to find yet another way in which our work is excluded or regarded as second-class. On the plus side, I hadn’t heard of Dr Kadir’s book before, and have now ordered a copy. I hope the silver lining is that her book receives much wider circulation as a result of the BBC’s unethical decision.

  3. This is a really unfortunate situation – and it seems grossly unfair that they have this criteria for the competition. But the heading of “no adjuncts allowed” doesn’t really make sense: if Nazima Kadir held a part-time gig at a UK university, she could have stayed on the shortlist. It is her REFUSAL to pursue adjuncting (a principled stance) that cost her the shortlist.

  4. Pingback: Seeking a Career: In or Out of Academia – On Academia

  5. Pingback: Foggy months | Nazima Kadir, Anthropologist

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